Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Sunday Afternoon.

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Over spring break I worked on our Blurb book from 2014. It shipped today, and I can't wait to get my hands on the book full of stories from last year including our engagement and wedding! It also inspired me to take some photos of things around the house to remember the projects and going-ons in the Lynch household.

So here are two pictures of Kip working in the yard. He was tearing out the old garden border to replace it with a sturdier and fresher new one. These photos were taken before he got really frustrated and used a sawzall (it cuts everything!) to cut some stubborn rebar. Apparently the last time he built the garden border he did too good of a job securing it into the yard. He's laughing at me because he was being a pill and trying to avoid the camera. I still got him, mid laugh, perfectly.

And a note about his wedding band shining there on his left hand - it's cobalt from a local jeweler but looks like white gold. After four months of marriage, it still looks good as new, and Kip works every day with his hands and rarely wears gloves. Heaven forbid anything every happen to his hands, but in an accident the cobalt ring would crush and not have to be cut off. I think it's marvelous that he's married to me so I'm a big fan of his wedding ring.
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Kip was outside so I tried really hard to take a picture of myself while I worked in the kitchen. It's actually really hard to do with the 28mm lens, but now I'm documented too. The one on the left was taken with the timer button while the camera rested in the freezer. I'm a problem solver, what can I say?
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Here's the magnolia in the backyard, just starting to bloom. I made Kip take my picture next to it so we could document how tall it was in 2015. I'm excited to get to see it continue to grow. We have huge beautiful magnolias on our street, and their big white or pink blooms are one of the best things about spring sneaking in. The other photo shows the broken edges of the garden. Kip tore out all of the old pieces of lumber and replaced them with new ones, some from the garage and some from the neighborhood Home Depot. 
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Here's the whole garden plot again before Kip tore out the old beams. Kip has grand plans to build an enclosure for tomatoes to squirrel proof them. Even with Belle the vigilante, we think the squirrels would probably rob us blind. My grand plans are to fill every possible remaining inch with herbs, peppers, and squash. Kip's motivation to make the garden usable has two origins: he does really like to make me happy, and he saw how much we spent weekly at the farmer's market last year.
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If you asked us if you could borrow a tool, I would honestly have no idea what we could loan you. Sometimes I walk into a garage and think, "Oh, we have one of those!" And mostly I have no idea what they do. I caught Kip sharpening the lawn mower blade on Sunday. I didn't even know that was possible. Kip used this drill to make the holes in the beams for the new rebar.
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While Kip was in the garden, I made bread. Two loaves of this bread suit us well because I'll put one in the freezer to wait for future peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. We are out of strawberry jam from last summer's batches so Kip is resigned to blackberry. I love the blackberry, but I also love creamy peanut butter. Kip's team crunchy and team strawberry. Pick your allegiances, people.
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Later I ran to Trader Joe's for flowers for book club, hoping that anything I purchased would be open and ready for book club a couple days later. We watched our brackets fall apart and Wichita State beat KU, and ate dinner together at the table. Lunches packed, the reality hit that spring break was over, but it was a good one, quiet and busy around the house.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Reading.

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Kip would tell you that he isn't a reader, but he actually reads other things besides books all the time. It's puzzling to me, not because I like to read SO MUCH, but because of what I do each week at school talking with reluctant readers. This is one of our biggest challenges especially when working with middle school boys. They say they don't like reading, but lots of times no one has handed them the right thing yet! I like to imagine that I could time travel back to adorable middle school Kip and hand him something else to read that may have interested him way more and kept him in books. I have a feeling it would have been nonfiction, and probably a wide range of it too.

I had to be kind of sneaky to capture these pictures of Kip reading. I caught him reading articles or magazines that family saves for us, but he also checks in almost daily on the web reading lots of news articles. For Valentine's Day I surprised him with a book about the ambush of Bill Keys. He wanted to get it after the tour on our honeymoon, but the National Park bookshop was closed. And then he forgot about it so it was an excellent surprise. It was a cold weekend so he read the whole thing in the next two days, and I think really loved it. He's definitely the lifelong learner I thought I would marry.

