With Kids Like These, How Can Summer NOT Be Fun?

It’s only May (albeit late May). We still have another month before summer officially hits our house. Recently, I found myself in the midst of a crazy schedule of house duties – Dave was mowing the lawn (which, at our new house after a week+ of non-stop rain, is a monumental task) so I was playing with the kids, cooking, and throwing them in the tub for a quick early bath so that Dave could rinse off after his chores. Even amid this chaotic scene, I found myself full of joy and appreciation, and truly looking forward to the time ahead this summer with them.

These are crazy ages.

Harper’s officially a year and a half. She’s still a little peanut, but her personality (when she pushes the “stranger danger” shyness aside) is beyond unforgettable. When she runs, she puts both her hands behind her back (either she’s a superhero or it cuts down on friction, whatev). She’s STUBBORNNESS personified – ahem, like her mom – but I’m learning that if you give her a task she’s *sometimes* easily diverted. Just until recently, she hadn’t taken to drinking regular milk yet but recently seemed to give up her bottle of pumped milk a day (woohoo, although I’m somehow nervous not lugging my pump in and out of work!) but she still nurses a couple times a night. She pets and snuggles her kitties with a relatively gentle touch. She thinks she’s older and demands to be treated as such. She’s part fashion plate, part Punky Brewster; possibly a tomboy. She adores me (for some strange reason), sometimes throws Dave a bone with a rare hug, and always dotes on her big brother.

Her brother.

Hadley’s going to be 5 in less than 2 months, guys. Let me get my bearings on that one. *sniff, sniff* Watching the passage of time through his demeanor and growth – still with the occasional behavior slip or meltdown, but noticeably fewer for the most part – is humbling. He’s as kind as they come with a huge heart that gets hurt when kids, well, are kids. He uses big (like, big…adult big) words. He’s inquisitive and precocious – but not overtly annoying. He has a hard time controlling himself at times but is, at heart, a people-pleaser. When he’s about to get hurt, he’s already apologizing before he hits the ground. Poor kid comes by it honestly from both parents.

After teaching hundreds of kids over the years (the perks of teaching library – you meet ALL THE KIDS), I had reached a disciplinary style that, I felt, saw the uniqueness in all the children but tried to accept the fact that they should all still be held accountable for their actions and choices. Strict, I would say, which is something often lacking in the home, but with a touch of trust and humor. So, I took this home to Hadley.

Now that preschool teachers and the teachers who have met him for kindergarten have stated and reiterated that, yup, there’s something different about him, my thinking’s shifting a bit. There are some areas that still drive me crazy (“pinch the pencil, bud” and God help you if you hand him an ice cream cone to eat solo), but I’m starting to accept that he deserves more from me, particularly nurturing. I won’t say “us” here because my husband has always been the most sweet, supportive father on the planet.

Let’s just say that I’ve seen what kindness does to him. It opens him up like a flower. He’s more attentive and eager to please when he’s not going to be struck down (figuratively!!!) for doing something wrong. It’s amazing, and I’m ashamed that I wasn’t able to find this willingness to pick only the important battles and give him more breathing room far sooner.

As far as he’s grown and developed, it’s clear that we ALL can find some growth and new awareness at any age. Even parents. (Okay, ESPECIALLY parents.)

**************

So, that’s where our kiddos are. Simply fun, simply goofballs, simply smart, simply amazing.

I’d like to be able to give them a summer that’s all those things: fun, goofy, brain-building, amazing…and, yes, simple (since, y’know, that whole “relaxation” thing sounds great to my pregnant mind). In the vein of simplicity, I’ve turned to general ideas that we can kind of “fill in the blanks” later to give us a guide of fun summer activities without the self-imposed “we have to do #allthethings” stress.

A science museum – Last year, we built our entire getaway on heading to a kid-friendly, interactive museum and while the museum itself was amazing, the rest of the trip kinda wasn’t. So, this year I’m eyeing a spot much more local to us and even got to scope it out on a recent field trip at school. I think Hadman will LOVE it and there are even some cool things for Harper to mess around with.

Zoos! – Any chance to fit in a trip to the zoo, whether it’s our favorite local spot or a larger one while traveling, is a great idea for our kiddos. They LOVE animals, so a day at a zoo is ideal, and now that Hadley’s much more into coloring and drawing, we can base some simple activities off of what he sees. We also want to start chatting with the kids (well, Hadman) about animal conservation and the environment more, so hopefully this will be a good jumping off point. Wild Kratts helps give a bit of a foundation, but seeing the animals brings it home.

Head outside – This could mean a bunch of things, from going on more walks to actually enjoying our backyard more to finding spots while vacationing that we can get some fresh air, going to the playground to eating in the backyard as a family. I like to keep things open – again, simple and less stress – so it all depends on schedule and weather.

Fresh, easy meals – Speaking of eating outside, our family has gotten into a rut. While we still don’t eat certain things (fast food comes to mind), we’ve been relying on restaurants and local pizza joints more than our fair share ever since the move (and if I’m honest, it’s been about for the past year or so). I’m hoping to push fruit and veggie snacks more this summer (on EVERYONE, not just the kiddos) and some real food meals. I’ve started this already, but with the summer farmers’ markets coming up, I’m excited to see what goodies they have to offer. * Our ultimate goal is to reach an 80/20 ratio of good, real-food choices to “real world/real life” options (ie a pizza or meal out from time to time).

Now, if only Harper wasn’t showing signs of a berry allergy. Grr.

Treats are OK! – Don’t get me wrong with my last point – we’ll still savor our ice cream and popsicles. I’m also hoping to avoid getting too hyped up about how messy they tend to be. 😉 We also have a new fire pit, so you KNOW s’mores are in the mix. (Now, if only we could find some organic marshmallows…)

Getting away. – This is a tough one to figure out for some reason. We were hoping to get away for a quiet, as-relaxing-as-possible-with-two-young-kids vacation but can’t settle on a where and when. We also make a trip to our “it’s tradition!” spots, like Western Mass and Old Forge, so I just don’t know. Gah. This may just be the year we fly by the seat of our pants.

So, there we are! I have a HUGE job to get inventory done and ALL of the books packed away for construction this summer, so I can’t wish the days away…but let’s just say I’ll be glad to have it all done and behind me to enjoy these munchkins (and my super cool husband, of course) this summer.

