Tuesday, November 16, 2010

I love me a good cause...

Remember back in July when I went with my 2 sisters to go visit our oldest sister and we had an awesome garage sale that raised tons of money for Cynthia?  My dad also was able to sell my mom's church organ and raise some more for Cynthia.  And all of this was so that she could rent, for one month, a hyperbaric oxygen chamber to see if it would benefit her.  Well, this last month we finally rented the (insanely expensive) chamber.  And you know what????  it actually worked for her!  Not only is she feeling better, thinking more clearly, speaking more clearly, and retaining more in her short-term memory, but for the first time in years she's able to move her legs and feet!  This is more than any of us had anticipated, and after seeing these results, all of her siblings have decided to help raise the $$$ necessary to buy this chamber for her.

Fortunately, most of the $1900 it cost to rent the chamber will go toward the purchase.  Unfortunately, the total cost of the chamber is nearly $10,000!!  and that's for a used one!

But, we're all making efforts in our own ways to help raise the money, and one of my ways is making and selling my nursing aprons.  I designed this apron about 2.5 years ago when one of my dear friends, Kristin, mentioned that she'd like something with a little more "coverage" than the rectangular ones she'd seen.  So, that's just what i did, and--if i do say so myself--they're awesome!  I've made about 7 or 8 of them, and all of my friends/family who own one have loved it! (and should probably leave a comment stating such)

I only have time to make six of these between now and Dec 1, and i've already received 4 orders.  So, i've got room in my lil' schedule for 2 more.  You pick the fabric.  You pick the trim (optional).  I do the rest....except the nursing--you do that, too.


ALSO....i've got some Papa Murphy's coupon cards that I'm selling for $10 a piece.  they have 8 coupon stickers on the back, and one of them is a buy-one-get-one--you get your money's worth right there!!  Their take'n'bake pizzas are the best out there!  (and seriously, even if you're a meat-lover, you gotta try their gourment veggie...yummmm)

ALSO....my sister-in-law was in town last weekend and she and I (well, mostly she) crocheted/knitted some really cute hats and lil' flowers that i'm selling for $18/hat and $4/flower.  Here's a photo of three of the hats.  I could make these in just about any color and any size...

ALSO...Reid and I hosted our very first Poker night last weekend--we played with the donations, which all went to Cynthia.  I have insanely generous friends who brought us $220 closer to our goal.  And we had so much fun doing it!! If anyone in the Denver area is reading this and thinking how much they'd LOVE a night of guilt-free poker, just lemme know!  we'd gladly do it again...even though it was proven very early on in the night that Reid and I's gots no pokah skills...
 the "winners" table
 And the "winner!!"
(it should be noted that she arrived that night not knowing a "shovel" from a "clover" and had never heard of a full-house or flush.  It was awesome watching her clean house!!!!)

ALSO....my sister, Julia, has designed this amazingly cute Christmas card and is selling them for $6/piece--lemme know if you want to order some!

(trees are on the front, the message is on the inside)

Until recently I kinda thought that everyone loved this kinda thing--since, you know, I do!  But, after talking with more people, i'm realizing that some people hate it.  It makes them feel weird, or uncomfortable or guilty--and they just wish all fund-raising would disappear.  If you are one of those people, I am sorry to have added to that--and please don't feel bad if you just ignore this post and go on to the next interesting thing in your Google Reader! 

If, however, you are in need of a cute winter hat for a gift for your niece, a free pizza, greeting cards, or a nursing apron for a friend, and you don't feel weird buying any of those from me in this fund-raising effort, then just please leave me a comment and let me know what you want and when ya want it!

San Diego photos

Oh, how i love these lovelies...

We had so much fun on our little get-a-way.  As usual, Reid was completely willing to stay with the girls (and, as usual, managed to take them swimming, to the park, library, zoo, etc AND keep the house clean, do the laundry, read to them, play games....no wonder they love having him around!)

We (well, not me, but they) decided it'd be funny to have random photos of us jumping off of things.  I am, apparently, not a jumper. This first one is, if i may say so, my best jump.  My friends, however, have been practicing this sort of jumping for years.  I mean, look at them!  And then look at me!!