The best thing about Kip? He gives me plenty of space for my books and time for reading. It's gotten really bad lately because we keep getting new books at school or something good that I requested at the library comes in, and I can't wait to read it too. We're at a time in life where there is some extra time to read - no wedding to plan and kids to chase. AND I'm using reading to avoid grad school. What else is new? Maybe reading all this young adult literature is research for grad school too? Maybe.

One of the kids at school told my friend Amy that he didn't know any adults who liked to read. We're working hard to build our reading culture, and we shared this quote from Gary Paulsen with our students. I think it captures how I feel pretty well.

“Why do I read?
I just can't help myself.
I read to learn and to grow, to laugh and to be motivated.
I read to understand things I've never been exposed to.
I read when I'm crabby, when I've just said monumentally dumb things to the people I love.
I read for strength to help me when I feel broken, discouraged, and afraid.
I read when I'm angry at the whole world.
I read when everything is going right.
I read to find hope.
I read because I'm made up not just of skin and bones, of sights, feelings, and a deep need for chocolate, but I'm also made up of words.

Words describe my thoughts and what's hidden in my heart.
Words are alive--when I've found a story that I love, I read it again and again, like playing a favorite song over and over.

Reading isn't passive--I enter the story with the characters, breathe their air, feel their frustrations,
scream at them to stop when they're about to do something stupid, cry with them, laugh with them.
Reading for me, is spending time with a friend.
A book is a friend.
You can never have too many.”

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Cookie Decorating with Monica's Three Boys.

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Who says cookie decorating is only for Christmas time? In my book, it's a year round excuse to spend time with cute kids. Sure, I used leftover Christmas paper plates and the colors I had on hand were red, green and white, BUT, this actually happened in February. Monica and her three boys came over on a Saturday afternoon to see the new place, hang out and decorate some cookies.

Monica has a new job this year as an assistant principal, and I miss working with her every day and keeping up with the adventures of her three boys. When we taught together at Northwest Middle, Monica had her second son, and her third son was born during our time together at my current school. Miles is almost 3, Andre is in the second grade and Colin is a big fancy 9th grader.  photo Blog_0930.jpgAndre and I have decorated cookies together before, but this is the first time that Miles got in on the action. Squeezing frosting on cookies is actually something anyone can do, but about half way through, Miles discovered that he could also squeeze it directly into his mouth. Before we knew it, Miles had half a bottle on his cookies and half a bottle in his belly. It was too sweet to stop. Look at that face!
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He was also pretty liberal with the sprinkles that we put on his plate for him to decorate with!
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Andre's work was more evolved (you can see it in the pictures at the top) as he worked hard to do a little bit of all the colors and all the sprinkles and even the cookie spray paint. Andre put together a pretty mean American flag, without the blue, and didn't hold back with his creativity. It was fun watching what he thought up - and also awesome to see Kip interact with all the boys. Andre is scared to death of Belle, and she stayed outside the whole time. Miles really wanted to meet him, so Kip took him outside, and they happily got all muddy trying to pet Belle.

Colin was doing forensics at the high school right by our house, so Monica picked him up about half way through the afternoon. He could NOT get over the taxidermy hanging up in the house, and his reactions cracked me up.
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Andre asked permission to take a silly picture, so we obliged. He also looked at old photos of himself on my computer and beat me at fruit ninja on the iPad. I'm used to losing, but I'm not used to the winner doing the dance from this commercial as a response, "Get some cold cuts, get some cold cuts."

They are not short on energy, these three. Kip and his two brothers are spaced out kind of like Monica's three sons, and after they left, I said to Kip, "Maybe you should call your mom and tell her thank you." Because mothers of boys are amazing.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Kansas City Coffee Shops.

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Happy spring break! We spent the weekend in Manhattan visiting my in-laws, and Belle spent the weekend going in and out at my mom's house. She's not as great about staying outside all day at my mom's. I think it's probably because she loves my mom and the cat more than she loves Kip and me. More likely it's that the squirrel population at our new house requires constant vigilance, and she can't leave her post. We're all kind of suspicious of the almost albino squirrel that frequents our sweet gum in the backyard. She literally almost got him last weekend.

