Meet Me in St. Louis: A Christmas Story

30 December 2014

I had some *deep* thoughts about our experience in the Old Order Mennonite communities this time around, and I want to share them with you, and I will...but today I'm going to talk about road tripping Christmas and barf? Because I need to maintain my status as an oversharing momblogger who keeps it realz.

In California we lived so far from our families that roadtrips with babies just didn't happen. We blissfully flew with a lap child (ha!). But now we live in Texas which is kind of closer to things, so we took the cheaper evil of the highway over navigating airports and flight times and rental cars. We did our big driving push - Texas to Tennessee - in one day. We packed up the day before and drove out at 4am. Both the kiddos transferred into their early morning car seats pretty seamlessly, and we had ourselves a sweet roadtrip sunrise with some truckstop coffee.
The kids woke up in Baton Rouge, and we ate cajun powdered sugar for breakfast. We were riding high. I think we even high-fived each other. Ironically of course. For lunch, we picnicked in the sketchiest of sketchy playgrounds somewhere in Alabama.
Things went pretty well till the last couple hours of dark driving in the rain. We finally made it to Chattanooga and were desperately trying to find a fast food restaurant with a playscape. In the haze of the city lights, their colors distorting on the wet windshield, for over an hour we navigated first to a Chic-Fil-A which ended up being in a food court and then another that was in a hospital and then to a "kid friendly" taco place that was closed and elicited some rather saucy verbiage from the husband. Finally we landed at this grungy, deserted fried chicken place where we literally let our overtired underexercised offspring walk around the whole restaurant. In general we're zealous "Sit Down And Eat Your Food" types, but at this point we were channeling a lot more zombie than parent, and watched pretty disinterestedly as Lucy Juney wandered into the bar and flirted with anyone who smiled at her.

The next morning we found out that Chattanooga was much more quaint and much less circle-of-hellish than our first impression led us to believe, and we had some hipster coffee before heading to the land of hot hot woodburning stoves and cold cold leaky outhouses.
We brought our own sniffles to the Mennonites this time, which was kind of nice since it made me less concerned about all the snotty noses in these vastly child-heavy communities. But two days in and Lucy June was looking greenish. We arrived at one of Jacob's cousins and for the first five minutes I tried to calm my super fussy baby and make excuses for her, but then she vomited all over the floor. The wife quickly got a bowl for me, and even though Lucy June threw up about four more times over the next few minutes, I caught none of it.

An hour later she was ripe and ready to eat again, so I fed her with all my fingers crossed, while Jake played with his cousins' pet raccoon and Jacob talked with the menfolk about trotlines, horses, and weather.

When we visit the Mennonites, we eat a lot. Virtually every meal is at a different relative's house and each one involves SO MUCH FOOD. Mennonite food is very Cracker Barrel - gravy on pancakes, creamed corn, mashed potatoes - plus semi-unrecognizable things with names like "Scrapple." And each meal has some kind of dessert. Many of Jacob's cousins asked me how I lost baby weight. I told them I didn't usually eat cheesecake after breakfast.
The last afternoon in the community, I was doubled over in Jacob's Aunt's house suffering through the stomach bug Lucy June bequeathed me. As I tossed my breakfast cheesecake into a chamber pot, I devised this little formula:

Mennonite In-Laws + Stomach Virus + Outhouse + Winter 
How Much I Love My Husband

Soon with our sniffles and our stomach bug - and a trunk full of winter squash, canned soups, fresh milk, homemade bread and butter, and a gallon of muscadine juice -  we left Kentucky headed for my sister in law's house in St. Louis where we planned to Christmas. I didn't feel great about bringing all our diseases into her house, except her kids had Hand, Foot, and Mouth, so we just embraced our germy holiday.

I like to see Jacob around his family. I see parts of him that I don't see anywhere else, and I know it does his little extroverted heart so much good to spend time with them. We played a lot of Dominion and ate a lot of gourmet chocolate and drank lots of wine and martinis.