I am not even off the ground yet, and two of them are flying out of the photo!!  At least Kristin is with me in lots of these :)

These photos don't really do much justice to how fun and care-free and crazy the whole trip was....but i'm a bit embarrassed to post the photos that do :)

Thank you, ladies, for such a great weekend.  I love you all!!!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

San Diego and Hollywood

San Diego was amazing.  I love my girlfriends.  I loved every second of my time away.  And I've loved being back.  I love that Grace spent 2 whole days believing that the star fish i gave her was alive.  (she asked if it was real and i said yes....didn't realize that to her real = alive..). She has since figured it out...i think...  Eliza was not only disinterested in me upon my return, but she CRIED when i tried to give her a hug.  I think Abby must have sensed my sadness, 'cuase she has told me at least 8 times "i missed you so much when you were gone."  I have no photos to share yet...but hopefully will soon.

I didn't get to see my brother Kevin while I was there. He's in L.A. and we had a pretty tightly packed schedule.  But i don't feel so bad 'cause i get to see him tomorrow (wed)--ON T.V.!!!!!!!  
He's going to be on Law and Order: Los Angeles.  He plays an attorney named Robert Schuler, and he'll be  in acts 3 and 4.  He's tall, dark and handsy--you won't miss him!.  Check him out on IMDB so you'll recognize him.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Have I mentioned how much I like watching these two together?

Almost as much as i like watching these two.

Eliza is seriously obsessed with her dad.  Most days she's pretty calm about her daddy-obsession.  But if you catch her on a bad day--she's a wreck over him!  She gets all girly and emotional if he doesn't pay just the right amount of attention to her.  And if he dares spend time with her sisters when she feels he should be with her, she throws herself on the ground, and cries and cries.  It's actually kind of cute.  And when we (or he) leave town, or Reid works late and she doesn't see him for a couple days, his return renders her emotionally unhinged.  Also kind of cute.

On a different note, I am leaving tonight for a little 3-day mommy get-a-way.  We're going to CA...and I honestly don't think San Diego is gonna know what hit it.  I'm really excited about the trip.  But i'm also surprised at how sad I am to leave my lil' family.  Things have been much better at our house lately. (thank you, again, for your advice and prayers!)  And i'm enjoying all of these people so much, i don't really need a break from them right now!  Shoulda planned this trip for a few weeks ago....really coulda used it then.  But it's going to be great, and refreshing.  And Reid will have yet another chance put to practice his mad stay-at-home-dad skills.  I'm so glad that he's so good at it.  It gives me just one less thing to worry about....since i come up with plenty of things to worry about all on my own.

And we shall see, upon my return, if Eliza melts into a puddle of anguish and despair as she realizes how much she desperately missed me.   

I kinda doubt it.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

For all my fellow Coloradoans...

Tonight Grace was playing pretend at the dinner table. I didn't hear the first part, but tuned in just in time to hear that the "princess in distress" was indeed the daughter of the royal King Sooper.

I almost wet my pants.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

What did we do for the three weeks that Grace "tracked off" of school? (that's me trying to use year-round school lingo...)

We spent every single day of her break visiting grandparents. It was a loooooong vacation, but it was great. (and sadly, although my camera was out constantly at Reid's parents..I only busted it out twice at mine... I hate when i do that.)

In Wyoming:

We built sand castles....
Check out that sandbox that Reid's dad built!!

We fed the horsies...

We rode the horsies

I know that props should go to my girls for being brave enough to do this...but could I get a little pat on the back, too? That horse could have eaten Eliza!

We swam. We swung (swinged?swang?). We played

We jumped on the neighbors trampoline.

And we bribed the girls into posing and being happy for a few minutes...in hopes of getting one awesome picture. Eliza's still not quite ready for full-fledged bribing, so she was the hardest one to work with. But they still turned out pretty cute (although i wish i could go back and take out abby's not-so-little flower...)

Reid's family is awesome. Hanging out with them is always a good time. We loved every relaxing, sun-soaking, camp-fire cooking moment with them!

