Saturday, August 31, 2013

Day of Hope Flag Details

I started out writing a completely different post on a completely different subject. It wasn't coming out right at all so I'm starting over! I thought I'd show the details on my Day of Hope prayer flag! It **definitely** looks homemade, haha. I was kind of thinking that next year I might add to or improve on this one now that I sort of know what I am doing.

Initially, I planned to put the white fabric onto the chevron fabric from our playroom curtain scraps. But, I cut the white part the size of the flag rather than the size of a patch soooo I just went with it. I used the sewing machine to make the actual flag because, as I sat there getting ready to stitch that part together, I felt the weight of the hour it'd take me to do a straight line that long and got out the machine!

I wanted the word hope on my flag. I toyed with stenciling, printing onto fabric, hand writing, and iron ons, but decided on stitching the words. I hadn't done anything like that in years. I'm not really what you'd call "happy" with the quality but it felt right and good at the time. I am also very happy with my cute little heart. I used a pencil to write the word in cursive and used embroidery floss I have leftover from my brief attempt at smocking. I made a grand total of one and a half smocked dresses.

Autumn and I used jars to make circles to represent the sun. I picked the fabric and Autumn picked the button. :) After I finished the x-stitches, I decided I liked the look of the loose, slightly frayed edge.

Most people put their child's name on the flag. Garrett's name was a last minute addition because I realized that the flag looked like it was for a baby named hope rather than the, er, feeling of hope. I'm not entirely unhappy with this. It was the last thing I did so I think I was getting the hang of it.

This is my favorite. I printed out a bunny silhouette and pinned it to the fabric to cut it out. This is another thing I considered getting an iron-on for but I wanted to stick with economy as one of the other themes for this project. Autumn chose the button for this eye and the fuzzy for the tail which came out of her chore jar.

It's rough compared to some of the beautiful flags I saw posted but I'm happy with the end result. It felt good to do and I think we all enjoyed the process here at the house. I'm not sure what I will do with the flag now that we've taken it out of the memory garden. It doesn't seem right to keep it out there but it also doesn't seem right to fold it up and store it until next year. I'll have to think about it! By the way, here's Autumn's contribution to the garden! She made a stepping stone with her name. I helped her some but this is mostly her own work!

Monday, August 26, 2013

Adventures in Etiquette

One of the interesting things about growing up in the hood with one immigrant parent and one largely absent parent (my dad spent much of my teen years as a truck driver) is learning how to navigate the world when moving in different social circles. This is one of the things I think a lot of talking heads miss when they are all "thugz need jobs!" Sure. But we also need someone to show us how the heck to dress and talk and all those other things that people like Mike learned from watching their parents. Not that I'm making excuses, people have choices, it's just that when the hole is deeper, it's a little harder to climb out.

I didn't get the job from last week. But I have two interviews and
an audition this week! I wore this to one interview today.

I seemed to do okay wherever I went because I had some amazing teachers who invested in me because they thought I had potential plus I read a lot and, as a result, spoke fairly well. I think a lot of you guys know I like to people watch. I learned to do that when I was a pre-teen and teen. I picked up a lot from friends and their parents. I got to go to a school in a better part of town because I made good grades. I was already an easy target for bullies because of my size so I wasn't *about* to stick out because I didn't eat or dress "right." Seriously, when I did go to school near my home, I hid in the library during lunch I was so scared of the other kids! When I had the chance to effectively start over, I decided to do it right. I even changed the way my name was pronounced. My dad always said it wrong so all my teachers did, too. When I went to the new school, I made everyone say my name correctly.

Later in college, I worked for a family that I learned a LOT from. I don't think they'll ever know how much I gleaned. I learned a lot about giving big parties and dinner parties, how to run a household, how to talk to delivery people, how to get proper medical care for my kids that I didn't have at that time, how to care for china and many simple things that I suspect many people just learn from family and friends and not from watching rich people, haha. And probably a few things that some people don't need to know but are nice to have in my pocket (like caring for china and silver!).

When I met Mike and started spending time with his family and in their circle of friends, I spent a huge chunk of time terrified that I'd make a wrong move and expose myself as an imposter--not that they were these high falutin' people or anything, I was just really scared of embarrassing myself and them in public. Inside I was always waiting to say or do something that would make people point and be all, "loooow classs, boooo." Like the old lady in Buttercup's dream in the Princess Bride.