Last week, my principal and I were talking about our spring break plans. Laurie was staying around town and trying to think of things to do on her vacation. We share a love for reading and writing, so I started recommending places for both. As I started talking about some coffee shops that I love in Kansas City, the list grew longer and longer. They were all new to her! She was looking for a place where she could read, work, and not feel hurried along. I found most of these favorite places during the summer of 2013 when I had to find ways to make myself do grad school. Again. But I still frequent many of these places for grad school work or to read a book in between activities. I don't do enough meeting friends in coffee shops, but when I do, it's usually at one of these places. All locally owned.

Quay Coffee in River Market - My hair stylist moved, but she used to be so close to this deliciousness. They make a fall latte that puts everything Starbucks does to shame. No pumpkin involved.

The Roasterie - We drink Roasterie bought in bulk from Costco at home, but a visit to the cafe is always a good idea because they have chocolate there.

T. Loft - I mostly get juice here, and often I have juice with a little bit of black or green tea mixed in it. I recently discovered their "happy" black tea, and it's SO good iced. I always get at least one peanut butter protein bite too.

The Filling Station - I love the one on Johnson Drive the best. I usually get a juice and a coffee. It's the very best when the huge garage door windows are open.

PT’S Coffee in the Crossroads - Though it has changed hands a few times, I love this new ownership best. Coffee roasted in Kansas with names like "Farm Girl" and "John Brown."

Clock Tower Bakery - I mostly go for the cinnamon sugar "donut" muffin or a scone with my black coffee. A couple of weeks ago I needed to take some cookies to work and the ones I baked at home failed. I picked up scones, and I am pretty sure I changed several lives that day with their awesomeness.

Foo's Fabulous Custard - You can get a coffee or custard depending on your need for indulgence on any given day. They also have Christopher Elbow chocolate, just like The Roasterie. 

I also stop regularly at the Starbucks by my house and grab a coffee from Parisi after I work out. I tried to meet a friend at Parisi recently, and we couldn't get a table! That place is popular. I haven't been to Oddly Correct yet, but I think I'll put it on the 2015 summer manifesto list.

And a big thank you to Laurie for listening to me rattle about coffee shops and then saying, this should be a blog post! I do love to write about Kansas City. Let me know what coffee shops I've missed and should frequent.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Pizza Parlor Couples Shower

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When I was 14-years-old, I went on my first mission trip with the church I grew up at. My friend Lindsay and I were headed to Houston, and we adored our new youth director Laura. Before coming to our church, Laura grew up with a thriving youth department at Village Presbyterian Church. She brought a ton of enthusiasm, energy and our first youth interns. Summer interns are awesome - and I'm not just saying that because I worked as one for four summers myself. They are just enough older than the students to be so cool and great role models, and it's valuable experience for the college kids too. One of those first interns was a guy with glasses who came to us from college in Wisconsin, Zach Walker.
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Flash forward to my own years at Village Presbyterian Church as a youth intern. I worked four summers and volunteered during several school years with Matt Vaughan, above on the left. One of the summers, Zach was also on staff. He's a great family friend of Abbey's, and we have stayed in touch over the years. When I moved back to Kansas City in 2011, his rental house in Roeland Park was available for rent. I moved in and spent over three great years living in the house and loving that neighborhood.

Zach was working as a youth director in California when I moved home, but eventually KC called him back. He works at Village now, and when he returned home he reconnected with Meredith. The two knew each other at Princeton Seminary, and their journeys in ministry had moved them all over before both ending up here. We have loved getting to know Meredith, and when they got engaged and set a date, we were so excited to celebrate with them! We all love good beer, Kansas City, and DIY projects for weddings.
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Last month, Abbey and her family hosted a couples shower for Meredith & Zach at Minsky's in the Village. It was the perfect way to get together and celebrate with our friends from Village over the year and some of their other couple friends around town. It was significant because it was Kip's first trip to Minsky's, and he loved it! Last weekend we celebrated their wedding and had a wonderful time. Being friends with Zach and Meredith always reminds me of the importance youth ministry has played in my own life, and it's just another marker of how far the Lord has brought us all. #teamzachadith

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

The Six Books of February.

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Two audio books, two hardback books, and two books on the Kindle. February was short but rich.