Heading to Provo was hard. It was the first time going there knowing I wouldn't see my mom. I don't know how, but I miss my mom more now than ever. I guess it's getting easier in some ways, too, but not in the 'missing' department. I miss her lots, and it sucked pulling up to the house and knowing she was not there. I found myself talking to her several times while I was there. She is everywhere in that house. Which is wonderful and hard.

So we kept busy. We spent just about every free second at cabinet shops, granite yards, flooring showrooms or Lowes. My parents' kitchen has needed a little updating for 3 decades now, and my dad finally decided to do it! I was more than happy to swindle deals and find the best price on everything for him :) The remodel won't take place for a few more weeks, so there are no before-after pictures yet. But we did remove all the (25 year old!) wallpaper in the dining area.

the top picture is the "before" and the others are "during." My dad's still working on
some of the glue left on the wall, so no "after" picture yet.

I had two wonderful friend "reunions". I love getting together with my life-long bff's (and i'm pretty sure we all secretly believe that we invented that term). We had so much fun, i couldn't stop smiling for days. I know i've said this before, but I really have some amazing friends. And sadly i don't have the picture that Grace took of all of us--it's on one of their cameras (hint hint, to whichever of you has that photo!). Grace captured us from our chins down. It's awesome.

Both my niece and Reid's sister started their freshmen year at BYU. It was awesome being in Provo while they were there, and getting settled in. But going to their dorms and meeting all their roomies made me feel ooooold. Not that 32 is old. cause it's not. But I just kept thinking that surely I was sooooo much older than they are when I was a freshman. And thinking like that--well, that makes me feel old! I'm so happy for them, though. They're both loving college life already. And i love that they can (and have!) head over to my Dad's for quick visits anytime.

Eliza turned TWO while we were in UT. She is changing so much, even I am seeing it--and constantly shocked by it. She has turned into this sweet, adorable, funny, clever and chatty little girl. I am loving this phase she's at! I think I was too overwhelmed and tired to enjoy Grace or Abby at this age. So i'm just soaking in every sweet thing Eliza says and does--cause it turns out that 2 year olds are actually REALLY fun when they don't have a baby sister stressing mom out all day :)

She still gets a little shy when she's around new people. Or when a group of people start singing Happy Birthday to her. Like in this photo. She was happy at the first of the song until she realized we were all singing to her...then she put on her shy face.

We didn't do a party or anything, but I don't think she noticed. My dad picked some plums from his tree and made the best homemade ice cream I've ever had! She had 3 servings. I'm pretty sure that's better than anything i could have bought for her. She LOVES fruit, and she LOVES ice cream. She must be related to me and Reid!

We drove back home on Labor Day. Which left us with one day to unpack, etc, before Grace "tracked on" and Abby started preschool!
Abby on her first day of 2 mornings/week preschool

One day at home was MORE than enough. My girls have been fighting so much lately, and we've all been having frequent battles with one of them in particular. So, i welcomed the start of school with open arms. Abby's in the mornings, Grace is in the afternoon. And keeping them apart as much as possible seems to be key to keeping the peace in our home. Nothing makes me happier than when they get along. Nothing drives me crazier than when they fight.

Eliza's in a little "joy school" with a few friends. It started today, at my house. There were seven 2 year olds here for two hours. It was actually not as bad as I'd anticipated, especially 'cause i don't have to do it again until the end of October :)

We're staying put for a while now. Three+ weeks away from home is a long time. It was awesome to be with family. And it's good to be back

And now we're off to parent-teacher conferences--our very first one!!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010


Julia, Melanie and I had an absolutely wonderful trip to Indiana to visit our sister, Cynthia. The last time we were all together was in 1998!! So, i'm really glad we finally got our butts in gear and got out there!!

