self-esteem done right

Layla's preschool teacher just texted me this today:

"Several of the kids sit at the picnic table beside the slide and say, "yay" and clap for the kid who slides down. They all take turns sliding and cheering and do it over and over.

Here Layla is clapping for herself after saying "yay" before she goes down. It's too cute!"

Layla's hair is the arrow-straight static-y mullet (the curls are the little girl's behind her). But those 2 top teeth are new arrivals and are all hers!

We should all feel this amazing about ourselves.

Good gracious, I love this little firecracker.


peas, t's, and grown up babies

it's a recurring theme in my life that i fall in love with things i was once totally turned off by. examples: mushrooms, nonfiction and jesse.

there are of course exceptions to this pattern, but learning to embrace new and previously written-off things has been a big theme in my life lately. broadening my horizons feels great.

here is a sprinkling of things i once swore off but am recently finding myself gaga for:

t-strap sandals. i once thought these were far too dainty and fancy for me. but now i love them and may have 4 pairs of them. this pair is my sauciest departure from my normal footwear proclivities. they are from loft, bought with a 40% off coupon, naturally.


snow peas or snap peas or whatever you want to call these little podded wonders: i have always wanted to like them but couldnt get over the fact that you were supposed to eat their god-given wrapper too. it felt like eating a banana still in its peel.

until i stumbled upon these in the fancy chip section of publix last week: snap peas baked and turned into a crispy snack.

OH EM GOSH, these things make no sense. they are baked, yet they satisfy the salty/crunchy cravings of me, a lifelong chip-maven. 1/3 of a bag has 130 calories plus way more protein and fiber that you'll get from lays. even if you went insane and ate an entire bag at one sitting, it wouldnt be caloric death.

if you cant find them at your local publix, it's because i have bought them all so that i never run out. and bonus, kids love them and they also come in cesar flavor. did i mention they are less than $2 a bag?


i openly mocked my friend raechel for loving this night-time soap opera, but finally caved and gave the first episode a try. i was hooked on the show and apologizing to raerae within 20 minutes. jesse and i have watched 18 one-hour episodes in the past week...making for some very late nights and some very intense dreams. worth it!


another new thing i have been getting on board with that i previously thought was so not-for-me is daily laundry and dishes. we are a small enough family who (shame spiral!) eats out enough that we dont have to run the dishwasher more than once or twice a week.

but after reading this blog post of 10 habits of a well-run home, i decided to give nightly sink-emptying and one load of laundry per day a try.

it's actually been great. it is shocking how much better life seems when you wake up to an empty sink and non-overflowing hampers.

previously jesse and i would wait until i was wearing swimsuit bottoms as underwear (true story) before doing laundry and then would spend about 4 hours doing 8 loads. this would be traumatic enough to make us never want to do laundry again and so the cycle continued.

so learning moderation and doing a little of this work every day rather than waiting until the must-do defcon 5 moment when we have no forks and swamp-thing life-forms are evolving from the rotting ooze at the bottom of our piled-high sink has been a pleasantly tolerable change of pace. (and arent you just dying to come over for dinner at our house?!?!).


my new friend (whose name is mandy, btw...she finally signed the publicity release and shed her cloak of anonymity) recommended this book to me when she heard me being terrified of the american parenting trend of giving kids everything they want in the name of their happiness and ending up with 25-year-old babies who are clueless, irresponsible and UNhappy.

she said based on the things i was saying, it sounded like i had already read this book. and even though i was previously a chronic eye-roller at parenting books, i asked to borrow mandy's copy because you cant afford to offend your only local friend.

well, i am half way through it and this guy is right on target with how jesse and i want to parent our kids. we really dont care if they are happy all the time. happiness in the under-20 crowd is overrated anyway. i mean, hannah montana? silly bandz? prom? these are examples of things that make kids "happy," but dont seem to positively shape or grow them in any lasting way.

