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Well, his heart is in the right place

Like most toddlers, Vaughan wants to do “big kid stuff” any chance he gets. He especially wants to do whatever Daddy is doing. The other day Rick was shoveling in the backyard and Vaughan was insistent that he could do it too…with the adult-sized shovel. Too funny!

Vaughan was insisting that he

Vaughan was insisting that he

It was a lot of hard work, so he needed a break.

After a lot of effort with the shovel, it was time to take a break!

Needless to say, we decided he definitely needs his own kid-sized shovel to help out next time!

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Progress!

As you may recall, I posted a couple of months ago about the changes we are planning on making to the exterior of our house this summer. Well, I have an update and a few pictures of the progress so far.

We had to rethink the design of the new deck because our first choice turned out to be way more money than we wanted to spend. So we cut the size of the deck by quite a bit and decided to put in a new concrete pad instead. We can put some chairs and a small table out on the new pad while still having a small deck/porch leading up to the new front door. Here are a few pictures to illustrate:

This is the new concrete pad. This was going to be deck space in our original plan.

New concrete slab - front of house

This is how things look from the sidewalk in front of the house.

New sidewalk - front of house

And here is an updated rendering of the “new plan”…

Once Rick gets the deck built, we can put in the new front door. Until then, we are using the back door since that first step is kind of a doozy! Visitors beware!

Door to nowhere

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Ok, I’ll admit defeat

So, it looks like my plan to take a picture of Vaughan every day for a year has failed miserably. I guess I didn’t count on the cabin fever that set in as we waited for the nice weather to return. That’s not an excuse…I’m just saying…it’s hard to get motivated to take a picture every day when we did the same thing so much of the time.

Anyway, the nice weather is finally here and I have a few new pictures to share!

Here’s Vaughan playing with his sand and water table. He loves it!

Sand and water table

Hmmm...what do you suppose this is for?

Here he is “helping” Rick move some wood around.

Exploring

And here are his rockin’ new skull and crossbones shoes. Very stylish!

Cool new shoes!

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Is this even worth it?

As you all know, I recently went back to work as a server at Applebee’s to make some extra money. I chose this as a part-time job because:

a.) I’ve done it before, so there wasn’t a learning curve
b.) The hours I can work allow me to continue to stay home with Vaughan during the day
c.) In my experience, the money has always been pretty decent

While reasons A and B are both still valid and true, reason C has become a bit of a farce. The money is not pretty decent these days. Why? The economy is a wreck and hungry restaurant-goers are leaving smaller tips. Yes, they still come out to eat and they still order desserts or alcoholic drinks at $4-$6 a pop, but they have resorted to leaving only 10% (or less) tips. Let’s look at last night’s shift as an example. I had two different tables with check totals between $33 and $37 and each of those tables left me only $2 for a tip. TWO DOLLARS?!?!?! Seriously? I’ve been waiting tables for a total of about four and a half years now. This ain’t my first rodeo. I’m not a terrible server. I don’t get complaints…in fact I get many compliments. I gave those people good service, dammit.

Perhaps I should explain just exactly what a server makes these days to help out anyone who is unaware of the importance of tips to someone in this profession. On average, most servers make $2.13 an hour paid by the restaurant in the form of a paycheck. Of course, in some more populated areas, maybe the average is higher, but every place I’ve been a server, it’s $2.13. So, if a server works a six-hour shift (as I did last night), that’s a mere $12.78. How many of you could survive on that? This is why it is so important to really think about what you are leaving for a tip. That guy or gal who just spent the last 45 minutes serving you and your messy, screaming children an entire meal, keeping your drinks full, bringing you your check promptly and treating you with courtesy and respect (despite the fact that you probably did not offer either of those in return) will be going home only with the money that his or her customers left as a tip. (Yes, there is the $2.13 an hour, but most of that gets sucked up by taxes. Most servers scoff at the paychecks they get since they are usually quite small and barely even worth a trip to the bank.)

Oh, and let’s please not forget about those messy, screaming children. Yes, for $2.13 an hour (plus your itty bitty 8% tip), your server must also clean up that mess of macaroni and cheese, crackers, napkins, crayons, toothpicks, sugar packets and spilled salt that your children so kindly left behind. Multiply that by all the tables in your server’s section and the number of families that server must wait on in a single shift. I think unpaid stay-at-home moms make more just in dignity and respect alone.

Here’s a thought. If you don’t have enough money budgeted to leave at least a 15% tip for your server…DON’T ORDER AS MUCH FOOD! DON’T ORDER THAT DESSERT! DON’T ORDER A WHOLE SALAD FOR YOUR FOUR-YEAR-OLD WHO WANTS NOTHING TO DO WITH EATING A SALAD! Don’t take out your frustrations with the economy on your server.

And don’t think that being polite and leaving a nice note on your credit card slip about what great service you received will make up for the fact that you’re only tipping 8%.

I can’t pay my mortgage with a compliment.

And it’s not just my imagination either. Here’s a link to a recent article in the Los Angeles Times about this very issue.

