Sonny Money!


Our governor, Mr. Sonny Perdue gives teachers a $100 Visa Card to spend in their classrooms. He began this tradition about three years ago. (And I’m sure you’ve figured out by now, that teachers LOVE Governor Perdue even if he’s a republican.) We affectionately refer to it as “Sonny Money”. Though $100 isn’t much these days, you would be surprised how far an educator can stretch $100. The only catch is it must be used during our tax-free weekend, which I am pretty sure he started as well.

I can never decide how to spend this free money. My first year I was so overwhelmed with options and the insane crowds, that I ended up forfeiting most if it because it expired at midnight on Sunday. I have not repeated that mistake, but my list of items always exceeds $100, so I end up spending some of my own cash (which I hate doing!). This year I’m shopping online (I think). Partly because of time, partly to avoid the large shopping crowds (think better than after-Thanksgiving sales) that gather on the tax-free weekend, but mostly to avoid walking into teacher stores and “needing” everything I see. I can better manage what I look at and my total amount spent from home.

I’ve got a book list picked out on half.com (TeachinFourth, thanks for the recommendations!) and a couple dozen canvas bookbags selected at Oriental Trading. Now I just have to sit down and read the rules as to how this money can be spent. Money, Money, Money!!

(I should note that even though teachers as a general lean democratic, I am a bit more republican at heart. The comment above was a blanket statement concerning teachers and politics, not a personal one.)

Published in: on July 31, 2008 at 3:03 pm  Comments (3)  

Mama Mia!


This weekend, Maddie and I went on a date. We started the date off with our mama-daughter tradition: listening to John Mayer in the car. He is one of our few shared interests in music. We split a great dinner at Carrabbas, and then went to the movie of her choice, Mama Mia. And Mama Mia, was it cheesy! (F.Y.I. Mama Mia is an expression that is equivalent to saying my goodness or gee golly whiz! )

We did have fun watching it together though. Maddie and I were the only two women in the theater that did not have gray hair or the ABBA lyrics memorized. The woman sitting next to me enjoyed the movie so much that she couldn’t sit still. She was singing, dancing, and clapping continuously. She also liked talking to her friends a lot. Not cool, when I was worried that my 13 year old was going to be the one causing the distractions.

At some point, I leaned over to Maddie and said, “The woman next to me is having too much fun!” She leaned back and said, “The woman sitting next to me would rather be playing BINGO!” I looked over her shoulder and cracked up. Her neighbor was about 90 and was overheard voicing complaints. She thought the musical was much better on stage. She was a little snobbish about it too! Gasp!

The highlight of the movie was a scene between Donna (Meryl Streep) and her daughter. Donna was helping her daughter get dressed for her wedding day, and though most of the musical was cheesy, this was a very moving scene that caused me to shed a few tears. I couldn’t help but look at my own daughter and think about how that will be us in not too many years from now. And I’m pretty sure that when Maddie looked over at me, she had tears in her eyes too. Sigh.

My favorite actor in the musical was Colin Firth, better known as Mr. Darcy from Bridget Jones’ Diary. He did a great job, and continuously made me smile. I even thought his character was a bit sexy, so naturally his character ended up being gay in the end. Normally I don’t like giving spoilers, but this fact deserves to be spilled. Hollywood should stop doing this to straight women! It makes me have flashbacks to My Best Friend’s Wedding.

The worst part of the movie was Pierce Brosnan, although I’m sure he was a major reason the theater was packed with older women! No matter how great he looks, he really needs to stick to doing Bond movies. His singing made me cringe every time. OUCH!

When it was all said and done, we had a lot of laughs (some from the movie, most from our audience), shed a few tears, and definitely bonded. So maybe it wasn’t so cheesy after all:)

Published in: on July 30, 2008 at 4:22 pm  Comments (2)  

If Only I Had a Green Nose


I love children’s books. Not just because I’m an elementary school teacher or mother. I love them because of the beautiful stories they tell. Children’s authors have a way of using few words to convey powerful messages that emotionally stir the reader. If Only I had a Green Nose is one of those books. The illustrations are beautiful, but the words and theme are even moreso.