we do want them to be equipped, capable, loved, and fulfilled in a way that lets them know they are significant emotionally and as human beings. that might mean we have to listen to them complain because they'd rather watch TV than do chores, but i'd rather have that at age 9 than have my 22 year old son not know how to call the gas company, pack a suitcase, conduct a job interview, etc because we never treated him like an adult or expected adult behavior from him all in the name of "letting him be a kid."

naturally we will treat judah and layla and want to see smiles sometimes for no other reason than just to see their smiles; and meaningless toys or movies will be there for that. but we feel like our higher calling isnt to parent the kids we have now and make them happy--or even well-behaved--all the time, but to raise them to be the adults that jesus wants for his kingdom (i got this idea from this whole post...unreal).

rite of passage parenting is at times butt-clenchingly cheesy, but hey, most 50 year old white youth pastors are and the author is no exception. but i am all about his message and pray that god gives us the grace, patience and sanity to follow through to be these kind of adult disciple-equipping parents that we strive to be.

okay, i am dismounting from my high horse of wannabe parenting know-it-alledness now. my t-strap snakeskin sandals arent really appropriate for equestrianism anyway.


enjoying it while it lasts

sorry to be so MIA up in here lately, but life has been really good and full lately and we are busy out living it up.

blogging regularly (and more deeply) is a majorly cathartic and therapeutic practice for me. so when i dont find myself making time for it or needing, it's usually a great thing because i am feeling awesome enough to forego this particular therapy.

such is the case now.

this is how we are feeling lately. it's a happy, blurry, whirlwind of fun

my kids are reaching new levels of hilarious and fun-to-be-around:

i mean, really

our tiny house feels like exactly where we need to be investing our time, money and memories,

getting in DEEP with my next home improvement project

we are making time (slowly but surely) to invest in our the relationships that are close to our home and to our hearts:

uncle jake the sea monster is chasing the pirate judah (who decided to strip down on the coldest and windiest day of spring)

i am learning more about my brokenness and jesus' healingness every week in my RYH class, and our marriage has seriously never been better (no pictorial proof of THAT phenomenon, but trust me it's hot and awesome).

also the weather is great...that sounds a little lameballs next to all the preceding goodness of the soul, but it's still true and it is a major contributor to NOT wanting to be on the computer a minute longer than it takes to look up a ribs recipe or art project.

*that is the black stroller handle on my right hip. my saddlebags arent that deep (i almost fainted when i first saw this)

most days you'll find us playing hard:
pigging out:
hanging around:
and then crashing hard:

i know we grow and get stretched the most when we are in the valley, and that life cant always be lived at the summit, but that doesnt mean i dont still find myself wishing to build my house on the mountain top and just stay forever.

bible reference. 30 bonus points. blammo.


vocab of the day

i couldnt find jesse anywhere in the house last night. finally, i checked the garage and there he was:

my husband: singing and playing his guitar about, for, and to jesus, on top of the lumber and next to the power tools that he will use to build our family amazing things, and in front of the minivan that he is man enough to LOVE driving because it is what is best for our family.

where i come from, friends, that is what we call a real panty-dropper.


yard sale SOLD

the yard sale was a HUGE success.

yall's advice, tips and suggestions were invaluable in our making out like bandits. THANK YOU!

we made $391.75!

i had $500 in my head as the number i would be really happy about, so when i counted all the profits up afterwards (i havent touched so much cash and coin since i worked at chickfila and i was DYING to wash my hands) i started to get disappointed.

and then your wisdom echoed in my ears: you are just trying to get rid of stuff, any profit you make for junk you never use is BONUS!

so yeah, my neighbors paid us $400 to come take away junk we hadnt used in years. and even after all that we had 3 van-loads of stuff to donate to charity which will create jobs, bless others and give us a hearty tax deduction.