The stomach bug floated around the house and finally landed back with Lucy June on Christmas morning. The kids woke us up at 5:30 on Christmas morning, and shortly thereafter I found myself in the bathroom cleaning vomit (etc.) off me and my daughter and the floor - because we were covered in vomit (etc.) 

I realized at some point I was living my parenting nightmare: those horror stories you read on blogs when the whole family is sick for a week. I was living it. On Christmas. And as awful awful awful as it had always sounded, it wasn't as bad as I'd expected. It was And time got us through it.

Now the long roadtrip is over and we're home again in Houston. We'd planned to get home a day sooner, but on our drive home from St Louis, we took a right in Texarkana so we could wish my family a Happy Christmas in Fredericksburg before finally landing in Houston.

Back in Fredericksburg, my brother has strep throat or something, and now my mother is texting me "Flu! Flu! Flu!" and I think have chills and according to our meat thermometer I'm running a temp of 108. So. . .

I think Tootie and Mr. Neely say it best:
I hope your Christmastide is merry and bright. (Illness aside) ours has been quite quite lovely.

Happy Birthday HONEY (GIVEAWAY!!!!!!!!)

08 December 2014

Here at the Rhodes Log, we like bees. And we're very cliche about it.
The second post I ever wrote on this blog was about bees. Maybe you remember it. And since then I've been compelled to document any and all major bee happenings in our life.

A few days ago we had our first Texas honey harvest. After a rough start with a beetle infestation, the hive has been thriving.
Even though he didn't grow up around it, Jacob comes from generations of beekeepers, and he started beekeeping the year before we got married.

If you're Catholic, you might know that yesterday was the feast of St. Ambrose. The patron saint of bees and beekeepers. It was also the birthday of our very own beekeeper.
Yesterday, Jacob turned the big 30.
(Jacob saw the above pic and said: Is that going over my coffin?) (I'm just venturing into the world of manual photography, and apparently I overexpose when I'm feeling sentimental.)
So we got ourselves a nice hefty honey harvest, and we wanted to give some to you. Specifically this little jar right here.
As a Happy Birthday Jacob. As a Happy Feast of St. Ambrose. As a Merry Christmas. As an entirely nondenominational movement of good will. This honey is dear to us. We give it to people we love. We (especially me) like that you're here. That you read these words that I very sporadically share.

On Green Cleaning Dirty Dishes. The Spaghetti Scrub Review and Giveaway

06 December 2014

I spend a bunch of time in the kitchen (yay!) and a decent amount of time at the sink (not so yay!). This phase of life is full of so many dirty dishes, and I never could find a sponge, brush, scrub that I liked.

I feel like I've run the gamut. I've microwaved stinky sponges. I've fished slimy egg out of mesh scrubs. I've watched soap dispensing brushes just waste and waste and waste my dish soap. I even went through a phase of using those little mesh garlic bags. They worked well enough that I'd probably still be using them, if I'd never met The Spaghetti Scrub.
Back in July, the nice folks at Goodbye Detergent sent me some of their alternative cleaning goods and like a dutiful kitchen diva, I've been work-horsing them for months now.

So let's talk about this scrub. It's all natural. Like practically edible.

It's made with peach pits and corncobs (crunchy heart eyes). It lathers up with very little soap and dries out quickly so bacteria doesn't build up. It's designed in a way that with a simple rinse, it lets go of gunk.  It's not the cheapest scrub on the block, but it lasts for months, so it's ultimately pretty cost effective.

(I'm manipulating my font sizes to draw attention to certain perks of the product. I hope it's adding to your experience. I'm sure Anthropologie will be contacting me to write copy for them any. day. now.)

But seriously. It's a great product. And it's like our little kitchen pet.
Goodbye Detergent makes a variety of products. We also got to try their Outdoor Scouring Pad on our grill and their Cutting Board Refresher which has got me all inspired about making my own beeswax/mineral oil cutting board butter so my cutting boards can get good and polished!

Goodbye Detergent offered to give you one of their starter sets: The Original Spaghetti Scrubs Set. It will bring some merriment to the seasonal influx of dishes to one special reader!!

