Hadley’s Third Birthday – Best Laid Plans

So, I was hoping to have a rundown of the decorative plans I had in mind for the little guy’s birthday, along with some pictures of the whole thing for you today. Well, I have some pictures, but they don’t show much of anything.

With all three of us under the weather and unsure of whether or not we’d be super contagious, we had originally decided to cancel the whole thing. Then, after talking with my mother a bit, we decided just to have the grandparents over. There are a couple of newborns in the family that we wouldn’t want to get what we’ve got, so we cut it back. Besides, I had already bought tons of food (which there was no way we could save another week or two for a party that we weren’t even sure others could attend), so it would be great to celebrate the day in a low-key way.

That said, I still worked hard (which, as a pregnant lady means that I worked until my belly ached — the belly knows when it’s time to slow down, y’know) to bake and chop and grate and assemble. As the time drew nearer and nearer, I realized I wouldn’t have the time I’d hoped to do the decorating I had planned on.

No baby blue streamers. No Peter Rabbit cake topper and wall hanging. No poufs. No Pinterestworthiness.

That’s not a word, but it’s definitely a thing.

But, we did have time to do a thorough cleaning job, and last night at 11pm I found myself sketching chalkboard drawings to bring a little festivity. Oh, in complete honesty, this stuff finally took the place of my spring chalkboard and *ahem* Easter baskets. Seriously. I’ve been slacking. 😉

So, from the things I grabbed at the local “dollar store”, I used some faux greenery on vines to give a little garden feeling. And, seriously, don’t fresh fruit and veggies do a great job at hitting both a) feeding partygoers and b) adding to the ‘garden’ theme?


 Sorry, beverages. Party was underway and, as usual, Dave took the pics while I did last-minute stuff.


So, we served a pared-down version of the original menu: loads of fruit, veggies and homemade herb dip (Ina Garten), cold cuts with fresh rolls, chips/cheese/crackers, “munchies” (Annie’s chocolate bunnies and bunny snack mix…get it? Peter Rabbit??), and our family’s favorite pasta salad (Mom brought). Water, lemonade and iced tea for the hot day’s beverages. Oh, and chocolate-covered strawberries (Ina, again), homemade carrot cake (good ol’ Good Housekeeping – very moist, but took FOREVER to grate the carrots) with cream cheese icing, and an untouched strawberry rhubarb crisp. Admittedly, everyone was stuffed, so that’ll be breakfast this week. 😉

I know it still sounds like a lot, but considering I cut the decorating down to next to nothing and we didn’t have tomato pie and sausage bread and stuff…it was far less crazy and more chill than it would’ve been. Oh, and for the record, it’s the only cold cuts I’ve had (I believe?!) the entire pregnancy. I cheated, but at least I didn’t have a beer…right??

Considering we only had three guests (my stepdad wasn’t feeling well) plus the three of us, this kid got GIFTS. Thomas stuff, clothes galore, books, a fishing game he’s loved at his cousin’s, some superhero stuff, a bubble mower and A SHAAAAARK! (We also saved some stuff for tomorrow since that’s his actual day, but MAN I’m thinking we should save some of it for Christmas!)


When it was time to nap and he melted down, you could hear how sick he still is. Super runny nose, incredibly raspy…not as croupy as when he sleeps, but not good, poor thing. I’m just glad that his daddy and I have gotten past that “I don’t feel goooooood” whiny crappy feeling so that we could focus on how awesome our special guy is.

We felt awful that we couldn’t party it up with the whole family (namely, his super fun cousins, and I always love seeing my siblings), but I know we’ll see everyone throughout the summer, so we’re trying not to focus on it too much. Considering he’s only turning 3 and he doesn’t have a huge circle of friends yet, it was still a memorable, fun day meant to make him feel remembered. I’d say, snotty noses aside, it was a success!

