Friday, May 29, 2009

In the Meantime

While the guys did all of that hard labor in the back over Memorial Day weekend, the girls relaxed inside with some pedicures. Yep, you heard that right! Pedicures! For some reason (hey, we're not complaining), Don, had a lady come by the house to give all of the girls some pampering! Jennifer, the pedicurist, brought the spa straight to us, and Madison, Elaine, Aunt Medina (who we had to yank away from the deck work) and I thoroughly enjoyed the special treatment.

You may not believe me, but getting a pedicure is harder than you'd think! First of all, I was too short to even put my feet in the foot bath. (What's new?) So, my wonderful mother-in-law fashioned a little Mindy-Lounger with about 5 pillows. Crisis one: averted. Everything was going swell until she whipped out that PedEgg. She started rubbing that thing on the bottom of my feet and I started squirming! I'm extremely ticklish, and that was simply unbearable! I held my breath and sucked it up and finally came out (alive) on the other side with silky smooth feet. I guess it was worth it, but it sure was some hard work. (BTW, notice Chester. Yep, he drank the spa water. Luckily it was before my feet could reach it.) Each of the girls took turns being washed, clipped, shaped, rubbed, exfoliated, massaged, PedEgged, and painted. We felt like royalty. Unshowered royalty.
We each chose a different shade of red to adorn our newly sculpted toes. (We missed you, Heather!!)
Aunt Medina and Uncle Paul brought a boatload of Wisconsin Cheese down with them for their visit. Elaine and I cut the cheese (bahahahahahaha!!) while Madison made some labels to help us un-cheese-educated folk distinguish the many flavors. Yum!

Once it was too dark to do any more deck construction, we all got cleaned up and walked (led by Chester) to the local ice cream stop, Dari-Licious. Wow, talk about some memories. This was the hang out spot when we were in high school. Brad was in Heaven as he enjoyed his all-time favorite treat in the world, that you can only get at Dari-Licious, the famous Smurf-Berry Shake. We gathered around the picnic table and enjoyed the scrumptious treats and incredible weather, as well as the wonderful time spent with family.
We had a great, productive (guys), relaxing (girls) Memorial day weekend with the family. What a blessing.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Caution: Work Zone Ahead

We spent Memorial Day weekend in Indiana with Brad's family. His dad, Don, had a "little home project" that he wanted some help on, so Brad and I, along with his youngest brother, Jeremy, and his girlfriend, Madison, left Nashville Friday and headed towards the Hoosier state. We were joined by Don's sister and brother-in-law, Aunt Medina and Uncle Paul, from Wisconsin.

The "little project" consisted of basically cutting their deck in half to make it a square rather than a rectangle in order to utilize the patio concrete that was hidden away under the elevated deck. This would also allow for them to spend their time out back on the ground level, hidden by the fence, instead of being perched up high on their deck, on display for all to see, even over their security fence.

We were the last ones to arrive (past midnight), since we couldn't leave the Great South until after work on Friday, and they had already begun some of the demolition. As a result, I wasn't able to get a true before shot of the original deck. And the guys worked so quickly, that I could hardly catch a picture of something before it was too late!

The pictures below are the best before shots I was able to grab. The two on the left display the stair case that extended from the right side of the deck (along with some of the original lattice work), and the two on the right exhibit the original length of the deck. You'll just have to use your imagination to picture the stairs coming down right were Jeremy's rear end is.

The guys (plus Aunt Medina, who put Madison, Brad's mom, Elaine, and me to shame with her hard work!) were literally outside all day every day, Friday-Monday. They sawed, drilled, measured, demolished, and constructed non-stop. Brad and Don did leave the back yard just long enough to run to Home Depot to purchase some spindles to take the place of the lattice.

It's a good thing, too, because Brad and Don needed some grunt work to keep them busy while the nerds were calculating. You see, both Uncle Paul and Jeremy are engineers (well, Jeremy is an engineering major, but you get the point), and they decided to create a spiral staircase from the deck to the patio so that they wouldn't lose any of their patio space.

The Brain Trust, as we affectionately referred to them, spent hours and hours with pencils behind their ears, calculating the dimensions for this unique design. They were literally outside with triangle rulers (whatever those things are called) and a scientific calculator working out tangents and cosines and talking about hypotenuses and all kinds of other smart people stuff. They had to make sure that the angle of the steps, as well as the depth of the steps would not only make a perfect half circle, but also go the perfect height from deck to patio.

