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!

About the House

13 November 2014

We are home.

We are home, and it's cold outside. I turned the heat on it's so cold outside.

We bought this house in August, and it felt like the house would never be ready for us to move in and it would be hot Houston summer forever. And then there were all these emotions and my grandmother passed away and we were apart from our Jacob for too long and it was all crazy, and now I'm sitting in our new house with my feet on our old coffee table and I'm just marveling at this whole month.

So the house.

But I'm in love. I love it. The fact that I'm staring at a kitchen that we designed, my old sketches incarnate, and it's getting countertops tomorrow. It's kind of unreal. Remodeling is exhilarating. It's like a big puzzle and you're recutting the pieces. You're presented with riddle after riddle and constantly working toward creative solutions.

Caught in the act:
And now that we've moved in I actually get to help. Yesterday, during naptime, my little brother told me he really needed my help to grout the tile in the bathroom. I felt like the last one picked for the kickball team, but I was determined to do a great job. And we grouted and yucked it up and my hands got all soggy wrinkled, and then I just kept going back to that bathroom all day with tea in my left hand and a baby on my right hip just to look at those tiles, because I grouted those tiles and unlike clean laundry or swept floors they were gonna stay that way.
The backyard is huge and butts up against a train track. This is one of the many reasons we were able to get such a good deal on the place. But I'm finding the train has some real perks. Because of the train, the yard ends in a huge rock wall (so: privacy) and we can only see the top of the train as it passes, it's noisy, but double paned windows put a significant dent in that and I have a three year old thinks we died and moved to Chuggington. I'm kinda loving it too. Trains are bustling and going places and smack of both a wild desolate west and a crowded urban metropolis. Now, our train isn't quite that romantic, but this house and I are honeymooning and I've even got me some heart eyes for our freight train.
Most every piece of the house is still in progress - Jacob is painting the last of the cabinetry as I type this - so you'll have to wait for official before and afters and until then soak up the glimpses, like this one of the floor.
Hasta la next time.

One for the (Big Boy) Books

07 November 2014

I almost titled the post: This is Three, but then realized that in the blogospheres I run, that hinted at a pregnancy announcement, so I changed it and went with the library pun. Anywho...

Life in the past few weeks has been unusual - moving, staying with my parents, fatherlessness, daylight savings ending - anyone of which is enough disruption for this one mommy and these two kiddos, but as fate would have it, they have all coincided.

Long story short: the kiddos have been sorely lacking in routine. That oh-so-magical and ever elusive routine. The thing that will solve all your parenting woes and ensure that your children are rested and fed and well-behaved.

Even 11 o'clock yesterday morning was probably too far along for an adventure, I just needed to do something, so I packed the kids up for a visit to the library and my favorite coffee place with an old friend. After maybe six sweet minutes at the library of doing puzzles, I overestimated the Jake's fuse and picked a battle I probably should've let alone.

You know that moment when your wrangling your flailing, wailing child in a public space and wondering just WHY you asked him to put away his puzzles before moving onto the next activity?? And even though you don't like to consider yourself a pushover, you never would've said anything if you'd known it would come to this. But you've done it. You've bombed Pearl Harbor, you've woken the giant, or in this case the three year old, and you will live out the consequences.

So we attempted an exit. I hoisted the screaming Jake under my right arm and the boots he'd kicked off in my right hand. My left hand ushered the barely walking Lucy June. All the little librarians craned their necks and watched me exeunt with the holy terror and his little sister: we were a tantrum train, and we were moving s l o w.

Once outside, I dropped Jake in the landscaping and headed to the car to buckle the baby in the car seat so I could more properly deal with her brother, but by the time she was secured, I turned to see the still crying Jake running to the car with Lucy June's shoes that my friend had saved.

After we both cooled down and got his boots back on, we agreed that we really did still need coffee, got the ever amenable Lucy back out of the car, and started for Ranch Road Roasters. It was, of course, two blocks farther than I remembered and rookie mother over here had neither ergo nor stroller, but the siren latte had me in her aromatic grip and we forged on, hungry and tired and keeping it together only at the promise of more cross walk buttons to push.
Before we got to the coffee place, I decided some real food was in order. We stopped for some grab'n'go lunch at the local health food store, but Jake - even though the last time we went into this place, he was barely two years old - remembered that this! store! has! toys!