Looking back, a lot of my worries were silly. People weren't waiting on me to mess up. I didn't really have to try quite so hard. But, maybe that's because now I'm comfortable in my own skin. And maybe the struggles with etiquette were part of that process. Who knows! By the way, I just realized I have never told the story of the first time I had dinner with Mike's parents. I almost died of fright when I saw all the china...but Pd saved the day with a plastic boot. More on that later.

Anyway, I bring all this up because I thought I'd write a little about etiquette. I've tackled the subject a little in the context of martial arts and grief and a few friends have asked advice on how to throw parties and how to be a good party guest. I've been wanting to write about that for a while and this seems as good a time as any since I haven't had any series going in a while. I promise it won't be boring because Emily Post I am not. But I realized I have sort of an outsider's perspective on the subject. I learned everything on purpose and I'm still constantly learning how to make a light imprint on the world. I have to confess, though, I love Miss Manners and advice columnists and all that so I'll probably be linking some of my favorites! If there's anything in particular you'd like to see here, let me know!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

WGA: Adventures in Auditioning and Being a Girl

I don't have a photo of myself in fitness clothes so have this
adorable picture of Autumn sized exercise pants.
Yesterday I had my very first gym audition!! I think it went okay for a first time and I should hear by Friday if I got the job. There was a lady auditioning for a zumba position and I auditioned for kickboxing and muscle classes. I was crazy nervous. They had 5 or 6 employees come to evaluate and participate. I am glad I brought my little speaker because they couldn't find a boom box to use for the music. The only one they found had, strangely, a European plug.

I went first and did a kickboxing style warm up and then went into my kickbox routine which lasted about 5 minutes and included a punch set and a knee/kick set. I felt good about that part. The muscle portion felt short. I don't know if I planned too much or talked too long but it felt weird. I had them do a kettlebell swing, the bicep curls/arnold presses, and a squat set. It also might have felt weird because there were no weights so I was all, "if we had weights, I'd tell you to move up to medium if you felt like you could."

The zumba teacher said something really cool to me when we were leaving. She mentioned before our auditions that she did tae bo a lot, especially with her dad in high school. She told me that she'd go to my kickboxing class because she realized she had been doing things wrong all these years. I said that I didn't think tae bo was "wrong" (although I kinda do think that but that's another post, lol), it's just that I've done martial arts and taught those moves in a different context. And this is the best comment ever: "I think that's it, for the first time I felt dangerous and not like I was just flailing around." ☆*:.。. o(≧▽≦)o .。.:*☆

Something else fitness/teaching related, one of Stephan's old students came by the dojo last night. He hadn't heard that I stopped training at the school where I had trouble last year. He still goes there from time to time and I found out something WAY INTERESTING. Part of the reason I don't train there anymore is a difference in teaching methodology. But the other reason was priorities. I told them that I have a family and a job and I just can't be out several nights a week. And if that means I don't get rank as quickly, that's fine. I'll go at the pace of my life. Makes sense right? Well, that's when the "motherhood is a liability, a stumbling block you need to overcome" stuff came up. Yeah, nooo.

Well. Turns out, our former student told that school THE SAME THING. Want to know what they said?


What?? No accusations of softness? Of fatherhood being a liability that he needs to overcome??

It's fascinating, really.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Day of Hope

"One day you'll move on; you'll get over it." People think it. A handful say it out loud. And, no. I won't move on. I move forward. I grow with the knowledge of great loss and great love. I live on wondering what he'd look like. Who he'd become. What his first word might have been. Would he have been quiet or loud or somewhere in the middle...nurturing like his papa or rough around the edges like his mama. Or like neither of us and both of us, much like his big sister.

This is the beginning of our hope and remembrance garden. It has two bushes. One for each birthday we have missed. There's a bunny for the baby bunny the nursery never hosted. Pinwheels spin to remind us of the things we cannot see. There is a stepping stone with a sun and gem flowers and the name Autumn because there can be no Garden of Hope without something that our sweet ray of Sunshine created.