They were able to reuse the boards that had made up deck floor only days before as the steps to the new staircase. I do believe the (nearly) final product came out pretty awesome. Their canopy fits perfectly on their extended patio space, and allows for them to lounge in their table and chairs in the shade (sans umbrella) and still have space for their grill and chiminea to remain on the outside of the covering. Now that they are out of sight of all of the neighbors, I have a feeling they'll be spending quite a bit of time out back.
Of course, they'll finish the railing and the spindles and paint it and do all of that stuff. But the majority of the construction was completed over the holiday weekend. Thank goodness for brains like Uncle Paul's and Jeremy's, and for brawn like Don's and my manly husband's. They made a pretty terrific construction team.

You know I took a billion pictures. Feel free to check them out if you feel so inclined.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Mission Impossible

With someone as handsome as my husband... wouldn't think it'd be too difficult to capture at least one picture of him displaying that gorgeous smile of his. But I tried all weekend long, with very minimal results.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

A Little Fishy (Or Two)

When we moved, our aquarium took a less prominent role in our lives, as it was tucked away in the office rather than openly displayed in our living room. Sadly, as a result, we haven't spent much time lazily gazing into the under water realm of our fish's lives.

In the meantime, our youngest brother, Jeremy, has moved in with us for the summer, while he stays in Nashville between his college semesters. He frequently passes the office in order to get to his bedroom. Thanks to the convenience of his fishly visit, Jeremy has somewhat assumed responsibility for the swimming family members throughout his seasonal stay.

Last week, he sent me a text message while I was at work: "Did you know you had baby fish?" No, I most certainly did not! (After all, it had been days since I'd even graced their presence, let alone examined the tank for teensy tiny little fishlings.) I was very excited! He must have sent an identical text to Brad, because he and I immediately started conversing (electronically, we were both at work) about our growing family!

You see, it was such good news because our fish population has been through some pretty tough times in the past. When we restocked our aquarium with nice schooling fish (no more "semi-aggressive" ones for us! We learned our lesson with our previous community of bullying Cichlids!), we naturally wanted a little bit of color.

Our local Aquatic Critter has a large variety of schooling fish to choose from, and Brad and I agreed upon schools of Head and Tail Light Tetras and Harlequin Rasboras, with Red Velvet Sword Tails to provide us with the color we wanted. We had done a little bit of research, and knew that the sword tails were live bearers, but we also understood that they didn't take much special attention other than the occasional birth that would most likely go unnoticed since they ate their own fry (babies) (Ew). And they were pretty, and brightly colored; we were sold.

Life was fine for quite a long time until one of our sword tails disappeared. His mysterious disappearance triggered a series of unfortunate events. When we replaced the one missing male, the new one apparently came infected with some sort of fish fungus. I was very concerned as I watched it grow ill, less lively, and noticed "white patches" developing on his body. He died within days, and I got a free replacement for the replacement from the fish store, along with many apologies.

However, the fungus was now in the sword tail community, and they all began dropping off. Thanks to their mating habits (since they are live bearers, they actually mate rather than fertilize laid eggs), they are constantly rubbing up against each other and spreading the contagious disease. Thank goodness they kept to themselves, and there was no cross breading going on. None of our other fish have ever been effected.

I don't remember exactly the chain of events. I know at one time we replaced six sword tails only to have all of them die, as well. We then waited six weeks with no live bearers in the tank to allow the aquarium to rid itself of the fungus. Once the time span had lapsed and our aquarium water had passed the test of the Aquatic Critter professionals , I eagerly brought home more of the oh-so-pretty sword tails. You'd think I would have learned my lesson, but the water had been treated, afterall; and they were so pretty! For this batch, Brad and I decided to buy a variation of the red velvet sword tail that had black fins. Basically the same breed, but with a little more "pop" against our blue background.

At some point, we noticed a few itty bitty babies. I don't remember if it was before or after the last batch had moved into the tank, that we realized their existence, but we were certain they were from the previous school of fish. In the end, only one survived into fishy adulthood. We she was a girl, because she did not have the male sword tail (the females do not share the signature sword-like fin), and I was very proud of our little baby as it continued to grow.

As time passed, we only had one remaining fish from the third batch of live bearers. Brad forbid me from replacing them, claiming that he was only looking out for my own good. (I was very distraught each time we had to send one of our fish to its watery grave.)