Now, if he could just feel better. 🙁

On a positive ending, we didn’t realize how much Hadley has changed in the past year until Dave started putting together his annual video. Wow. A year ago, his words existed but were guttural and communication was highly emotionally-charged. A recent BabyCenter email updated me that he’s probably saying 3-word sentences now, but it’s sooo far from the truth. Aside from run-ons, he’s incredibly verbal, and his vocabulary surprises us with its complexity. We still have our toddler meltdowns, but he’s much better able to communicate his feelings.

He helps when we give him a task. He’s open and welcoming to the idea of a little sibling (he insists it’s a girl and today said her name is “Flamingo”). He’s sweet with a tiny mischievous side, prefers running to sitting still, and is dying for us to find him more friends. Somewhere along the way, he’s started coming to us with spontaneous moments of love and brief cuddles, which he was never a fan of before. Overall…the kid rocks.

Here are some of the answers to some questions I asked him:

Favorite Things – Age 3

Color – “Blue.” (funny, it’s usually orange)
Toy – “My firetruck.” (really?!)
Stuffed animal – “My lamby.”
Thing to take to bed – “My shark.”
Fruit – “I like all of them.”
Cereal – “Gorilla Munch.”
Breakfast – “Gorilla Munch.” (I blame the order of the questions on that answer)
Lunch – “Peanut butter and jelly.” (had to answer for him; this is his fave)
Dessert – “Ice cream.” (not really, he doesn’t eat the stuff)
Beverage – “Grape juice!”
Dinner – “Nothing, nothing, nothing.” (I think lunch and breakfast are his big meals; he’d prefer not eat dinner.)
Animal – “Uuummm…a lizard!”
Book – “Pajama Time.”
Song – “1-2-3 sing with me…(continues singing own lyrics)”
Game – “Matthew and me used to play golf. And Aunt Mary and Lizzie and Uncle John were there….”
TV Show – “Cartoon Batman” (the 1970s cartoon version, although we know he loves “60s Batman”, too.)
Movie – “The Muppets”
Thing to do outside – “Run around.”
Best friend – “Cooper.” (Actually, equal parts Cooper and Lizzie, so the answer varies.)
Job when he grows up – “Do Daddy’s job…Lego Batman exercise!” (He wants to use Dave’s old Lego Batman Wii game but knows he can’t until he’s big.)

5 Reasons I’m Okay Spending $100 on a Dinner

Depending on the time of year, we go out maybe every 1-2 months and get a pizza every, eh, 2-3 weeks. Compared to the old days when pizza was weekly and going out was, well, probably also a weekly thing (plus any fast food stops, especially back when we were first dating and acting in shows), this is pretty stellar. 

So, I thought I’d talk about briefly about why it’s totally cool with me that Dave’s taking me out for my birthday for what’s undoubtedly going to cost probably $100…give or take. 

via Trip Advisor


Special Occasion – I don’t usually give into the “it’s my birthday, I deserve it” sort of thing. However, we often decide that we’d rather take advantage of a super rare date night (seriously, if we get four a year, we’re doing something) than to actually buy gifts for the other person. This year, I don’t find myself “in need” of anything, so an incredible meal it is. (We often do something similar for our anniversary or Valentine’s Day.) Plus, any time we can eat without the little one is pretty much a special occasion. 😉 Thanks to the sitters (grandparents) of the world!!!

Insane Food – I know you probably already assume that insanity has to come into play when it comes to spending over $100 on dinner, but it’s not our insanity; it’s the INSANELY AWESOME thought put into the cuisine at our favorite restaurant. I’ve chatted about what an incredible spot The Tailor and the Cook is in the past, but yeah. I’ll repeat it again, it’s just. That. Good. The word “delicious” doesn’t describe it well enough. Also, the fact that we eat out less than the “good ol’ days” makes us really enjoy this style of food more, even if we do it only a couple of times a year. 

Locavore’s Paradise – We obviously wouldn’t be willing to spend the big bucks at a regular, local restaurant (or chain) that serves the usual fare. But, much of the food served here is based on the local ingredients they’ve sourced. The care in the menu alone shows the thought put into the season and proper preparation of the food (hello, fiddleheads and ramps!). Plus, knowing (and often seeing at our local farmers’ markets) the farms and food producers displayed in a totally proud, transparent way? We have to get behind that. 

