Tuesday, April 29, 2008

We Enjoy Cult Followings

Okay, not really, so please no one worry about us. We are not buying into any kind of creepy religious cult or moving to a compound anywhere (at least until the Dunlap Clan purchases one). However, we ARE huge fans of Dave Ramsey, his Finacial Peace University, and his Total Money Makeover. Several of our local friends tease us and say that we have joined the Dave Ramsey Cult. To quote our friend Mike, "Yeah, we were thinking about joining up, getting our tattoos and our robes and all that, but then we decided we weren't ready to take the plunge." Ha ha ha.

But Dave Ramsey certainly does promote a lifestyle that is quite different from how the majority of the American population is living today. Life without debt? No credit cards? Sizable savings accounts? Crazy stuff. As of last week, Ben and I are now FPU graduates, so you will have to excuse us for overusing the phrase "Dave Ramsey says...." in everyday conversation.

So now that we are on our way to a complete financial makeover, I figured that meant that I had just moved up a rung on the ladder of organization. In fact, I have always prided myself on being organized; whenever I have to fill out one of those self-analysis sheets that asks for my greatest strengths, I list "organization" as mine. So when my MOPS group announced that this week's topic would be tips for organization, I went into the meeting feeling pretty smug. To quote Ben, "So are you going to lead the meeting or what?"

Well, let me tell you, I came out of that meeting completely humbled. The tips that these other mothers had for organization in daily life blew me out of the water. I was taking notes so fast that I got a hand cramp. And best of all, the moms at that meeting introduced me to FlyLady and her website.

This woman is the Queen of Home Organization. She neatly lays out "Baby Steps to Success" and then offers daily challenges for home cleaning and organization. Step 1 is to clean your kitchen sink. She even gives directions on how to do it. So I did it, and my sink looks better now than the day we moved in. I HIGHLY recommend to anyone who is looking to get their homes under control and their lives organized. Ben says he thinks that this FlyLady stuff is just as cult-like as Dave Ramsey, but he loves that I have a plan and am now not just throwing random tasks left and right at him, so he concluded, "I think we like cults." So there you go.

Isn't it gorgeous?

Friday, April 25, 2008

Friday Fill-Ins #2

The bold is the original, the plain text is my answers.

1. When I fell in love I also kept telling Ben that I didn't want to date him!
It's time to turn on the air conditioning during kids' naptime when the flowers bloom and it heats up outside!
3. Oh no! The internet connection is down,
I have lost my primary link to the outside world.
??? is the craziest tv show ever. I don't actually watch any current shows, but I very much enjoy my Friends, Buffy, and Angel DVDs.
5. Cheese and
anything make a great meal!
My attempts always fail when I try for a garden.
7. And as for the weekend, tonight I'm looking forward to
either a quiet night or the ZCHS Battle of the Bands, tomorrow my plans include serving at Connection Pointe's Super Saturday and then going to an Out of the Dawg House (Butler mens' a capella) concert at night and Sunday, I want to take a ridiculously long nap!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

I Love My Clan

Years ago, when I was a freshman in high school, my friend Jarrod told his dad that he would be going out with his friends that night. His dad said, "You mean your clan?" Jarrod asked what he meant, and his dad said, "You guys are closer than just friends. You're closer than a family. You're a clan." And thus the Dunlap Clan was born.

Even back then, people seemed able to tell that our friendships were something special. Our old band director, the much beloved Kaiser, once told me, "You know, if I've ever seen a group of high school friends that will be close forever, it's you guys." We spent basically every Friday and Saturday night together, attending movies, eating at Maid-Rite and Monicals, and hanging out in each other's basements. Most of us were in the band, and many of us shared other extracurriculars as well. We attended every high school dance as a group. We spent hours on the phone. They were the best friends I could have ever asked for. And even now, 10+ years later, whenever we get together, spouses, kids, and all, it's like nothing has changed. We just pick right up where we left off.

We used to do road trips to visit each other all the time during college, and in the first few years out of college, we were all in each other's weddings. Since the babies started arriving, though, travel has been a lot harder. When some of us attended our high school reunion in the fall, though, we decided that it was high time for us to organize a weekend all our own to get caught up.

So this past weekend, six of the original Clan members, plus their significfant others and children, made the journey to Indianapolis, where Derek (an original Clan member himself) and I have both settled. Jarrod, his wife Trisha, and their son 2-year-old son Jay arrived at my house from Peoria, IL, around 10:00 Friday night, and we had been visiting for about a half an hour when Tony, his wife Zoe, their 2-year-old son Connor, and their 2-month-old daughter Abby arrived from near St. Louis. We threw the kids in bed, and all the adults stayed up way too late talking. That same night, Melissa and her husband Rob arrived from Champaign-Urbana to stay at Derek's (all the people with kids stayed at my house, and all the childless ones stayed at Derek's).

In the morning, we were joined by Chuck and Crissy from Champaign-Urbana via Lafayette (to visit Crissy's parents), Maria and her boyfriend Jason from Chicago, and Matt, his wife Anita, and their 1-year-old daughter Asha from Chicago. It was so incredibly great to see everyone again! The kids took to each other right away, and once we all got organized, we headed out for some fun at Chuck E. Cheese.