(Seriously this child: hears nothing I say, remembers everything I say, and NEVER forgets a toy.)

So I sent him to the toy nook while I got lunch; I dawdled a little and grabbed a coconut macaroon because treat yo self, mama, and because I was bracing myself to coax Jake away from Thomas the Train. When I went back to get him, I saw that he was in the process of affirming his mostly potty-trained status.

That sentence got wordy. I'll trim it down:

He was peeing his pants.

Thankfully the accident was mild, and I was able to haul him to the coffee shop next door which had a bathroom where he could finish. He assured me: "I only need to go pee in about three hours" but I told him to try anyway, and low and behold, Will Power Junior had held a fair amount back. I tried to air out his pants and thanked my lucky stars that we'd avoided what could have been a lake amid the patchouli at the grocery store. Jake just looked up and said "Wow. I guess it's already three hours, huh, mom?"

As I squatted down put his soggy pants back on - commando, his favorite - I remembered when this happened and tried to infuse the episode with a little bit of the parent I really wanted to be.

And at that very second, he wrapped his arms around me and put his head on my shoulder.

"I love you, mama. Dat's why I'm hugging you because I love you."
Microcosm of my microlife, if ever there was one. It's like every day the sun comes up and says: "Good morning, mom, how do you feel about another roller coaster?"


To jump to a very different note. . . Only a couple hours after I wrote this yesterday, my maternal grandmother passed away. We've been expecting this for a while and were able to say our goodbyes. She was surrounded by her children when she died. If you think of it, please keep the family - and especially my mother - in your thoughts and prayers this weekend.
You were quite the lady, Nono, and you will be missed.

Lucy Juney Turns One

05 November 2014

Lucy June had a birthday...a couple of weeks ago almost. And true to form we did very little to celebrate, but we did SOMEthing. That something involved sticking a candle in a (still too hot to put icing on) cake, singing happy birthday before Jake blew out her candle, and taking some very poorly lit pictures.

She seemed pleased with the attention.
I'm pretty sure I just updated you on kiddo milestones, but that's actually looking like it was a whole three months ago, so I'm just gonna go ahead and do it again for the underphotographed second born.

Lucy June Lucy June
She still doesn't sleep through the night, but she routinely sleeps until the wee hours of the morning, and her night wakings are quickly shushed by a little bedsharing. She's also begun to sleep more deeply and no longer wakes up when someone sneezes in the kitchen. Not best but better, and we'll take better.

Her Words

Buh - Bye
Buh - Baby
Buh - Ball
Buh - Beau (my parents' dog)
Buh - Dog
Buh - Cat
Dja - Jake
TAH!!! - STOP!!!!
Hum hum hum - drink
Ka Ka - quack: which is, of course, her very own special way of saying: book

She burnt her hands on my parents' oven when we had a big family dinner at their house the other day. It was the classic party fail: so many eyes and none on the baby - mommy guilt be mine forever and ever. But on the plus side...she's gotten a lot better at walking?

She constantly brings me shoes to put on her and tries to pull socks over head. She likes to sit on tables and dances whenever anyone's watching. She was a mama's girl until recently, and finally she's starting to warm up to the wide world of...people other than her mother, and we're all generally digging this development.

She gives kisses and hugs and high fives. She's typically happy to play close to me, and doesn't need to get into anything and everything like her brother did. I'm exhausted just thinking about what it was like parenting her brother when he was a crawler.
Maybe next year we'll level up and actually frost the cake and put some pants on her, but until then I'll bask in her general non-demanding nature.

Happy (belated) Birthday, sweet sweet little Lucy June.

We've moved ... kind of?

29 October 2014

The kiddos and I are at my parents' house for the week.

We had to be out of our old place by Sunday, but the new place still needed some work, so sometime last week we decided it would be best for me to take the kids on a trip to visit the grandparents. Jacob and my brothers could continue work on the remodel without little hands and feet getting into everything.

We moved out of the house on Sunday, and after a morning spent packing and hauling, we drove the four hours to my parents' house. A real Sunday Funday.

The children were pretty great little sports through the process. Jake got some quality time with his dad's drill and Lucy June squawked happily in moving boxes. Before leaving on Sunday, we ate lunch at the new house and simultaneously tried to decide on a layout for the living room furniture.

This was kind of a stupid idea because Jacob and I never agree on these kinds of things. So after a frustrating hour of scooching the couch around, we decided to save our marriage and kick the can on furniture placement.