The Anticipation – Okay. I haven’t had a huge appetite lately, but when I found out we’d be going to T&C, I couldn’t help but check out the menu. Seriously, I can’t decide what to get, but it doesn’t matter! Just look at that menu! And the things that sound strange are what end up being your favorite, so I put my faith into the hands of the chef(s). 

It’s an Investment – People consider all sorts of things investments. Saving for college. (Okay, we do that.) Buying cars. Collecting dolls. All sorts of things. For us, food like this is an important investment. We care about the food’s treatment before it even gets to the restaurant, we care that the chef(s) give it the best possible flavor profile, and the experience of the entire evening fulfills us to no end. So, yeah. It’s an investment we’ll gladly make.   

Spring Cleaning, Simplified

This year, I’m not stressing about spring cleaning. This doesn’t mean that I won’t be doing some high-octane cleaning; it just means that I’m not going to break a huge sweat or give up my long-awaited-for warm days.

Here are a handful of simple but super helpful ways I’ll be gettin’ ‘er done. (Hate that phrase.)


Do all the jobs. Wow, that DOES sound overwhelming. What I really mean is that when I do ceilings, I’ll take a broom with a microfiber cloth and “sweep” all the ceilings in the whole house while I’m at it. (Spoiler alert: Already did this. While on the phone, even.) Or, when I do the fans, I’ll wipe all of them down and only do the “take off every single light cover and wash/dry” if absolutely necessary. All the woodwork at one time. All the vacuuming at one time. Etc, etc, etc.

Sometimes, I try to do a room at a time (like last year) and, sometimes, it works fine. But, this year, I kind of prefer doing the jobs I feel like doing at the moment and getting them ALL done. Also, once I get out a particular cleaning product (say, the Old English for our woodwork), it’ll be nice to just put it away when the job’s done.

Stretch it out. While it sounds like a buttload of work doing the above clusters of jobs, I’m not doing them all at one time. Instead, I already started the cleaning process and am doing a quick 5-10 minute job before work in the morning or at the end of the day, or a longer one on the weekends (sometimes a couple). It’s a marathon, not a sprint!

Use the least amount of products possible. I love multi-tasking cleaners. We use a Method all-purpose cleaner made with mostly-natural ingredients that does glass, wood, ceramic…frickin’ everything. We also love our Dr. Bronner’s castile soap, which can be used on pretty much anything and everything you can imagine. Sure, this time of year I take out the big guns (like Old English), but for the most part, it’s simple. Kind of the point of this post. 😉

Enjoy the clean. By doing little jobs here and there, it highly reduces the amount of stress we put on ourselves. Know what else reduces it? Enjoying the clean stuff.

Throwing open the windows not only helps to freshen up your indoor environment, but also lifts your spirits. Opening the curtains after you’ve washed and rehung them helps the light come in and – yup – same thing, lift your spirits. Or just plopping down after you’ve finished a job and allowing yourself some relaxation time by way of a book or movie is totally allowed – even if you haven’t finished ALL the cleaning yet.

I can’t say how many times I’ve looked in my newly fresh (and deodorized, woohoo!) fridge just to enjoy a job well-done. Seriously.

Do you guys all spring clean? What are some of your tips and tricks for getting your spring cleaning done? We’d love to hear them in the comments! 

To Avoid or Not – Teaching About Death

For many, death is the scariest part of life. It’s not often discussed openly, making it more difficult for people to deal with when it does inevitably strike a loved one. It’s grim, it’s frightening, and there are tons of emotions tied to it, so it’s best just to not talk about it. Right?

Wrong. At least, I think it’s wrong to avoid it. For my family, it was an early fact-of-life lesson. Our dad passed away after a long battle with an aggressive skin cancer in 1986, leaving a wife and four kids broken. I was just shy of four years old, and while I was told what happened, I wish I had been given a better understanding behind it. It wasn’t until months later when Sesame Street taught me via Mr. Hooper’s death that I would never see him again. It was agonizing, but I finally got it.

