The curse of HGTV

Several years ago, when The Professor and I were getting ready to move back to Texas, we put our house in Tennessee on the market. Thankfully around that time the staging shows were wildly popular on HGTV. I got great ideas. But the shows gave The Professor anxiety. He worried a lot about the house not selling. And we did have a ton of drama selling that house, but I won’t get into any of that. In the end it all worked out.

Now, we’re settled here in our house in Texas, going on 5th year since building it. We’re still watching HGTV. Though now the shows that are popular are the remodeling shows. Our favorites are Property Brothers, Fixer Upper and Love it or List it. But here’s the problem, every time I watch one of these, I find something new I want to “fix” in my house. So as of right now here’s my top 5 things I want to change in my house.

1. our kitchen cabinets have no hardware. It’s a pain in the butt to open the drawers, and frankly they look naked.

2. my lower cabinets are like big useless holes. why do they only put those stupid half shelves in those cabinets? how is that helpful? I keep trying creative solutions, but so far nothing has worked.

3. I want crown molding. Downstairs in my living areas. And molding around all my windows. My windows are just hollow holes, they have no personality. Molding would make them pop and look pretty.

4. I wish we’d splurged and gotten the double vanity in our master bath. alas we share a sink even though our vanity is large enough for 2 sinks.

5. I wish we had one more room. Just like 300 more sq. feet.

So how about you? What would you change in your house? Do you watch home improvement shows?

Also we at Peanut Butter on the Keyboard want y’all to know that as much as we’ve loved sharing our lives with you these last few years, the time has come for us to shut our doors. We’ll run through the end of January.

Holiday giving

Dehart_03

The Professor & I at our recent family photo session

I was raised in a family with big Christmases. I mean really big. My mother loves to give gifts, it’s her primary love language and so she’d save up and spoil us rotten on Christmas morning. It wasn’t all expensive stuff, just thoughtful and a lot. It was wonderful, I’m not gonna lie. But the other thing my mom did was she always gave to families who didn’t have as much as we did, and she included us in this so that we were aware of not only how blessed we were, but also that there were other kids out there who had next to nothing.

Flash forward to my own adulthood and I’ve done the same. Whether it’s an angel from a tree at a local store, Operation Christmas Child or just from word of mouth, I always try to give something to a family or at least a child who doesn’t have anything. I’m trying to instill this in my girls as well so they are aware that there are others around them that won’t wake up on Christmas morning with a house full of new toys and clothes.

I can’t help but think of my own girls and how their lives could have been so very different had we not at the opportunity to adopt them. My girls could have been angels on a tree in the grocery store, or on a list that someone at your church handed out to ensure they’d receive presents. It’s hard not to think about that sort of thing. I’m overwhelmed with gratitude that instead they’re here in our house, in our family and I can spoil them rotten. But that doesn’t change the fact that there are families out there who have nothing and this time of year that nothing has got to seem even bigger.

So how about y’all? Do you try to do a little extra this time of year to help those in need? 

Thanksgiving week

clip-art-thanksgiving-turkey-free1It’s Thanksgiving week here in the United States which means that most of us are either getting ready to cook, travel or host visitors. We’ll be having turkey day at my brother’s house so it will be my big ol’ family all together in one house – that’s my parents; my brother, his wife & their 2 girls; my sister, her husband & their 2 kids and then The Professor, myself, Busybee & Babybee. Not to mention two cats and a Great Pyrenees. Thankfully my brother’s house is sizable and can handle the crowd.

The women in my family all divide up the dishes so that not one person is in charge of cooking everything. It makes it nice to share in the duties and we all get to visit & look at Black Friday ads while we’re cooking. The men generally watch football during this time. You know, typical American family activities.

I always make the sweet potato casserole because it’s everyone’s favorite. I’m not even gonna lie, it’s ridiculously good and frankly should just be in a crust because it might as well be a dessert. But my favorite is my mom’s cornbread dressing and I can’t wait to get my first bite of it. So what’s your favorite Thanksgiving dish? 

