Grateful

It was a rough night with Miss Hannah. She’d nurse and fall asleep but the second her body hit the bassinet, she was instantly awake. Lather, rinse, repeat.

That’s been par for the course lately, though. So have aspects of the Terrible Twos, fighting the uphill battle of keeping a newborn from getting sick when your eldest has spiked a scary fever, cats seeming to punch into their night shifts for mayhem the second the whole house goes quiet at bedtime, and the proven fact that things will sometimes be simply out of our control in this household for awhile.

And I’ve never been more grateful in my life.

Between an overall perspective that has ripened with parenting experiences as we’ve aged, a near-constant barrage of bad, awful, and dreadful news in the world, the fact that there’s a sense of finality with this third baby, and a healthy dose of holiday season sentimentality, we’re holding on tightly to that which we find dear.

So bear with me as I share with you a list of all I’m thankful for this year, in no particular order, and in earnest. I’d love to hear what’s topping your list in the comments.

I am grateful for…

…the antique cradle, passed down from generation to generation, that my daughter refuses to sleep in for any lengthy duration of time, for at least we have options and a healthy, snuggly child who’d rather slumber warmly in my arms. This won’t always be the case.

…the constantly-full garbages. They mean we can afford newborn diapers as we mull what choice to make regarding cloth and disposables. I’m grateful, in all honesty, for less laundry as our little “eats and immediately disposes of said meal” cherub maintains a productive output. So. Many. Damn. Diapers.

…all that baby poop. On the same note, I’m actually totally fine changing what feels like 50 diapers a day. Scout’s honor. If we didn’t have these poops and pees, we wouldn’t have a healthy baby…and we know from watching friends, family, and even strangers cope with terrible infant illnesses and child loss how precious a healthy baby really is. So, by all means, bring on the poop and pee and spit-up and just anything that goes along with parenthood…because parenthood, to us, is absolutely everything.

…the endless supply of toys (since I’ll be cursing them in another month or so). The fact that our children have so many options for free play, expression, and imaginative downtime is something to embrace, for so many families around the world can’t even come close to saying the same.

…speech impediments. Because if there’s one thing we’ve learned as parents, it’s that (almost) nothing is permanent, and once Hadley’s cute little w “r”s are worked out by the speech therapist at school, yet another trait to his “little boy” side will be gone. Some phases are good, some horrible, and some a bit of both, but either way, “this, too, shall pass.” Just hold on tightly while you can.

…strawberry blonde hair. We often compare our kids subconsciously. It’s not intentional; it’s kind of to just be aware of milestones, what they have in common, and what makes them unique. There are tons of differences (and a few similarities) between Hadley and Harper. Well, while I see much of Harper’s sweetness and some of Hadley’s facial features in Hannah, her light reddish hair upon birth (“Um, is this right?!” one nurse remarked…) has reminded us not to expect cookie-cutter kids from the get-go. This one’s got ideas of her own and I can’t wait to see them unfold.

…our three cats. As annoying as they may be (infuriating at nighttime, to be honest), life would simply be less bright and meaningful without them. They’re our first children, after all.

…just the right amount of digital entertainment. Basic cable, a slew of DVDs, the only occasional Netflix, and limited tablet time for our oldest (oh, and iPhones for Mom and Dad because #sanity + #interactionwithadults) is just enough to force us to get creative and teach our kids that limited choices can be an amazing life lesson. We’ll wait and see what they think when they’re 13. Until then, pop in another Monkees episode and crank up the Pandora Christmas channel!

…the time I have to spend tending to and managing this little zoo with only a brief occasional check of my school email to ease my mind about that zoo. I am truly lucky. Truly.

…sweatpants and maternity clothes. No explanation necessary. #doihavetogetdressedfortheholidays

…the fireplace. With the touch of a button I can overheat the whole family. It wasn’t always this easy to get a roaring fire, folks! But, really, there’s nothing like twinkling clear lights on a tree with a fire and hot cocoa.

…online shopping. Because sweatpants, a sore C-section wound, and crowds don’t mix. Merry Christmas, kids!

…the friends and family who get why I’ve dropped off the face of the planet the past month or so, and those who have offered genuine help (even if I turned it down). You guys mean the world to me. Can’t wait to hang out…in, like, 5 years.

