Thursday, April 26, 2012

my newest read

Since Jared has been gone to Des Moines for job training most of this past month, I have had a little extra time on my hands. Not too much, but some. And for some reason, if I am alone at night, I can find all sorts of reasons to stay up and not go to bed at a decent hour. I can be tired and dragging butt all day long, but 10 pm rolls around and I am online or reading a magazine or blogging or mindlessly watching TV. And when I do go to bed, it's quiet and I am all alone with no one to talk to. 

So one of the first nights he was gone I sat there, not ready to turn out the light and surrender to sleep quite yet. I looked over and noticed the Bible that sits on our bedside table. Now I will admit I have never been a terribly good Bible reader. We have had good intentions in the past, reading a chapter or more every night, but then something would come up to alter our routine and we got out of the habit. But since I had nothing else better to do, I decided to give it another go.

So every night, after the girls are asleep and I have grown tired of Facebook and blogs and mindless TV, I climb into bed, get comfy and crack open Jared's student Bible. I like his Bible. It's sort of like The Bible for Dummies. It's a student version with lots of little text boxes further explaining important passages and events that take place.  And it has a guided tour that helps you focus in on the "important" or more well known texts if you get bogged down in some of the chapters {or entire books for that matter}. I really like this because it's like a great English teacher in high school who helped you decipher all that confusing language in Romeo & Juliet. It's like a sermon in church where the pastor takes a passage and compares it to everyday examples and makes it easier to relate to and, thus, understand.

I came across a chapter in Deuteronomy that was outlined by the guided tour:

"When your herds and flocks grow large and your silver and gold increase and all you have is multiplied, then your heart will become proud and you will forget the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery."
                                                                   Deuteronomy 8:13-14

The guided tour went on to further elaborate the point with a quote from Alexander Solzhenitsyn, a Russian man, explaining why it was he learned to pray in a Siberian concentration camp:
"When things are bad, we are not ashamed of our God. We are only ashamed of Him when things are going well."

This really resonated with me.

It's easy to be faithful when you feel you truly need God. When bad things happen to us or those we love, it is easy to turn to prayer and ask/beg/plead for God's help. It's easy to need God when there is literally no one else. When a friend is having a tough time or a family member is sick, for many of us it is our first reaction to say, "You're in my prayers." It's easy to talk about praying when someone's health or life is on the line. It's probably even the expected thing to say.

It's much harder to remember to put your faith in God when things are going well for you. You just landed a great job, your family is healthy, and things in your life seem to be perfect. It's just simply easier to forget about God when life seems to be going your way.
And clearly he predicted that.

I am guilty of this, just as I am sure most people are. Thinking back to times when I felt the most in need of God's help and guidance, I am brought back to one recent example: when Avery was admitted to the NICU and was oh-so-very sick.

It didn't fully dawn on me for about two full days just how serious the situation really was. But then she developed a blood infection, and our doctor was worried about endocarditis, and then there was potential for brain damage from her extreme jaundice... It hit me.  People die from blood infections all the time. And she isn't even a week old. That night when my family thought I had gone to my room to lie down, I roamed the hospital and ended up in the chapel. I just knelt in the small pew, all alone, sobbing and praying simultaneously.
And then I did what I am sure every person in these kind of situations does:
I prayed, "I will do anything. Anything. Just please make her better."

I really, really needed God. I am a pray-er anyway, I pray about lots of things. But none of my prayers ever had the intensity of the prayers I said in those weeks. I had never wanted anything more in my entire life than for my tiny little baby to be okay. And as the days went by, she began to grow stronger and healthier.

Now that it has been almost a year since Avery was sick, the terror and the need I was feeling at the time seems a bit more dulled. You seem to forget the pleading and the begging and the bargaining. You forget just how much you needed your faith then - and how much you still need it now. You start to forget because things are going well.

I am a thankful person. Daily I thank God for the gifts He has given me, the family I am blessed with, and the opportunities I have been granted. But I also want to live my life in faith too, during both the good times and the bad. I am not going to become some awkward person who only talks about Jesus. And guaranteed my liberal viewpoints are here to stay. I just want to put more of my trust in God so I can give up the worry and know that in the end, everything is going to be all right.

Monday, April 23, 2012

While browsing Facebook today, I realized just how many "friends" I have that I don't particularly even like - let alone consider a friend. Out of approximately 500 friends, I have probably only a handful of actual true friends, a large number of now-acquaintances, and another handful of people I can't stand.