Many of you may be familiar with Max Lucado. He is a Christian author who writes many adult and children’s books. The book If Only I had a Green Nose is about a wooden puppet named Punchinello who is struggling with overcoming peer pressure in an effort to fit in. Poor Punchinello fails and must humbly come back before his maker in order to be restored to his original state. It is a moving tale, and in my opinion, it ranks right up there with C.S. Lewis’s The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe in the analogy department. If you have never heard of this book, it is worth buying and keeping around because it never hurts to be reminded every once in a while what happens to us when we try to keep up with the Joneses.

Published in: on July 29, 2008 at 12:33 pm  Comments (4)  

Watching and Waiting…

As some of you already know, I’ve been trying to start a neighborhood watch. I wish I could say it is going great, but I came home the other night in tears. Out of 6 surveys handed out, only 2 were filled out and returned to me.  I had two neighbors pretty opposed to the idea. This is tough to hear, especially when they seem oblivious to what is happening in their own front yards. On one of my last stops, I began crying while telling a man what I was trying to do. This was not intentional, but the night had been long and rough. Embarrassed, I just tearfully stated that I only wanted to keep our children safe. I don’t think he thought I was crazy, and I am pretty sure he and his wife are going to participate. He tried to make me feel better by telling me that my tears were just the result of my passion for what I’m trying to do.

I have 178 houses in my neighborhood, and so far I’ve only gotten 21 definite yeses. To be successful, I have to get 134 to participate. It is so hard for me to not get angry. Most people are very excited and see the need for putting something like this in place. But others just stare at me blankly, then ask me if I really think there’s crime.  They’ve lived here x number of years and have never seen anything. I just smile and politely tell them there’s nothing wrong with being preventative, and a lot of things are happening during the day while they are at work or really late at night while they are sleeping. Maybe I need to take the photos of the graffiti that I’ve painted over and the plastic bag of drug paraphernalia I saved from the street corner with me on my house calls. Another neighbor even suggested I look for crime stats for our neighborhood and print them out to show people. These are ideas worth considering, but I’m trying not to be pushy.

When I turned the corner back toward my house, tears still running down my face, I saw a woman knocking on my front door. She had her completed survey that I had given her the previous day, and she wanted a few more to pass out. She is a woman a bit older than me, and much wiser, and she had such encouraging words. She thanked me for my braveness, and told me that “they” will come in time. (They being the ones I cannot convince.) It might not be in my timeframe, but WE will convince them eventually. She thinks that as more and more neighbors start talking about the program and building it up, that skepticism will lesson and more will join forces. It was so nice to know that I had a neighbor willing to step in and help. God always amazes me in all the different ways he comforts me, and this time he did it by sending a special person with a special message.

I took my husband’s advice this weekend, and I took a break from the door knocking. He has offered to hand out the remaining surveys himself so that I’m less stressed, but something inside me wants to keep at it, even though it’s so difficult for me to do. He suggested he and other neighbors that are more “thick-skinned” and less paranoid do the soliciting. I can still help by organizing the ordeal from home. I think that I’ll do a bit of both. When it gets too much, I’ll step back a bit, and when I am reenergized, I’ll put my walking shoes on and start walking and knocking again:) I’m too darn stubborn to quit, especially after watching The Dark Knight this weekend. By the way, where’s Batman when you need him?

Published in: on July 28, 2008 at 12:44 pm  Comments (5)  

Reward if Found!

This is Carrie.


She is my reformed muffin mix friend. Over lunch the other day she began talking about the list of qualities she was seeking in a mate. Her uncle crunched the numbers and dishearteningly informed her that the man she is looking for is at least 1 in a million, and she might consider revising her list. She did. She added (in red) that men with annoying voices need not apply.

When she was telling me about this, I remembered that I had made a list in my journal right before I met Chris. I told her I would look it up and share it with her. I wrote it on January 1, 2006. (It must have been what I did instead of resolutions that year.) I met Chris two months later. My list of qualifications consisted of the following in no particular order of importance:

  1. Must be stable (financially, spiritually, mentally, and emotionally)
  2. Financially stable (apparently this was a biggie for me at the time.)
  3. Honest
  4. Dependable
  5. Supportive of me
  6. Ambitious (within reason)
  7. Christian
  8. Kind and Generous
  9. Fun to be with
  10. Comfortable enough to be myself around him

I remember anytime I dated or thought about dating someone I would go back to this list, and if something didn’t apply, especially the comfort aspect, I nipped the possible relationship in the bud. I felt my list consisted of deal-breakers, and nothing on the list was worth sacrificing.