Anyone have some awesome plans they want to share? Or suggestions for a fun-yet-peaceful trip/vacation that won’t break the bank? I’d love to hear in the comments!

Totally Enough

Do you ever feel like you’re not doing enough? Like, no matter how much you’re, indeed, actually doing…it’s still not enough? I’m wondering, today, what makes us feel that way. Do we impose it on ourselves? Is it our way to push ourselves to actually get stuff done? Is there a guilt complex that comes along with living in the 21st century (and the social media that accompanies it)?

I’m not sure about the “why”, but I’ve got some thoughts on handling it…plus, as usual, an update.

My husband recently wrote a blog post about his affinity for to-do lists. They work for him, for the most part, until he gets down on himself for not getting every little thing accomplished in a day. (I get it. When we first met, he filled his days JAM PACKED with accomplishments. But these days, when the kids hit the hay freshly scrubbed and well-fed, we’re D-O-N-E. Life’s just more tiring the older you get. It’s legit.)

I used to be a list-maker. My mom had a series of lists strewn throughout the house and, man, she kept track of them meticulously. (An ongoing birthday list, ongoing chores, daily chores, shopping list, errands, etc. etc. etc.) But I realized that I was taking up more time making my lists (and ending up doing more priority-driven tasks that popped up rather than the less important to-do list tasks, anyway) than accomplishing anything.

But, something’s gotta give. I totally need to start holding myself a bit more accountable – house work, blog writing, meal planning, the works. I’ve been getting by doing “just enough” lately. While part of it is because I’ve been in my first trimester and dealing with two little ones, I need to up my game a bit.

That said, I don’t toss around the word “grace” much (mostly because it seems to have a religious tone to it and that’s not really “me”), but whether it’s making a simple to-do list or keeping better track of what NEEDS to be done in order to ACCOMPLISH more, I hope to do it while allowing myself a little grace in the process. We are not robots, but we do need to find balance. And don’t we know, truly, when we’re doing enough? I mean, totally enough?

I think we do.

As you can tell, I have SUUUUUCKED at keeping up my posts here. It hasn’t even become an urgent “to do” or a guilt-riddled albatross hanging from my neck.

And I totally miss my space here. I miss writing for you guys. I miss writing for myself. I miss having the time to do it. I miss being totally excited and motivated to hammer out a post here and there.

I’ll admit here and now that it’s really, really hard to write for a myriad of reasons. A new job that takes tons of energy to make sure I start on the right footing (and I’m honestly still behind on projects and book shelving tasks, to be honest). Maintaining a daily routine tends to mean that my writing time goes to one of my multi-tasking duties or simple kid-raising activities. Y’know. Dinner making, bath giving, nursing, and so forth.

And then there’s our recent “big” announcement. It’s SO, SO hard to write when you have a huge secret bouncing around in your heart and mind. SERIOUSLY. I’ve still been writing weekly for the Thirsties blog and between pregnancy brain and a general tiredness (lack of motivation, ahem), THAT’S been a challenge to get out into the world. But on top of it, going through the act of a first trimester with two kids, general life stuff, and a huge secret left me completely tongue-tied.

But now (I hope) I’m back. I still have to put energy into the new house (and updates on the old one!) and hope to share how that’s going. I have plenty of thoughts about the idea of parenting THREE (?!) kiddos. I have some resolutions My voice isn’t gone just because I have a tiny human growing in my belly – I can simply be more honest and actually USE the voice now that it’s all out in the open. It’s pretty invigorating, actually.

Plus, I still have a “side idea” that I’m flushing out and hope to get going when I’m able.

So, since I’m writing this today – on my 35th birthday – and following my so horrifically-skipped-over 7th (and apparently 6th?) blogiversary – AND have this huge news about having a third baby – I’m hitting the reset button. BAM.

Going forward, I’ll do my best. And, as always, that’s totally enough.

The Latest

It’s Sunday afternoon. I sit here having just finished my Thirsties blog post for the week enjoying the glow of the fire in the fireplace and the din of “In the Kitchen with David” on QVC in the background. I sigh.

I’m sighing because the kids are asleep for a few more moments (I hope) and it feels good. Because I have a bit of anxiety over heading back to school after a slightly-wasted week off (aren’t they always), and even more anxiety over, well, the state of affairs in the world overall.

But, mostly, I sigh because I want to write a more cohesive, “let’s help readers” type of post today…but I know I should just give a recap of what’s been going on in case people have been wondering. So, here’s the latest.

We’ve had a bout of stomach flu. So far, it only attacked Hadley and I, but it was rough. Several nights with the two of us in one bed, poor Dave on the couch, and Harper fighting a fever that has had us concerned whether it’s teeth or the bug (or something else). So, I guess the vacation wasn’t wasted; it was sicked.

The houses are slow going. We are so, so, so close to being done at the old house (aside from the garage, which is a whole other thing that’s not concerning us) but it takes so much energy when I head down that I’ve learned NOT to tackle projects at both houses in one weekend. There’s just not enough energy, then, to stretch into the workweek.

So, I hope to have more updates for you and I’m excited to get going on our room and the basement spaces, but it’s just going to have to wait.

Life continues on. Harper gets new teeth and walks on her tippytoes and throws a ball with a “humph!” every darn time and shows her opinion and humor left and right – and I haven’t documented any of it here. Hadley takes Monday night swimming classes (talk about an energy zapper!) and looks like a darned teenager already and shows so much innate kindness all the time – and I haven’t documented it here. We’ve been eating out more than we should and I majorly need to hit the “reset” button on our real food/simple living world (we’re not off the wagon whatsoever, but we should do better) – and I haven’t documented it here. Our weather has been crazy (60 yesterday, major snow today), school’s been nuts, I’ve got projects left and right, and my head is once again planning for summertime (we must look forward to things, right?!) – and I haven’t been documenting it here.

I hope to work on that, of course.

And I still haven’t decided whether or not to document here how utterly overwhelmed I am with things outside my daily sphere. When I decide, that’ll be my prerogative…whatever comes. It’s difficult to write with an anvil hanging over one’s head. I need to find a way to dig out, and it may be less social media, less information, more living…but ignorance is no way out. This is where I (and many friends, I think) live these days.