For one particular person, I even went as far as hiding all pictures, status updates, and basically everything else in general because it's too overwhelming. I don't need 25 status updates from you in one day. Seriously  - no one cares what you eat for every single meal.
There is another site for that and it's called Twitter.

I had to hide the pictures because this person takes their family on about 10 vacations a year. Now that is fine and dandy. I love vacations {we just don't get to go on many now}. And I actually sort of like vacation pictures. I just can't handle this person's vacation pictures because I know for a fact that her mom still pays her bills. She is a married woman with kids and her parents literally pay her bills - and then she goes on vacation. It's none of my business, but even still, it just annoys me. So yeah, I can't pretend to enjoy your album of vacay pics from your 5th trip of 2012. {Especially when my idea of a vacation right now is a trip to the grocery store sans kids. But hey, at least I cut a monthly check to Verizon all on my own.}

I have other Facebook friends that I don't particularly like, but I still keep them as friends. It's probably because every once in a while, if the mood strikes, I like to see what they are up to. And it is nice to check out their profiles because their lives are almost always guaranteed to be way more screwed up than mine. So on those days when you really are feeling like a huge loser, just type in a couple names and - Bam!Instant Confidence Booster.  Okay, so I am kind of joking, but some other people feel this way, right? You keep certain people hanging around on your Facebook just because the stupid things they do and write give you a laugh, right?  (Well I know my sister Beaner joins me in this because she creeps like no one else I know! And she admits it with pride.)

I really do try not to overload my Facebook with picture after picture of my kids or a daily update of what I ate or how long I ran. And to those of you obsessed with marathons, you're making us non-runners exhausted just reading your statuses! {I will just never understand the desire to run 26 miles... but more power to ya.} When I first started this blog, I was linking quite a few of the posts to my Facebook account so that my Facebook friends would know I had started one. That way if they want to read it - great. If not, that's fine too. Now that I feel more established in it, I am trying not to link much anymore. I really don't want to be that friend people roll their eyes at every time they post something.

Okay, this was a really random post today. I should probably finish up so I can go upload some pics to my Facebook album and let the world know I had left-over chicken for lunch.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Somedays you just really need some sugar

It's been one of those days weeks.

This is Week #3 of Jared being gone (4 if you count the last week I spent at our house with the girls back in March).

**And before I vent, I realize 3 or 4 weeks is basically nothing. Many people have family members deployed - sometimes overseas, and I shouldn't complain. But it's my blog, so I just might anyway... **

The girls have had it up to here with Mommy Time. They were basically angels the first couple weeks. But now the jig is up.

Nap time has turned into a complete circus. Bailey screams and outright refuses to lay down. Poor Bun-Bun and Baby get thrown about the room at random. There are tears and thrashing of covers.

And then there is Avery - furiously sucking her thumb in a desperate attempt to tune it all out.

Just today I heard Bailey tiptoeing around the room 30 minutes after I had put them down. I go in to find Bailey's bed sheets torn from the bed and a pile of poop on the floor. Bailey is just standing there yelling "Diaper!" at me over and over. A diaper? - what a novel idea! Now if she would just leave hers on. Bailey was very unhappy with my mean-mommy-look. {And believe me, it isn't hard to conjure up "the look" when you are gathering up toddler poop off the floor.}

You might say, "It must be time to start potty-training." And you would probably be right. Bailey takes off her pants and diaper in the morning and tells me "potty!" But when we get in the bathroom, she refuses to sit for longer than 0.45 seconds. So she knows when she needs to go, she just won't.  This has been happening for a few months. I am ready to see some action! And I would love it if she would stop dropping her poopy diaper sunny-side down on the floor, too.

And overall, I have just felt really tired, hormonal, and moody. And 2 year-old temper tantrums have only improved my outlook, let me tell ya.

So I decided it was time for some sugar. [I deserved it.]

Hooray for cupcakes!

And yes, those are sprinkles. Everyone knows that sprinkles make everything taste better.

And I don't screw around. If I am consuming this many calories, I am going straight for the homemade butter cream frosting. No gross container of fake store-bought frosting for me. And it's super easy, too.

             * 2 1/2 sticks of unsalted butter, softened
             * 2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
             * 1 tsp vanilla
             * 2 Tbsp milk
             * a pinch of salt
                     -- Beat together the butter for about one minute.
                         Then add in the rest and beat for another 4-8 minutes until light and fluffy.
                     *Definitely do a taste-test.
                      You might need to add in a little bit more powdered sugar to make it taste just right.

There. Now you can be a fatty like me and brighten your day with a little sugar, too.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Hire me! Buy our house! Something!

I need a job. I am hire-able, right...? Right??!