Here’s my sweet potato casserole recipe…

4 cups sweet potatoes, peeled & cubed (2 large cans)
2 cups sugar
4 eggs, beaten
¾ cup melted butter
1 cup evaporated milk
1 tsp. Nutmeg
1 tsp. Cinnamon
2 cups marshmallow
1 cup coconut

~Praline Topping~
1 ½ cup crushed corn flakes
½ cup brown sugar
1 cup chopped pecans
¾ cup melted butter

Preheat oven to 400°. In large bowl, mash potatoes. Mix in sugar, eggs, butter, evaporated milk, nutmeg, and cinnamon. Fold in marshmallows. Add coconut. Bake 20 minutes.

Mix the topping ingredients in a small bowl then crumble onto the casserole and bake an additional 10 minutes.

No writing necessary

biggest-loser-logoEver since Survivor debuted 14 years ago, reality TV has forever changed our viewing options. Yes, there have always been some “reality” TV out there, like the ones on HGTV and a few on TLC like A Baby Story, but the truth is, there are entire networks now where that’s all they show. I’ll admit to watching some of them. I’m a fan of The Biggest Loser, though admittedly I have stopped watching a handful of seasons because they’ve been more drama than motivation. If I don’t have someone to root for, then I’m not interested.

I enjoyed the first few seasons of Survivor, but then it got repetitive and annoying. So for the most part, I don’t watch them. I find the incessant yelling and conflict grating and frankly, it tends to give me anxiety. Kinda like that movie, The Break-Up that was out a few years, I can’t even watch the previews of that one without feeling all the emotions that I felt in the movie.

I’ve never watched The Bachelor because I find the whole “make-out fest” a little icky. And it seems like all the commercials show the girls sobbing about their broken hearts. I’ve never seen Honey Boo-Boo or Duck Dynasty, but I caught an episode of Naked & Afraid once and it was odd. It’s not that I don’t see the entertainment value, I get it, sorta, but I’d just much rather watch a show with an actual story, dialogue, and likable characters.

In any case I popped over to BuzzFeed because you know they have quizzes and lists on everything and here’s what I found.

Top 10 Worst Reality Shows

What Reality Show Would You Be On? (quiz)

By the way, I got Top Chef.

So how about you, are you a fan of reality TV? Do you watch some, but not all or are you a total junkie? 

Mommy chuckles

So I just finished and turned in a book and I’m fried… I always enjoy a good laugh, especially ones about being a parent. Which one(s) of these do you relate to?

1a493efd16e17c1224336bcf11a245c9

I do this ALL the time!

I do this ALL the time!

8487cec4e542869f7a23207bacd26087

This is so me!

This is so me!

My favorite is when they ask - "what are you eating, I smell chocolate."

My favorite is when they ask – “what are you eating, I smell chocolate.”

Robyn vents

Some days I wish I were just a mom, a regular stay-at-home-mom. Not that there really is such a thing. But the whole work-at-home-mom gets tedious. Like trying to balance everything is wearing me out and I feel pulled in so many directions. I thought that when Busybee started Kindergarten, things would get a bit easier, but the pick up situation at her school is overly complicated and takes forever. And then there’s helping her with “family projects” and homework – not that I mind spending time with her, I don’t, it’s actually pretty fun.

But I have my book deadlines, which the current one is really giving me fits, I’m running late, which I hate and would never have happened in pre-kid Robyn, but now it seems to be a fixture of my life – just goes to show that I still haven’t compensated enough time when picking said deadlines. In any case, then I decided to fulfill a life-long dream and take swimming lessons. The lessons themselves only take 30 minutes, but they’re at the university, which is not super close to my house and parking is obnoxious.

My house is never all picked up and tidy and clean at one time. It’s like I can manage one room a week and the rest of the house goes to hell. Needless to say I’m living in that Calgon commercial from so long ago, feeling overwhelmed and unsuccessful at everything.