I have a little idea…that’s become an official…idea. So, why the heck would I start a new blog if I can’t find the time/motivation to work on this one?! Because I need to get some ideas out into the world that don’t really jive with Meg Acts Out, but this is my happy place (and is still very much a reflection of the life we live)…so I shall do both.

I’m hoping to get a few posts written before officially launching the other one for all the world to see. Let’s just say that it involves history. And kids. And life. That’ll do.


What’s new with YOU guys?

I promise a more positive, more “actual” post next time. 😉

Our New House – Part Two


Hey, guys! Today I’m picking up where I left off in my last post about our new home. Be sure to check it out to hear more overall details about the place and our plans for it.

Okay! On to the bedrooms.

Harper’s Room


The first space we painted – a gorgeous light tan/gray (depends on the light) with white trim – and I still haven’t made it feel like a complete room yet. Sure, Harper’s furniture and shaggy faux fur carpet are in there, but we haven’t put anything fun on the walls or done anything to make it feel particularly “her.” “Her”, by the way, seems to be no-nonsense(!) but fun and colorful. Her clothes tend to have a comfortable vibe (comfort always comes first, especially with the little adventurer that she’s become) with small, bohemian florals and neutrals or bright, modern colors. Kid’s hip and she knows what she likes. I love her for that.

Now, if she’d only USE her crib more often. :-\ Nighttimes are often spent traipsing back and forth between her room and ours and, admittedly, she’s become a bit of an accidental co-sleeper.


TO DO:
Organize – Her closet is still full of spillover boxes and toys and…oh, just crap. Plus, ALL the toys in the entire house need a good purging. Christmastime left us overwhelmed. Will it ever NOT do that?!
Treat those windows. She needs some cordless blinds that will hopefully help block out the light, but I’d also like to hang something fun from them, too. It’s hard to figure out the challenges of both toddlerdom and baseboard heating.
Decorate – The things we had to decorate her last room still haven’t found themselves to her walls, and I even have a couple of blank canvases (literally) awaiting a DIY artistic touch to create some additional wall art. It’s lower on the list than it should be right now, poor thing.

Hadley’s Room


So far, this is the biggest transformation in the whole house. Dave’s parents worked SO hard taking down the wallpaper, scrubbing and scraping the walls, and painting.

I’ll be sharing a more in-depth post about this space soon, but suffice it to say, we’ve tried to pull his room together a bit to make it feel more like home. I know it’ll continue to evolve (as does our little man’s personality and interests), but for now I sent Dave out with both kids so that we could make it more fun – like him! – and homey. A couple of store-bought art finds, some old DIY art from his old room (that he loves), and some white Christmas lights and it’s one of my favorite rooms. It’ll do for now, at least. Oh, and Dave’s parents were kind enough to get and come install his blinds. Love the cordless ones!

TO DO:
Finishing touches. We need to finish painting the trim around the windows, maybe add some additional window treatments layered on top of the blinds.

Our Room


Our main priority was getting the kids’ rooms livable before moving in, and that was pretty much accomplished. Needless to say, this left our room in a less-than-desirable state. The walls and trim are institutional – I can’t even say what color they are. You know that oatmeal-manilla folder-ish color paper your elementary teachers would have you use as scrap paper? Kind of like that. And, of course, we didn’t paint the closet before throwing stuff in there. (But, at least we get to share a closet now! Dave used to get changed in Harper’s room since that’s where his closet was.)


We’re thinking of taking some bigger chances in this room. So far, all the other rooms we’ve painted have been a neutral greige of some sort. We’re considering doing something similar in our room plus an accent wall, but we’re also mulling just going for it and painting the whole space a deeper, moodier color. After all, it’s a larger room than we’re used to and it gets plenty of morning sunlight.

What would you guys do???

TO DO:
Paint, paint, and paint s’more. Trim needs to be white. Closet needs to be freshened. Walls need, well, ANYTHING.
Grown-up decor. We don’t actually have a headboard, so we’ve been discussing getting a new bed altogether. I’m considering a DIY option, but overall we need to get things to play nicely together. The hodgepodge of dressers and side tables needs to be adultified. Let’s just pretend that’s a word.

Office


Yay, we have an office!!! This is actually Dave’s realm, mostly, because my writing is generally done wherever my lap is (ie the bed, the couch, the dining room). This space is in the half of the basement that’s “finished” (albeit super outdated) and will probably also house a futon or some sort of sleeping option for the rare guest or two.

TO DO:
– Paint the walls. I believe the walls in this room look like wallpaper but the design is actually printed right onto the wood paneling. Yep. Gross. So, after we get on top of the boxes and clutter in our basement “hallway” area, we’ll move this stuff around to try to paint this space. Hoping to find a color that will work with the ugly old but in-good-shape carpet but also any future flooring changes we may make, too.
– Make the rug work. This may entail layering another larger rug on top, I’m not sure. It all needs help, let’s say.

Playroom


Ugh, that picture. It’s actually been picked up some since this was taken, but it’s still pretty rough. Let’s say that it’s got lots of potential.

This is a big, mismatched, totally ‘60s era space that still has a sink from a previous wetbar. I mean, can you say “swinging”? That said…it’s going to be our kids’ playroom!!!!

We’ve got several types of paneling AND faux brick that’s clearly more plastic than faux brick on the walls and an industrial linoleum floor, but the space is huge and I can’t wait to make it work. Again, I’m envisioning a fun, bright space with the kids’ fun in mind here with an accent on “modern.” ‘Cuz currently, it ain’t.

TO DO:
– Try painting…or replacing paneling, as needed. I’m totally cool having that one faux brick area, but if it doesn’t paint up well, I’m going to replace it. I also hope to replace at least one of the walls with a flatter material to create a chalkboard wall (ssssqqqquuuuuuuuueeeeeeeee!!!!).
– Furnishing and decorating. Since it’s such a LONG room and the floor can be cold given what it’s made of, we’ll need to have some throw rugs to make it a comfy, unified space. Also, if we can’t fit a couch/futon/daybed in the office, it’ll most likely end up here. Honestly, since the kids are so young and they need almost constant supervision, this will probably be where Dave or I perch while watching the kiddos destroy…er…I mean enjoy the space. 😉  
Organizing. I’m hoping to make this more of a Montessori-esque learning space, so I’d like to put any of the kids’ toys that they don’t use super regularly on the main floor down there and organize them into zones. Let’s just say we’re planning a dress-up zone (eventually to house a – wait for it – stage!), kitchen area, constructive counting/math/problem solving space, tent, and more.