I have submitted a few applications and have recently called to check in on where they are in the process. Apparently no one is in a real hurry. The last one said, "Yes, the posting has been up on the web for about 6 weeks. We should probably start looking at the applications now."  Really?    Awesome. I interviewed last week for a sub position, thinking even if I got a part-time job, having the ability to say yes or no to days as I please would only be a good thing. After the interview she told me, "We aren't sure yet if we want to hire subs, but we will let you know in a few weeks."  Really?  Great.

I have applied for basically anything that isn't nights or every weekend. I've applied for full-time, part-time, prn/sub positions... Everything. I am just hoping some organization somewhere is hard-up to fill a position and would maybe consider hiring two part-timers instead of one full-time person. There's always a chance, right?

We have been living on one full-time and one part-time income for the past two+ years now. Granted, with Jared now having this state job, we pay nothing for insurance premiums and he actually gets some paid-time off, but still.... My missing income will be noticed, even if it wasn't all that much. It bought groceries and paid for diapers at the very least.

And we still have a mortgage to pay every month. Yes, our house is still for sale. Feel like buying it? (Here it is.)

The good news is that we have actually had a good amount of interest. The bad news is that about 4 people that have wanted to put in an offer have houses of their own to sell first. Right now we have two different sort-of options:

Couple #1 uses our same realtor and has told him point-blank that they want it. We have been waiting for almost 3 weeks now for their extra paperwork to be approved or denied for their VA loan. Ugh, government. Apparently they had a VA loan in the past at which time the husband was injured and honorably discharged from the military, but couldn't make the payments due to his injury. So that makes for a lot of extra paperwork apparently.

Couple #2 wants to buy the house on contract. We have been told by our realtor and their banker that they have good credit and both have good jobs and enough money to buy the house, but that they won't be approved for the full loan amount for another 6-8 months; therefore they want to buy it on contract. ...This gives me nightmares... I can just envision the people trashing the place and us being responsible for the headache that comes with cleaning up that mess  - both figuratively and literally. But the market in the area is becoming more saturated with acreages, so we hate to not at least consider this option, especially since they have a considerable non-refundable down payment on the table along with a full-price offer.

So for now we just sit and wait, like we have been doing for a long time. We are getting good at it. Most days I just pretend like I don't even remember we have a house for sale. It actually works most days. I have learned to embrace the art form known as denial.

I just know that there isn't much we can do at this point. We already reduced the price, and that doesn't seem to be the problem anyway. We have many people who want it at this price, they just have houses to sell. And lowering the price $10,000 or so isn't going to help those people who can't get approved for loans in the first place. In the past 5 years, the house has had upgrades: new roof, new septic, new AC, new furnace; and we have already done as many cosmetic updates as possible. The house shows great, even better now that it is staged with our furniture and void of the extras that come with actually living in a house.

A while back we even caved and bought a St. Joseph statue to bury in the ground outside the house. It hasn't seemed to have helped. But I am not Catholic and don't really buy into the whole praying-to-saints thing, so I am sure St. Joseph could sense my cynicism and slapped a big Suze Orman-style DENIED stamp across my request.

So now all we can do is pray. {And sorry St. Joseph, but I have long-since bypassed you and gone straight to The Big Guy.}

Dear God,
Please help us sell our house to someone who can enjoy it, someone who will love and appreciate it like we did, and (most importantly) someone who has amazing credit so we can get this damn thing sold already! Please help us free up some much needed cash money and decrease the current level on our Stress-O-Meter. Oh, and as You probably already know, I could really use a job, too. Amen.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

what makes me happy today

* bunches of lilacs gathered in vases around our house. the best smell in the world.

* this song   It's on eternal repeat in my head. (and wow, what a different video...)

* a toy-strewn living room

...because that means our girls are happy and healthy enough to destroy the order in our house on a daily basis. Some parents would love to be able to say that.

* bacon

* Reese's peanut butter eggs that an anonymous Easter bunny left on my dining room table  {oh how my mom knows the way to my heart}

* the smell of rain

* hearing the girls talk and laugh back in forth after I've put them to bed.
 Apparently Bailey is quite the comedienne.

* and finally.... ahhhh....silence.


Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Steel Balls, errr... I mean, Bars

This summer we will hold the 2nd Annual Random/Slightly-Awkward Ellis Girls Concert Event.

Last year it was  Meat Loaf.

Yes, the same Meat Loaf from the 70s who sang 12-minute-long songs filled with lyrics about bats from Hell and the things he wouldn't do for love.