To our surprise, when our baby girl was about six months old, she became a he, as his tail grew more and more elongated. We profusely apologized for emasculating him all of those months, and happily accepted his new identity. As the fish match-maker, I joked about the two of them mating and raising up our own batch of fungus-free live bearers, since they were not related, and all. I must have planted the idea in their heads, because they have finally fallen in love!

And our little fish family has begun!
Here are the happy parents. (Mom on left, Dad on right with the sword tail)

Their first family portrait.
I couldn't be prouder of our little family. These fish generally have a "litter" of up to 80 babies in the beginning. Since these two have already made it this far, I hope we can watch them grow old like their parents. Who knows? Even though they both have inherited their momma's black tail, maybe one of them will develop his daddy's sword tail?

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Makin' New Friends in the Neighborhood

Even though I have never considered myself a "Bird Watcher," I've always been interested in birds. Every time I'm outside and I hear one singing, I find myself trying to locate the source of the song. Many times I have thought, "If I had a hobby, and wasn't afraid of being 'lame,' I'd totally watch birds for fun!"

Turns out, there are tons and tons of birds all around our neighborhood. Sparrows, Blue Jays, Cardinals, Finches, Doves, and a lot more that I don't recognize (specifically a dark colored bird with a deep blue head). I've been going crazy ever since Spring hit, watching them frolic around in our back yard. You should have seen them all feasting on the worms after the recent (constant) rains! That's when I knew they were hungry, and decided that I needed to help them out!

I bought a $2 bird feeder from Dollar General and a big bag of Wild Bird Seed Mix. I was so excited to see if the birds would like me as much as I liked them, and I filled the plastic container to the brim with seed and hung the feeder as soon as we got home from the store, Sunday afternoon. The small period of time before my routine Sunday afternoon nap, was spent gawking out the back door searching for wondering birds. I mean, why weren't they waiting on the fence for me to put the feeder out? They surely knew I cared about them! Brad assured me that it would take them a little while to discover the new food, and to be patient. (Hence the nap...)

We were out of the house all Sunday evening, and were gone to work all day Monday. I couldn't wait to get home, yesterday, to see if the birds had found their new restaurant. As soon as I got in the door, I looked toward the tree in the back yard. To my surprise, the seed was half gone!! I believe that means that the birds did like us!

I didn't get a chance to continue watching them yesterday evening, though, because I had a dinner date with some of my girlfriends, and the stop at the house was only a quick one to change out of my work clothes. By the time I got home last night, it was way past dark, and I had missed all of the fowl activities. I was determined to not miss it two days in a row.

The weather has been so nice lately (post rain!), that Brad and I have been sleeping with the windows open to let the cool breeze in. I woke up this morning to the wonderful sound of birds chirping and singing praises to their Creator! I jumped out of bed, grabbed my camera, and took a million pictures from our bedroom window of the morning bird crew enjoying their breakfast! They were quick, and lively, and very hungry. I couldn't believe how much pleasure I got out of watching them flutter from limb to limb and swoop down at the feeder before zooming to the fence for a rest. There were even some larger birds (pigeons or some sort of gray dove) that would fly up to the feeder, peck around until a fair amount fell to the ground, and then hop back to the earth and dance around in their search for the little seeds amidst the blades of grass.

It's impossible to watch nature this closely (literally, in my own back yard), especially as the sun is rising, and not be completely overwhelmed with a sense of awe for the creation that God has blessed us with!

I wonder what other kinds of birds come out at other times during the day. I know that you can buy specific feeders that are for specific types of food that attract specific types of birds. Maybe I'll invest in some varieties that will bring brightly colored song birds to our little world on the cul-de-sac. I'm definitely wanting to get a bird bath for our new friends, as well. After all, everybody should wash up before a meal!

But for now, I'll just have to wait and see if any hummingbirds find the sweet red nectar that is hanging from the other side of the tree...

Monday, May 11, 2009

Long Time No Post

I think, for the first time since the foundation of my blog, I have gone 10 days straight without posting a single thing. Whoa. That's a whole week, and then some. What in the world is up with that? Well, I'm embarrassed to admit that I don't really have a good reason.

To be honest, work has slowed down so significantly with the conclusion of tax season, that it has resulted in tons of extra free time on my hands. You'd think that the spare time would result in endless blog posts; I would, too, but apparently not. What has actually occurred, is I have gotten so efficient at distracting myself with various things to stay awake busy, that I have consequently distracted myself from my own blog on accident. Shame, shame.