I remember sharing my list with Chris after we’d been dating a while, and the only one he didn’t think he fit was ambitious. I reminded him that in parenthesis was within reason. Basically my criteria was the man must have a desire to hold down a regular, stable-paying job. I did not want a husband constantly trying to climb the ladder of success, nor did I want one that preferred laying around the house all day watching Maury Povich. I wanted a working, yet available mate.

Needless to say, he made the list. And I’m so glad he did. 🙂

Carrie decided the best way to find that one in a millionth guy was to put out an ad and offer a reward for  him. It looks like this:

I edited out her phone number, but if you know a good fella that qualifies, feel free to comment me with his contact info. This muffin mix gal is ready to become a full-fledged prairie muffin!! I did notice that there was no mention of what the reward is. I guess the reward will be a picky wife? OUCH!!

Published in: on July 25, 2008 at 6:22 pm  Comments (1)  

Vacation’s Over…


The kids are coming home today around noon. I cannot wait to see their little faces! I’m sure I’ll be all excited to see them until the fussing and fighting begins. I hate it that I am so tired. I slept past 9:00. I guess canvasing the neighborhood took its toll on me last night.

We are still trying to start a neighborhood watch, but it is slow-moving. In order for us to be able to participate in the C.O.P.S. program, we have to have 75% of our neighborhood participate. When we totaled up the houses on the five streets that make up our neighborhood, we realized that there are 178 houses! That means we have to get 134 surveys filled out and 134 residents have to agree to attend the first meeting. This is a challenge, but the good thing is my husband and I are very determined to make this work.

The response so far has been wonderful! We have about 20 completed surveys, so there’s much more to do. 20 doesn’t sound like a lot, but no one has said no yet. It’s just finding people home, talking to each person for 10 minutes or so explaining the program and answering questions. Another pro, is my husband and I both have the gift of gab, so we don’t mind the talking so much, but that can be a con as well. We are hoping to delegate some other neighbors so they can help spread out and reach more people in less time.

In the midst of neighborhood door-knocking, I hired a contractor. I went with #1, and of course had horrible dreams all night long that I made the wrong decision. I have laid it in God’s hands. I know that may sound silly to some people, but Chris and I had a horrible experience with the first person we hired to work on our home. We were drained dry and only half the work we hired the person to do was completed. So I am very nervous about hiring yet another stranger to complete something so large in my home. I wish Chris and I had more “time” to do things like replace bathtubs.

And I promise to post pictures of my bathroom once Maddie comes home with the camera. I know what she’s getting for her birthday…

Published in: on July 24, 2008 at 6:39 pm  Comments (4)  

Update:

Contractor #3 looked nothing like Heidi from Home Improvement.
Instead she looked more like this but with longer hair and a glass eye, and yes, I’m pretty sure she had a glass eye. (I would have taken a real photo, but Maddie still has my camera!)

She was a nice enough lady, but obviously knew nothing about how to replace a tub. She took pictures of it, measured it, and then left. I could have emailed that information to her. I asked her how long it would take to get an actual estimate, and she said 1-3 days depending on how long it took her to look up and price the materials, because she doesn’t actually do the work. I knew it was too good to be true!

So now it’s appears to be between Contractor #1 and Contractor #2. Contractor #1 has four kids, and seemed a great family man. Contractor #2 was knowledgeable about bathrooms, but was obviously a salesman. I do not expect to see him on the job site doing any physical labor. At one point he did joke and tell me that I could agree to redoing the whole bathroom and just tell Chris when he got home. I forgot to laugh, and politely informed him that was not how I did business. It’s tough because I’m leaning toward each one for different reasons. I can put Contractor #2’s bill on the credit card, which makes me feel a bit safer, but I’m still not sure if I buy into his snake-oil sales pitch. I’ve thought about hiring #1 to install some floors and #2 to do the bathroom, but I don’t want to insult #1.