…the unabashed joy of beloved traditions (and letting go of the guilt when we don’t uphold others). Dave and I are ecstatic about some traditions (cheery Christmas music and old Christmas movies!) and others (like getting a real tree) will just have to take a rest until things are less crazy in our lives. Not that we won’t miss them, but, again…phases.

…awareness (which brings me to tears at least twice daily) of just how lucky I am to have this life: a supportive husband-slash-teammate; three gorgeous, special, healthy little humans; three partially insane, partially overweight, but so animated felines; a house that’s juuust right for our brood; families that support and help us despite our weird, quirky standards and choices… Or maybe I should be thanking my hormones for all those grateful tears….

And, finally, I’m thankful for the pie this Thanksgiving. Because life’s not really worth living if there’s not the chance of pie.

You could also replace “pie” with “hope” if you felt so inclined.

Feel free to drop a few of your “grateful for”s down below. Let’s spread the appreciation!

An Honest Post: Return from Blog Burnout & Your Thoughts

I’m in my own existentialist, surreal mode thanks to the less-than-one-week-away arrival of our third baby. By nature, my husband and I lean analytical and a touch philosophical, so when it’s time to welcome a new human into the world, we feel about a hundred emotions at all times. Not a lot of room left for blogging.

Attempting to care for the other two kiddos, maintain a happy relationship with my husband (yay!), cook (relatively) healthy meals, and keep a (relatively) clean home? Not a lot of room for blogging.

Things are winding down, but I went through some major anxiety and depression in the past couple of months when dealing with some work transitions. Plus, prep and all the things floating in my head that I know I “should” do pre-baby. Again, not a lot of (mental) room for blogging.

Wasting my free time on social media to give myself the mental letdown I crave at the end of a tiring day. Leaves surprisingly little room, time, or inspiration for blogging.

Until…it did.

See, my guilty pleasures are Instagram and YouTube lately. They don’t drag me down like Twitter and Facebook. They let me know that there are other moms out there dealing with similar lives. They inspire me to continue dreaming and acting on certain passions. If it weren’t for the privacy thing, I’ve found myself even inspired to consider making a YouTube channel of my own.

But, what about my other creative outlets? What about the blog I’ve relied on and messed around with for 7+ years? What about the new blog I’m working on? What about my own side writing projects? What about my complete lack of talent and technological know-how?! 😉

Back to the inspiration thing. I follow a sweet, super down-to-earth go-getter of a U.K. mom who vlogs AND blogs. Her family is adorable and her accent and relatability give me all the feels.

Well, she recently poured her heart out about having a hard time figuring out what her next move would be – focus on the kids and family more, focus on her career and less on vlogging/blogging, or putting all her energy into the vlogs/blog. I totally got it.

As I pondered her issues, I strangely found inspiration (is that weird?!). I started to realize that 1) a lot of people (and, particularly, moms) who share their lives with the world don’t do so in a vacuum and 2) we don’t have to do everything 100% (just good luck retraining your brain to believe it).

Those are kind of vague. Let me explain.

See, my idea for a new website and blog involved essentially letting go everything I’ve already written here at Meg Acts Out and focusing my attention on solely one topic. I’d seen a couple of other sites/blogs do a similar thing and really appreciated what they were putting out there.

But, the more that I worked on it and brainstormed posts and tried to pull together visual inspiration for the site, the more that I felt stifled. This is the stuff I should’ve felt a spark about, but for the most part I felt like I was trying to fit a round peg into a square hole. It didn’t seem sincere or “me” and I couldn’t figure out why.

Well, that’s where the “vacuum” idea comes in. In order to find your inspiration to live a more fulfilled life, overall, we tend not to rely on only one source to supply it. So, putting my attention into only one topic without the rest of life included (or only included under the umbrella I had put up) made it feel forced.

The second realization has to do with pretty much everything we do and how much we put into it. We find ourselves prioritizing #allthethings until we realize that the juggling is extremely stressful and sometimes harmful to our health. We just can’t do it all.

So, what about making smaller goals for ourselves? What about “chunking” life (much as we “chunk” words together when trying to read) into more manageable bites? What about prioritizing more honestly and simply? What about paring back on the stuff you tell yourself needs to be done that maaaaaybe doesn’t really?