Basement Bathroom

No picture here…and kind of with good reason.

Bwahahaha! So. Get this. I had made an old “parsons” desk (kind of) back in the day that we ended up moving when Harper was born to make room in her new room. Long story short, it ended up in this room that’s attached to the end of the playroom – part bath, part laundry room, part cat potty room. I’m not sure if it became structurally unsound during the move or if one of our chunky kitties walked on it, but it’s currently laying halfway on the ground with two legs off.

But, wait, there’s more! Lately, Winston has been flexing his “curiosity killed the cat” side by getting himself stuck in the drop ceiling in the basement (he found it from the unfinished side). So, while I was down working in the unfinished area recently, I put him in the bathroom to keep him from a similar fate…only to accidentally lock. Him. In. I eventually took off the handle, then still had to find a way to open the door, but obviously freed him. Soooo…the handle needs fixing. Still. Ahem.

TO DO
– Um. Fix the handle. Yyyyyeah. I’ll get on that.
– Um. Fix the table. Yyyyyyeah. Again. Will get on that.
– Update the space. #modernupdate Need I say more? (I’m sure I’ll be posting and showing off the awkward space soon.

Unfinished Basement

Again, no pics. It’s kind of self-explanatory, but, again, I’ll show pictures as I work in the space.

This is kind of the area that I worry about the least, but let’s just say that the purging will continue. I’m planning to have a garage sale (an actual one, in our awesomesauce garage!) when the weather warms up so that this space gets utilized in the best possible way. The same goes for the garage. The real “to do” here is just to organize and go through crap. Oh, and to buy a shed when the weather changes. That’ll help as far as the garage goes, too.


So, what do you guys think? Any ideas for any of the spaces? Any Pinterest boards you suggest I follow? I would love to hear any thoughts!

Our New House – Part One

So, are you ready for a house update, folks? (It’s actually the first of a couple! So very long. Eek.) Here goes!

Things have been such a whirlwind since we closed way back in November, it’s taken me longer than I’d hoped to put together a proper tour of our new house. I wasn’t able to take final pictures of our old home before things were boxed up and it bums me out. Between Harper’s first birthday, closing and working on the new house a bit before moving in, moving, and the holidays…wow, things have been crazy. Anyone who’s moved, let alone with kids, can attest to that.

But, here we are! Thanks to the holidays, we forced ourselves to focus on the family and getting cozy, so it’s really starting to feel like home. It’s been difficult – to say the least – leaving our first home, but as time goes on we see how awesome the move has been for us. We haven’t put our old house on the market quite yet, so I’m sure that rollercoaster will drudge up even more emotions.

About the New House

As far as our new home goes, we’ve gone from a two-story, 1920s-style 900-something sq. ft. house to a ranch that’s just shy of 1400 sq. ft. The house was built in 1960 – something I never thought I’d be okay with – but the bedrooms (and closets!) are larger, we have 1 ½ baths in the main living space, and there’s a finished basement space (in addition to an unfinished area that’s got sufficient storage and still allows us to continue our constant purge – a plus, in our book) that offer both an office/guest room, playroom, AND additional bathroom/laundry area, so I’ve warmed up to the idea. The perfectly sized front and back yards helped, too!

Dave and I find deep connections to the past, so the fact that we like certain cultural and design aspects of the 1960s gives us the inspiration we need to help freshen up the space. It was owned by an elderly woman prior to this, so while it may not be modernized, it was deeply and meticulously cared for with plenty of upkeep.

When we put in our offer, my mother mentioned the fact that we’re a “modern” family and that she knows that I like vintage/retro styles – and I realized she was right. The design blogs that I follow are leaning more towards the comfortable-but-modern styles (like the Scandinavian designs, hits of bold colors and geometrics among neutral backdrops, organic fabrics, natural elements, quirky art) with an accent on family-friendly comfort. So, that’s my hope and vision for the new house.

Okay, here we go – a breakdown of the space!  

Dining Room


This is actually an open room connected to the living room, so the vibe for both spaces has to be cohesive. Kind of goes without saying, right? We currently have a solid walnut table and chair set (that we put together on our due date for Hadley…which didn’t help him arrive any faster). It’s getting dinged up pretty efficiently by the kiddos, but it only adds to the character. We like the warmth and depth it adds to the space. So, while the set stays, I’m thinking of adding a couple of chairs or a modern bench to create additional seating.

We also have a 1920s art deco-ish sidebar that had a rough time during the move, losing some of its detailing (I’ve done some repair, but it’s still not great). But, we got it during our honeymoon and it’s practically part of the family. We WILL make it work, dang nabbit.

We also already found the *perfect* greige for the entire living area. My family worked hard to help get this main space painted (along with the kids’ rooms) before we moved in, so having a warm neutral gray-ish to help unify the dining and living rooms helps update the space tremendously. Let’s just say we were dealing with *pink* before this. *Side note: I just saw that “blush” is now an “in” color. That said, sorry. I still wouldn’t have kept the pink. Neener neener.*

TO DO:
Organize the sidebar to fit our needs. The fine china/crystal has been relegated to the basement (we only use it maybe once a year) until the kids are older, so I figure it should serve the whole family’s storage needs.
Buy updated seating. Since the house is much better suited to entertaining, the more people we can fit at the table, the better. We’d also like to modernize a bit, so whether it be mid-century chairs or a sleek bench of some sort, we’ll see.
Hang/buy art. The whole house needs a revamp in the art department. Our old house was a mix-and-match of art pieces, and while it was personal and “us”, we’ve outgrown some of it (along with the cheap frames). So, it’s time to purge, update, and hang our absolute favorites while adding to our actual art collection. Time to be grown-ups but with a fun, kid-friendly vibe.
Create a “foyer” area. Since this is where people enter, we’ve thrown our Target ottoman there for our shoes (family shoes MULTIPLY like mad), but the space is crying for a modern mirror (hopefully round) and maybe hooks or a shelf.
Buy a rug. I’ll get into this more in the next section.