Today there is a prayer flag, joining hundreds (and maybe thousands) of other flags around the world. Ours is made of bits from our lives. Autumn's dresses, our bedroom curtains, a fuzzy from the fuzzy jar, and buttons from our clothes over the years, stitched mostly by hand and with family hovering around. Our flag has Garrett's name and his bunny on it, true enough. But this year, our flag reminds us that we do have hope--to see Garrett again, that someday we will have a baby in that always-empty nursery that has been prepared and abandoned twice in as many years, that God will sustain us. In the midst of sorrow, disappointment, joy, grief, and love we have hope. It's hard to remember sometimes. We see the prophets and the disciples in the Bible experience signs and wonders and we wonder how they can doubt. I know how. Because I doubt all the time. I can't see the big picture no matter how many amazing things God does around me. I can't see the image the puzzle is making when things don't go the way I thought they should. But, I see the wind. I remember the miracles, sometimes. I am grateful to be alive even when I am bone tired and don't know how I can go on. Because I have hope.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

A Day in the Life of Molly

The Colleys are Cat People. I wasn't really a cat person until Mike and I got married and now I can't imagine not having a cat. Did you know Autumn's first word was meow? And her nervous mechanism when she was smaller was meowing. She'll still do it if she's startled. Autumn wanted to come to aikido with me Saturday and watch. She did great! And everyone cracked up when she let out a startled meow really loudly the first time someone slapped the mat as they went down.

Anyway, this week is a crazy week. I have a doctor appointment, I had an interview at a gym (yay!), I'm going to classes at that gym to see how they teach, I'm making notes for my audition there next week, and that's in addition to all the regular things like aikido and fitness classes I'm teaching, lesson plans, the house and all that. Busy. I'm not complaining but...for some reason I watched Molly off and on Tuesday and thought, oh, man. To be a cat!


11:30am, while I ironed.

12:15pm, while I ate lunch.

2:45pm, before picking up Autumn.

3:15pm, when we got back.

4:15pm, before we left for aikido

And then I was gone for several hours for teaching and came home to Molly taking over my chair, ha!

I mean, really. What a cushy life! We like her, though. Poor Molly is getting up there in years. She's about 11 years old, she came to live with us the Christmas after Mike and I got married. We found out last year that she has FIV. They think that she might have gotten it from a cat's saliva--she's never really been outside but once in a while a neighbor cat with stand in front of a screened window and Molly and the cat will hiss at each other. Or she could have been born with it because her mama was a barn cat. Either way, I hope she stays healthy for a while, even if it means she lounges like a fiend while I'm running around like a crazy person!

I've actually had some writing inspiration. Now I just need to get it written down coherently! And, Monday is the Day of Hope. I haven't been working on my flag like I should. I did decide that I want to do it out of materials I have on hand instead of buying anything. I thought it'd be nice to do a tribute to Garrett but also a tribute to our future--using the materials we have means mainly scraps from things I've made Autumn and it's a nod to how we're trying to be good stewards of our money in preparation for our adoption. Kind of cheesy but it feels right!

Monday, August 12, 2013


12 years and almost 200,000 miles ago, Mike did a small mountain of research and looking at cars to help me find a used car that was safe, reliable, and in my price range. It was crazy because, at that point, we weren't even engaged. The sales people were in awe of his dedication and all like, "seriously, don't let him go." And, of course, I didn't.

Pictured: NOT the Saturn. But the Saturn is red. Apparently we don't take pictures of our cars so here's Mike with a LOT of tea next to a rental car in Colorado back when Autumn was a munchkin. Also, what's up with that parking job??

The Saturn has been a great car but lately it's feeling its age. When a friend of ours got a car recently and we heard how low her finance rate was, we started talking about whether or not it was time to replace Old Faithful (except for the time when the transmission died but that was just once). And, if so, with what. It really came down to two things: we could wait until the Saturn died which could be tomorrow or next year or we could go ahead and find the "perfect car" without the "emergency" of only having one car when Mike works 40 minutes away and I am a traveling teacher. We decided to go with the latter since the interest rates are ridiculously low and there is no way we can raise the cash to buy a car outright which is what we did when we got our Sonata.