this is the driveway before any customers came and before i set up 2 more tables piled with things. they garage was also full and set up but i was too insane frantic at this point to remember to take a pic of it. i drank coffee on this morning for the first time in months (that junk makes me crazy)

i had my eyes peeled for hilarious and interesting characters all day and after a few honorable mentions (a 70 year old man who picked up judahs toy chainsaw, smiling as he looked across the driveway at me and wielded it in the air like a serial killer while making the chainsaw noise, and two ADORABLE little girls who were into sewing that i was thrilled to give a bunch of free fabric to) and the top three were as follows:

2nd runner up: a young white guy who bought a few of jesse's polo shirts and some pants. her was wearing a "fear factor live CHAMPION" shirt so i asked him about it. it was really weird because he seemed to just want to get away from me. i was like, "well, youre wearing the shirt, that means you have to tell us the story." the whole time it was pulling teeth to get him to give up the details, and we finally let him go.

i was wondering why someone who was on TV and had won $50,000 would be so reluctant to share the gory details (especially since he was wearing the shirt!). well i looked it up online (like a normal stalker would) and it turns out "fear factor live" is NOT the TV show, it was an attraction at universal studios where normal people could play a version of the tv game.

this guy went from #1 on the list of interesting yard sale characters to #3. he was going to be #1 because of his being a reality TV winner but now he is just #3 because he totally let us believe he was on the TV version and was really shady about trying to run away while we were talking.

first runner up: this hilarious mother-daughter pair of black women. they were so sweet and great to talk to. but these ladies had me ROLLING. they were looking for baby things for a friend who was expecting and they were pretty much competing with each other and would fight over every thing they found, including one footrace when they spotted the diapers for sale. it was extra funny when the daughter had to beg the mom for some extra cash after being a turd to her.

they spent about $70 with us. the mom kept spotting other things she wanted as she tarried at my table bickering with the daughter. and when they got ready to load up, they needed jesse's help and had heard me talking to him and said, "can jeffrey help us carry all this?" it was awesome. i told her his name was jesse but then would keep calling him jeffrey for fun and that thoroughly confused her so she just started referring to him as J. it was precious. these ladies brightened the heck out of our spirits as we headed into hour #4.

and then the #1 most colorful character of the yard sale was an older couple, maybe 50-60 years old. they were looking for children's clothes because the lady's business was making dog clothes.

i will be honest, i laughed in her face when she first said it because i thought she was joking, but she was VERY earnest and serious and so i felt bad and then had to be EXTRA interested after that to make up for it.

she needed to tell me how around these parts, people like a southern flair in their doggie fashion, so she wanted denim and plaid button-front shirts so she could make them little cowboys. she wanted to tell me EVERYTHING about the process and i was keenly aware of the precious minutes of life that were being sucked away from me in the name of custom canine couture.

the husband was the best though. at first he seemed to have just been dragged along, but then i realized he was an active contributor to this business. when they came up at the end the wife proudly proclaimed that she had found a whole pile of things that would be great for doggie outfits.

then the man grabbed a pair of layla's old red ruffly pantaloons and proclaimed, "i'm the bloomer man! i had the idea that she could just snip here, add a seam there, and just like that, you have a tube top for a dachshund." it took every fiber of my pelvic floor musculature not to pee my pants right then.

i broke 2 of my rules: i let 2 kids go inside to pee (because i am a mom of a recently potty trained kids and i know when they say they have to go, you respect that) and i took a check from one lady who lived close by. no regrets.

i dont think anyone who asked me about the price of something walked away without it, and i tried to stick hard to the "if they touch it, it's theirs" rule, especially as the day wore on.

one couple of young grandparents bought an entire table's worth of girl clothes for the new grand daughter. that was a happy moment.

the $1 table was a big hit and the huge table of less-nice kids clothes and t-shirts that were "stuff a grocery bag for $5" did really well too.

i was also thrilled to give many of my star wars book collection (begun when i was in middle school and completed last year) to a sweet little chubby 10 year old boy. i think his parents were surprised that they were mine, and i was happy to give him a few of my favorites for free, though a little sad to not one day give them to my kids (i know they will be so torn up about that one day).

