Day 1: Summer Here We Come

Storm Clouds

Today is our first Monday of summer vacation.  I’m a barrel of mixed feelings about school being out.  I love having the kids home and the sound of stirring in the lego bin as they search for that perfect piece. We are making different education choices for next year and I am mourning the change.  I’m not ready to talk about it publicly yet.  Soon, I hope.  For now, I want my friends to know we weren’t offended or upset in any way.

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I’m still trying to figure out the whole summer vacation thing. In the past, I’ve written a summer bucket list and then had terrible Mommy guilt when I didn’t do much of it.  Last year I made a list of things I wanted to do around Kansas City, one a week. We did 2 things, then adrenal fatigue had me mostly bed bound the rest of the summer.

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I want to be a fun mom.  I look at the pictures on facebook of families doing things together, like eating in a restaurant, going to the trampoline park, or in an extreme case, taking a girls’ trip to England….and I feel a little small inside.  It’s dumb to compare, I know.  But I do it anyway–it comes naturally.

I hope my kids tell their therapist that I really loved them.  That they know I tried.

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I need summer to be as restful as possible.  School is hard.  Teaching; spelling lists, math facts, reading charts, reports and posters, fund raisers, and things to sign x 5  nearly puts me under.  Then we also have ballet class, soccer teams, basketball teams, violin lessons and piano lessons.  Plus Zion’s League and YAChoir for the High School one; Zioneers for the Middle School ones; Young Adults for the parents; Priesthood classes, Gatekeeper training; and family visits for the Daddy who also helps lead the Trailblazers group….and takes the boys to Boy Scouts too.  There’s Handmaidens and Lamplighters for the girls.  The only night we can be home as a family is Wednesday night, and the church would prefer we come to prayer service instead.  We don’t usually go. I have stay at home guilt on those nights, but if anyone walked a day in my shoes, they wouldn’t judge.

We’ve talked about limiting activities more.  We haven’t come up with a perfect solution.  The kids each have special needs that make a certain activity important for their development. The ones that aren’t crucial for congnitive and physical development are the church activities–and that feels kind of wrong to quit.  So we stay with the crazy and ask ourselves often if we’re doing the right thing.

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This summer I have no bucket list. The 4 oldest kids will each go to a summer camp.  I will take the children to a family camp (we call it Reunion) while my husband stays back to earn money and hold down the fort.  We are going tent camping in the Rocky Mountains at some point.  And there’s a week of Bible School for the little ones.  There will be a lot of time just at home though.  If I can keep the screens off until 3pm, I will consider it a win, plus minimal fighting, and maybe cleaning once a month week.

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Maybe we’ll air up the bike tires and send restless kids out into the neighborhood.  And a summer membership to a local pool.  That was a good thing last year.  I have a few house projects I’d like to squeeze in, but I’m hoping to find lots of peaceful moments.  Lots of peaceful moments.

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My mediation:

Drop Thy still dews of quietness.

May all our strivings cease.

Take from our souls the strain and stress,

And let our ordered lives confess the beauty of Thy peace.

John Greenleaf Whittier

Read These This Weekend

Hi Friends, there are 3 blogs I want you to read.  These ladies are among my favorites and they all have a similar message:  We are perfect because Jesus completes us, but that doesn’t mean we’re flawless.  Those flaws can be beautiful, because they are real.

Don’t get me wrong this is not an “I’m ok, You’re ok” message.  It’s the “YOU have value, because God made YOU” message.  I’m all for improving ourselves and stomping out sin.  I’m against hiding or not trying something new because we don’t think we can do it good enough.  It’s good to remember that we’re all a lot alike: beautifully flawed.

1.  Home Decor:  Nesting Place Her motto is “It doesn’t have to be perfect to be beautiful” Nuff said.  Her imperfect is definitely beautiful. She’s the reason I took a risk in my master bedroom the last two weeks.

To turn this:

Master bedroom before

Into this:

Master Bedroom After

Even unfinished, it has gone from my yucky place to my favorite place.

2.  Makeup: Maskcara  This girl is the queen of highlighting and contouring.  If you have fat cheeks, she’ll tell you they’re beautifully youthful.  If you have hooded eyes, she’ll show you a picture of every super model with hooded eyes just to prove how gorgeous you are.  You can’t get past her without feeling like the most beautiful creature.  She can teach you how to do this:

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And this:

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All while almost convincing you that you’re too beautiful to wear makeup at all.

If you can’t see beauty in your naked face, you won’t feel beautiful with makeup on either.

3.  And Mothering:  Finding Joy  This girl will not make you feel inadequate for eating box macaroni, or buying your Valentines ready made at Dollar Tree.  She will love you where you are and remind you that you are the best Mother for your kids. They don’t want any other. No tutorials, no recipes, just encouragement.

love,

Angela

A Drop in the Bucket

A Drop in the Bucket

Right after we got out of debt, my husband received word that they were transferring us to Indianapolis, Indiana and renting us an apartment so he could open a new department in that branch.  It would be for about a year and then they would transfer us back. It sounded like a fun adventure.

We gave notice on the house we were renting and our landlord quickly found a new renter to move in as soon as we were gone.  I set aside the bare necessities for living (one set of dishes, one pot, one set of towels etc.) and packed the rest up into a storage unit. Not too long after, my husband’s work changed their mind. The move wasn’t going to work out after all.  And just like that we were homeless.

to farm 037The West view from their porch

Even though we had 3 babies, my in-laws invited us to come and stay with them until we could figure something out.  Their house was a charming 1920’s bungalow with only one bathroom featuring a cute cast iron tub. For cleaning up after coming in from the fields, there was an open shower in the basement.

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The plumbing in the house was old (and plumbed backwards so the left handle was cold water and the right hot ) The bathtub faucet dripped.  My mother-in-law put a bucket under the faucet and then used the water to water her plants, or to get a head start on the bathtub filling when it was time.  It just dripped once every second or so, but if we didn’t watch the bucket it would overflow in just a few hours. She couldn’t keep the bathtub stopped up all the time to catch the drips or by the end of the day we’d have a tub full of cold water and not enough room to add hot water to warm it up.

Gray bucket

When I look at our finances I catch myself saying stuff like, “And that’s not even a drop in the bucket.”  Meaning, we could save a few dollars here or there, but it won’t make a difference.  That’s wrong.  A few cents or dollars here and there if found CONSISTENTLY and at increasing frequency will fill a bucket in no time.

Leave a comment and give us some ideas. Where can you find a drop for your bucket?

P.S.  Keep in mind that if it costs more than you save by driving too far to get a special deal…that’s not saving anything.  If you cancel a membership or subscription that is saving you money than it costs you (like a Costco membership or a Grocery Shrink Plus subcription #shamelessplug ….. then that’s going backwards too.)  Take some time and look at the numbers so you can make your decisions with wisdom.

A little Christmas sewing

 

Here’s what I’ve discovered about handmade Christmas.  It’s not stressful if the projects are small enough, fast enough, and easy enough (and the supplies are easy and cheap to get-stash is all the beter.) It is not my season in life to draft my own patterns or make up a new way.  All of these were made from scraps in my dwindling stash from free patterns.  No new money spent.

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In progress:  A pretend campfire from this book (I borrowed from the library.)

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Finished:  A tiger/fox/racoon–whatever.  Super soft from minkey, felt and knit terry with polar fleece scarf.)  From this free pattern.  I changed the eye placement but otherwise kept it the same.IMG_0072.JPG

A hard to photograph infinity scarf.  Would you believe it’s adorable?  One seam, boom. I used this fabric, because I had a scrap left that begged to be a scarf.  I didn’t hem any edges, just stitched it into a loop with a French seam.  Nice and light and drapey.  Someone’s going to be very happy.

Yes, my bedroom walls are mustard yellow. I’m pretending I love it temporarily.

Now off to finish a Christmas movie while I stitch.

 

The Filthy Rich

credit: Saine

photo credit: Saine

Lately at Sunday School, the pulpit, normal conversation …  discussions about the rich have been more frequent than usual.  Most of the conversations have been about the evils of wealth and the scriptures that talk about how hard it is for a rich man to get into heaven.

In all of these discussions, no one talking about the wealthy considers themselves to be wealthy.  Wealth is relative.  Someone who has more than us, is wealthy.  Someone who has less is not.  And it almost nearly follows that someone who has more than us is evil and someone who is “poor” is more righteous.

When you think about who the rich are, you might consider that over 50% of the world lives on less than $2.50 a day.  Over 80% live on less than $10 a day. Things like indoor plumbing, electricity, elementary school, and clean water are reserved for the world’s top income earners.

At our house we also have the internet, a washer and dryer, central air, a piano, and a car.  I’m thinking we might be part of the wealthy.  The fact that our budget discussions include whether we can afford music lessons and school tuition—not if we know where our next meal will come from, seals it.  You might as well stamp “filthy rich” on my forehead.

I didn’t know the rich young ruler personally, but I’m guessing if you put his possessions and mine side by side, I’d have more stuff.   He went away sorrowing because he didn’t realize that all his stuff really wasn’t his.  It was God’s.  God gave him a large share to manage for Him and when He asked to be able to use it, the young man couldn’t let go.  Christ’s point was that no one can keep all the commandments.  No one can earn his own salvation, it’s not humanly possible alone.  It takes God.  It really wasn’t a discussion about the evils of wealth at all–that was an example of the many ways we can stumble.

Teaching against wealth building is a dangerous thing.  The most reliable way to build wealth is to manage money properly: Avoid debt, live on less than you make, save monthly, invest conservatively.  Building wealth requires hard work, patience, self-control, humility, self-denial, sacrifice. These are all things we should have in our lives.

It is never more righteous to be a HOT IRRESPONSIBLE MESS with our money.

When we have wealth we can DO great things with it.  We can give, fund missionaries, build relief shelters, support adoptions…anything!  Wealth gives choices.

Because we live in one of the wealthiest nations on the planet, we are likely to have some rich people discussions.  Such as:  Should I buy organic?  How can I afford supplements?  How do you budget for college? Does cleaning with vinegar really work?  Understand that someone who doesn’t know where their next meal would come from would find these discussions ludicrous. It would be even more shocking how we can tear each other down over things like homeschooling, gluten, chevron, and high fructose corn syrup.

There may be times in our financial journey that our income barely covers our basic needs–shelter, food, clothing. In order to make progress we have to get a little crazy and do without some “necessities” like heat, toilet paper, organic food, and paleo ingredients.  In the scheme of things, we’ll still be living better than 80% of the planet.

Every Yes is a No

This basic fact is something my parents taught me when I was young.

I remember wanting a toy at the store….a baby doll care set.  It had a training potty, bottles, bowl and spoon, pretend diapers…everything.  It was beautiful.  I was all about baby dolls at that age. (Which might explain my 6 kids .)  It wasn’t my birthday, not near Christmas.  If I wanted that toy, I was going to have to save up the money and buy it myself.

doll care set

I got a weekly allowance that I could use to buy lunch at school, or I could use the food my folks provided to pack my own lunch and keep the money.  I packed my lunch and saved the money towards the toy.  My parents also paid small sums for odd jobs like lawn care.  Some jobs we did just because we were allowed to live there, but the bigger more strenuous ones came with a financial perk. (Albeit a fraction of what it would have cost to hire an adult to do the job—and rightly so.)

Finally the day came that I had enough money to buy the toy and I realized that if I bought it, I would be completely broke.  So I started saving again.  I decided when I had double the cost of the toy, I would buy it. Then I would have the toy and still a comfortable little nest egg.  The work and saving continued.

By the time I had double the amount to buy the toy, I had a LOT of labor invested.  My mom drove me to the store and we walked together to the doll aisle.  My heart was beating a little faster.  I wondered if they would even still carry the beloved dolly care set. I held my breath as we rounded the corner.

….Shoo, it was still there.

I gripped my little wallet and we stood in the aisle looking at it together.  My Mom said, “Would you rather have that toy, or would you rather have the money?”  It was a simple statement, but I knew she really meant, “Would you rather have that toy right now, or would you rather have the unknown opportunity the money can provide in your future?”

I left the store without the toy, still clutching my full wallet, and I was happy.  My mom never once mentioned that it was a wasted trip.  She was ok with either decision I would make, and either decision would have been a good one.  The important thing was realizing that a yes right then was saying no to something else and making the decision with that knowledge instead of with heated emotion.

Every No is a Yes

When we take the time to write out a budget, we can know whether our latte habit could prevent a summer vacation.  That if we buy these shoes, we will still be able to eat.  It’s freedom from worry.  It’s freedom to spend within boundaries that we set up while considering the cost to our future happiness. While boundaries prevent us from going very far in one direction, they also prevent bad stuff from getting in…like debt or slick sales presentations. The beauty of budgeting is you get to set your own boundaries.

I think the technical term for what we are talking about here is “opportunity cost.”  They talk about it sometimes in economics class, but the best way to learn it is in the toy aisle after a bunch of hard work.

{BTW, this principle is true in more than just money.  When I say “Yes” and overcommit myself, I’m saying No to good health and family time.  When I say Yes to Cake, I say No to energy and a trim waistline….}

What do you think?  Are there any yes’s you made where the resulting No came as a surprise? Any time you changed your choice because you thought about future consequences?

 

Ham and Cheese Pockets

Ham and Cheese Pockets

There’s something wonderful about having a basic recipe memorized.  It gives freedom in cooking and opens up creativity.  It allows a woman to go into another home, discover a need, and whip up a delicious supper without running to the internet or a cook book.

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My Basic pizza dough is a recipe like that. It makes fabulous pizza, but can also be loaf bread, bread sticks, cinnamon rolls, bagels, English muffins, Stromboli.  Anything really.DSC_2993

And like I tell my daughters, Men like food.  Want to find a good man?  Learn to make good food.

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I remember the first time Darren took me to visit his grandfather in the rest home.  His grandma introduced me.  She said, your grandson J.D. found him a Jewell (his wife’s name) and Darren found an Angel.
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I was stunned.  I’d been admiring Darren from afar for awhile, but he had never been very clear with me about his feelings.  Was I claimed?  Was he really serious about our future or was Grandma dreaming? I was thinking such deep thoughts and floating on her words, when Grandpa spoke up.  “Can she cook?”

Um, what?

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On the resume I was building to be a good wife….cooking wasn’t the top thing in my mind.  I loved the Lord, could sing, play piano, clarinet and guitar.  Teach children, sew, garden, and had the stamina of a workhorse. Surely those things are more important than cooking…but, NO. Grandpa only wanted to know if I could cook, lol.
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If he were still with us, I’d bring him one of these yummy ham pockets. :) He’d want gravy too.

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Ham and Cheese Pockets

Ham and Cheese Pockets

Ingredients

  • 1 2/3 cup warm water
  • 1 Tbs yeast
  • 2 Tbs honey
  • 1 Tbs olive oil
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 4 cups fresh ground Hard White Wheat Flour
  • 5 cups, diced ham (sliced ham works too)
  • 10 slices of cheese (or shredded...whatever.)

Instructions

  1. In a stand mixer, combine the first 5 ingredients and mix up into a firm dough.
  2. Oil dough and cover with a cloth while you preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  3. After about 30 minutes, divide the dough into 10 balls.
  4. Roll each ball into a circle then top with ham and cheese.
  5. Wrap dough around the filling and place on a cookie sheet.
  6. Bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown.
  7. Brush with melted butter while they are still warm. (Sprinkle with garlic salt too if you want to.)
  8. They are delicious warm or cold and pack well for lunches.
http://www.groceryshrink.com/2014/04/ham-and-cheese-pockets.html

If you like this recipe, you’d love my menu subscription service.

GSP Button 4

It’s about a $1 a week for 27 breakfast, lunch, dinner and snack recipes, a shopping list, and tons of extras.  With help for those who are gluten free, dairy free, or on a fitness plan like Trim Healthy Mama and Fit Yummy Mummy. We now give 2 menus a week, one with everything and one with dinners only.

P.S. There’s just a few hours left to grab your homemaking bundle if you haven’t already.  I’ve loved looking through mine and super excited about some of them in particular.  It was stuff I really wanted to know, but didn’t know how to find out! Sale ends at midnight!

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How to Properly Use a Red Card

How to Properly Use a Red Card

Ah Target. For all your personal flaws, I like your aisle style.

I love that your red card includes a debit card option, gives me a 5% discount, donates a percentage of my purchases to my school, and gives me free shipping online.

You have an ulterior motive though.  I can see through your niceness.  You know that if I swipe a card, be it credit or debit I will spend 50% more.  Give me a card; you make more….smooth.

I thought money fights in my marriage were a thing of the past, but you temped me to misbehave and I took the bait. I swipe my card knowing I have the cash in my purse to cover it, in all the proper budgets.  No stress, no fear, easy swipe. I intend to put the cash in the “return to the bank” envelope so we know it is spent. Still, sometime in the ride from the store to home, someone has to unload the car, potty, break up a fight, and get a snack, make dinner…and I forget all about the cash.

I forget, until it is time for my husband, (who is a CPA and VERY detailed) starts asking me about all the Target draws on our bank account and what they are for.  And why the “back to the bank” envelope doesn’t have the same amount of cash in it. And where that cash is now.  My chest feels tight, and my head hurts, because I know the money is gone.  I spent it twice. Since all of our money has a name, I spent the money we set aside for other things on something I don’t care about as much, and now I’m mad.

back to the bank

I’ll keep the card and I’ll come back, but we won’t fight anymore.  I have a secret plan.  It’s a little envelope in my purse called, “back to the bank.” So now, while I’m standing in line, I will swipe my card and put in my pin and save my 5% and send some love to my school….and I’ll put the cash into the “back to the bank” envelope right then. No delay between swiping the card and driving home to give me time to forget about moving the cash.

Yep, we’re both clever. See you in the dollar aisle. 😉

 

What you need to know about your threshold

When I was 12 years old, I was 30 lbs overweight and miserable.

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That’s 12 year old me all the way over on the right. My dad’s entire family was obese and even though my dad was normal and my mom was tiny, I was convinced that I looked the way I did because of genetics. Then one day, someone introduced the concept to me that I could be anything I wanted to be.  God put the potential inside of me and my hopes and dreams came from Him.  Genetics didn’t matter as much as my behavior did.

I started to study nutrition, calories, exercise, weight and height charts–anything I could find in the area of weight loss.  Then I attacked the problem with the knowledge I found.  The weight “fell off” over the summer (because of my serious hard work), and I went to 8th grade looking like a different person.

My struggle with weight didn’t end there.  I still loved food, and my body was pre-set to hold onto more fat than most of my peers.  I didn’t gain weight though, because I had developed a personal threshold.  I didn’t count calories, but I weighed every day.  I never punished myself with the scale, I used it simply to get information.  If the scale was up I ate a little less that day.  If it was down I ate a little more.  Day by day I monitored things always watching for that number on the scale that was completely intolerable for me.  If I hit that number, I got serious again until I was under my threshold.   I was determined to never feel the way I did in that picture again.

When I got pregnant with my first baby, it was all of a sudden OK to gain weight.  My threshold didn’t apply anymore and I packed on 60 lbs before Heidi was born!

My threshold, or lack thereof, also determined my success with savings, income, and spending. When I was in college, my checking account charged a fee if I allowed the balance to go below a certain amount.  If I got close to that amount, I stopped all spending until I had a cushion built back up.  If I had a cushion in there I spent it. Even now, I have an income threshold with my business.  If my income drops below my acceptable amount, I kick it into gear and get the numbers up again.

Here’s the downside of Thresholds.  They can keep us from reaching our real potential. If my bank account threshold is $100, then I’ll always have about that much in there.  I’ll spend and save in routine to keep me there.  If my weight threshold is 140, that’s where I’ll stay even though my ideal weight is 125.  It’s hard to set a new threshold that is far away from where you are sitting now.  With my personality, I have to put in a big push, all or nothing to reach the new goal and then set my emotions to the new ideal.

What about you?  Do you have thresholds?  How do you use them to reach your goals?

It’s happening….

Heather Vision Therapy

I’m sitting in the Vision Therapy office today.  We have two children receiving therapy right now and life is full.  This is the first week I’ve found a wifi signal at the office, and am using some of this hurry up and wait time to write to you.

Brandon and Grant Playing at Vision Therapy

While I am here watching Grant play with the office toys, the plumber is at my house :). He’s installing a kitchen sink, a dishwasher, and a couple of toilets.  I’m beyond excited.  And a little scared.  When I didn’t have anything to work with in the kitchen, I could be less than amazing and have a good excuse.  Now that I’ll have a sink again…it’s time to step up my game.  Maybe I won’t feel like being amazing anyway.  I think I’m ok with that.  If my family gets basic healthy food and the kitchen is mostly clean…that can be it’s own kind of amazing.

RB birthday

Last night we had a tiny birthday party for our friend, who is staying with us for a short time while she makes some transitions in her life.  It was a total blast. Just silly fun around the table with some friends.  And then she came with me to ballet class.  It’s like having a sister for reals, and the kids adore her.  We have the same maiden name, and even though we aren’t technically related….I can pretend.

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So this kitchen thing is scary.  We dreamed about it for over a year before digging into the process and then 9 months later are finally coming near the end.  I wanted it to be perfect, but really in life what is?  Our new floor is already scratched, some areas pretty badly.  The cabinets already have dings and blemishes from use. I had in my mind that one day I would have a brand new kitchen all finished and in that moment every piece of it would be new and perfect.  The reality is, We’ve been working at it and living in it for 9 months. We have 6 kids.  My family is better than a perfect kitchen any day.  It’s good for me to stop and remember that sometimes, because when I forget I enter freak out mode.

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Freak out mode is when I wail that my floor scratches aren’t repairable because a prefinished floor has a finish that goes an 1/8th inch deep and nothing sticks to it (like stain or repair crayon.) It’s when I complain that the cabinet company went down in quality, so our new cabinets aren’t what we expected or thought we paid for. It’s when I stress because my counters turned out splotchy and I realize that it’s likely that I’ll still have these countertops when I’m a grandma.  In the amount of time it would take me to save up for granite, I’ll need to put a couple of kids through college, plan a wedding, and hope that grandbabies will soon follow.  To be honest, all that stuff is more important to me than a perfect kitchen.

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Rachel told me the counters looked great when I wasn’t sure.  “It’s the perfect color,” she said.  “Maybe try a second coat.” I just needed to hear some validation for my choice to be able to relax inside and go with it.  Sherry and John over at Young House Love did a similar color in their countertop refresh yesterday, but theirs is a concrete overlay.  Which looked like a LOT more work than what we did. I love the look in their kitchen. It made me feel better to see they had a backsplash too.  After I saw Carmella’s backsplashless countertops and undermount sink, I totally wished I had held out for that.  Just the discussion about it turned very LOUD, since DH was convinced both were impossible.   In the end, it was more important to remove some stress from DH’s shoulders than to fight to get exactly what I wanted.

A second coat on the counters made things better, but I’ll have to show you that tomorrow :)