Here's the Sonata's back tire! Also 2009 which appears to be the year cars are in the background of our photos.

I'm not sure if we give the impression here but if you ask any of our friends, they will all agree that Mike and I are cheap. We pay cash for everything. We rarely go out to eat. Almost all of our furniture was given to us. We DIY when we can. Extra-curricular activities for Autumn and our car repairs are done in trade. And since the adoption saving started, we haven't had a vacation that wasn't tagging along with Mike's parents! So deciding to go into debt for the first time in our marriage was a big deal.

Mike went on a researching binge. He was in Consumer Reports heaven. Of course, he drove me insane but I told him that even though all the numbers and calculations and car review videos were going to make me batty, I was thankful he was good at and enjoyed doing that kind of thing. BECAUSE I DON'T.

I carry golf bags full of bokkens, which look like what I am holding in this photo, and jos which are longer.

It was funny because when we decided to test drive hatchbacks, I carried my aikido weapons and teaching box with me to put into the car. Hahaha. The sales people did some serious side-eying but admitted it was a good idea. One hatchback got completely ruled out because my jo wouldn't even fit into the back, no matter how we tried to get it in. We drove a couple of hatchbacks we loved but with another child coming one day and this car potentially taking us through 10 to 15 years of driving and kids sports and teaching, we decided that the hatchback was too small. More test driving, weapon carrying, and research later, we narrowed it down to a Honda CR-V.

More weeks passed and we found three potential cars. Mike did all the negotiating on the phone and a dealership in Jackson, Tennessee, won the who will go the lowest war, and an hour later we were test driving a ridiculously well maintained 2011 CRV with 20,000 miles on it. The entire experience was almost anti-climactic after all the research and test driving!!

The sales people were fabulous at this dealership. The finance guy tried to give us a run around--claiming to have beat our credit union rate but going over it by 1 percent, trying to tag us with an extra $2k warranty when the car already came with a warranty, trying to get us to sign a paper with the wrong numbers...seriously, it was crazy! But, it all turned out fine and check it out:

All my teaching equipment fits nicely! No hefting it in and out of a trunk, no taking things out of the bag to fit it in like puzzle pieces. Hey, first world problems but it's nice! The good news is, I counted up how much we have left to save on the adoption. It's a lot. But at the rate we're saving, by this time next year, I'll be able to throw the car payment PLUS what we're saving for the adoption at the car note. And the once that's done? We can rebuild our emergency fund.

We did a lot of praying for wisdom when we did this. We prayed and negotiated and talked money and good stewardship in front of Autumn, too, so she'd learn something even if she doesn't remember all the details. I was afraid that buying this car would feel like a millstone around our neck but Sunday when we were coming home from church, Mike and I agreed that it felt like we made a good decision here. It's not perfect but, considering all the imperfection in our life right now? I'll take a peaceful heart over a big decision!

And our old Saturn? We've had FOUR offers from people to buy it! Craziness!

Friday, August 9, 2013

Friday of Fun

I told Mike yesterday that I just don't have much to say these days. Well. That's not entirely true. I almost always have something to say! But I haven't felt like writing. I do write. And I will. But...I don't know. I can't seem to articulate the things going on right now. Exploring other adoption options. A friend who has left her abusive husband. Drama and friendships I watched split up in the last weeks. Finding out that all too many people believed a nasty rumor someone started about us. Not knowing where to serve in the church. Mike's work drastically changing. My work drastically changing.

I don't know. We've been passing around funny videos and articles because I think a lot of our friends are struggling right now. Maybe we are always struggling? But I don't think so. I do think this is a season. I know the season will pass. But for now, we try to laugh when and where we can. So. Let's move on before I get too Henri the Existential Cat.

I laugh so hard at this cat every time I see this! The music makes it and I heard that the kitty is fine.

I don't know why I like this underwear commercial so much but I loooove it. If you're, um, easily offended, I wouldn't watch this one. There's a behind the scenes AND IT IS FABULOUS.

And it goes really well with this student-made video on gender and advertising. Some people didn't like the "male" versions because they weren't stereotypically attractive men, but I kind of don't mind's ridiculous whether you're using a large man or a skeletal model, right? I found it when I was watching this parody of the Blurred Lines video (here's the clean version of the original...the original original video is naked models) by a group called Mod Carousel. I'm not embedding that but you can click to watch either video. Just, er, don't watch any of the Blurred Lines links at work.