In short it was awesome.
{Okay, so maybe it wasn't awesome because of him, but we made it awesome nonetheless.}

We kept it classy by pregaming in the parking lot.

Group shot with Meat Loaf (okay, he's cardboard, but it's the best we could do.)

Warm weather and some choice beverages made the night even better.

You might be asking yourself: Why would girls in their 20s, who weren't even born when his songs first came out, attend a Meat Loaf concert?  (Good question.)

The answer is quite simple.

It is all the fault of Linda Wheeler, our childhood babysitter. She watched me from the time I was about 9 months old until I went off to preschool. When she stopped babysitting after Justina was born, we still continued to see her. She, along with her husband Ed, would have us over on weekends every once in a while. {Aren't they wonderful?!} We would all walk to the grocery store, where we would each pick out a candy treat and a pop to have while we watched our movie that night.

Then every summer they would take all of us to AdventureLand in Des Moines. We would load up in their station wagon and the entire way down {and I mean, the entire way down} to Des Moines, we would listen to Meat Loaf cassettes. Ed and Linda loved Meat Loaf, and so gradually after riding in the car with them, all four of us girls became fans.

We always joked that we would go see him in concert if he ever toured again. (Who thought that would happen?!) So when he signed on to play at The Stir Concert Cove in Omaha last year, we bought tickets. Who would have guessed it would be sold out? I am sure we were the youngest people there by far. And I think it's fair to say we knew more songs that most of the people there too. {Or maybe we just sang the loudest....?}

This year we are continuing the trend and inviting Mom along, too.

On June 2nd, we are going to be road tripping to see....Michael Bolton.
{I told you it was random and slightly awkward!}

We also became Michael Bolton fans (and I am using the term "fans" very loosely) by being forced to listen to it in the car. In a different, but equally awesome station wagon, my mom would pop in her variety of Michael albums and - poof! - we knew all the lyrics to "How Can We Be Lovers (If We Can't Be Friends)" Definition of classy right there.

The best was when one of us innocently asked if he was saying "steel balls" in his song "Steel Bars." We proceeded to inject the word "balls" every time and ever since then, no one can sing it correctly. And to be honest, I am looking forward to singing it wrong at his concert in a couple months: "Steel balls...wrapped all around me...."  And don't judge. You (sadly) probably know more of his songs than you think.

It might be a horrible show (although I am sure it will be wonderful since Barbara from New Jersey reviewed his concert - and I quote- "Michael was like a very fine wine, getting better with age." HA!) No matter if he goes hoarse during the concert or sings each song at half tempo (hello Meat Loaf), we are still going to have a good time. Guaranteed.

Now if only he still had all that sexy hair....



Sunday, April 8, 2012

Easter 2012

This year was Bailey's first time hunting eggs. The whole affair lasted about four minutes.
in the rain. 

It was still pretty cute.

With Aunt Justy running for the next egg

Finding one on her own

On Easter morning we went to church as a family.

{The best family photo we could get.}

Easter is a big day to us Christians. It's the day the battle was won for our souls. It's so easy to forget the real meaning behind it. It isn't just about Peeps {which are completely disgusting by the way} or dyed eggs or baked ham for lunch.

It's about Jesus and His ultimate sacrifice, which led to the ultimate gift with His rising.

Sitting there in the pew at church, it felt good to hear the familiar message again.

Jesus died so that we can be more.
more than our mistakes.
more than our shortcomings.
more than all that we are now.
We have the promise of so much more after this life of ours is over.

This promise has begun to have more meaning in my life. It means I don't have to fear anything, especially death. I truly believe that my soul will live on when my time on earth is through. No matter what happens, I will be reunited with my loved ones in a place more beautiful than my mind can even imagine. And that is all possible because of Jesus and His love for us.

Hearing the Easter message gave me that wonderful, free feeling. The one that sometimes catches you off guard... 
It usually hits me when I am driving down the open road by myself. I am lost in my own world when all of a sudden, I realize just how beautiful everything is. I notice the flowers, and watch the wind rustle the crops back and forth. I can feel the sun warming my skin and the sky just looks so incredibly blue. I feel young and carefree and optimistic about the world, like my worries have just slipped away. My soul is simply unburdened.
And I love that feeling.

I hope you all were able to spend time with those you love on Easter and give thanks for all the blessings in your own lives. Happy Easter!

Friday, April 6, 2012

A week in the life of the Solko ladies

It's been a busy first week.

Jared has been in Des Moines since Monday morning. He will be gone the entire month of April, Monday through Friday, for his training. So in essence, I am a make-shift single mother five days a week for the next month.  The girls and I are doing fine, we just miss Daddy.