all of the new space in our drawers, attic, closets and garage is WONDERFUL! i could easily get addicted to this purging and yard saling business. it was dangerously tempting when i went to target the next day to just buy full priced new things to replace the old stuff. but NO! that way lies ruin.

so for now i will just glory in all the declutter and make sawdust angels on the spacious floor of the garage while jesse continues to hone his new carpentry craft.

thank you so much for all of your help!


advice please!

it has been 5 years, 7 months and 2 days since we have owned this house. that is 2041 days.

thats really not so many. but now think in terms of stuff-accumulation. still, you might look at that number and think,"how much crap could one tiny family (that values tidiness and abhors materialism and consumption) accumulate in that period that they didnt really want or need and yet still allowed to live there?"

the answer would be: TONS.

as much as i am learning to love living simply and buying less, it hasnt always been that way. i also have a big weird heart and am thrifty. the thrifty side has me saying, "i cant get rid of this! what if i NEED this portable ice cream maker ball one day? what if we have a power outage and i am having one of my dairy withdrawal rages? THEN WHAT!?!?!"

true story though, we registered for one of those balls like insane people and our friends bought us one because they are enablers. we used it once during the winter of 2007 while putting up christmas lights. that was the last time i saw it without thinking, "why the HELL is that still in my way!?!?" but Madame Frugal McWhatifs won out in the end and it was granted a stay of execution until its next appeal.

and then the big, weird heart part of me also projects the emotions that i am so terrible at expressing onto possessions. the Toy Story franchise has not helped me overcome this. when my family had a yardsale when i was 7, i snuck out of the house the night before and into the garage and "rescued" so many of the toys i hadnt touched in years because i couldnt bear to think about how lonely and rejected they might feel by getting cast out of my life.

sure that's cute (and somewhat telling as to why i am the way i am now) when it's a 7 year old and an old stuffed turtle that her grandpa won for her at her school's bingo fundraiser that she trying to retreive. but it's not nearly as charming when it's a 29 year old holding on like grim death to a pack of biore pore strips she last used in 2005 (though clearly not for lack of opportunity).

we are all about personal growth here at dukes farm, so we are trying to lure me slowly away from the bad place where every salad bowl, necklace and old sports bra that i contemplate throwing out/selling/giving away starts to look just like bravely resigned woody and buzz at the edge of the landfill inferno during the climactic scene of Toy Story 3 (which i still cry during, despite having seen/heard it 459 times this year) and i inevitably put it down and promise to play with it more next week. we are moving away from that bad place and towards the happy land where objects are emotionless and i am not insane.

so i spent a sweaty 2 hours in the last night in the attic, that first and final frontier of forgotten things.

this is what the garage looked like afterward:

we're just a TLC production crew away from my shot at reality stardom

my kids have already shown signs that the recessive insane-nostalgic-attachment gene is expressing itself in their DNA makeup by going bananas as they wandered through here today; visiting the graveyard of their babyhoods and begging to grant certain items clemency and let them back in the house. i say NO MORE!

so then i arranged for the godmothers to watch the kids on saturday (a trip to the zoo!) and invested in a pack of neon posterboard.

that's right, people:

it's on.

here's where i need you.

this is our first ever yard sale. never put one on, have only been to maybe 9 in my life. i need tips.

have you put on yard sales? which have been successful and why do you think they were?
as a garage sale buyer, what do you look for when deciding whether to stop or not?
haggling? accepting checks? bathroom usage? when do i post the signs?

i need everything youve got.

so far i have $150 in small bills and quarters, a dozen bright and simple signs (after i took the above picture i added blue dots in the middle of all of the arrows so that there would be continuity between the signs...since they are yellow and pink), a craigslist listing (and a few other online garage sale postings) and a stern warning to jesse that I am captain and supreme mugwump of this rodeo and i MUST be obeyed blindly in all things yard sale.

what am i missing?

i am counting on yall.