On a lighter note, you know you have ALWAYS wondered: can Richard Simmons stay still for at least 60 seconds?? The dancing guy totally reminds me of Donny Osmond in the White and Nerdy video!

German compared to other languages, ha!

And let's wrap it up with some photos:
Fun portal

Walmart People

And, with that, I hope you have a better week than those girls and maybe next week will be a better writing week for me!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Wednesday Gym Adventures: Covert Operations

Well, I've spent the last two days applying to different gyms!! If you know of a gym or someplace looking for a fitness instructor in this area, definitely let me know. I am really praying that one of these inquiries comes through.

In the meantime, I finally got back to my Wednesday class. And guess who was there again?? The overly helpful elderly lady! I think she's moved on to helping other people, though. She was trying to help several different exercisers set up and put away their equipment which is a relief although it means I won't have any more stories about her! I do have one last thing before her chapter is closed, though:

Ha! I got a photo! It's a terrible photo and I discovered I'd be a bad spy. I felt pretty silly trying to catch a shot of the lady without her noticing. I tried "texting" but it was the wrong angle. I tried "looking at Facebook" but I couldn't get the right angle there, either. I finally just kept an eye out for her to turn away and I snapped it super fast! I decided that since it was a bad picture and I was a bad spy, I'd play with it in photoshop and make it look all grainy. This truly does not express this lady's frailness!

Anyway, with Autumn back in school, I put together my resume. I heard from the one gym I was really hoping to get into and they said they'll put my resume "on file" until they needs subs or instructors which just sounds like it's going into some pit. Discouraging. I'm essentially an optimistic personality, though, so I'll only be discouraged for a day or so and then I'll be back to applying and inquiring! Wish me luck. It's been a while since I have had to job hunt so I think I'm just spoiled!

Monday, August 5, 2013

FINALLY: The Under the Sea Treasure Hunt Recap!

Well, today is Autumn's first day of first grade. Sigh. I figured today is as good as any to finally post the photos from her birthday party back in May!

We actually didn't have a very big party. Just family and a couple of friends. Making all of these printables to (eventually) post in the Etsy shop gave me an excuse to fancy it up anyway. :) I made a banner, drink jar labels, favor tags, treasure hunt clues, food tents, and treasure maps! Even though Autumn's friends are all boys, I didn't really want to do pirates and mermaids which I see people do a lot. So, I tried to make it fairly gender neutral in color but still do the mermaids with some other little sea items and sea creatures. The boys didn't seem to mind and Autumn was happy so I would say mission accomplished!

I was lazy and did blue Hawaiian punch as our ocean punch!! I loved these blue chevron straws which I found on Amazon. Last time I bought these straws, they didn't have them there. I decided to get pretty straws at the last minute so I was really glad for the quick ship option (btw, if you want an amazon prime trial, click the banner in the right sidebar--you get a trial and we get a referral fee that we'll put towards our adoption costs!). Most of those jars are the same ones from Autumn's lemonade party, too. I included those rainbow cups hiding in the back for any littles who didn't need to be carrying around glass jars!

Of course, we had to have pirate's booty! That stuff is addictive, for real. One funny thing, though, humidity does strange things to the texture of the puffs! Just a heads up for anyone planning to have these at an outdoor event. Next time I'll use a smaller basket and refill more frequently rather than dumping it all into a huge basket.

Penny and Elyse put together the fruit trays and did a way cuter job of it than I would have! You can also see the other tent cards in the background. I had swedish fish and goldfish out. We also served hot dogs.

I really wanted round balloons but that was one of those things I ended up not worrying too much about! I thought that the balloons looking like bubbles would be fun but not really worth the expense. I reused these balloons for Jackie's bachelorette party, hahaha.

Linday has a cricut and she made vinyl names for the buckets I found for a dollar each at Michael's! We have a few buckets with names on them around the house and love them. They were collecting things along the way for the treasure hunt so the buckets were useful for the party and for home. Lainey brought Tyler and Hudson's buckets to the beach and Autumn uses hers here at the house.