Our original idea had been to go to the zoo, but between the nasty weather and Race for the Cure blocking the zoo entrance, we amended our plans. The idea was that the kids could all run their energy off, but as you can see, the adults managed to get in some playing as well. We went through a ridiculous amount of tokens and actually won enough tickets to purchase decent prizes for the kids. We also ate a lot of pizza, took many cute pictures of the kids, and somehow managed to have good catch-up conversations in spite of the chaos around us.

Shay and Abby were incredibly well-behaved and laidback in spite of all the noise surrounding them. They spent most of the time chilling next to each other in their carseats. Both of them actually napped while we were there. The 2-year-olds, however, did not fare quite so well. By the time we were ready to leave, Bryn was a sobbing mess, Jay had been sustained only by eating the biggest popsicle I had ever seen, and Connor promptly conked out.

Here's a shot of the "oldest" kids on Sunday morning when they had recovered from all their adventures. Bryn is obviously the one standing. Jay is on the right in the jersey, and Connor is in the left on the polo. They're all within four months of each other and played beautifully together. Connor and Jay quickly discovered a shared love for monster trucks, and before the end of the weekend, Bryn was in there battling for cars as well. Tony commented on how well-behaved all our kids were and said that it was a reflection on us as a group--and I really have to agree. I love that they all had so much fun together.... we may have a "Clan: The Next Generation" on our hands! (and no, Jarrod and Derek, that does not mean that I am sanctioning any videotaping!)

We mostly just hung out at the houses the rest of the time. We had a cookout here on Saturday night, and we all had a great time getting caught up.... and reliving some embarrassing high school (and college) memories. Here's a shot of the whole group. One thing that I really contemplated during the weekend is how much I like all my friends' spouses. I had just as much fun visiting with the spouses as I did with the original Clan members. Back in high school and college, I think we all dated people that the rest of the Clan didn't like. In retrospect, it would really have saved us all a lot of time, trouble, and heartache to put significant others through the Clan test first!

Anyway, thank you to all for a wonderful weekend. I know many of us said, "Why don't we do this more often?" and I definitely agree that we should. Love to you all!

Also, a quick shout-out to David, Damon, Corey (and Liz, Lainey, and Ella), Caroline (and Cosmos), Nicole, Jolyne, Jason, and Ashley (and Steve). We wish you could have joined us this weekend! You were definitely missed, and we're hoping that you'll all be able to make it to the next reunion, whenever and wherever that is!

Friday, April 18, 2008

Friday Fill-Ins

I found this website through my friend Glynis's blog. It looks pretty interesting, so I thought I'd give it a shot. The part in bold is what the website provides; the part in regular type is what I've filled in. If any of you want to play too, I added a link in my sidebar to "Friday Fill-Ins."

1. The last time I lost my temper I ended up as a sobbing mess afterwards!

2. Endless poopy diapers is what I'm fed up with!

3. The next book I'd like to read is Velvet Elvis by Rob Bell.... or Armageddon's Children by Terry Brooks.... or one of the other thousand books waiting on my shelf.

4. My high school Clan friends coming to visit this weekend is what I'm looking forward to.

5. If you can't get rid of the skeleton[s] in your closet, at least make sure it's contained so it doesn't escape!

6. The best thing I got in the mail recently was a package full of goodies from from the wonderful Caroline and AJ.

7. And as for the weekend, tonight I'm looking forward to my friends arriving for their visit, tomorrow my plans include playing at Chuck E. Cheese and getting caught up with friends and Sunday, I want to continue visiting, and then sleep!

Monday, April 14, 2008

Ready for Springtime

As predicted, we have spent the last week engaged in a ebay pack and ship marathon. We are finally done with packaging up our 107 auctions of last week, so yesterday we put up some more auctions of our own. It's an addiction. :) I'm also engaged in another session of grading poorly written essays online. It's through the same company that I worked for last fall to grade SAT essays online. This time it's an individualized state test, but same concept. So as you might imagine, Ben and I have been fighting for computer time so we can both engage in our various money-making endeavors, and there has been very little time to blog!

We had some gorgeous spring weather this past week, so I was able to take my many children outside to play. The weather turned out to be a tease, since this weekend was cold and nasty, but we certainly had a good time while we had the chance!

Bryn blowing bubbles
Bryn climbs the ladder on her playset up to the landing and slide
Swingset babies: Bryn and Bekah on the "horsie swing" (as they call it), our friend Christopher in the baby swing, and (if you look really closely) Levi toddling around behind it all
Shay's not really sure what to make of this whole "outdoors" thing

Bekah, Bryn, Christopher, and Levi, each with their own individual bottle of bubbles (we're not so good with the sharing!)
Again, many thanks to Ryan and Kathy for the swingset and to Jen and Adarryl for the kids' picnic table.... our children are having a wonderful time with your castoffs! :)

Monday, April 07, 2008

House of Geeks

I am living in a house of geeks. Let me explain.... last week, Ben and I decided to take Dave Ramsey's "sell it all" advice to heart. (If you're not familiar with what I'm talking about, check out his website, or his radio show, or one of his many books. We're taking Financial Peace University through our church and absolutely love it). So, we cleaned out totes of junk in the basement and listed tons of auctions on ebay. We're talking about so much stuff that I spent an entire morning, from getting up until naptime, parked in front of the computer doing listings, and that was after the pictures were already taken. (It was spring break for the kids I babysit for, so they were home with their teacher parents, thus why I had the time to do this.)