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…and after $500 in gas and over 2000 miles…

We’re back from our week-long adventure to Tucson, Flagstaff, Anaheim and Las Vegas! Yes, we drove it and the most we paid for gas was about $3.79 in Anaheim, CA. The highest priced gas we saw, but did not purchase, was out in the middle of the Mojave Desert somewhere…$4.26!

We had a great time on our trip and Vaughan did pretty well in the car. He chose the longest leg of the trip to cut some teeth, so that part was fairly unpleasant for all of us, but we survived. We drove to Tucson to visit Rick’s brother, Justin who is stationed there with the Air Force. We went to the zoo and hung out by the hotel pool. The weather was hot, but very nice. (It was much better than the SNOW and WIND we had just left in Wyoming.)

Road Trip May 2008

Then we went up to Flagstaff to visit my brother, Steve. We had lunch at our hotel and then just kind of hung out since we were pretty tired from all the driving we had already done.

Road Trip May 2008

Our next stop was Anaheim to stay with my dad and step-mom. We were there for about two and a half days. We went to a fun kids’ museum (Kidseum) and we also went to Disneyland! We had some great food at a restaurant called the Lazy Dog Cafe as well as some other great meals at some of their local favorites. The weather was a bit cooler than we would have anticipated and we never saw the sun the whole time we were there, but it was pleasant and made for some really short lines at Disneyland. Literally…no waiting on Pirates of the Caribbean and The Haunted Mansion. Nice!

Road Trip May 2008

Road Trip May 2008

Road Trip May 2008

Finally, we drove up through Vegas and stayed for one night before heading back home. We saw the lions at the MGM Grand and the Shark Reef Aquarium at Mandalay Bay. Vegas doesn’t look like it does on TV. I can’t quite explain it…it’s just…different. And big.

Road Trip May 2008

Road Trip May 2008

It was a lot of fun, but it was nice to get home. Sometimes one of the best parts of a vacation is coming home to your own bed! Vaughan heartily agreed as he zonked out as soon as we got home and slept quite peacefully through the night.

There are a lot more pictures of our adventures in the photo gallery. Enjoy!

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Modern Art by Vaughan

Vaughan has a set of magnets that he really enjoys playing with. There are a bunch of colored “sticks” and several balls and you can stick them all together and build stuff. Sort of. They aren’t really powerful magnets, so building anything vertical is a challenge.

Anyway, Vaughan has discovered that they stick to the metal gate between the living room and the kitchen, so he has been busy creating some lovely works of art for us!

Modern art

Modern art

Modern art

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There’s a first for everything…

…liiiike…the first expensive thing that Vaughan has broken.

Exhibit A: Jenny’s Oakley sunglasses. Purchased for Jenny by Rick in Hawaii while on honeymoon in 2004.

Ugh.

He’s getting taller and smarter by the minute. I need to find new hiding places for things he’s not allowed to play with. We sent the glasses off to the Oakley Repair Department today, so hopefully they will return in one piece. Ugh.

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This Old House

On today’s episode of This Old House, we’ll be exploring the possibility of improving the exterior of Rick and Jenny’s home (circa 1939).

Yes, more projects. We’ve been talking about this one for quite some time and we think we’ll be able to do most of it this summer. Here’s what our house currently looks like:

The porch is ridiculously small and we have almost fallen down the stairs on a number of occasions while trying to open the screen door and unlock the front door while holding bags of groceries, a small child, mail, etc. So, our plan is to move the front door to the FRONT of the house. Novel, huh? Then we’ll put in a window where the door is now. We’ll also replace the other windows, get all new siding, new trim, a new deck and stairs, new stone veneer to cover up the ugly concrete foundation, and some simple landscaping. Here’s what it might potentially look like. (Please excuse the sloppy image…I did it very quickly.)

It’s a lot of work, but we feel it will be a good investment. I saw a show on HGTV the other day that said new siding on your home is the #1 best improvement you can make to increase the value of your home. Here’s hoping!

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The passing of a remarkable woman

My grandma passed away last night. She had been ill since last week and the doctors said she probably wouldn’t live more than 24 hours, but she hung in there for about six days…to everyone’s amazement. She was 99 years old and what a fantastic 99 years it was!

Some of my random memories of my grandma…

She loved cats and bears of all sorts. She always had those little golden yellow butterscotch candies in a jar on her kitchen counter. She loved to play cards with her grandchildren. She could get down on the floor (and get back up again) even into her mid-nineties. When she used to walk at the park, the rabbits and the elk would come running to the fence to greet her because they knew she had treats for them. She always joked about things like her hearing loss and the continuing challenges she faced as she got older and started “shrinking”. She rarely smiled in pictures because she disliked the gap in between her front teeth. She had an amazing memory. She spoke in French to her cat and was pretty sure the cat could understand her.

Here’s a picture of her from August 2007 (98 years old). She is sitting on a bench that our family dedicated to her on her 92nd birthday. The bench is located in front of the spot where the elk pens used to be at the local park.

Grandma

And here we are on her 99th birthday just this past October.

Grandma

Everyone loved her and she will be missed. We love you, grandma!

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