We had quite the list of objectives going into this trip. Mostly, we wanted to do things that could lift a small bit of the load that Tom carries, and uplift our sister, whose life is ruled by her Multiple Sclerosis. And although we didn't actually have a list before going there, these were the things we discussed, planned, and hoped to get done while there:

1. Spend as much time as possible visiting with our sister, Cynthia, and her hubby, Tom.
2. Empty out the abundant boxes in, and put back together, their guest room and study.
3. Clean out the garage, which also acts as Tom's guitar workshop, and their only "storage" in the house.
4. Have a garage sale in order to a) raise funds for a hyperbaric oxygen chamber for Cynthia, and b) help them de-clutter!
5. Survive the cats. All six of them. By "survive" i mean not let my asthma get so bad that I have to go to the E.R., or our eyeballs get so swollen that we can't see.
6. Cook and freeze 35 meals for T & C to eat throughout the school year (7 different recipes to make 35 meals) and organize their kitchen cupboards.
7. Photograph the FOUR new guitars Tom has handcrafted this summer!! (thank heavens he has a hobby he enjoys this much!!!)
8. Visit Lake Monroe, a lake near their house that they go to as often as they can and that Cynthia's been raving about since they discovered it a few years back.
9. Play games with Tom and Cynthia--specifically Trivial Pursuit....which my sisters and I ALWAYS lose, yet keep coming back for more.
10. Have a Memorial Service for our mom--something for Cynthia to participate in, a chance for her to sign the guestbook, hear the hymn we sang (the one my mom composed that all her children sang at the close of her funeral), read some of my mom's poems, and have an experience together that could help fill the void that Cynthia feels from missing our mom's funeral.

Now, Cynthia's aides, friends and husband didn't think we could do it all. But you know what?

We did.

All of it.

We were amazing. I could try to be modest and say that we just did what any sisters would have done....buuuuuuuuut...


We were amazing.

1. We enjoyed every minute of visit-time with Cynthia that we could. Her M.S. makes it difficult for long visits, but we had enough work to do when she was unable to visit--it actually worked out really well.
2. We cleaned and organized and de-boxed more books and stuff than you could imagine. They had a small house-fire before Christmas. The insurance company basically dumped all their belongings into these two rooms... and since "free-time" doesn't exist in Tom's life these rooms were full of random parts of furniture and 100's of boxes (mostly full of books) stacked to the ceiling. PLUS there was cat hair on every single surface. And of course there was cat dander in the cat hair. No amount of clariton was gonna keep our allergies at bay. But i suppose it helped some.... Of course i didn't get a SINGLE before picture!!! And the after one isn't great since the only 4 remaining boxes in the entire house are in this picture. But please use your imagination... and tell us, next time you see any of us, how awesome we are.

3. Tackling the garage on Day 2 was way easier than the bedrooms on Day 1. I think we'd all take saw-dust and spider webs over cat-dust and hair! And it was fun to help make Tom's workspace a little more workable! Again, no pics!
4. The garage sale was a huge success! We got tons of donations from neighbors and church friends, we met the most interesting people and have some great stories from it. We got rid of almost all the stuff, and raised over $600 for T and C!! The local bagel co. donated their bagels, we sold bottled water, handmade hairbows and we had AMAZING weather--not humid, not rainy, not hot--just awesome. It turns out that it's a huge pain to get ready for a garage sale, and i've vowed NEVER to do one again....but this one was worth every minute!!
5. The cats were....catty. Day 1 just about did us all in. But after that, I think that all three of us found our allergies weren't as bad as we'd anticipated, and for the most part, the cats left Melanie and me alone...although they loved Julia :) Is it just a coincidence that she disliked them the most out of all of us? probably....
6. Chimichangas, lentil soup, Veggie burgers, minestrone and more--all frozen, all awaiting those busy evenings when Tom doesn't have a minute to cook. I'm so glad that this objective actually happened. And while Melanie cooked, I photographed instruments, and Julia tackled the cupboards. We were amazing.
7. Just look at these guitars!!! Seriously. Tom makes these! from flat pieces of wood!!! it honestly blows my mind, it really does. And they sound absolutely AMAZING, too.

Guitar #1

Guitar #2Guitar #3

Guitar #4
If you know anyone who would love an amazing handmade guitar for Christmas, a birthday, or just 'cause...be sure to let Tom know!