In practice, this may look like cutting yourself slack on letting your child eat in the cafeteria once or twice a week. Unless our kids are super gross and sweaty, we bathe them every other day (and I only wash my hair every other day, as well). Not every dinner has to be like “Sunday dinner.” The list goes on, but there are ways to chill down the craziness. Try making “to-do” lists at work and prioritizing them by due dates, or learning to tell people that their issue may need to wait if you have more pressing matters (that’s a tough one!).

In addition to both of those realizations, though, I’ve faced several blogging issues lately. I’ve been burnt out elsewhere and haven’t been able to find the time to blog, my voice has fallen flat so my own self-criticism of “it sounds like my heart’s not in it” creeps in (and maybe my heart HASN’T been in it enough) and I abandon the post, and I’ve had a lack of inspiration as to WHAT to write.

HERE’S HOW I’M ATTACKING THOSE ISSUES

Time & burnout. Because I still write for Thirsties weekly on the side (and generally hit my deadlines AND come up with post ideas on the regular), a lot of my thought and energy goes into that goal each week. But, what if I had TWO goals a week; one for Thirsties and one for my own blog? Or a simple editorial calendar or simple list of post ideas (I used to maintain this but have stopped and find my old topics downright suck) that I actually use to pull a weekly topic from (the way I do for Thirsties). Why can’t I do it FOR MYSELF if I’m able to do it for a paid gig?

My voice is gone. Even in my side paid writing, I find that the writing is fine…but not what I’d like to be putting out there. Of the dozens of half-written blog posts for myself, they sound more like manuals than the writer I know I am. Maybe that’s why I’m drawn more to podcasts, Insta Stories and YouTube videos; the visual and audio appeals to me more than reading lately. (Says the librarian.)

So, maybe I do need to try out a new format. Or maybe I simply need to get a schedule going in order to get my routine back. My husband and I have been chatting back and forth about the importance of consistency with writing, of carving out time to actually sit and focus on writing something. Self-imposed deadlines may help. I’m going to try ‘em.

What do I write?? And, honestly, without something I’m passionate about to write (or podcast about, or vlog, or whatever), why do it? I need to truly brainstorm some ideas that get me excited, pick just one for one single post, and go from there.

This is where I have a couple of questions for you all. It’s as simple as this:

1) Do I keep up the Meg Acts Out platform or do I go forward with my new idea for a blog – a fresh, more organized space that’s easier to navigate (possibly with some old MAO posts that continue the feel of the space, possibly not)? I’ve asked this question before during times of identity crisis and obviously I’m there again.

2) What kinds of posts are you interested in? Here’s just a slew that I’ve written about in the past and some of the topics I’m drawn to mixed in:

A. Parenting
B. Decor/Design
C. Eco-Friendly Living
D. Decluttering/Organization
E. Simplifying
F. Recipes
G. Personal Stuff
H. Other

Please feel free to leave a comment on the blog to let me know what you need more of to help you live a happier life!

(And if you made it this far, thank you so much for reading!)

Five – A Hero’s Day

Now that it’s nearly August, I figured I should finally get Hadley’s birthday documented!

Another birthday has come and gone for our firstborn. We felt that this one – the big 5 – was a big one, for come fall he’ll be starting his academic journey, taking his first real steps towards independence, and truly be considered a little boy (no longer toddler, preschooler, our baby).

I’m not crying. You are.

So, we wanted to make it special. I mean, we want to make them all special for ALL the kiddos, but before too long the celebrations will simplify to just family or just a couple of friends for pizza or whatever. Hence, special was the order of the day – and, thank God, after an absurd amount of hours of work, we succeeded. I mean REALLY succeeded. A family + friends (preschool kids are THE BEST) + superheroes galore party.

Starting a week (or more, really) in advance, Dave’s parents helped us set up our new play set (and his mom helped me do way more weeding than my pregnant body could handle, woohoo!) so that *if* the “outside” part of the shindig worked, the kids could use it.

I had a list a mile long for readying the house (and food). Fixing a door I broke in the basement to contain the cats (ahem…I blame Winston, but that’s another story), cleaning, purging, making games and a photo backdrop, doling out food responsibilities, asking Dave for a million favors (which he excitedly executed – he wins MVP for this one!)…and keep the kids alive in the meantime.