Living Room


The greige I just mentioned plays nicely with my favorite part of the house – our gas-insert fireplace. It totally blends with it while allowing it to pop at the same time. Amazing. (I also LOVE the black detailing around the insert, which helps modernize the stone, which is the exact same stone my grandparents had in their house. #memories)

We installed our favorite bookcase and need to fill in some old anchors/holes on one wall, and are still trying to figure out our seating arrangement. The old, cat-scratched ottoman used to hold excess toys, so we’re trying to figure out where it belongs. We enjoy having the open space for the kids to play (and not, ahem, get precariously close to the stone hearth) but need something to put our cups on while watching TV. And, yes, we still have the old school boxy set; it’s a point of pride in our house that we’re not throwing away a perfectly fine (okay, it has its quirks) TV just to get a new, flat-screen. #keepingupwiththejoneses #hellno

TO DO:
Update the furniture. Slowly but surely, I’d like to add a bit more of the mid-century, slightly bohemian look to the whole house. So, time to do some furniture hunting. (Over time, of course.)
Buy a new rug. I’ve picked out a surprising rug that I keep going back to for this space, much larger and different than the crappy old striped one we’re currently using. Now, to get a rug in the dining room that will play nicely with it (not matchy, not competitive in pattern)…
Figure out our furniture placement. This will probably be an ongoing struggle.
Add an upright piano… A house simply cannot be a home without one. Our old house couldn’t support one properly and since we were constantly house hunting, we thought, “why get a piano if we’re just going to have to move it, anyway?” Four years later…

 

Kitchen


Ugh. My bone of contention. Let’s just say that this kitchen is a weird hodgepodge of styles, seemingly “updated” by a person with a split personality disorder. Super dark speckled granite that I can’t see a single crumb on (some might like that idea, but I don’t feel like it’s ever clean!), weird pickled pink cabinetry with rounded doors (WTF?!), and wallpaper that’s older than I am. It’s just…ugh. Makes me feel like one of the Golden Girls, somehow. Cheesecake, anyone?

I don’t mind doing some updating here and there to freshen up a space, but will eventually need a complete overhaul. Yep. But, I count myself lucky in so many other ways, so the more time I spend there, the better I’ll be able to plan our next steps.

TO DO:
Make it livable in the meantime. I’ll probably take down the wallpaper when it finally drives me mad enough and paint the walls, and will weigh whether or not I should paint the cabinetry to update things a bit or wait. At least the floor is relatively neutral enough for now.
Bigger changes later on. I’m thinking about opening the wall into the dining room with a breakfast bar, updating the countertops and cabinets with something a bit more classic and light (maybe butcherblock?), and some more modern details. So, yeah. Lots.


Hallway


It’s a small space, but it’s central to the home. Just past the living room, it contains 6 doors – our bedrooms, our two main floor bathrooms, and a coat closet. Oops. Make that 7; there’s a linen closet, too. Holy crap.

TO DO:
Finish painting. This space will continue the paint color from the living and dining room area, in addition to all the white trim painting we’ll be undertaking. Thank God for the Purdy short-handled paintbrush. (Not an advertisement. We just adore them.) We also learned that we need to start with a primer (or just cheaper white paint) for the color to “take” in the way it’s intended to look.
New rug and light fixture (eventually). I’m thinking of a modern angular slightly-hanging pendant.

Main Bathroom


While there are some minor repairs and touch-up paint that we’ll need to track down, this space is in good shape. Everyone we’ve spoken to has liked the light green paint (which plays well with the grays throughout the rest of the main living area) and the storage and sink areas are nicely updated.

TO DO:
Minor fixes. Touch-up paint here and there. One of the many towel bars wasn’t properly anchored so it fell out of the wall (I’ve fixed it temporarily; needs a permanent fix – possibly a shelf replacement). Nothing big deal. I’m not a huge fan of the flooring, though, so maybe one day we’ll do some bigger updates.
Organize storage. It works fine for now, but I feel like it needs a better method. Lots of small drawers so things have to lay flat or find another place to live.
New accessories. I’d like to modernize the curtains/towels and add some art.

Kids’ Bathroom

We’re lucky enough to have a half bath near our bedroom, so while we all use it, I’d like to turn it into a bathroom with a kid vibe.

The issue? It also houses a stacked washer/dryer, leaving little space for anything else. Plus, it’s got blue mosaic tile floors, dirty-looking cream tile on the walls as well as for the toilet and sink, and wallpapered everything else. For now, we’re making use of the washer and dryer even though we have our own from the old house in the basement (it’s a schlep to get down there and I just can’t leave the kids alone in order to switch loads). We’ll see where we go with it.

That said, all I can say is it’s HEAVEN having an extra potty room nearby, even as outdated as it is! (The same can be said for the laundry.)

TO DO:
Update – I’m thinking of whether or not we could simply scrape the wallpaper and paint the walls and sink cabinet for now just to make it comfortable enough. There’s a chance I could make the cream and blue work for awhile until we’re able to do a bigger overhaul and throw in a couple of small accessories.

 

So, I think that’ll do for now. I’ll get to the bedrooms and basement next time. I’d love to hear any thoughts, suggestions, or even Pinterest boards or blogs you think I should check out in the comments. I’m always open to suggestions.

Welcome to our home!

A Very Hungry Caterpillar Birthday

When Harper was first born, my husband bought her a nice plush “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” stuffed animal from the hospital’s gift shop. It was surprisingly inexpensive (we’d priced them at the Eric Carle Museum) and her eyes were immediately drawn to the bright green body and cute round red head. 

That moment is still seared in my mind over a year later. I’d literally been envisioning her first birthday shindig the entire year. Of course, with our move and everything going on, we knew it would be a challenge, but didn’t want to shirk her big day. After all, Hadman has had four amazing birthdays and counting (I’m already mentally prepping for his 5th <my GOD did I just write that?!> given some hints he’s dropped) and it wouldn’t be fair to do any less for her, right?

So, given the unknowns – we were supposed to close on the new house by her birthday, but things went awry and our old house was full of boxes – we figured out a Plan B quickly. My uncle (a local priest) was kind enough to let us use the basement of the church, so my mother and I went over earlier in the day to set some things up.

We didn’t get a million pictures (as usual), but I had created a large “hungry caterpillar” out of foam sheets to tape to the wall. I also printed out labels for the food, which I divided and conquered with the help of family. (These pics are more for our own memories than a Pinterest-worthy tipfest. That said, go ahead and use the ideas to help you create your own event!)