But really, you haven't been missing out on much. Life's been pretty slow around the Mehaffey Manor lately. I've picked up the Harry Potter series again. (For the third time. Or is it the fourth?) The 6th movie comes out this summer, and I need a refresher, not to mention needing to prepare myself for actually viewing some of the most intense plot points in the whole Potter storyline. Brad and I always go to the midnight showing of the HP movies. We've never missed one, and I'm so very anxious for this next installment. (No, we do not dress up, much to my dismay. I'm lucky enough to even get my husband to come along!) But, if I go in there cold turkey without already having stepped back into the wizarding world, I may need to be wheeled out of the movie theater at the end of this chapter in the story, on a gurney. By all means, let's prevent yet another embarrassing theater moment.

Other than that, we've just been grilling out a lot. Weber has become a regular member of our family. Throughout our marriage, Brad and I have somehow survived without cooking. We eat out some, eat at friends' houses, and live on a steady diet of cereal, chicken strips, fish sticks, corn dogs, and mac 'n cheese. However, since Weber has joined us, our menu has drastically upgraded! We've been luxuriously dining on hamburgers, hot dogs, chicken (of all kinds), pork chops, pizza (home made, on the grill - so good!), and this weekend, Brad even tackled ribs!! We are some seriously high rollers now.

I never knew how spoiled I'd get just by having a grill. I also never knew how willing I'd be to cook if somebody else took care of the hard part - deciding what to cook! With Brad choosing the meal, and then handling the main course, it's much easier for me to whip up some side dishes. With our ribs, we had corn on the cob, baked beans, potato salad, corn bread, and even a delicious cherry cobbler dessert! Whoa! Even I'm impressed with that complete meal! If you know us at all, I know you are, too!

So, that's about all that's going on around here. I'll try to do better in the future about not getting so distracted that I forget to keep in touch with the blogosphere. Thanks for your patience.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Praise, Worship, and Lots of Fun

For my birthday, this year, Brad and I went to see Steven Curtis Chapman and Michael W. Smith in concert at the Ryman Auditorium, while they sang to their hometown crowd in Nashville during their United Tour. It was absolutely amazing to see these two Christian artist legends joining forces on the same stage. I've procrastinated posting about the event simply because I really don't have words to describe it appropriately.

So many emotions were rolled up to one evening. Most importantly, it was incredibly, spiritually uplifting to be unashamedly singing praises to my God with so many fellow believers.

There were many moments that brought tears to my eyes. Some simply because the music and the emotions filling the Ryman were so moving and real. A couple moments, however, caused me to cry a mixture of sadness as well as joyful tears. You see, Steven Curtis Chapman has a remarkable story of tragedy within his family about the death of his little daughter, and a song that he wrote about loving and letting go of his little girl before the accident ever occurred. To hear him talk about the loss was difficult enough, but to listen to him sing that sweet song not even a year after her death was heartbreaking.

However, the tears turned to symbols of sympathetic joy as he continually gave God the glory for all good things and explained that he has faith that our Lord is the Master Creator who is creating a magnificent piece of artwork throughout our lives. Oftentimes, we are so close that it looks like a jumbled mess, he explained. But, God has such a vantage point that allows him to see the whole work of art - including every story, every tear, every smile, past, present, and future. Where things may not make sense to us at this moment and at this angle, faith in our Father helps us to truly believe that it all works together for the good of His children. What an incredible testament!

Furthermore, the show was simply so much fun! The guys poked fun at each other's "embarrassing" beginnings and sang each other's old, old hits ("Go West Young Man") and old styles (mullets and all). They shared the stage for quite a while, then Steven Curtis Chapman sang by himself. Came back together for a while, before Michael W. Smith took the stage alone. They finished by joining forces and leading a worship set (of songs that we sing every week, but they actually wrote!) that honestly raised the roof.

It was an incredible opportunity, and I feel blessed that I was able to experience the worship as well as witness the love and faith of so many, especially Steven Curtis Chapman and Michael W. Smith, themselves. (It was also a great opportunity to grow more acquainted with Show Hope, Steven Curtis Chapman's ministry to care for orphans around the world. Check it out.) I was definitely blessed by being there. Thank you, Brad, for a great 25th birthday. Thank you, Lord, for loving me enough to place people and events like these in my path.

Entire Concert Photo Album

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