And check back tomorrow for our second annual Rhodes Honey giveaway!

To enter the giveaway, simply leave a comment with any of your favorite alternative cleaning tips and/or check out the Goodbye Detergent Facebook page! (If you have any trouble commenting just e-mail me!)

7 Quick Takes: Catch Up Catch Up

05 December 2014

Hello hello, little blog, how I've missed you.

Life has been swimming along, and I've been swimming with it. Not drowning or anything, just not blogging. I meant to blog basically every day. . . just like I meant to finish our Christmas shopping before Advent. I'm planning to learn more self-discipline in my thirties, and how to meal plan, and how to shower regularly. It's going to be a sexy decade.

- 1 -
The house is still in various stages of done, and no single room is finished. We elected to get every room at least functioning before going back and finishing things up. We're pretty much there, except Jacob insists that the garage counts as a room and not a black hole of overflow and therefore insists on putting up shelving for all of his garage-y things before we put trim in the bathroom or finish the backsplash in the kitchen.

This and other stressors encouraged us to flee marital discord in favor of NOLA:

- 2 -
Jacob and I traipsed off to New Orleans to "get away" with some friends because that's what couples are supposed to do sometimes. We had the best time. We took basically zero pictures because all I wanted to do was eat. So I did.

One moment late Friday night, when all the cocktails had been drunk, I sat on a stoop eating fried chicken and Jacob was singing Iko Iko Wan Dey with a man wearing a washboard on a bicycle. And that pretty much sums up the trip.

- 3 -
Back at the ranch, my mother in law was watching the kiddos, and in a too exuberant moment promised to make Jake pie for every meal. My mother-in-law however is a hippy mama if ever there was one and spurns sugary desserts almost as zealously as she keeps promises to her grandchildren, and so began an onslaught of blueberry goatcheese pie, zucchini pie, chickpea pie.

Jake still dearly loves his Abu, but he is slightly more suspicious of pies.

- 4 -
We watched Sense and Sensibility last night, and I'm proud to say that it was the first time I watched it without falling in love with Willoughby. It helped that I'd just reread the book, but I also think I'm just getting older, more mature, and trading some of my Marianne for a bit more Elinor.

Emma Thomson's Sense and Sensibility is my favorite Jane Austen movie. I prefer it even to the BBC Pride and Prejudice. I haven't ventured very far into the world of Austen film adaptations, but I've seen my fair share. Where do your allegiances lie??

- 5 -
We put up our Christmas tree. It's a Norfolk Pine, and the very nice man at Home Depot told me it's also called a Hawaiian Christmas Tree.
Whenever Jacob describes my Christmas decoration efforts he uses words like "bayou". . . I should probably rethink the beads.

And please ignore the table in this photograph, I just recently retrieved it from my mother's house because its size was indispensable, but I painted it when I was fourteen and like the rest of my fourteen year old style decisions needs to go the way of a decade and a half ago. So repaint it I shall, as soon as. . . I don't know.

- 6 -
I never posted pics of the kiddos in their Halloween costumes. First time I ever dressed either of them up. I know it's December and I instagrammed it, but I never want to forget Lucy June's costume, so it has to go on the family blog, because excepting the time Grace dressed up Julia and Sebastian as Sebastian and Julia, it's my favorite Halloween costume ever.

I should probably Pinterest it. Ingredients: Six Pack Shiner Cheer & Paper Plate. Dispose of beer. (I find sisters-in-law are particularly good at this part. Inside joke! Love you, Jor! xoxo) Cut up packaging. Tape to Baby. Voila. A Baby Beer Bottle.

- 7 -
Jake was going to be a rocket, and in the eleventh hour a family friend called to let us know they had a Buzz costume if we wanted it. Score.
Jake still insists on wearing it about every three days. (He even wore it to a gathering at the house of our couple crush on Sunday. They hardly noticed because they're cool like that and their youngest son met us on the porch with nary a hello and said: "My pants are so so huge because I'm wearing shorts underneaf dem." So yeah. We're in like flynn.)

Linking up with Kelly!

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