Unfortunately, there was a big hiccup. Both kids had been put down for early naps (which NEVER, EVER happens), so our son’s meal schedule was kind of off. Given the fact that he only had a donut for breakfast (rather than anything “substantial”) and didn’t sit down to eat anything else until around 2, he started to look a tad pale. When he said that one of the pickles on his plate didn’t taste right (another huge clue – they were fine, and he LOVES pickles) then stopped responding to questions, my mother and I scooped him up and ran to the car. Long story short, we think we need to make sure he has enough protein throughout the day in order to keep up with his super high metabolism (he’s also thinned out and had a growth spurt lately). My mother sat with him and he was bright and rosy by the time we got home, although sad that he couldn’t celebrate his sister’s special day.

Aside from my heart feeling like it was literally in two places, the party went perfectly. Harper behaved herself and truly enjoyed all the attention, the theme was fun and offered just enough color to help make things festive, and everyone (kids and adults included) seemed to have a great time.

(This was after the smash cake. Y’know, a girl’s gotta embrace a nice, comfy jean.)

So, I thought I’d share exactly how we go about planning a simple birthday party that would be just as special and fun as her brother’s first (y’know, when I had more time to, like, make everything – including decorations and cake – from scratch) while still juggling all the balls of life.

Here are my best tips after doing this rodeo a few times now:

– Pick a theme. Believe me: a theme is your bestie. I get the eye roll sometimes for picking a theme, and I understand why. A theme makes it seem like you’re going overboard. But, actually, the focus helps me to mentally organize and NOT let things get out of control.

So, obviously, for Harper’s first we did a “Very Hungry Caterpillar” shindig. This gave us a super clear direction for the food (everything except the pizza is listed off on every page! Not that we made ALL that food, but it helps), a color scheme, and invitations.

Just think of what your little one’s favorite things are – and if they’re too young, even a simple color (like “Fun and Frilly” or “We’re Blushing” with soft pinks and tans) will help in your planning.

– Keep it simple. After picking a theme, brainstorm some ideas that go along with it. Then, pick your favorite, say, two or maaaaaybe three.

In our case, I printed off a few small signs out of cardstock to go with the food (On Monday, he ate one apple…), created a simple green and red caterpillar to hang on the wall, and worked on goodie bags for the handful of kids present (they contained a cool wind-up green caterpillar, cheap Play-Doh, crayons, and some candy). Super simple.

– Use colors more than trademarked stuff. Have you ever noticed how expensive all the character party stuff is?! It’s crazy town. And the worst part is that when you’re done with it, it’s hard to reuse (unless you keep a stash of mismatched stuff for pizza nights…which is a great idea).

For our theme, we used two tones of green (a lighter and a darker) along with red, just like the main parts of the caterpillar. I got one tablecloth for a super long table that’ll be green, some red plates that were leftover from my son’s Dr. Seuss birthday (you can tell I’m a librarian, right?)…you get the idea. We’ve reused some of our decorations for years when we remember to grab them, from handmade poufs to a cheap chalkboard sign, because they’re generic enough to work in many ways. Oh, and we skip the balloons and request that our guests do so, as well – they’re horrible for the planet.

– Accept help when offered. This year, I was lucky enough to have my mother, mother-in-law, sister, and brother/sister-in-law all offer to bring something. It’s amazing how helpful that is. I used to get a little, um, controlling about things (I’ll admit it) but I’ve learned to go with the flow a bit more. I still did some ordering of the pizzas and picking up of healthier snacks, drinks, and some cupcakes (see? I used to make EVERYTHING – organic and “real food” – myself…not that there’s anything wrong with that; I genuinely try my best when time allows, and this year it simply wasn’t in the cards) and little odds and ends, but it was such a strain off my mind to have it equally disbursed.

So, make a list of your menu and divvy it up. Even if you only have one family member or friend offer to help, it’s still a little less you have to do

– Don’t keep up with the Joneses. Much like when wedding planning gets out of hand, keep in mind the ultimate goal of the day: in this case, to celebrate the life of an amazing child with people who love them almost as much as you do. Period. That’s it. So, no matter what happens, just let them know they’re loved and special to you.

Maybe the food’s not organic and Pinterest-worthy. Maybe it rained on your outside BBQ and you had to all huddle in a pavilion. Maybe your child made fussy faces during photo ops. Maybe the little one gets sick so it ends up a “parents and grandparents shindig” (which is what happened for Hadley’s 3rd party). Whatever! It’ll all add to the memory and won’t scar a single soul. Seriously. Remember what kinds of parties we had as kids. We survived just fine, right? (One of my mom’s ideas of a party game was “guess the kind of cake this is!” …I kid you not.)

What are your favorite birthday party tips? Do you agree with the ones I’ve shared? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments. 

Technical Glitch

Hey, folks! Long time no chat, right? I’ve been raring to go lately, but when I hit my login to post this week…well, I had an error message and no website. Long story short, GoDaddy deleted my account. I’m taking about 25% of the blame (I should’ve backed up my site more often and taken care of it better), but GoDaddy says they contacted me about renewal – false. That mixed with the misogyny of the technician, and let’s just say that I’ve uploaded my old posts up until about a year ago. Better than nothing, and better than paying them $150 to fix something they should’ve helped me solve instead.

But, I’m determined to make lemonade from this fiasco – which is kind of my motto for 2017. Some posts have been lost, but I didn’t write a ton in 2016, so here’s what you’ll see in the coming weeks and months from Meg Acts Out:

– A new look. For real. A look that encompasses who I am and a space that you’ll actually enjoy escaping to.

– New/old posts. I hope to salvage some old posts from my Google Docs files, so hopefully I’ll at the very least have Hadley’s Dr. Seuss birthday party to remember! Otherwise, I’ve had some posts on the back burner that I didn’t have the chance to post. So, as my art teacher used to call them, we need to have some “Ketchup Days” (Catch-Up…get it?). Come along, won’t you?

– A new motivation for 2017. I’m motivated and excited to start posting weekly in 2017. There’s a lot going on in our lives and lots to share, from our new house and all our awesome plans for it, to our life with the kiddos, to tips and stories from a woman who’s coming up on 35 and STILL trying to figure it all out. I’ll get into this more in upcoming posts, but let’s just all admit that none of us 100% knows what we’re doing or has, well, ANY of the answers.