my frisky DIY genes couldnt resist. i had to get in on the carpentry action. i at least needed to see what it was all about so i could know exactly how much i needed to be putting out in thanks and adulation to jesse for all of the projects he has been dominating.

the answer: lots. i need to be putting out lots. this junk is not hard, per se, but it is tedious and requires attention to detail, focus and perseverance. these are not my strongest of suits (my strong suits are giving nicknames, being impatient, and getting bitten by mosquitoes).

i tried a really beginner project that was $12 total, for an ultra-beginner, and shouldn't have taken too long: a teeny preschooler-sized picnic table. (p.s. we get almost all of our plans and inspiration from ana white's blog. it used to be called knock-off wood which was the best punny name ever, but no more it seems. either way, it is AMAZING!!!!!).

it took me a little longer than it should have (about 2 hours) because i tried to cut some corners thinking i, the seasoned carpentress of at least 45 minutes) was more clever and efficient than the lady who wrote the plan (aka the one who built her. own. house). classic keight.

but i got back on track and completed it much to my happy surprise. there are at least 10 extra holes in the wood from my mess-ups, but wood filler heals hides all wounds. and the happiest surprise was when the instructions said to check for square halfway through because it was CRUCIAL that it be so. typically when i hear a stern warning like this in any project i do, i know i am going to fail but continue plowing on regardless. well, i was thrilled to see that everything was square and i had passed the test.

yeah, just a little something i built. constructed, wood-fillered, sanded and shining in the light of his glory. on easter sunday, no less.

a hearty 2 coats of behr's exterior paint in "blue jewel" and we have a happy little place for our tiny friends to enjoy a snack.

or to REALLY enjoy a snack

or to sort out their shopping.

or to have a tea/eggplant party together!

due to such circumstances as a mean callous forming on my drill-hand and sawdust buildup in crevices i wasnt aware that i possessed, i think i will let jesse jump in the deep end of the carpentry hobby, and i will just dip a toe in when conditions are perfect and mostly stay inside behind my sewing machine. but i do feel seriously empowered! the internet is a wonderful place for learning. if you can read, you can do almost anything.

onward, friends! the world and the backyard are beckoning.


anything i can do...

...he can do better.

seriously. my reign as DIY champion of the family has come to an end.

jesse dukes is a renaissance man. i have never seen him outright suck at anything. except for maybe a contest on who could drink a thick milkshake through a straw fastest. in that instance, he got 1st place in sucking.

with almost zero prior carpentry training or experience, and on a whim thanks to a pinterest rabbit hole of inspiration from me, he whipped up these 2 beautiful WIP's (works in progress) this weekend that will increase the value of our home, save us thousands of dollars versus buying pre-made, and provide us with muchisimo enjoyment. plus a healthy dose of wifely adulation from me and a testosterony feeling of accomplishment from himself.

stay tuned to see these projects in their completed glory and for much (much) more from my foxy woodsmith. now that i know he has these skills, i have opened up a pandora's box's worth of ideas for him to bring to life for me (including a gorgeous wooden, hinged, pandora's box).

*it behooves me to mention that jesse's dad helped him a bunch by loaning him special tools, advising him and even working on the project by himself when we had to leave for a bit on saturday. i love my father in law.

*and speaking of in-laws, happy birthday to my most favorite mother in law on the planet. i love you, linda!


getting grilled

i have made a choice not to learn how to use our grill. it's one of those things that i know i have the intellectual capacity to take on, but i chose to remain ignorant about and cede all responsibility for this area of our life to jesse. much like canine care, cable and internet troubleshooting, taking out the trash, killing bugs, dumping out spoiled or old food marooned in the fridge, and unclogging the sink. yes...the man is a catch.

well last night, jesse was being awesome and was at home depot with layla getting wood for an amazingly thrifty DIY hack project we are working on, and i knew they were both really hungry and would appreciate a hot yummy meal when they docked back at the mother ship. but alas, the stuff i had shopped and planned for dinner was all to be prepared on the grill.

we have been losing our little minds with giddy glee over grilling and outdoor dining lately. for one, the only dining table we have is our patio set, so sitting at a real table and chairs feels like a luxury for us. and for two, taking a few bites and then running around is my kids M.O. while dining, and our fenced in back yard provides an arena for this that makes me 14 times less insane than when it is played out in our living room. al fresco is where it's at, folks.

so with no Y chromosome to foist it off on, i had to step up and (wo)man the grill. it was a million percent easy and fun. no pots, no pans, just one big compartment of fire to be left alone to do its thing.