So, the concept of loss, a general loneliness, and a premature sense of adulthood followed me through my childhood (and quite possibly my siblings, of course). But, because of it, I worked on my issues and became better able to handle the hardest points of life (eventually). I still miss the crap out of my dad and wish I’d known him better than a three-year-old can know someone, but we’re lucky for the family we have.

I decided long ago that, while my wonderfully kind stepfather would be known to Hadley as one of his true grandfathers (“Papa”), he would know and remember that my father, well, existed. Which means that I would inevitably have to discuss with him the topic of death.

And guess what. It doesn’t have to be a big deal.

 

Yes, our son is just over two years old. But, he’s already experienced some loss. My dear, dear grandfather passed away last year, and Had’s grandparents had to put down a beloved dog that used to greet and play with him everyday.

We visited my grandfather regularly, so the night that I drove home from the hospital after witnessing his last breath, I knew I’d have to explain it. At age 7, I was in a tonsillectomy-induced stupor when my great aunt Kate had passed. While my mother insists she told me when it happened, the following summer I asked about it and was shut down immediately. It stung. I didn’t want a repeat when one day, out of the blue, Hadley starts asking about “Mama Gampa.” (My grandpa.)  

The first thing to remember, whether you’re just talking about the general concept of death or a particular person or pet, is to keep it simple. Like, stupid simple. I’ve come to learn that over-talking anything is an easy way to have a kid zone you out and not understand. Hmph. Maybe I should stop over-explaining stuff for you guys when blogging. 😉

I told him in two short sentences, tops. I first made sure he remembered the proper individual I was talking about, then explained that Grandpa had gotten sick and had to go away. Watching it sink in, his head slowly nodding, I then told him that we wouldn’t be seeing him again, but that we can always enjoy the memories we made with him. He totally got it, and even told me he was sorry for ME. Talk about tears — but, that’s actually another important point…

Crying is totally okay. This is more for the grown-ups than the kids, but regardless, it’s important for everyone to remember it. We had family cry sessions after Dad passed away, but it eventually became a very private thing to do. I still cry about him (and Grandpa, actually, who was more than a second father); it’s not a loss you ever get over, nor should one have to, but how we deal with the feelings is what’s important.

So, when I explained to Hadley what had happened with Grandpa, or talk to him about Dad, or when I told him that his poor grandmother had to put down Dawg, I was tearful, openly. I didn’t try to hide it. It was part of the lesson. YES. DEATH IS SAD, AND THAT’S NORMAL AND OKAY.

Kids get it.
They’re more astute about others’ emotions at times than we are as adults. It’s best to respect them enough to be open with the facts and open with those emotions.

Speaking of kids totally being aware, here’s where things get creepy. We’re not super religious. Hadman thinks a cross is the letter “T” (I’m equally embarrassed and proud about that — letter recognition, y’know). But, both times I spoke with him about the deaths were at bedtime, in his crib, in a dark room when he was calming down for the day. Both times, he pointed over my shoulder as if he saw something…or someone. He barked when Dawg was put down. He talked to Grandpa when he passed. “Hi, Gampa! Hi, Gampa!” Both terrifying; both somehow strangely calming.

They know and “see” better than we do sometimes.  

One final word of advice is to help them remember those who have passed. Pretending that the person never existed sometimes makes an individual feel like they need to do the same; that they’re not allowed to ask questions or talk about the person.

I’ve asked a lot about my dad over the years, and there were times I knew my mother wasn’t in the mood to discuss it, but she always answered my questions. Sometimes short responses; sometimes longer. Plus, his picture has always been around our house as a constant welcome reminder, and we helped out at the cemetery all the time.

The tree next to his headstone was quite young when he was buried. Over the years, I took a lot of comfort visiting to help plant new flowers and dusty millers and to clean off the stone. We’d excitedly ask for the empty plastic jug we used to fast-walk (running in a cemetery = not okay) back from the filling spigot. As a teen, I would go to the cemetery to sit at atop a large mausoleum built into a hill to enjoy the peace and feel closer to him.