Just seems like if I didn’t have my “job” (which, of course, I love) then I could just be a wife, mom and homemaker. It’s a wistful thought, not anything that will ever happen, nor anything I truly want to happen. But it’s nice to daydream sometimes about a simpler life. Any of y’all ever do that? Do you struggle to balance it all? What are your tricks to making everything run smoother? 

Reblogging….because I couldn’t have said it any better

If you’re a mom of girls, you gotta read this because it’s so very true and so delightfully written. And while we’re talking about glitter, a mom in my bible study group said glitter was the herpes of the art world – how hilarious is that?

Glitter is the Devil (And Other Things Moms of Girls Learn)

Plus we already had all of the girl stuff, which made things easier because I place an inordinate amount of importance on logistical household efficiencies. Our boy name was Jessica, and Jessica was going to look just precious coming home from the hospital in his little pink gingham Lilly Pulitzer classic shift dress.

But I’m tired of talking about our fake son Jessica. Let me tell you what I know about raising little girls:

– See more at: http://www.scarymommy.com/glitter-is-the-devil/#sthash.0olYROvB.dpuf

Writing beach retreat.

So for years now, Emily & I have gone on writing retreats to the beach. Usually 3 or 4 days where we sneak away from our regular daily lives and hole ourselves away to focus on nothing but writing. We’re here now with our 4 kids and we’ll play and chat and write and the kids will have a blast. But it hasn’t always been like this. Once upon a time there were 4 of us that would come, us and 2 other writers and that’s what I want to talk about today.

When we started these retreats, we were fortunate that one of us had a lovely beach house we could use and it made our twice yearly trips (usually February and September) even more of a treat. For the brief stint I lived in Tennessee, it made things more difficult as I would see family when I went to Texas and there simply wasn’t time to carve out for those writing retreats. But one  November we decided it was time for another one so I flew into Austin and together we piled into the minivan (this time with a very pregnant Emily and a rather chatty toddler) and we hit the road for the five plus hour drive down to Bolivar peninsula. We had these traditions with these trips, we’d usually stop at Chili’s in Houston and then make our way to Galveston where we’d load onto the ferry that would take us over to the smaller strip of land that housed the beautiful Crystal Beach.

I suspect that many of you might not have heard of Crystal Beach or Bolivar peninsula unless you remember Hurricane Ike, the one that hit shortly after Katrina. Ike’s damage didn’t get quite the media attention that Katrina did – Bolivar is obviously not as populated as New Orleans, but still many people lost their lives and even more lost their homes.

It wasn’t just writing retreats though that mark my memories of this blue house on stilts, it was a family vacation spot a few times, a place where I went with several friends for just a weekend away at the beach.

Before the storm, you could see rows and rows of houses, these are the pictures of the aftermath of Ike, you can see how nearly everything was leveled. Now I only lost a place where I have memories, I didn’t lose property or land or belongings or loved ones, and I can only imagine how those people will begin to put their lives back together.

I’m one of those beach people. You know, how some people prefer the mountains – The Professor is one of those, but me, I’m all about the beach. The waves, the sand in my toes and the sun warming my face. I can sit there and watch that water for hours. Or walk along the shore and pick up shimmering pieces of sea glass. It is a refuge for me, the one place on earth that fills my soul more than any other.

Changing beach locations is not the only way our retreats are different. As I mentioned before, now we have kids in tow, whereas when we started, we were both kid-free. Not only that but our dear friend, the one who owned the beach house that we lost now has late-stage Alzheimer’s. Our trips are different, but we still write and recharge and laugh and enjoy a few days away from our “normal” lives. But I miss those early retreats, I miss that blue house and I miss our dear friend.

The love I wasn’t expecting

10447061_469921366444635_6776470002636467206_nLong before I became a mother, before I got married, before we started trying and then doing fertility treatments, before the failed adoption and then ultimately he successful one…I know that I would have no problem loving kiddos. No matter how they fell into my life, I knew that I had a heart for kids. I’ve always been that girl, you probably went to school with someone like me, or maybe you were the one like me, the one who loved children and who mothered all her friends.