Oh. What to do, what to do?

Published in: on July 24, 2008 at 4:44 am  Leave a Comment  

My Summer Vacation: Still Continued

I am on my fourth day of having a “real” vacation. I’m really starting to miss my kids, so it’s a good thing I have so much to keep me busy.

Contractor #2 came out yesterday. His quote isn’t a whole lot different from #1, but they have very different approaches. So this morning at 9 a.m. I get to meet #3. Please do not gasp to much when I say this, but #3 is a woman! I am embarrassed to admit that I have my doubts about this one. I cannot believe I am having such sexist thoughts! I have been a single mom, and I know firsthand the pleasure of completing “man jobs” and the satisfaction and empowerment that comes along with these tasks. There is no reason a woman cannot remodel a bathroom, is there??

I have my doubts. Unless she is an Amazon woman who spends three hours a day lifting weights at the gym, this is a job that will require some man power. I don’t know if she is just the person who gives the estimates, or if she will be physically performing the work. (And I personally can’t stand it when someone gives an estimate who has never actually done the work. It makes me question the validity.) Who knows? She could have a whole team of women that does the work right along beside her. Now that would be awesome!

And I must admit, my curiosity is peaked! What will this woman look like?? Where’s my digital camera when I need it? Besides, I don’t know if I have the guts to ask the lady if I can take her photo. That could be downright degrading. Unless of course, she looks like this, (photo retrieved from google images) because then she probably gets it all the time! And trust me, if she looks like this, she is going to have to be really nice and good at what she does (and I do mean bathtub replacing!) for me to hire her. I’m not crazy about looking at someone so pretty all day performing “man’s work”! I know! I know! Just go ahead and slap me!

Published in: on July 23, 2008 at 4:29 pm  Comments (3)  

My Summer Vacation (Continued…)


My time off is going well. Instead of reading Out Stealing Horses by Per Petterson, I need to be reading Handyman in Your Pocket, because I’m pretty sure it’s the other way around at my house.

One contractor came out yesterday evening, and another is coming out this morning. It’s probably best the second contractor is coming while Chris is at work. I play hard ball much better than him. Anytime a nice handyman or contractor comes around, Chris is just swept away with their knowledge of craftsmanship. I think it’s because he is able to connect. My husband is very handy and could do the work himself. It’s just that he just doesn’t have the time. (I must say this in case he’s reading my blog! HELP!!!!!!!!!!!! He’s reading over my shoulder! Get him away from me. I must continue! )

When people like the bathroom man come over, Chris lights up like a Christmas tree. He starts talking fast, excitedly waves his arms and hands around, and wants to know if they can do other things on our “list”. It’s cute at first, but it finally gets to the point that I must politely ask my husband to stop talking. His excitement and eagerness make it impossible for me to deal.

Don’t think this is necessarily a fault in my husband’s personality. In fact, it may be a strength. He trusts people. He has no reason to believe these people are out to rob him until they have.  I’m just the opposite. I don’t trust anyone in the service field. Not contractors, mechanics, insurance salesmen, etc., unless I personally know them, and even then I handle them cautiously. I look them up and down, dissect every word they say looking for discrepancies, and already know what things should cost beforehand because I’ve done my research. I am certain I can be a bit annoying and possibly intimidating at times.

Once we realized the guy was a general contractor and could do anything we needed, we were like two kids who had won a million dollar spending spree in a toy store. By the time the bathroom man left, his estimate included a long list of miscellaneous projects: the cost of replacing our tub and tile if needed, how much it would cost to lay laminate flooring downstairs, how much it would cost to lay tile in the kitchen, how much it would cost to install a hot/cold water faucet in the garage, and how much it would cost to replace an outside water faucet in the backyard. I was even lured in and wanted to know how much it would cost to replace the counter tops in my kitchen. The problem is, we haven’t won the lottery or shopping spree of any kind.