Today, the tree is matured. Both of my mom’s parents have joined him, just two rows away. But, the peace is still there. So, I feel it’s important to bring Hadley there from time to time so that he realizes how normal death is and that, if he has any questions, it’s totally fine to share them.

Besides, for a stick and rock collecting boy, it makes for an awesome nature walk.

Will You Wear My Friendship Bracelet?

For some, this post may apply to you at age 26. For others, maybe age 39. Still others, it may not apply at all. In which case, read away and enjoy being a totally well-adjusted, sociable person. You’re winning at life, and I salute you, my friend. Text me? No? Oh. Okay.

Friends. Buddies. Pals. Besties. Homegirls (or boys). BFFs. Whatever term you use, it seems that there’s a weird shift that happens after a certain age. It tends to happen post-quarterlife crisis (which may last different durations depending on the person and their situation), when finding all the settling-down trappings of life — a sweet spouse, a pet or two (or three), maybe even babies.

When you settle into living with your best friend (the one you want to grow old with; you know the one), your schedules intertwine, your to-dos rely upon the other’s availability (or willingness to watch the munchkin for you while you do your own thing), and you come to find more value in watching your favorite black-and-white movies together in PJs than you do hitting up a local bar.

Or maybe your local bars are overrun by college kids and an environment that simply doesn’t appeal. Or maybe it’s too loud to talk over the noise. Or maybe you gave up that scene long ago. All of the above, please.

So, anyhoo, life takes over. Not an excuse. It just does.

On top of this, socializing is equal parts emotion, sport, entertainment, and game, especially when you first know someone. Playing the game (“When are you free?” That’s half the battle), doing so skillfully while supporting your friend and still enjoying yourself simultaneously? It all needs to be balanced. And it becomes more of a challenge as you grow older and have less time to devote to properly maintaining a friendship, especially while maintaining a career, a happy, fulfilling marriage, a happy, well-adjusted child, and a relatively happy (if not disorderly) home. Toss in hopes and dreams and one’s cup runneth over…and not always in the best of ways.

For some of us, developing new friendships is tough in the first place. We’re not in college anymore, where you could bump into someone from one of your classes in the cafeteria and strike up a pleasant conversation about the tacos. We’re not in high school, where you most likely knew 90% of the people in highly intimate ways (“Remember Angela Farfigneugan who showed her purple polka dotted undies in 2nd grade?”) and felt like you were all kind of related in the first place. Or even the first day of kindergarten where the girl you shared the yummy paste green crayon with would be your BFF for the next ten years.

Making. New. Friends. Sucks. (Generally.) And in the Mom World, first impressions are everything. What can I say? Lots of moms seem…um…judgy. So, yeah. If I’m out at the playground with a particularly hysterical 2-year-old and make eye contact with a possible future BFF, will my parenting/aka personality/aka whole being be questioned? Plus, I’m not great at connecting. 

If you know me in “real life”, you’re probably aware that I’m pretty awkward. Okay, very awkward. I have a hard time not weirding people out during a conversation. I try to look into their eyes but end up doing it too long, then stare at the floor. I do listen well, but I probably give off the impression that I’m not. Or maybe that I’m psychotic. Either/or. I’ve also lost all ability to select appropriate conversational topics. Poop! Let’s talk about poop. Cat poop, baby poop, husband poop; it’s all the same. Aaaand I’ve gone too far.

Now that you know all of my social flaws (hug me), let’s just say that the friendships that I do have are pretty damn important to me. 

This doesn’t mean that I don’t inadvertently, completely unintentionally neglect those highly cherished friends. Might months go by until I call or text? Absolutely. Do we rarely get together? Sure. But, when we do, a simple cup of coffee or meal together recharges me and fills me with such joy — and hopefully my friends feel the same.

So, naturally, I hope to find more connections like these. A little support sharing, back-and-forth, from a like-minded person with a few similarities. Befriending mamas is the easiest way for the other person to realize that, yes, schedule wrangling might be a little tough and, no, we won’t always be available to each other. But, guess what. We have other built-in support to get us through those times. Those husbands for venting and crying (and laughing) with. Those babies for distracting us with heightened levels of awesomeness. Those furbabies for the sincerest form of cuddling known to man. We make it work.