Says the woman who just lost her entire blog. *scratches head*

So, stick around, won’t you? And ask some friends to stop by. We can share our mess-ups together while I do my best to get back on track. 😉 Maybe we’ll get some simplifying done. Maybe we’ll cut out some of our waste together. Maybe we’ll uncover ways to be more patient with our children. Maybe we’ll discover our best surroundings.

If nothing else, I hope we’ll be able to at least discover ourselves a little bit along the way, and each other in the process.

A Very Seuss-y Birthday


Hi, all! How has your summer been treating you all? I’ve done some relaxing with the kiddos, some cleaning, and – a little at a time – chipping away at some konmari action. I’ve sifted through kids’ clothes more than I’d like to admit. Time to try shoes; they’re way easier!

So, who wants to party?!?! As with years gone by, I thought I’d stop by to give you the rundown on Hadley’s recent fourth birthday.

FOUR. Can you believe that?! Four. My God. He’s finally starting a pre-K program in the fall. *sniff, sniff*

We held his celebration the Sunday before his birthday (we hit up the zoo on the actual, low-key day) at my in-laws’ house. Their house and yard is nice and big, so we were super grateful they offered use of the space.

As with past years, we went with a theme. I think it’d be too difficult to make the party, well, a party without a theme. Just too scattered. So, there could have been several with all of Hadman’s interests these days, but we landed on the author of his favorite books: Dr. Seuss.

What’s not loads of fun about that?! Seriously, I ask you.

We hate to use tons of disposable (i.e. non-green) stuff, so most of the stuff we got was just solid colors that fit the theme but that could be reused. Red and light blue hanging swirlies, red gift bags, and any character toys my MIL or we had in our stashes.

Oh, and books. Lots and lots of books.

We adorned the walls with fun Seuss quotes (which I may just find space for at the library).

And I researched a ton of possible food names to fit the theme. A. Ton.

We walked a fine line between healthy (lots of fruit, a salad, organic pink ink yink drink) and junk (chips, pizza, subs). Then there’s the in-between: popcorn that my husband made and slathered with butter, “Truffula seeds” that were yogurt raisins (but way non-organic), homemade organic cupcakes, and forcing my mom to make green deviled eggs (they were perfect although she went light on the green food coloring…she seemed to think they were disgusting, LOL).

But, it was all freakin’ delicious and there was a good mix of options for every eater.

As for the fun stuff, we lucked out that when folks first arrived the weather was nice. My parents-in-law borrowed a perfectly-sized bounce house from a friend (which was a huge hit), so that worked up an appetite for the kids.

After some awesome gift opening – the kid was hilariously gracious and grateful for EVERYTHING…except the “big gift” of a big boy bike (ya win some, ya lose some) – we tried out a game I had stayed up late to make the night before.

It wouldn’t be a Dr. Seuss party without a “Pin the Hat on the Cat” game, right? Right!

After that, we had a rousing game of “I Can Do That!” (a Cat in the Hat game my BFF Beth gave Hadley last year that was PERFECT for this shindig). It gets players moving and trying for points by attempting silly tasks, plus it was just the right length. Considering it had started to rain, I was glad to have a couple of indoor activities planned!

The one “whoops!” of the day (there’s always one) was the gift bags. We forgot to hand them out. My guess is that the parents don’t know how grateful they should be that we forgot…

In case you can’t read them, they say, “Gerald McBoing Boing’s Noise Makers!” Several of ’em.

What?? I wanted it to be non-junk food-ish. (And annoying. Hee hee!)

It was seriously a super fun time, and after a bit of planning, pretty low-stress and enjoyable even for we parents. The 5-kids-under-5 were all so good and fun and were hilarious to see interacting with each other. Overall, we couldn’t have asked for a better time and it totally made up for Hadley’s super small, sick b-day last year.

In case you’d like to put on your own Seussian shindig, here are some suggestions…

Decor – Not that we’re “but all the trademarked character decorations!” people, know that the stores tend not to stock Suess stuff (at least, not the stores we went to). So, here are my tips:

  • Get basic colors and prints (think plates or napkins) that help set the mood. Red and turquoise are great, plus some polka dots or red-and-white stripes.
  • Add some whimsy. Whether streamers, homemade Truffula trees with tissue paper poufs, or colored swirly things, add a touch of fun in simple ways.
  • Use whatchya got. If your family has any Seuss character toys, pull ‘em out! The same goes for your favorite Seuss books. You can display them all over or have them stacked to put food or gifts on.
  • Quotes! You can’t have people read all the books to put them in the mood, but using a Seuss font to print out your favorite will offer a fun way for grown-ups to brush up on their Dr. Seuss.

Food – The one and only tip I have is to use some Dr. Seuss-inspired food titles to make everything cohesive. Here are my favorites:

  • Hop on Popcorn!
  • Green Eggs and Ham (Sandwiches) (deviled eggs and subs)
  • Roast Beast (subs)
  • One Fish, Tuna Fish (subs)
  • Truffula seeds (anything from yogurt-covered raisins to M&Ms)
  • Fuddle-Dee-Duddle Fruit (any fruit you want to offer! We had watermelon)
  • The Cat’s Hats (banana/strawberry skewers; some add marshmallows, too)
  • The Yink’s Pink Ink Drink
  • Poodle Noodles (pasta salad)
  • Skipper Zipp’s Clipper Ship Chips
  • Katroo Cupcakes
  • More suggestions at Seussville (wish I’d found this page sooner!)

Fun – Don’t overthink this part. Birthdays are by nature jam-packed with activities to keep folks busy. By incorporating one or two games, max, you’ll have a fall-back in case it rains or there’s otherwise a lull.

Here’s what we did, again, for our Seuss Shindig:

  • Pin the Hat on the Cat – You know the drill, so all you need to do is sketch a hatless “cat” and make a few striped hats for the kids (er, grown-ups…ahem…we did) to stick while blindfolded. It was way more fun than I remembered. Oh, and don’t let people feel around before stickin’ it. We had some cheaters. 😉 (Honestly, we didn’t remember the rules!)
  • “I Can Do That!” Game – I think it’s available at toy stores, and it would be a great addition to your family’s games as well as for a Seuss party. Super simple and super fun!
  • Coloring Sheets – We didn’t need any since we had so much to do already, but it’s often a good idea to have a quiet spot set up for kids who get overwhelmed by noise and chaos
  • Seussville Activities – If you don’t want to buy the aforementioned game, check out the activities at this great site. A step up from coloring pages, it gives kids some low-key fun that fits the theme. There are also some cool group activities like Wacky Whispers. I know it says it’s for educators, but they’re for one and all!