2 of the sides were from a few pins that i was rolling the dice on since i dont usually like cooked carrots and because grilled salad?!?

i added corn because it was close to starting to go bad in the fridge and then defrosted a big thing of chicken legs that we had in the freezer and found an easy recipe.

after 30 minutes of minimal prep, and cleaning the kitchen and doing the dishes while it all cooked on the grill, this is what greeted layla and jesse when they arrived home:

here's what we were working with:

carrots- i followed the pinned recipe exactly. these carrots made the whole family happy. not mushy at all, and a little char and a honey glaze makes everything right.

corn- husk the corn and remove the silks. season each ear with butter, salt & pepper. wrap each ear in aluminum foil and place on a hot grill for 15 minutes, turning ever few minutes. unwrap each ear and put the naked ears back on grill for a few more minutes on each side. everyone in the family, including the dogs, who got the cobs, LOVED this classic pleaser.

salad- i followed the pinned recipe again. the only change i made was subbing sour cream for creme fraiche b/c my store didnt carry it. these were the surprise stars of the show. i was so skeptical about grilling salad, but it really was just smoky perfection, and the simple herbed dressing was a great match. do you trust me? give this a try!

chicken legs- i started with a recipe from cooking light, and adapted it to make it supremely superior (because i watch top chef and am fancy like that).

my cardinal rule for grilling chicken is this: NEVER trust a marinade. every time i have relied upon a marinade for flavor, i have been disappointed. it seems like no matter how long i marinate for, hardly any of the flavor gets into the meat and it just tastes like chicken. and it's a sad moment when i pour out all of those yummy ingredients into the trash after the chicken is pulled out of them. there has to be a better and more lasting way to use them.

the answer is: the glaze.

now whenever i see a recipe for a marinade, i take the same ingredients and make them into a glaze to be brushed onto the chicken as it grilled AND after it comes off. i have yet to be disappointed by this method.

sweet citrus glazed chicken legs (adapted from cooking light):

    1 cup of orange juice
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 4 teaspoons low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon dry sherry
  • 1 tablespoon of sugar
  • 1 tablespoon of honey
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons bottled minced garlic
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon basil
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon dark sesame oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon hot pepper sauce (siracha or tabasco)
  • 8-12skinless chicken drumsticks
  • Cooking spray
  1. 1. Prepare grill.2. Place chicken on grill coated with cooking spray; grill (with lid closed) 30 minutes at medium heat or until chicken is done, turning occasionally.
  2. 2. Place chicken on grill coated with cooking spray; grill 30 minutes, covered, over medium heat or until chicken is done, turning occasionally
  • 3. Combine the first 13ingredients in a small saucepan over medium heat. bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. heat until the mixture reduces to a thick, glaze-like consistency (about 15 minutes). DONT overcook or turn the heat up to high to speed things up. (that story has a tragic ending).
  • 4. during the final 5 minutes or so of grilling the chicken brush the finished glaze over the chicken legs, coating all sides. reserve just enough to give them all a final brush after the legs are finished.
attack this plate of food with a gusto that can only be accomplished with the knowledge that you can wash your hands and face off with the garden hose when you are finished. just like martha stewart does.

declare yourself a grill-genius but decide to turn back over the tongs to your husband in favor of "simpler, gentler" inside cooking tasks. but look forward to the day where your secret super powers will be called on again to save the day.