So tonight over our pinto beans and cornbread, I proceeded to tell my husband that I had already spoken to a plumber about doing the faucet work, and that we might need to let him do that work. He is after all, a close family friend. My husband lit up again and proceeded to explain to me how the bathroom guy had to drain the pipes and we could save a lot of money getting it all done at once, blah, blah, blah. Either I was blinded from the stars shining so brightly in my eyes or deafened by the angels singing such loud hallelujahs, or this is what was discussed when the men briefly went into the basement ALONE because I do not recall this detail.

I am certain that we will disappoint the man tomorrow when I have call him up and tell him we can only afford a fraction of the work on the list. But for some reason I have a feeling he already knows this. I am certain we’re not the first Chris and Elise he’s ever dealt with!

Published in: on July 22, 2008 at 12:50 pm  Comments (2)  

My Summer Vacation…

My summer vacation with no kids and no hubby has been extended! All the way through Wednesday!! WOOT! WOOT!

I am going to spend it calling up contractors because I need a new bathtub! The garden tub in the master bath began leaking almost a year ago, but it took us a while to figure this out until the kitchen ceiling began leaking every time someone was in the tub. We narrowed it down to the drain after cutting a huge hole in the kitchen ceiling. We patched the ceiling, and tried to repair the tub. It seemed to work, until the leaking started again. After pricing the cost of garden tubs, and trying to figure out how in the world one would fit up our stairs, we decided that this was a repair that would have to be put off for an indefinite amount of time. After all, our stand up shower worked just fine, and if we got desperate for taking a bath, we could always go down the hall.

This was very difficult for me in the beginning. I am a bath woman. I love a hot, steamy bath, and our shower is really small. My husband loves showers, so this wasn’t much of an adjustment for him. However, when we went and stayed at a bed and breakfast for our anniversary and he was able to soak and read every night in their huge claw foot tub, the bathtub repair skyrocketed to the top of our to-do list.

I worked all summer for a reason. We have a lot of things needing to be done that cost a lot of money. It really excited me to be given the opportunity to contribute something extra to our home. So I called the plumber to ask him when he could come take my tub out and replace it. He asked me if I had a tile man and sheet rock man lined up. What?! (Other expressions pop into my head, but I’m trying to keep this site rated at least PG-13.) The thought never crossed my mind that the tile will have to busted out and repaired, even replaced if it can’t be matched. Even worse, depending on how long the tub had problems (which may be a while considering the previous owners band-aided everything before selling and failed to mention this annoying fact), the subflooring and studs may need repairing or replaced. This isn’t what we were bargaining for.

So, today, on my vacation, I get to begin the long dreaded chore of calling contractors and getting estimates. I am very picky, and I cannot stand price gauging, which is what tends to happen in the Atlanta area. My husband thinks I’m paranoid concerning this matter, but I came from a family of contractors, and I know pretty much what the work should cost, and when you get in the metro areas prices naturally go up. This is tough for me to take because I still want to pay a small town price and get a job well-done. (I know, I know, I need to snap into reality!) I’m going to do my best though to find a reputable and affordable person who can get the job done right. I wish I could afford to just redo my bath altogether. A bigger shower would be nice, I would love a clawfoot tub, pedestal side by side sinks with built in shelving and beaded board walls. That would be heavenly! But, I can only replace the tub with a teacher’s salary:)

But a girl can dream, can’t she? Here are some links to some nice bathrooms. None are exactly what I’m imagining, but they all have an element of what’s in my head.

I love the black and white tiled floor in this one.

I love the vintage look of this one: the claw foot tub, pedestal sink, tile floor, and I love the red door that opens up onto a porch. Now that’s the life!

This article shows a bathroom very similar to mine. Mine looks a lot like the before photo but the walls are a pale shade of blue. (I would post a picture of it but my daughter has my camera in Florida at the beach. Lucky girl!) My husband likes this after photo a lot.

And he likes this bathroom as well. This is probably the closest layout I can find to my own bath. I like this bathroom, but it’s a little plain. I think it’s the “beach” theme that turns me off. I cannot stand seashells and starfish in a bathroom. I don’t know why, I just don’t.

In the end, we’ll just get a new tub, but like I said, a girl can dream can’t she???

Published in: on July 21, 2008 at 6:50 pm  Comments (2)