At naptime o'clock, I packed the kids into the van, and we waved goodbye to their father. I prayed they would sleep for at least the first couple of hours, but 45 minutes and two interrupted catnaps later, things were looking very bleak.

It basically went like this: Jake would whine, Lucy June start wailing, I would vainly scan the horizons for a Starbucks Drive Thru, and then Jake would coo at his crying little sister: "Oh, Lucy Lu, it's OK. It's OK, Lucy Lu. It's OK, Lucy Lucy." And my heart would melt, and for one sacred moment I would dwell on how precious this stage of life is. Then the whole thing would repeat itself.

The kids eventually slept. We stopped in Austin to have dinner with some family friends and Jacob's brother. And I only had to navigate one scuzzy gas station bathroom after dark, so all in all, it went rather well.

The day ended with us at my parents' house: Jake asleep in my sister's old room, Lucy June asleep in a large cardboard box because I'd forgotten the pack'n'play, and me brushing my teeth in my childhood bathroom while on the phone with Jacob as he recounted all the obnoxious miscellaneous details that are the last bits of packing.

He loaded the crap toys from the yard into the neon green kitty pool and then as the buzzy buzzy cherry on top of the moving Sunday, he hauled his beehive (75 pounds of honey. . . and bees) onto the trailer.

The image of him combing the grass for dingy plastic toys and then muscling that beehive across the yard... I just. Well I love him. We disagree about most of life's trivial things, but we can join together in the hope for lots of bees, lots of honey, and lots of babies.
Pics of the new place soon...if the kids and I ever actually move in...which we won't do so long as the couch is sitting squarely in front of the TV with its back to the rest of the room. I'm kidding...but seriously.

Until then I'll be enjoying myself some quiet time in the rural Texas Hill Country.

5 Faves: Books, Book-T-Shirts and an Out of Print GIVEAWAY

22 October 2014

Linking up with Jenna today for some five favorites.

Yesterday during dinner I polled everyone's favorite books. Here is what I got from the five members of the household.
- 1 -
Robert (my little brother): East of Eden. It's my favorite book I've read recently. I also really liked War and Peace, put that one if it will make me sound cooler. I also like Gone with The Wind, but DON'T put that one.

- 2 -
Jacob: Um. Moby Dick.
Me: Wow, babe. So literary of you.
Jacob: Well, I read it really allegorically, I mean, I'm not literally into whale-hunting...I also love Mark Helprin's The Pacific.

- 3 -
Jake: Is there any kids in Moby Dick?
Jacob: No. But it has whales.
Jake: Any sharks?
Jacob: A few sharks.
Jake: I think my favorite is Smoky the Firefighter AND Busy, Busy Town AND Cars and Trucks.

- 4 -
Me: (Though none of the curious bunch asked me at the dinner table.) Such an impossible question, but if I had to choose I'd probably say Betty Smith's A Tree Grows in Brooklyn because nostalgia: my dad's mother gave me a first edition as a little girl and Francie Nolan and I are tight.

- 5 -
Lucy Juney's favorite book is the illustrated version of Raffi's song "Five Little Ducks" - she quacks whenever she picks up a board book. Granted, her quack is certainly more of a chirpy "mwah, mwah" sound, but she gets her point across and is very pleased with herself.

>> GIVEAWAY: Out of Print Clothing <<

Today, good friends and readers, is Lucy June's first birthday. (Time flying. Growing up too fast. Etc.) And on her birthday we've rigged up a little present from her to one of you!

When Jake was a baby, Zulily was running a special on some Out of Print T-shirts, so I snagged one for Jake. This illustrious one.

Out of Print T-Shirts feature iconic book covers. And their online store is full of super super cute stuff for the bibliophile: like pouches and totes and shirts for all sizes.  (They also donate a book to a community in need for every product that they sell.)

The shirts are soft and durable and adorable, and I just want all of them.

They graciously sent some for the kiddos and we went to the (wait for it) LIBRARY for a photo shoot, and I spent the entire time coaxing them away from the kids computer.
I let Jake pick his own shirt out, so he picked "the outerspace one"...which was fine by me since The Little Prince and I have a history.

Happy birthday, my always very hungry little caterpillar.

I'm so excited to give one of these away to some little person in your life!!

Rafflecopter it below for your own chance to win an Out of Print Kids T or a Onesie.

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