On Hadley’s actual birthday, I tried to think of something fun but easy-ish to do. So, we hit up our closest library to get his first library card and I broke his heart that we couldn’t stay for the puppet show. He did stock up on books, though, so he was pretty jazzed.

Instead of the puppet show, he was introduced to his first Billy Beez experience. I played with Harper in the toddler area (where he also made some friends) before letting him explore independently. Here, we had lunch and played more, although Harper decided she wanted to do the bigger slides. Let’s just say it proved a challenge since I tried ONE toddler slide out that had me a bit concerned about the baby. No big slides for Mama, no big slides for Harper. Commence meltdown.

Hadley had a BLAST and still talks about it, though. He also still regales us with the story of how he got “lost” (I knew where he was but I don’t think he knew that I knew…?) and asked adults for help. The things they remember.

After a nap, he picked a restaurant to go to so that Daddy could celebrate with us, too (Uno’s, of course), then opened the rest of his gifts. It was pretty darn near perfect. Anything after that would be icing on the cake.

 

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The day before the party, my mother came over to help me work in the garage to get it as orderly and emptied as possible for a possible Plan B in case of rain. My MIL graciously took the kids (plus her other grandson) for the day to let me prep, I brought my husband lunch (he had to unexpectedly work the whole day), and got back to the cooking.

On the morning of the party, we STILL didn’t know what the weather was up to. It’d rain a bit, then get sunny, then rain…all making us think of what a crappy job our yard does draining and drying out. Seriously, it’s been the summer of “A River Runs Through It” (although it’s also been an abnormally wet one). We finally decided on using mostly the garage and got setting up with the help of our parents and my sister.

Long story slightly shorter: It was exciting to see people show up since Hadley only had a slight idea of what family members (and MAYBE which school friends) would show up. Even a couple of the parents and I found ourselves tearing up when the kids were so ecstatic to see each other. We really couldn’t have asked for a better group of kids. So fun, so grateful, so sweet – and so fun!

We invited everyone to partake in the food. The main event – huge sheet pizzas and “batwings” (boneless chicken tenders with dipping sauces since we didn’t want real wings to be a choking disaster) was picked up at our local pizza joint (we’re officially locals) but we assembled and asked family to put together other foods.

Like “Poison Ivy’s Veggie Platter” and “Flash’s Fast Fruit”…

Or Thor’s hammers (pretzel sticks stuck into cheese rectangles), Captain America Shields (round pretzels with white chocolate and red, white and blue M&Ms), and Kryptonite Bars (Rice Krispy treats drizzled in white chocolate and sparkly green sprinkles).

Oh, and before lunch the kids crowded around a table to color some printouts of various superheroes that my husband picked up, then after eating we broke out some superhero masks and, since the sun was cooperating, we let them hit the backyard if they were brave about the slightly damp ground. The most entertaining part of the whole thing? A worm the kids found under the play set.

The things kids remember.

Then, we had cupcakes (my MIL graciously made those, and I made Hadman his requested fruit-covered Superman cake) and Hadley opened every present with a politeness and excitement only a 5-year-old can muster. His friends kept crowding around him, they were so happy to give their own gifts! So, so sweet.

We handed out goodie bags (with TONS of superhero paraphernalia – yeah, we went overboard, needed to cut it back by half…or more) and a big surprise for Hadley. Dave had made a Super Hadley comic book – like, he wrote, sketched, had his friend ink and color, then had it professionally printed as a gift to the kids and, most importantly, a surprise to Hadley. The kid’s mind was blown and Dave was ecstatic.


I pulled out some more crafts (I painted old toilet paper tubes they could decorate for superhero cuffs and there were make-your-own masks…among many other things I had prepped). Our “Gotham City backdrop” kept falling over in the breeze, but I think one or two kids used it, anyway, and I pulled out a toss game I had whipped up after many of the kids had left for the remaining few to try out.


Overall, the day was beyond delightful. Honestly, the grown-ups had fun, the kids had a blast, and Hadley said it was the best. Day. Ever.

He definitely wasn’t wrong.  