We've been doing lots of new things though.

We went to see some baby chicks with my grandma Joyce and cousin Alan. Bailey even saw a chicken lay an egg, which was by far the thrill of her day.

We went to a story-time play session (light on the stories) at the local library where the girls got to play with other kids for a change. Also at this play date I discovered that Bailey is going to be that kid who cares more about the snacks than interacting with people. {She must take after her aunt Fe, who at the age of about four was constantly asking my mom "What's fo suppo?" at around 8 AM...}

We went to the city park with Grandma Sherri and got some serious swinging and sliding done.

My friend Sarah came over for supper along with her son, River, and boyfriend, Austin. We caught up on the latest gossip and ate food (aka: the usual).

We went for a stroller ride across town to Linda's house and Bailey danced along with one of Linda's interactive Easter decorations - a bunny that sang and hopped up and down. And Linda, of course, hopped and sang right along with it.

Aunt Beaner came home for Easter weekend yesterday and brought us some delicious sugar cookies from Omaha. Yum yum...

My friend Holly also stopped by this morning to deliver us a thoughtful welcoming basket filled with local foods (and wine!). Her daughter Kenley - who is 6 weeks older than Avery - showed off her walking skills. {Hope that motivated your lazy butt, Avery!}

Also this week, I put in my app for Mother of the Year

Bailey escaped outside and down the sidewalk to a neighbor's house while I was upstairs putting Avery down for a nap. Awesome. She opened up two different doors, both of which I didn't realize she could even open in the first place.  Thank God we live in a small town.

Then Avery took a (literal) nosedive off the recliner onto the carpet and now has a rug burn on her nose.

Unfortunately it is the wrong time of the year to look like Rudolph, honey.

Monday, April 2, 2012

All moved in

First of all - moving sucks.
It just does. No one likes it.

But on the other more positive side, my family is awesome. Not only did my parents, Taylor, and Justina come down to help load everything into my dad's large trailer, but my Grandma Joyce and Grandpa Ronnie drove their truck down as well. All of them, along with Jared of course, packed and loaded and unloaded the day away. I wish I had some pictures to document the event (my posts need more visuals to liven them up) but I don't.

I also don't have any pictures to show the disaster that was the kitchen at our new home. We soon discovered that we now have about 3 times what any normal family should have of things like Rotel and shredded coconut and garlic powder. We definitely have a "Mormon pantry" as we affectionately call it, and when combined with the items from Justy's cabinets, it is just a sight to behold.

My mom took on the task of organizing box after box of canned goods into the basement pantry. {She soon regretted that decision.} Just when she thought there couldn't be any more food, we would carry down another box of beans. or bag of pasta. or jar of mayo. It was almost comical.

My mom's work of art. Or at least one part of it. Anyone coming over for dinner? I think we might have just enough food to whip something up...Maybe...

It seems like most of the important stuff made the trip. The shelf of bottles and pumping supplies did not get packed, so we are working with one bottle and nipple right now. Also the huge (and very, very cheap) Costco jar of formula I use to make Avery's baby cereal did not find its way here. So I had to suck it up and go buy a container that is about one-sixth of the size (for the same price!) at a local grocery store. That hurt.

We also forgot other miscellaneous things we had planned on bringing. There was no room for our poor plants, so they got left behind. All the cooking pots too. Oops. And some lawn chairs that would have been handy these last few days. But we are doing okay without them right now.

Slowly we are opening up the last boxes and finding drawers to file away the remaining items. Some shelves and pictures still need hung, but overall our space is starting to feel more like home.

Poor Gary. That cat has no idea of the torture she is in for. {And yes, Gary is a "she." Justy named her - that is your first clue.}

The bane of my existence. the kitchen sink. No dishwasher exists in this house. From now on, I will be spending way too much one-on-one time with this sorry excuse for a faucet.

We're all still working on carving out our own little spaces. A place to run and hide away for a while. Or in my case, go to sleep at the end of what feels like a long, long day.

My side of the bed.

Bailey's world  {notice how the boots are always close at hand?}

Avery is at home wherever her thumb is. Luckily for us, it travels quite well.

After only two days, the girls seem to be back on a somewhat normal schedule. I was worried about them sharing a room, but both girls went right to sleep the first night. Last night was a different story. Bailey put on her boots and was jumping and running around the room. From downstairs I could hear her footsteps moving across the floor and Avery just laughing and laughing. That is Bailey - our little entertainer.

When I checked on them later, Bailey was fast asleep in her bed, boots still on her feet.
It doesn't get much cuter than that.