Non-mama friends sometimes get this — and those are truly some of my best friends. But, the older I get, the harder it seems to make those friends. Sometimes it’s even difficult to keep the old ones. I’m not a fan of it, but I can face the grim reality; it does happen. Here you get married and you never think you’ll be dealing with a break-up ever again, and…bam…you find out that there’s a whole other type of break-up that you forgot all about, and it hurts just as much.

I only wish I knew how to juggle it all – work, marriage, motherhood, responsibilities to all of that while also paying bills and maintaining a house. Somewhere in there I try to carve out a little bit of life and time for myself (like this blog). But, I’m not 16 anymore, or 21, or even 27. Those were completely different lifetimes. Now, everything (including friendships) takes more work, more time, and it doesn’t always go the way I’d like. A new person might care less about what I have to say and I never hear or see them again. I may lose touch with an old friend and before I know it, weeks become months become years. It can downright suck when I stop for a moment to come up for air and realize I’ve lost a person who’s been part of my cast since elementary school.

I know I’m not alone, not the first to go through this, but it doesn’t make it any easier to handle or plow through on those days when it hits me, when I reflect on the past, and I see how much has changed. There is no magic answer, no magic word that can make it so. I wish there was. But sometimes I just don’t know. However, the best part of growing older is learning the ability to cope. One can bitch for only so long before recognizing that it doesn’t help the situation and, really, it’s time to find perspective. The life that I have is the one that I chose, and I couldn’t be happier with the family we’ve built and the journey that we’re carving out.  

All this said, I still long for friendships. To know a variety of people. To do fun things. To have people who can come over, understand the messiness of three cats and three people living in less than 1,000 square feet and not care. To have a Millie to my Laura (or vice versa, depending on whether I’m the “wacky friend” or not). To laugh with abandon and say things without fear of it being used against me in the future or to share feelings sans judgment. To be able to check in with funny texts from time to time to ensure that the other’s still alive, or to share a funny “doesn’t matter in the grand scheme” moment. 

I’m not asking for a vast amount of friends, or for friends who can all get together and get along, or for those take-all-afternoon phone calls of junior high. I’m not necessary looking for a fellow mother, but I am looking for someone who understands that my first priority, above all else, is that role (followed closely by the happiness of my husband; I subscribe to “Happy husband, happy life.” Luckily, he’s an easy one to please). And I’m not greedy. Just one, two, three…a dozen BFFs. Too much to ask? 

Really, I just want someone to wear my friendship bracelet. Their choice of color.

Is that too much to ask?

* I’d like to thank Dave for helping me find the words to write this post. As with all things in life, I couldn’t do it without you.

Wop, Wop

I haven’t posted a gardening update in awhile. Actually, I think it was this post in late July. So, over a month. But guess what.

You’re not missing much.

The joint looks exactly the same (didn’t even take a final picture), except that I’ve completely neglected it. On purpose.

Know why? The outside cats that hang in our yard. They totally planned a jail break…INTO the garden.

Now, I don’t know about you, but the thought of eating food that has officially been “fertilized” with cat droppings (seriously, head back there and you smell it instantly…sigh) is a bit of a turn-off. And the fact that the Dorky Daddy ate some of the tomatoes and developed a weird infection (possibly impetigo, possibly some other freaky thing) makes us wonder, seriously, if it could have come from this. Maybe. Just maybe.

Luckily, I hate tomatoes and Hadley only ate stuff from the garden when it was perfectly secure and safe from cat crap. Whew. Poor Dave, though. :-\

So, I would call this year a complete bust. Hugest. Sigh. Ever. The cost and energy that goes into creating a garden is so damn frustrating when you think of how little you reap when something like this happens. We did get a small amount of good stuff early in the season, but not enough to call it even, I don’t think.