Whatchya think? It may not be Pinterest Perfect, but that’s not our goal. Just some extra touches to make the day super special and memorable and we’re good!

Oh, and if we have a Disney/Mickey party one of these years, we’re so ready. (Red with white polka dots, for the win!)

OH, AND HERE’S A LINK FOR FREE PRINTABLES TO USE AT YOUR OWN DR. SEUSS BIRTHDAY PARTY! 

Check out Hadley’s
first and second (last year was subdued due to illness) birthdays if you’re interested, too! Not sure what the heck’s up with the images.

In Defense of the Binky

defense-of-binky

The first few weeks of Harper’s life were completely pacifier-free. Unlike with Hadley, the hospital hadn’t shoved a Philips Avent-style sucker into her perfect little mouth.

Of course, they were totally different. Hadley screamed from the get-go. He was a ravenously hungry 10+ lb. bruiser, so I can see why, despite my research saying that using a pacifier would deter successful breastfeeding, the nurses had little choice but to stick one in his mouth. It was either that or let him cry it out…another theory we don’t subscribe to.

Harper, though, was just over a “petite” 8 pounds. She also had a hard time working up much noise at all. We called her our little bird, with her mouth agape but little rising to the top. It was actually concerning for awhile. I still have to have my ears perked throughout the night to make sure I hear her rustling. It’s the only way she can get her meals.

But, after awhile, we gave in to the pacifier.

Why?

Well, it started innocently. Just the occasional bout of crying at a family get-together or rough patch.

Then, while she’s a “good sleeper” (I hate giving kids those “good baby/bad baby”, “good sleeper/bad sleeper” labels since they change so easily and quickly), I came to realize that she was far calmer and slept better when she sucked on a paci for a bit.

I officially gave in.

At first, there was a bit of guilt on my part. My mother said that my three siblings and I used a pacifier for a month each, and, of course, my grandmother used none. I think that she (and, to an extent, I) was proud that our little girl was able to forego the superficial tool. And, I’m sure she probably could.

But, why the guilt? As with most things regarding children, guilt is the enemy of good parenting. There is no award here. If our children grow into healthy, well-adjusted, kind adults, we’ll all get a “Good Job!” participation trophy. There is no gold, no silver, no bronze. The only losers here are those who truly don’t CARE for their children, and those who parent solely based on the guilt.

So, I won’t allow it to seep in.

There are pros and cons to using a pacifier. So, it’s up to us to make up our own decision.

I don’t intend for her to use the binky long-term.

She has a firm grasp on breastfeeding (and I actually use it to calm her when she gets too “in her own head” fussy to take the breast; it’s a fabulous trick that helped with Hadman, too).

She has learned to self-soothe, especially because she doesn’t take a firm hold onto a binky very easily. Actually, if she simply keeps pushing it out with her tongue, I’ve learned not to keep trying. She’s clearly telling me she doesn’t want it. So, suck on her hand, she will, if need be.

I know her cues. A binky isn’t a replacement for good, old-fashioned snuggles and comfort. When it pops out because her tongue’s working full-time, it doesn’t go back in; she’s clearly hungry.

So, with that, she continues using her favorite little shamrock bink for the foreseeable future.

No apologies.

Just a happy baby.

Why We Couldn’t Do the Tiny House Thing

It’s intriguing. It’s resource-saving. It’s simplifying. It’s even hip.

And there’s no way that we could ever attempt it.

The tiny house movement is a fad (there, I said it) in which people buy or build a super small building and make it work as their one-and-only living space. We’re talking 200 square feet spaces, guys. It’s kind of like taking a tiny NYC apartment and proving that you could live in it any old place. Sure, in the city it may seem worth it…okay, not even in the city does it seem worth it. At least, not for our family of four humans and three cats.

Even if it would be the best excuse ever to get well-meaning relatives to stop. Buying. All. The. Stuff. Tiny just isn’t viable or sustainable in the long-term.

tiny-house2

Currently, we’re living in a house just over 1,000 square feet. Some might say we’re already living in a tiny house, but I’d argue that it’s more of a small house.  Not bursting at the seams. Not “a hut in Africa” small. But cozy and definitely cramped, especially with a 3-year-old who takes to announcing “I’m Kid Flash!!!” zooming from room to room. As cute as he is, it gets old.

The idea behind tiny house living is an admirable one. In response to the mentality behind McMansions that led to the housing market collapse, people thought, “That’s gross materialism, plain and simple.” So, what’s the opposite? Gross simplification.

As you know, I’m all about living a simpler lifestyle. The benefits are immense. If we COULD wrap our heads around the idea of living in a tiny house, maybe this blog post would be a very different discussion. But, as it is, I’m a realist. And a mother, at that. Four years ago, I know I thought, “Well, if we don’t find another house, this one will suit us just fine in the long-term.” I was wrong.

I couldn’t have foreseen the special, what-the-heck-is-in-his-Wheaties kiddo who would bless our family. He is SUPER-CHARGED a lot of the time. Kid’s got spunk and energy for days. The only good our tiny house is to him currently is as a race track: the fact that our layout offers a misshapen circle to race is his favorite. Dining room, kitchen, living room…dining room, kitchen, living room….

No, a kid like this deserves a larger space. Sure, we could do a tiny house on a HUGE plot of land, but we spend far less time outside during the winter than we do inside. (Maybe I should amend that.) And, since winter is *usually* a pretty lengthy season in these parts, there’s a lot of energy that can get stored in a 3-year-old body. That energy inevitably explodes in sometimes disastrous ways.

So, while we by no means long for a McMansion or even a Happy Meal version, we’d like to upgrade to a reasonably larger space. At least one that allows for more inside play space (along with a bit more outside, too) but still small enough that we know our kids, if you catch my drift. Then, in purchasing a house rather than wasting materials on a new build, and by upgrading in eco-friendly ways, I’m hoping that our footprint will still be markedly less than the big beasts.

As with all things in life, moderation is key.