Then our friend Cathy approached us with a money-making scheme. It seems that one of her other friends was looking to get rid of three large brown packing boxes full of Star Wars memorabilia from the 1980s before moving out of state. Cathy requested Ben's ninja-like ebay skills to post these items. Then Cathy and her husband Eric remembered that Eric actually had three large black trash bags full of Star Wars stuff in his parents' crawl space.... and so the true ebay marathon began.

On Sunday afternoon following naptime, I came downstairs to find this scene in my living room. Pre-naptime, Ben had told me that Eric was going to come by to help him identify some of the items. Eric told Cathy that he was just going to "swing by" to help Ben figure out whose stuff was whose. Two hours later, they were giggling like schoolboys and had covered the entire floor with tiny Star Wars memorabilia. Ben was looking up items online, seeing how much they had sold for in the past, in order to get a better idea of how much to ask for them. Eric was looking up each item in a Star Wars pricing guide, then taking notes on tiny sheets of white paper about each item: name of item, theoretical value, what pieces it came with, etc. The mess actually extends into the kitchen area, which they were using as a staging area to take photos of the items. They were even lovingly cleaning each dusty old item with baby wipes before photographing them. And they were both having a fantastic time.

I got Bryn up from her nap, and the boys assured me that they would "be done soon," so I left the girls with them and headed out for our weekly grocery run. It seems that this is what they found to amuse Bryn while they played.... a 12-inch hard plastic Storm Trooper from the 1980s. I tried to intervene when I got home, but the damage was already done. My sweet little girly girl had fallen in love. She carried that darn thing around for days, and when I tried to take it away, she cried and begged for her "dolly." Cathy eventually summoned Eric home after five hours of the Star Wars/ebay marathon, and I convinced Ben that no, really, our family actually does need to eat. Thus ended the evening.... or so I thought.

In the morning, I came downstairs shortly after 8:00, to find Ben sitting at the kitchen table in his pajamas, intently focused on the computer. Confused, I asked, "Isn't it Monday? Aren't you supposed to be at work?" Hardly breaking stride in his typing, he said, with a manic gleam in his eye, "I'm taking a half day. I want to get these items listed before the sale ends." I forgot to mention earlier that ebay was running a sale until March 31 only: 1 cent listing fees instead of the usual 15 cents. So Ben had determined that all items must be listed before the sale ended, thus saving us 14 cents apiece. I told him that I admired his diligence, and I ran to the store to fill a prescription. When I got home, this is what I found: Ben and Bryn happily engaged in some sort of role-playing involving many small Star Wars figurines and some sort of playset for them. At one point, as I ran for the camera, I actually saw Ben pick up a Darth Vader model and say, in a raspy voice, "Bryn.... I am your father."

I decided to take Bryn down the basement in an effort to get Ben back on track. I had designated spring break week as The Great Basement Cleanup, which ended up only being partially successful, but I have high hopes for the end result. Anyway, Bryn normally loves the basement, as that is where we keep her sand playtable and several other large toys. But did she want any of them? Nope. She wanted to sit at the table and "help" Daddy by emptying the plaster blocks from his many molds, then sorting them into baggies for shipping. (This would be another ebay item that Ben posts frequently.) This concerns me: does he use her as slave labor when I'm not at home? But she was having a fabulous time and could hardly be convinced to eventually come upstairs for lunch. By that point, Ben was hitting his limit, and he left for work shortly after noon. He continued to list when he got home, though, and eventually all that stopped him was that midnight hit and thus the 1 cent sale ended. By that point, we were running 107 auctions. Madness.

Since then, we have been kept quite busy answering endless questions flooding in through ebay regarding our plethora of listed items. Friday started the "pack and ship" marathon, which I estimate will continue through this next week. But we made quite a nice profit, so I can't complain too much about that. What I can comment upon, though, is the extremely geeky nature of my family. I mean, really, my husband got my 2-year-old playing with 20-year-old Star Wars figurines (can anyone say "choking hazard"?!?!) and sorting small plaster blocks out of molds. And she thought this was the most fun she'd ever had. Meanwhile, Ben was spastically checking ebay every 10 minutes around the clock to monitor our sales, while also playing with the figurines himself. It seemed that my only hope of a non-geeky companion was Shay..... until Bryn gave her a large accessory to one of the Star Wars pieces (don't worry, no small pieces on this one). Shay's eyes lit up, and she clutched it for the next several hours. Great. Like I said, we are now officiallly a House of Geeks.