Let’s just say that since we don’t know where we’ll be laying our heads come next spring, and since our garden has been so hit-and-miss over the years, I’m a tad gun-shy to start planning. I know that an enclosed space is necessary, with rows and paths. But I’m ultimately determined to be successful and learn from our mistakes, even if EVERY SINGLE YEAR we get slammed with a different one.

And the only thing I can say as far as perspective goes is that I’m incredibly lucky. My grandfather’s family relied greatly upon the bounty that their tiny backyard garden provided them (as did many). Everything got canned. Everything got used. Today, we at least have the opportunity to obtain fresh, nutritious fruits and veg all winter long without blinking an eye. In her worst days, she had to scrape for her family’s survival.

So, one literally crappy growing season can’t outweigh the fact that this is just a hobby. One day, I hope to provide more for my own family, not for myself, but for the memory of my great-grandmother. 

And you’d better believe that I’ll be trying out one or two of your recipes when I do, Clara. 

Gotta Stay on Top of My Life, Gotta Stay on Top of My Life

Is it just me, or is September kind of like January’s nerdy kid brother? Given all the back-to-school craziness and a return to “normalcy,” I tend to be confronted with the fact that I clearly didn’t do enough of a productive nature over the summer (even if I actually got a ton done). I flounder and stare face-to-face at a necessity to get my life in order. And I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one. Teachers, parents…hey, even single or retired folks. Something about that chill in the air, am I right?

January’s the cool kids’ turn to pick some resolutions in an attempt to kick start some positive change. I see September as a quieter, yet tad more frenzied time to do the same. All those lists that people consider on January 1st are just as relevant on September 1st. Perhaps because they’re not under a microscope as much, they may not be as intimidating…maybe?

So, obviously I’m taking a few steps to “stay on top of my life.” (If you don’t know the Kids in the Hall already, I beg of you — check out the video. If you’re not into a bit of bloody violence or quirky humor, please, for the love of God, don’t click. Oh, and this was a huge part of my adolescence. Explains lots.) For a simpler take on this, I provide you with this hilarious (or, if you’re not in the know, ridiculously random and stupid) take…


Yeah. I made that. Ahem.

Back to the point. Given that September is equivalent to January, I thought I’d share a little list of the “resolutions” I’ve already started working on. Some are relevant to being back at school and having more structured time (which means focusing on using my time more wisely) and others are just good ol’ self improvement things.


For the record, I hate the word “resolutions”, too.

Bed by 10pm (on school nights). Dang nabbit, I’m doing this. Depending on the night, falling asleep by 10 is easier than…coming up with an analogy. Other nights, my energy level is higher and I’ll force myself to lay down, sans TV/cell phone/any screens whatsoever and read. It’s helped me get to the conclusion of the book I’ve been reading ALL SUMMER, so that in itself is pretty rad. It also makes me far less grumpy come 6am. Um. Generally.

Getting in some exercise. I’m not taking on the PXButtKickandLiftChallengeXXI or whatever, but I’m hoping that by incorporating variations of cardio/Pilates/yoga/core strengthening, I’ll be gaining some much-needed extra energy as well as *hopefully* toning up some of the squishy bits. I’ve already mentioned it, but Spark People is a great free site that provides a variety of videos at various levels (hello, beginner!) and numerous lengths. I’ll probably move on to other sites if these ones aren’t cutting it anymore, but for now they’re perfect.

I think one of my issues in the past is that when I get it in my head to do something — anything — I go gung-ho initially and have a hard time following through at ANY pace. Apparently it’s something my father did in areas of his life. When it comes to exercise, I’ve done this but also burnt out thanks to overdoing it from the start. So, I’ve started out by doing one medium-length or two shorter videos at a time, breaking a good sweat but leaving myself feeling energized rather than totally zonked. I’ll build on.

Oh, and I’m doing this 3-4 days during the week and 1 day on weekends, while keeping track a) the exercise(s) and b) duration of workout on our family calendar, partly for motivation and partly because I have the memory of a…of a…I don’t even know what.