8. The time we spent at Lake Monroe was actually the highlight of the trip for me. It was the most peaceful time of our 5 days there. The Multiple Sclerosis that rules their life, that is a part of everything they do, just disappeared at the lake. It was just us. It was a miracle that Cynthia had the energy to get out of the house, and last for so long there! We watched boats and boaters and talked and listened to waves. No M.S. No worries. No cats. No objectives. It was a beautiful moment--the kind you thank God for because it so easily could not have happened. And i brought the girls back some awesome souvenirs from this lake--a bunch of geodes to crack open! My girls LOVED them (as any Princess and the Pauper fan would!)

9. Tom and Cynthia are the King and Queen of Trivial Pursuit. You'd think it wouldn't be fun to play with them...but it is. In fact, they're my favorite people to play with...and not just 'cause the game goes by so quickly :) And this time we actually got a few wedges of our own!
10. The memorial for our mom was nice. It was cut short, so some things were left out. But we had time to read some poems and talk about our mom--all the ways we're like her, the ways we're not, and all the things we miss about her. Our brief little memorial could never make up for the fact that Cynthia missed the funeral, and didn't get to say goodbye to my mom in person. But it was something. And it always feels good to do something.

The whole trip went by so fast. I barely had time to miss my hubby or my girls. It's nice being at a place in life where I can leave them and do something like this.

Thanks, babe, for letting me have a little sister-time.

And thanks, sisters, for a wonderful weekend!!!

Friday, August 6, 2010

Why, yes, i DID make these dresses, thankyouverymuch

i bought these two skirts on clearance for $.47 each
and turned them into these, is less than an hour.

This is my idea of sewing

Thursday, August 5, 2010

How does my garden grow?

I've been calling a small and shaded area of dirt my "garden" for the past four years. And because of my love of the landscaping and terracing in our backyard, I've just lived without a real garden.

But this year that all changed. All thanks to my father-in-law. The man is the most hard-working human i've ever known. And when he comes to visit he gets things done that Reid and I have put off doing for months (or sometimes years!) He calls us weeks in advance to get us thinking about what we want him to work on while he's here. And after a few meager attempts of "oh, Mike, i just want you to relax" i usually come up with a decent-sized list of to-do's. This trip the to-do was these garden boxes.

His trip out here in April was part of an entire Allred family gathering we hosted. It was so fun to have everyone here in our cozy little house. We fit. Barely, but we fit. My girls had a blast playing with their cousins, Reid and I had a blast visiting with family. And Mike--well, between games of "Princesses and the Bad Prince" and walking around with Gabe in his arms, he built five awesome raised-bed garden boxes. These boxes meant digging up and transplanting some rose bushes. They meant a slightly less beautiful backyard.

But you know what else they meant?

The world to me. Seriously. This was early April. My mom had only a few weeks left. I was in constant heart-ache and denial, watching life slip out of my mom, and there was nothing I could do about. And I needed a place where I could make things live. Where everything was in my control. Where "nature's course" wasn't my worst enemy.

That's exactly what this garden was for me. It gave me something to do and to focus on in the times i was back here in Denver, between trips to Provo. And you can ask Reid--it was all-consuming. I researched EVERYTHING you can imagine. I chose square-foot gardening, and planned and mapped each box out, with several rough drafts. I learned which plants thrive well next to which plants, and figured out when i could plant what, which ones to start from seed, which ones to buy. I mean, i was obsessing over this garden. It was a coping technique. And it worked well.

After the funeral and everything, I came home to copious amount of spinach in two of the beds. This made me happier than any other single thing could have. We ate spinach in and on everything. The girls thought it was the coolest thing ever, which only added to my state of bliss. (It still does, in fact. Watching them enjoy the garden has been a huge added bonus that I somehow hadn't anticipated.)

I've been dreaming of a real garden since i-don't-know-when. So, really i don't know how I didn't convince myself 4 years ago to make this change. But I'm glad I didn't. This garden has been my happy-place all summer. The newness of it is a big role in that. And, i kid you not, I sit on my deck and stare at it. Often. The way you do the ocean. And it amazes me, the same way the never-ending water does.

And although the #$%@ bunnies had their way with our beets and strawberries, they were kind enough to leave us our snap peas, lettuces, some kale, tomatoes, more tomatoes, zucchini, pumpkins, squash, carrots, peppers, basil and the satisfaction of watching tiny seeds turn into exactly what they claimed they would!!