The banner! I guess this is going to be the banner place for parties at Lainey and Pd's house! It works really well to let people know that they should come in the backyard rather than to the front door. I used thick twine from another project to string the banner and to tie the drink labels to the jars. I thought it would look like rope or netting, which is another one of those things I really wish I could have justified buying for decoration!

Here we are! You can also see the fun feather boa wreath I made and the mermaid pinata Lainey found online. On the other side, they have a brown haired mermaid and a black haired mermaid!

Ellie really didn't like her mermaid outfit. Her grumpy face is sooooo cuuuuuute!

In the area where we opened presents, I put this photo of Autumn and a framed copy of the invitation which I had printed at Costco. I hung the picture of Autumn in our hallway with Mike's father's day frame.

The pinata...poor Autumn didn't understand what I told her to do for some reason. She ended up ripping all but two of the pull tags out of the pinata! So Mike got one of my bokkens out of the trunk and the kids whacked the pinata samurai style!! The first clue was in the pinata along with the candy.

I didn't get a photo of the main table but I just took some deco mesh and spread it out and added a bunch of Autumn's mermaid and sea creature toys. I also put these little guys on the table because they were a party favor for the kids to take home. Underneath they found a treasure hunt clue. The owners of Collierville Arts have a daughter who is starting college this fall. She made a lot of stuffed animals and a couple of weeks before the party, the bigger sea creature caught Autumn's eye. I asked Katherine if she'd make some small sea creatures for Autumn's party and she did! I love how they turned out.

One of the clues. I tried to make them cute and rhymey...the kids did a great job reading the clues and only needed a little bit of help once or twice in solving the clues.

I totally cheaped out on the treasure chest! I took a styrofoam cooler and covered it in kraft paper. The straps are gold ribbon and the jewels are hot glued on. Autumn had a great time helping me make it and it's sturdy enough that we can use it for other things!

In this photo, you can see Micah holding the treasure map which I stuck on the back of these beach themed dry erase boards Penny found at Target.

We buried a bag of treasures (necklaces, jewels, rings, and chocolate coins) in sand inside the chest. They used the shovels that came with the buckets to dig!

The Southaven Cake Lady made Autumn's cake again this year. She used the invitation to make this ridiculously awesome scene. I mean, I can't even draw much less draw in frosting!! I bought the clip art (and commercial license) on Etsy or there wouldn't have been a mermaid at all!

I used these sparkling candles I found at the grocery store. They are really cute and fit nicely on the cake BUT they worked like trick candles! All the huffing and puffing Autumn (and Liana) could muster and they still blew out and came back several times.

We had such a good time! The Under the Sea Treasure Hunt was definitely a success. It was, dare I say, a whale of a time! Ouch, that was really bad, ha! I got a crazy good deal on that whale. It's like $11 now but when I ordered it? Something like $5 AND we took it to the beach to use there! Too fun.

Linked on Made by You Monday at Skip to My Lou!

Friday, August 2, 2013

In which our fee goes up-- A LOT

Good news first: Mike fixed my computer, yay! Bad news now: we got our new adoption contract. Remember how I said we made more but not a lot more so maybe the fee won't go up much? I was so very, very wrong. Our fee went up almost $3,000. It was $12,500 and now it is $15,425.

I don't *really* plan to turn to enforcing to earn money to adopt but I do hope that Mike and I can pull in enough side work/fitness work to save another $3k on top of the lawyer fees we were in the process of saving. We'll probably do another fundraiser but I'm not really sure what to do yet.

I did make one of these things when we were trying to bring home Grant Jaden I planned to write a person's or a family's name on each leaf for a donation of any amount thinking I could put the tree in the baby's room. It feels weird doing this one for a baby not Grant Jaden but I don't know. Maybe I'll make a new one for whoever we bring home. Any thoughts on the idea?

We also have some other inquiries we're going to make. If anything comes of it, or I guess even if it doesn't go anywhere, I'm sure I'll talk about it here. Either way, holy cow, I hope that we adopt this year. If we try to make extra money to pay for the adoption, it's like a vicious cycle where every time we do a little better, our fee goes up.

In the meantime, here are Garrett's profile pages: