Random Thoughts


Photo and text by Gabrielle.

Welcome to August’s installment of my random thoughts. Also, Hello from Paris! Feel free to share your own random thoughts in the comments.

– Today we left Normandy. It was a teary goodbye. I think it might be my favorite place ever. We are spending a few days in Paris before we catch our flight home on Saturday morning. Except for me, Betty & June, no one else in our family has been to Paris this summer, so everyone is excited to get a little time here. We’ll do some school shopping, see a museum or two, and watch the Eiffel Tower sparkle at night. I asked each kid to decide what their top priorities are for our few days here, and we’re working hard to see how many we can accommodate.

My pick is to visit Les Puces, the famed Paris Flea Market — which I’ve never done! But if I understand correctly it’s only held on Saturday, Sunday and Monday, and we leave early Saturday, which means we’ll miss it. Bummer! Have you ever been?

– School starts on Monday. Which seems almost unfathomable to me because this summer has gone so fast. But happily, we have lots of new school experiences to look forward to. Maude is starting her senior year, Olive is starting high school, Oscar is starting middle school. And Betty and June will return to our elementary school as 5th and 1st graders. (And you can bet we’ve picked up a bunch of adorable French school supplies to put in their back packs.)

– As for Ralph, he’s also got a big new experience happening. Ralph is heading to Bogota, Colombia on a mission! He leaves in about 3 weeks. As you can imagine, he’s super excited. He can’t wait to learn Spanish and he’s already falling in love with Colombia — mostly because he’s reading One Hundred Years of Solitude. (Such an amazing book! Have you read anything by Gabriel Garcia Marquez?)

When we get back to The States, we’ll be in serious mission prep mode, including a wisdom teeth appointment and tackling the packing list. Ralph will be giving a talk at church — it’s a missionary tradition — on Sunday the 11th, a couple of days before he heads out. (To our friends in the Bay Area, you are all invited! I’ll share details on Facebook.)

– Next week we have two birthdays. Olive on the 25th and Ralph on the 26th. We’re guessing that re-entry, and the new school year, may leave us feeling overwhelmed next week, so we’ll be keeping the celebrations simple, and pushing back friend gatherings by a week or two. Have you ever hosted a delayed birthday party?

– Remember the Treehouse master bedroom and bathroom renovation that has been happening while we’re in France? Well, it’s not all the way done yet, but we’re down to the finishing surfaces. So that’s awesome! As awesome as it is, I realize it still means we’re coming home to a not-wholly-useable house. Not ideal, but what can you do? These things happen.

I’m super excited to see the new spaces in person, and I’m over-the-moon-grateful that most of the work — and all the really dusty stuff — is already done. Woo hoo! Of course, I’ll be sharing lots of updates once I’m there and can take some photos.

– Related, we’ll be coming home to a little more added chaos, because it turns out our washing machine developed a leak while we’ve been gone, warping the wood floors it sits on. Dang! The washing machine and dryer came with the house, and they were already old when we moved in, so we knew they would need to be replaced eventually. And it looks like eventually has turned into now. : ) Has anyone reading researched washer and dryer sets recently? Is Consumer Reports the way to go? I’m thinking back, and I can’t remember the last time we had to buy a set. I welcome any and all advice about shopping for a new pair. Do you love your washer and dryer?

– Over the last couple of weeks, I was surprised to realize that I was slowing down and posting less on social media. I was thinking about why that might be and I’m not quite sure. But I think it’s something about this particular summer. It’s been really wonderful. Incredible and magical in so many ways, with a delicious concentrated dose of family time. There were dinner parties and old friends and gorgeous views and so many adventures, and yet I’m feeling hesitant about sharing it. It’s like I find myself almost hoarding the summer, or protecting it and wanting to keep it all for myself. Does that even make sense?

Maybe I’ll feel differently in a few weeks and write all about it. Or maybe I’ll end up just keeping some of these memories in my head. We’ll see. Have any of you ever felt like that?

– We’ve got a few big weeks ahead of us and I can feel myself mentally preparing. As I’ve mentioned, I really enjoy a full schedule, but I can always tell I’ve overdone it when I find myself looking at a future date on the calendar and thinking about how I just need to make it to that future date and then I can relax, instead of enjoying what’s actually happening. This morning, I realized I’m doing that now — looking ahead to sometime in September. So I’m trying to figure out what I can cut out or simplify or say no to. (I say that while being fully aware I’m not very good at saying no to things.)

– Even though I know the weeks ahead are going to be challenging, I can still say with ease and enthusiasm: I can’t wait to get home! Coming home is just the best. It feels so good. My own bed. My own dishes. My own desk. I’m really looking forward to getting on a good fall schedule. I really do enjoy back-to-school season. It’s such a great time for making a fresh start.

I think that’s it for now. Please feel free to respond to anything here, or bring up your own topic. I always love hearing what’s on your minds!

P.S. — I post my random thoughts each month. You can find them all here.

53 thoughts on “Random Thoughts”

  1. Good luck to Ralph on his time in Colombia. My husband worked in Barranquilla last year and loved it. He heard wonderful things about the positive changes to Bogota from his coworkers. I hope he enjoys his time. We are also having a first birthday party for my daughter two weeks late – better late then never!

  2. Re the Washing machine. Just had the pump replaced on my two year old LG washer. Too many pool towels, my fault. The repairman did say that I am using the wrong soap. He started the machine with “no clothes” in it on normal and showed me how much soap was still in machine. Evidently, Persil is the soap of choice for these machines, not the liquid but the powder from Germany. I am told if I use it no more yucky smell and no soap build up. That for what it is worth is my advice to you now that you will be replacing washer. Hope this works for me as I just spent 50.00 on the detergent!

  3. Please please look into “Speed Queen” washer and dryer. Commercial grade, stainless steel…actually uses water unlike the front loaders that use sprinkles of water mixed with mold. We switched from front loaders to the speed queen and we will never go back- and we won’t need to, these will last forever. Long comment, but with our big family it was life changing.

      1. Another SpeedQueen fan here. We had a Samsung front loader for a little over three years and the motor died (we are a small family of three). Repairman recommended SpeedQueen and said it is the only brand nowadays that lasts like the old times – 10+ years. We are very happy with it.

        1. Yes! I’m in the market for speed queen too! I have a Samsung set 4.5 years old. Family of 6. The spindle/bearings that hold the front load basket are out. It’s $600 repair.

    1. I agree about the Speed Queen. Mine is 3 years old and still looks brand new. I never went the front loader route because I have not heard one person say that they like theirs. It is simply the best!

  4. I went to Les Puces last summer (and used your sister’s blog post to help me find it!) and my opinion is that you shouldn’t feel too bad if you don’t make it. While it was fun to browse, most items were way pricier than I expected (as in hundreds and thousands of dollars) and there were fewer small items that would be fun to take home than I expected. If you’re ever in New England in the summer, the Brimfield Antique Show is great for hunting and pecking with great results.

    I do totally suggest you go to BHV Marais department store in Paris for back to school shopping, however! I was in love with their entire floor of stationery and office supplies. A teacher’s dream!

  5. Another Kate here to plug for Speed Queen!! My parents are thrifty and practical and when they replaced their 30-year-old washer they did ALL the research and SQ is the only way to go. No electronics to break, lasts forever, you can add the sock you dropped on the floor, etc. They’ve had it a few years and my mom is OBSESSED. I am so puzzled by the front-loader trend; they make no sense!


    Les Puces are so big, at least at Clignancourt–I thought some sections were open all week but I could be wrong. Worth investigating further!

    1. Yes yes yes to Speed Queen! We bought a set when we moved into our first house last year. The local appliance shop couldn’t say enough good things about them – they are just solid workhorses, and American made! Not as water efficient as some other choices but when you factor in their lifespan and American made, their carbon footprint is smaller than other choices!

  6. We bought the whirlpool cabrios and they are amazing! I can do about 2 1/2 loads of laundry because it is so big and doesn’t have the thing in the middle :)

  7. Not Kate, but I am going to give you another recommendation for Speed Queen. I wish we owned one, but alas, we have a Maytag HE set. For what we’ve spent in repairs (a bit here; a bit there until we were so far in we didn’t want to trash them and start over) we could have been more than halfway to a new set. Anyway, on one of his visits, I asked the repairman what to buy next time. He said the two best brands to buy are Fisher & Paykel and Speed Queen. Since he repairs all brands, I figure he knows what breaks and what doesn’t.

    As for soap, we use Charlie Soap, which is what many who cloth diaper use because it doesn’t leave a residue in fabric. I also run the washer’s clean cycle regularly to keep build-up down.

    Enjoy your last few days in France!

    1. Just saw these comments and had to respond that we have a Fisher & Paykel washer and Speed Queen Dryer. Both on recommendations from our local hardware store who said they never receive service calls on them. Had them for at least 3 years and they are the best.

  8. juliagblair@comcast.net

    LOVed reading this. So glad this has been such a wonderful summer for all of you. It’s gone too fast for sure. Eager to have you safely back in USA and super excited about Ralph’s mission. The summer in France was an inspired choice for all of you.
    When Ralph begins his mission, we’ll have 5 grandchildren serving simultaneously.
    Thrilling and such great kids! Looking forward to all our August B-days. It’s a great month. Today marks 62 years since Bob and I married and JOhn left on his mission. MUCH has happened since then and because of that day. Hugs!

  9. Are you going to share a tour of the house you were renting this summer as well as the itinerary for your French Rivera trip?

    Also, go for the Speed Queen. I have the set and they are great!!

  10. Another vote for Speed Queen! We’ve had ours for 6 months and love it. I like that I can add laundry as it fills and the lack of electronics. I never understood the front load trend either – with the mildew and need for cleaning tabs.

  11. I totally understand how you want to keep summer to “yourself” and offline. Maybe that’s one reason why I don’t much on social media. Your summer has sounded magical and what a great time for your family to be together before Ralph leaves.

    1. I totally understand the sentiment also.

      But I’ve often wished I had a blog as a sort of forced journaling exercise. I always think I’ll remember the special events, but our heads get full, and the years pass, and even the most magical of moments get buried under…stuff.

      1. You expressed that so well. I feel the same way. I try to at least journal during the vacations my husband and I take each year. I worry I won’t remember the good times when I’m old and gray!

  12. We bought our dryer from Williams Appliance on San Pablo Ave on the border of Oakland and Berkeley. They sell used/repaired appliances and will install them for you. They are a long-standing black-owned neighborhood business in Oakland and have had a great experience with them.

  13. After a frustrating 6 years with HE washers, we’ve gone to a Speedqueen. Old School quality and performance. I’m SO happy with it!

  14. Exciting news, Ralph! I read the same book when I was 19 and it is still my favourite one of Mr.Marquez. I’m looking forward to gear about the amazing miracles and adventures you’ll encounter.
    As for the washer/drier situation… we just had to replace our set after only 6 years and now I am much happier with my “Miele-Set”(we had some cheaper brand before to save money..ha). It is pretty large which is awsome with some kids. I looked into the Samsung machines while deciding and even though they look rather good, and were selling at a very low price, I wasn’t in for an adventure.

    Enjoy your days in Paris! I’d love to be there too and take in some sparkling. The fleamarket is really nice, but now you still have things to come back for, right?

  15. Re: late birthday parties with friends – that’s pretty much the default for our youngest, whose birthday is right after Christmas – we usually do her party in late January. My eldest has a birthday in April and we usually do it within a week or two, but one year the place he really wanted to have his party at was booked until late June when I called in March – so we did it in June! Kids don’t seem to mind, and of course, we always do a family celebration actually on their birthday.

  16. Any special delicious family time is just that, completely understandable that you’d want to hold on and squeeze for all is worth. But please, add some French school supplies to your what to wear series!!! ;)

  17. This: “I can always tell I’ve overdone it when I find myself looking at a future date on the calendar and thinking about how I just need to make it to that future date and then I can relax, instead of enjoying what’s actually happening. ”
    Such a useful way of putting it!

  18. We really enjoy out LG top loading high efficiency washer/dryer set. I did a ton of research before we purchased and looking at price point, longevity, and noise (we have bedrooms by our laundry room) we decided on the LG.
    I am not a fan of front loaders. Without stands they are too low to the ground, the musty smell is evident even when you follow strict instructions and clean the seal often, and reaching deep into the machine to collect clothes stuck to the back of the drum is one of my least favorite things. I only looked at top loaders and went for a large capacity high efficiency model.
    One thing I did was go look at models in person. The large basket size (works well for a family of 5, we always have extra room) is fantastic but that means the machines can be deep. I am 5’3″ and I wasn’t able to reach down to the bottom of all the machines. Not a problem for my husband who is 5’9″ but our kids also help with laundry so a machine is only useful if the whole family can move clothes from the washer to the dryer.
    We have done both delicates and huge loads of swim and beach towels and the machine works equally well for both. I also like that when we upgrade our thermostat later this year to a Nest system we’ll be able to control turning on the machines during off peak energy usage hours, saving money.
    Monday holidays are a great time to find a deal so good timing for needing a new machine. We found our set for $1400, regularly priced at $2200. Look around at competitors too, most places will price match if it’s the same make/model.
    Good luck on finding the perfect machine for your family.
    PS, we did move the dryer door to the other side which was a little more complex than other machine sets, however totally manageable for anyone with mild DIY skills.

  19. I think it is perfectly normal and wise to keep certain memories safely tucked in a special place outside of blogs and other social media. In fact, I would even venture to say that it is almost crucial.

  20. Go the consumer reports route. We bought an LG that was the top rated one a few years back and I loved it!!! Love a good front loader. Also if you can hit up a laundry mat for a week or two and buy it online you can sometimes save a lot of money on the machine. We found a deal $200 off with free shipping. I just had to wait about 8days for it to come.

  21. I am long time reader from Bogota, Colombia although I live in DC. So excited for Ralph, he is going to have an amazing time. Food is great, people are friendly and outgoing, it will be wonderful! The Colombian government actually started a tourism campaign called ” Colombia is Magical Realism” based on Garcia Marquez literature https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qZ3OyeexORQ You can find a lot more videos on youtube.

  22. Some memories are just too dear to share with the world. They are the ones that stay with you and you can savor over and over again. I’m so happy you and your family had such a magical summer! May you hold those memories dear for all the many years to come. <3

  23. Ha, people have strong feelings about washing machines. I grew up in Europe and was baffled by the use of top loaders when I visited the US and then moved to Canada – it made no sense to me and that middle thingy ruined all my clothes! Anyway, naturally I bought front loader four our first house – the Kenmore HE set, which is virtually the same as the Whirlpool one, made in the same factory but with a much better gasket, handle and lower price. We loved it so much that we moved it when we bought our second house. We’ve had it for 11 years now and not one repair needed. It doesn’t smell, it doesn’t damage our clothes, I can do large loads, it’s a workhorse! Water is very expensive here in Ontario as is electricity so efficiency was also very important to us. We bought the machine at Sears.

    1. We inherited our Kenmore HE and have had it 5 years. I had to clean the front pump trap a couple of weeks ago but that was the only “repair!” We use this for our laundry to landscape watering too and the pump is still going!

  24. I’m glad you have had such a magical summer too! I just wanted to say that When busy seasons hit like it sounds like you’re going to have, we, your friends, understand if your blog is the thing that has to give. One of the reasons we love you is your dedication to family and making those special times special. We also care about your mental well being and hope this busy season is one that is joyful. Hugs!

  25. Yay for Ralph! I’ve read your blog since the beginning, and I think its funny I almost feel left out since you didn’t announce Ralph’s mission call earlier! I was like wwwhhhhaaaattttt???!!!! haha! Happy news! Hope your transition home goes well!

  26. Just bought my first washer/dryer EVER last year (lucky enough to inherit till then). We ended up with a Bravos XL washer/dryer set from Maytag, and are very happy. Top-loader, old-school but no spindle in the middle, significantly less money than SpeedQueen (which we looked at). We have done CR/ so much researching for other appliances but did not for this. Our old washer broke at a rotten, overly busy time – we just went to the Lowes a few blocks from our house, talked to the sales guys about which ones people NEVER return/call to complain about, and then chose from those based on price. New washer/dryer delivered the next day, ta-da! Good luck in your search. I have loved reading about your summer – thank you for sharing, and yes to keeping whatever memories you choose for yourself! You are generous to share any part of your summer!

  27. Congrats to Ralph! So exciting to be heading into new chapters of life! I just dropped my oldest off at college yesterday…definitely exciting times.

    As for delayed birthday parties…we do them a lot. I have one that has a mid December birthday, so we usually wait until school break to have a party; one that has a mid May birthday, so again we wait until the school break has arrived; and one with a mid July birthday, so a lot of times we are traveling and wait until we are home. We only have group birthday parties for them when they are 4, 8, 12 and 16 though. The kids like it because it’s nice to enjoy the party when there is no rush to get somewhere else or get to bed early for school. That applies to friend parties and family celebration. It’s much more fun to enjoy an evening of your favorite meal and then cake and ice cream without having to rush off to an activity or even bedtime, even if it is just with the family.

  28. I’ve never heard of Speed Queen! But I love my LG front loader – we’ve had it for four years and haven’t had any issues. And we use it a lot – for three of those years we were doing at least one load of diapers a day. The hand wash/ wool cycle, in particular, has made my life much easier.

  29. I began reading your blog when my youngest son was a baby.
    He’s now a 1st grader & his big brother is in 5th.
    That was our point of intersection, the similar ages.
    Wishing you the best, this coming year, with all of the growing changes in your family!

  30. We bought a washer dryer set midway-through living in an apartment. We moved it to the house we bought, and we’ve lived in our house for five years now, and both are still going strong with minor repairs and little cleaning of the appliances themselves.

    I was used to using really basic apartment complex washer/dryers and old washer/dryers in college, so I didn’t want anything fancy. We bought a Hotpoint washer and a GE dryer. They match in color, and their almond color doesn’t jar my eyes at all.

    I’m not fond of this set of appliances, or of our washer or fridge, but if they broke down altogether next week, knock on wood, I wouldn’t hesitate at all at buying used again. We bought from a local, established business, which is important to me, and none of the salespeople tried to really sell anything to us. No one was pushy, but when we wanted information, they knew it and were willing to share and were knowledgeable.

    Delivery was straightforward. In fact, I rode with the delivery guy who moved them from apartment to house in the cab of the truck. AND I loaded a toddler car seat into his delivery truck as well. Amusing memory. Ah, the things we Moms do when we can’t drive ourselves. :D

    Also, hooray for an exciting mission call! I’m thrilled that he’s chosen to dedicate his life to the Lord for a time. I’m also thrilled that the news is simply part of the flow of everything else that is happening in your life. The mission call doesn’t have its own post on your blog, but you also didn’t leave the news out altogether because it IS exciting…

  31. I laughed when I saw you ask if anyone has done a delayed b-day celebration! One year we celebrated our son’s birthday two months late . . . yes, I said months. It’s so humbling when I think about it now, but at the time it was really the only open spot that we could find to do the kind of party that he wanted. And it was perfect. His friends all understood, and everyone acted just like it was his big day . . . and he is laid back, so he didn’t care. But I’m guessing I couldn’t do this with all of my children; some would just be sad that their party was not near their day.

    Also I second the idea of French school supplies in the back to school line up!

  32. It makes me happy to hear Ralph is going on a mission, because I like to see progressive Mormons letting their light shine.

  33. All these washer recc’s are really helpful! Good luck getting back into the swing of school & schedules. I know we are not ready:( We start tomorrow too.

  34. Where I live in Canada, we pay time-of-day electricity rates. There are times, like midday in the summer when air conditioners are running, when it is high and times, such as evenings and night, when it is lower price. For that reason, I love having a delay start cycle on my washer. I can load it up and let it wash later. My LG offers this mode.

  35. I just bought a Speed Queen washer & dryer for our cabin, and another dryer for our home. I just wanted something that could be easily repaired & would last for a very long time.

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