WHAT WE’D DO IF WE HAD IT TO DO OVER AGAIN – I like to figure out what worked well and what we should pare back for other parties. Especially since, without telling this stuff to the world (and Future Meg – hey, Future Meg!), I’ll totally forget. It might also help you guys with any party planning you’re doing, of course!

Perfect timing. The party went from 12 noon – 2pm, just in time for the younger siblings’ naps and it left very little room for meltdowns. Not too long, not too short – juuuuuust right! (Parents even commented on it.)

Appreciate others’ help but take control. Definitely delegate some of the duties, especially if you have people who ASK to help (like our parents and my sister, who were integral to the day’s success). But, make sure to know exactly what you need done and when, and let them know. Tell everyone an exact time to come if you expect help with setup. Sometimes my husband and I have a hard time making up our minds, but there are times in life when you just have to decide and relay the decision, y’know?

Remember to leave time for independent play. We ended up being pretty go-with-the-flow and I’m glad I planned LOTS of activities but I ended up skipping most of them. And don’t forget that kids enjoy hanging out and playing independently (but having a set schedule, too, so things don’t get out-of-control).

– Think about what will be most stressful and skip it. While they were cute ideas, I could’ve skipped a couple of things and the party would’ve been just as fun for the kids (and less stressful for me). And never underestimate simple fun – like free coloring sheets!

– Take the reigns. In the future, we’ll do one cake or tons of cupcakes…Had doesn’t need his own. I asked him in advance what kind of cake he wanted, but I meant, like, chocolate or vanilla with blah-blah frosting. Instead, he went into a detailed description of the Superman logo. Ugh. So, yeah…I don’t need to ask and I’m pretty sure he’ll be happy with whatever’s made.

– Make those darn “Captain America Shields” again. My kids were in LOVE with the pretzels I had drizzled with melted white chocolate then topped with an M&M (I couldn’t find the white chocolate discs, which are supposed to melt if you put them in the oven at a low temp before placing the M&Ms). And they were apparently a hit with the other partygoers, too, so Future Meg? Dip pretzels in all sorts of chocolate, and maybe toss some candy on it. It’s a people pleaser!

Our now 5-year-old still has some inexplicable meltdowns and seems to still have these crazy phases that make us raise our eyebrows (or pull our hair out!), but overall he’s such a joy. A kind, thoughtful, super smart, highly verbal cutie who responds best to hugs and laughter. We’re so proud of the boy he is – and admittedly a bit frightened of whether school might dim his bright, energetic, trusting light.

My Minimalist Inspiration

If you were to walk into my house at this very moment, you’d find yourself awash in lots of clutter. Piles of our 4-year-old’s artwork and my to-be-filed mail. Two (yes two) rolled-up rugs that will find a place to live in our basement when we get it painted and cleaned for the kiddos as a playroom. Toys…toys…and more toys. Baskets full of clothes (and even piles of clothes near our kids’ overflowing rooms). Oh, and a wayward cat or two napping.

The cats are fine. The rest? Not s’much.

So, I currently consider myself far from a minimalist individual.

Does that mean that I don’t WANT to live a more minimal, simplified lifestyle? Well, no. Rather the opposite, actually.

When I originally wrote this post, all of my mental energy was being put towards packing up my library at school and finishing inventory. Well, and still wrapping my head around the curve ball change we’ll be facing come fall (I’m being moved to the high school library which means our son will be heading to a different elementary school), if I’m honest. As of this moment, though, I’m able to decompress and allow myself to finally looking forward to some relaxation and fun with the family this summer – as I think we ALL need it.

But, I’m still feeling this gentle pull towards minimalism. Maybe it’s an urge to rid myself and my family of its extra trappings. Maybe it’s an inclination to avoid so much consumerism. Maybe I’m just FED UP WITH THE CLUTTER. Whatever the reason, slowly but surely, I hope to start doing some meaningful purging this summer. And this isn’t out of a sudden nesting or burst of energy; I’m still lacking in motivation most of the time. That’s why I say “slowly but surely.”

Today I’m sharing a few of my favorite resources that help me find the mental energy (which is even more important than the physical sometimes, isn’t it??) I need to start this journey.

Pick Up Limes – A good intro to both minimalism and this YouTube channel would be to check out the Beginner’s Guide to Minimalism and 10 Questions to Ask Yourself. Between her positive, soothing persona and realistic tips, I could watch and rewatch her videos a zillion times. Not kidding!