The Maze Runner is a movie and a very popular book around the middle school. Thankfully my book friend Amy told me to give it 60 pages (59, actually) to let it get going, and then I was pretty hooked. It's horribly violent. This dystopia fiction that young adult readers like is pretty morbid, and I was shocked by the body count by the end of the book. I haven't seen the movie, and I might if I could find it free or streaming somewhere. And as is also the case with most young adult books, it ends ready to take you to the sequel. This is a pet peeve of mine because authors get to avoid any sort of closure. If you have a middle school student, you should probably read it. Otherwise, I think you can pass on this novel all the teenagers who die at the hands of mad scientists.

I bought The Nesting Place on Amazon so that I could get free shipping on my Prime order and because Lindsay Letters hand lettered the cover. True story. I don't read the author's blog, and even after I finished the book, I still am not motivated to add it to my reading rotation. But she does make some beautiful points in the first half of her book about the purpose of a home.  I actually underlined a few parts while I read. Here is one of my favorite quotes I have returned to as we work hard around our home: As women, we ache to believe that real beauty can be found in the midst of imperfection. We are crying out for permission to lower our standards. Let yourself know: permission granted. Real lived in homes don't look like the ones in the magazines and on blogs every day. They look like people live in them.

Darius & Twig is one of the newest books by Walter Dean Myers. He's pretty much a middle school staple, but I'm not as good at reading YA books for boys. He tells two believable stories about young men growing up in Harlem who are torn between their dreams and the harsh reality of their neighborhood, but he does it through powerful imagery and metaphors. It definitely is more than meets the eye. I listened to it and ordered some for some kids at school to try too. 

We Were Liars held me from beginning to end while I listened to it. In contrast to Darius & Twig, the main characters have a summer ISLAND off Martha's Vineyard. It's a fascinating look at family, betrayal, and privilege told through the teenage narrator. People with summer homes always make interesting (but not always likeable) characters for me. It is a mystery, full of layers of plot and character development. It's Young adult literature I would totally recommend to an adult.

Dept. of Speculation was recommended by two of my favorite Pop Culture Happy Hour friends, and I impulsively grabbed it at the local library in the checkout line. I read it in two sittings on a Friday night. The story is told from "the wife's" point-of-view - we don't know her name. About half way through it switches from first person to third person omniscient. Without reason. A couple of weird styling things aside, it was a good story about marriage. Occasionally painful, but hey, that's life.

Pretty much everyone in book club loved and raved about The Husband's Secret. I finally read it about two months after I read and loved Big Little Lies. I might have enjoyed it more, but as my second Lianne Moriarty book, it fell a little flat. Three narrators again, and one that I didn't care for (neither did Ginny). I would really like someone to talk to me about this. Is it okay to make your books so similar? Or is that what people expect when you are a bestseller so you have to stay true to form? The New York Times calls her technique "stalling," and I'm probably going to agree. I'd totally read another one of her books, I just might need to space them out some.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Snowy Saturday Book Club.

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Today it's absolutely gorgeous in Kansas City. This weekend was that way too, and it feels like maybe, just maybe, spring might settle in and stay for a while. Because it is Kansas, this means that the temperature will still abruptly crash a few times. But I'm hopeful that the snow will stay far away. Like on the east coast where my dear Virginia friends have had 10 snow days, just like my first year teaching out there (2009-2010). We are still sitting at ZERO snow days, so the students will get out on May 21st, and I'll be done June 1st. Chill the rosé for summer cocktails! These last 11 weeks will fly by.
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Two Saturdays ago, KC got the closest we could muster to a real full blown snow storm. Events were canceled, the stores were slammed as people "prepared," and of course, on Monday we all went back to school. No snow day. By Tuesday, it melted, and we returned to wiping the mud from Belle's paws every time she came back inside. The spring thaw is rough on our wood floors.

But everyone in book club braved the weather to gather at Aixois in the Crestwood Shops for lunch. The roads were a little slick, however, we were resilient and happy to have a reason to gather, eat French food and discuss All the Light We Cannot See. All nine of us were together, though Kate  missed the photos as she had to dash off to the Book of Mormon matinee.

It's nice to have a no-host month where we eat out, sometimes with a themed meal. Our service was terribly slow, but as always, discussion was good while we waited. My croque-monsieur was worth the wait, and everyone's food looked pretty delightful as well. We stayed inside as long as could be justified before needing to get home in the snow storm. It was a pretty, quiet snow with big flakes, and these pictures capture my happy and dear friends.