And here's a photo i just found--it's the closest I've got to a "before" picture, with the rose bushes that we transplanted behind the girls. And you know what? After looking at the lush, beautiful garden above, i miss these roses even less.

We all love Kindergarten

Grace is loving Kindergarten. And Kindergarten is loving Grace. The two are getting along so swimmingly, in fact, that at times i start to feel a bit left out. I see other kids who still cry when their moms drop them off, and I sometimes wish that Grace would shed a tear or two for my sake. But, (fortunately, i suppose) she does not cry. She runs ahead of us (or leaps out of the van, depending on whether we're having a walking or driving day) and gets right in line with the other kids--without looking back. When we finally catch up to her, she still lets me give her a kiss (in front of all her friends!), and she still gives Abby and Eliza a hug. Then she goes inside the classroom, without looking back.

We come back home, and Eliza and Abby play together for 30-45 minutes (which i LOVE). Then Eliza naps and Abby and I have time to read, have piano lessons, or do puzzles and games (which i LOVE, since Grace isn't really into either and i'm a big puzzle/game fan), and then Abby heads down to the basement to play by herself (which i LOOOOVE). Abby had a hard time the first few days, but has adapted REALLY well. I think she actually enjoys being the "boss" sometimes...even if there is no one down there to boss around.

And I am left with a few minutes all to myself. It's really quite lovely, if I may confess. I've worked on some projects, done P90-X (minus the 90 part...let's call it p8-x for now), read a couple of books, occasionally do a bit of housework, and i sometimes even take a nap! The TV is not on. Neighborhood kids are not over. All in all, this little change has done good things for everyone involved.

Grace is learning to read at school -- and loving it. I'd considered taking it upon myself to teach her to read a few months ago, to "give her the edge" at school--but ultimately didn't feel right about it. And i'm SOOO glad I didn't. Not just because she and I don't really have a great teacher/student relationship, but because she is learning to learn!! She's enjoying her homework, she's mastering her "sight words" and feeling the satisfaction of progress and accomplishment.

But my favorite change? my favorite part of all of this? it's waiting out on my lawn for Grace to come home. She runs down the street, I scoop her up, and she gives me the world's biggest hug (the one you might expect from a child who does cry when her mom drops her off) and I carry her into our house. She runs to the bathroom to wash her hands (because she's a bit neurotic about hand washing...no idea why... :), comes and sits on my lap, and tells me whatever little bits of her day she wants to talk about.

In fact, she's coming home right now. I've been instructed today (by Miss Grace, herself) to meet her half way up the street, so I better go!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

i cried today...

...as I finished sewing Grace's dress that my mom started months ago--the dress i'd worked on by my mom's bedside several nights, and the dress i've been putting off working on for fear that it would be too hard. It was. In every way. It didn't help that I still don't know how to work my mom's sewing machine, so I went to call her about 3 times, each time feeling like a new reminder that i can't. At least the dress turned out pretty cute.

I cried today as I hugged good-bye one of my dearest friends. Gillian and her family are moving too many states away. She and I have known each other since our oldest girls were about 15 months old. I used Grace as an excuse to invite myself over to her house 4 years ago, when truthfully i just thought she seemed pretty awesome and i wanted her to be my friend...and it worked! thanks, Gillian, for being the kind of friend I needed, and the kind of friend we ALL feel so lucky to have. You will be missed more than you know. I love you.

And I cried today as I hugged Grace outside of her Kindergarten classroom. She gave me a good, long hug. And then she turned and skipped into the classroom, holding hands with one of the girls she met at orientation the other day. She didn't even look back. I really, really wanted her to look back. Abby held on to my leg and said, right after Grace walked in the door, "mom, i really miss Gracie." She has no idea what she's in for. Eliza didn't really get what was going on until we started driving away, at which point she started screaming, pointing at Grace's empty carseat, "Gracie, Gracie"--and at this point my crying turned to sobbing. I tried to explain to her that Gracie would be back in just a few hours and that she was only gone for a little bit, but my words of comfort provided zero comfort--for either of us.

I don't love goodbyes, but they seem to be lovin' me.