One of my favorite things about Sadia’s tips and conversations is that they’re not negative. They don’t really touch upon the whole “Americans consume too much!” complaint. No, she addresses instead how you – not your family, your partner, your kids, but YOU – can make your own changes to better your own life in this way. So. Positive. My favorite.

Naturally Thrifty Mom – This is a YouTuber whom I find to be honest and inspirational – she’s endlessly patient as a mom and shares SO much of her life. I just don’t know how she does it sometimes, y’know?

While she’s trying to cut back on both her family’s clutter and reliance on packaging, she keeps it real and still buys “normal stuff” (if by normal you consider vegan and organic snacks normal – which I kind of do when they’re, like, alternatives to goldfish crackers and that sort of thing).

KonMarie – I’ve had this book for awhile and it’s honestly caused me both inspiration and some consternation. While the author believes that one must essentially surrender 100% to the suggestions in her books, I’ve learned to take the things that totally ring a bell in my brain and make me nod in agreement and kinda leave the rest. I dunno, maybe it’s why I haven’t been able to do a full-on decluttering; maybe she’s right.

But so far the main idea I’ve gleaned and brought with me is the idea that the only items we should hold onto are ones that serve a purpose or “spark joy.” Totally legit.

And I also remind myself that this is actually a book that has been translated, so the tone is one of an entirely different culture. Always good to recognize and acknowledge.

Exploring Alternatives – Seriously, with high-quality videos like this on YouTube, who needs a TV anymore? While my family and I don’t strive to give up 90% of our worldly possessions and travel, living a life of minimalism, the couple behind this channel (and the folks they meet) are truly inspirational.

That’s one of the things I love about inspiration. We can take what we want out of it. This channel provides just that.

Bea Johnson’s Zero Waste Home – I chatted about Bea’s lifestyle several years ago here on the blog, but find myself still completely in awe over what she’s done with her family. Again, while I’m not about the “extreme” side of this lifestyle, there’s tons of inspiration (and lessons) to gather from Johnson’s choices.

Becoming Minimalist – I’ve been following this site for awhile now and it always seems to offer just the right words of clarity when I’m at my most overwhelmed. I love that his weekly roundup newsletter offers a wide variety of thoughts from the internet in addition to their own writers’ best stuff – which even further “simplifies” my life. 😉

Becoming Minimalist really discusses all aspects of the minimalist movement, as it were, with everything from the grand concept of the thing (including an entire mindset shift) down to small tips to simplify your life and consume less. There’s quite literally something for everyone.

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So, here’s the thing. I hate to create a numbered to-do list for myself because when I force myself to clean something (and find myself lacking motivation), the job is 10x more of a chore. However, a bit of mental organization and a general guideline is good for accountability and I can pick and choose when motivation strikes in that certain area.

– Go through (and purge) the basement moving boxes. We moved in November. There are still tons of boxes in the basement we haven’t really found necessary…which tells us they may not be something we need to have, y’know?

– Cut back on toys. I’d like to determine a percentage of toys to get rid of (since the kids don’t use a huge amount of them). Not sure I could get rid of ALL of the toys like some parents, although the concept is admirable. But there’s clearly a couple of big issues bubbling with our toy situation, so beyond a purge, an entire mindset shift will be needed. Fingers crossed, folks!

– Konmarie my clothes. While I may not use this process for every single item in the house, I do want to start with my own clothes. It’s tough being pregnant and wanting to keep things for post pregnancy (and “normal” me), but clothing is a glut of an issue in our house. And who knows? Maybe it’ll be the inspiration I need to Konmarie ALL our stuff!

Oh, and we’re planning on having a garage sale so anything we think folks will find a use for will go to that (or a local thrift store). So finding the balance between wastefulness (and hurting the earth!) and actually doing away with what we don’t need is a challenge, but there are a few ways to do just that.

How about you guys? Is anyone else looking to pare back and minimize a bit of their stuff (and life)? I’ve read so much that says that the less things we own, the more clarity we have, so I’m really hoping this is true! Drop me a line if you’ve had any success with decluttering/minimalism in general and how you’ve stuck to it!

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.