Then the girls came, dropped into our lives like tiny explosions, and I loved them immediately. Or perhaps I merely felt protective of them. Even when it was so hard and The Professor and I would cry and wonder what we had done to our lives, I knew no matter how hard it was, we would be their constant. They’d already had so much, too much, in their little lives. We would be the ones who never left, no matter what. Just as we had made a commitment to each other on our wedding day, the day we accepted those girls into our house, we made a commitment to them.

And just as any family, we’ve had highs and lows, challenges and successes (yeah, Babybee is finally potty trained!!!). And I love them. Oh, how I love them with a fierceness that takes my breath away. It doesn’t surprise me, that love, even the depth of it. Sometimes I think I always loved them, the love was there just waiting for them to absorb it. But there is something that surprises me and that is the fierceness at how they love me.

Perhaps that’s silly, or perhaps you too have been surprised by the love of your own children. Sometimes Babybee will hug me so tightly, squeezing my neck with her little arms and she’ll whisper in my ear, “Mommy, I love you so much.” Then Busybee with give me one of her brilliant smiles and giggle and tell me we’re having so much fun & she loves me to the moon. I can say without a shred of arrogance that I am the center of their universe (The Professor too, but this is my blog…) As unconditionally as I love them, they love me in return and for whatever reason, I never once considered this when I thought about becoming a mother. And frankly it thrills me and terrifies me (it’s a lot of pressure to live up to the way they see me) and it takes my breath away.

No genetics necessary

So Ellie’s post the other day got me thinking about my own kids and the ways in which they’re like The Professor and I. It’s funny how adoption works, you see families with kids that look just like their adoptive parents. For our family, I’ve certainly had people tell me that both of my daughters favor me – I don’t see it, but I know that the stuff underneath, there’s a whole lot in common.

Yeah, we could say it’s all nurture, but I don’t think that explains all of it. Some of it is simply divine matching – the way The Professor and I found our girls – out of all the couples in the world and all the kids in the world, we somehow found each other. And they are OUR kids. Sometimes I even forget they aren’t of our blood.

$T2eC16JHJIEFHSoyF!lCBSJo)wv8RQ~~60_35For example, Busybee, well, she and I aren’t a lot alike. She’s an extrovert and full of energy and smiles and joy. I’m not saying I’m a grump, but I’m more quiet and reflective. But there’s this one way in which we are totally alike and it kinda cracks me up. I noticed it first a few years ago when I bought them the Thanksgiving Little People play set. The box they came in is a reusable one so we keep them in there and on the top is a picture of the playset all set up. Busybee would look at the box and set everything up just so and get kind of anxious if her sister came along and changed things. More recently this has manifested itself in play with her sister – Babybee is a free spirit in many ways and has an imagination a mile long – so she will try to correct and manage how her sister is playing to make sure she does it the “right” way. I can totally relate to this, I get it, I’m the same way, but Babybee, she’s not like that – she does her own thing. So I try to remind Busybee that her sister can play however she wants even if that means pretending her mermaid is actually a blue elephant. 🙂

 

So I don’t have the same outlandish imagination that Babybee has, but we have other similarities. She’s an introvert, doesn’t care for crowds. But she’s also really precise. Even when she was really little, she was very specific about the way she did things. Where her creative play is bold and colors outside the lines, if you will, her artistic techniques are linear and clear. I can give her and Busybee the same art project, leave the room and come back and know just which one Babybee has done, all of her stickers will be perfect aligned. She’s the only kiddo in her classroom at Mother’s Day Out who is allowed to do the glueing herself on her art projects because she does it just so. She even sits like me, with her legs crossed over one another just like I do, just like my grandmother sat.

They have similarities with The Professor too. It’s crazy to me how perfectly they match us, how perfectly the fit in our family, how they create our family. Family life is messy and hectic and amazing and exhausting and everything in between. But family, no matter how you create yours, is a miracle and I am one blessed mama.