Setting boundaries. This. Is. Hard. I fall into this trend of not leaving school until after 4:30 (our contract says we can leave at 3:30). And it’s not like I’m doing anything super important. I’m just fiddling here and there with stuff that can totally wait ’til the next day. So, I’m trying to leave by 4 (and earlier on Fridays, can you imagine…). This helps with the aforementioned exercise goal (fitting in the exercise, a shower, and getting dinner underway before the guys get home) and will help me stay focused during the day on what needs to get done instead of putting stuff off ’til the end of the day.

“Money money money mooonnnneeyy. MONEY.” (That stupid song that’s used for “The Apprentice.” Gah.) I’ve mentioned this lately, but I’m going to be paying close attention to my spending, writing down my purchases, analyzing where my cash is flowin’ and why, and researching some ways to keep it under tabs.

For those in the balcony seats, let me project: I’M NOT GREAT WITH MONEY. It’s tough to admit that, as an otherwise generally responsible adult who thus far HAS been fine with moolah. (And I don’t have massive student loans as an excuse like my awesomely-getting-on-top-of-it husband.) But, yeah. We’re looking at some pretty big goals as a family and if I don’t focus on this area of life, it’ll be my fault. Not cool.

Thank goodness for cool, approachable sites like Our Freaking Budget. We also glean some good advice from Dave Ramsey, so you don’t have to leave any “Dave Ramsey is a GOD; we got rid of $1 million in debt and now have $1 million in savings thanks to him!” spiels in the comments…unless you want to brag. In which case, go on with your bad self.

Oh, and I’m even considering taking part in one of those “zero spend” challenges. Maybe. We’ll see. I’m gonna go cry now.

Planning meals. This one will help with finances but I’m also highly interested in seeing if meal planning truly does help me a) cut back on food waste, b) save ka-ching at the super and farmers’ market, and c) make life easier. I’ll check back if it does and let y’all know. And I’m on the hunt for real food cook-ahead and slow-cooker meals. SO hard to find slow-cooker recipes without a can or bottle of something super processed to bring it all together (and undoubtedly make it yummy).

Simplify, as always. This is kind of a life goal that sits on my shoulder everyday. I’m pretty lucky, though. It’s more like the cartoon angel version on the right side rather than the naughty/devilish kid on the left side. So, there’s that. But, yeah. PURGE is the name of the game. A lot of our house is looking more and more like “us”, and I love that, but we still have storage spaces (and, heck, out-in-the-open spaces like the toy explosion storage in our living room) that need another once-over. The basement is also in dire need of straightening and hoeing out (who you callin’…) AND painting, so there’s that.

The thing that sucks for me is that, well, again…I’ve got my dad’s gene of needing the motivation before getting up and DOING something. Takes me forever to finish a project, but once it’s done, it’s done pretty darn well. So, I can’t say on Monday that I’ll plan on working on the basement Saturday. I may wake up Saturday feeling motivated to do something else that’s equally important. Or play with Hadley all day. Or sit on my tush watching the world whiz by (while the laundry’s going…because at least then I’ll feel like I did SOMETHING). Whatevs.

But, I think the only way to break this is to just DO. Like, we wouldn’t have gotten our recent front porch project completed if Dave hadn’t said, “Okay, I’m going to start this.” (Once he started, I had to finish, so I didn’t want to let his hard work be overshadowed by my laziness.) And, believe me. I did NOT feel like doing it, but when it was done…well, awesomeness ensued.

Live in the moment. Observing the changes in Hadley. Enjoying the humor that my students pump into random lessons. Looking for moments of simple joy and lucky experiences. Contacting friends to hang out or come over for meals or meet up for coffee. In general, remembering to savor the good and hold onto the bad momentarily. 

Hey, look! Seven things in my list. Whatchya know? So, what about you guys? Do you feel like this time of year is a bit like New Year’s with its feeling of “let’s start this season on a new foot”?

Or are you just psyched for pumpkin spice everything? Really, though. Who can blame you?

Sorry I’m Sorry

The Dorky Daddy recently posted a heartfelt admission of an issue that he deals with, which is so admirable and awesome since a lot of guys don’t admit to it. I felt it was important to reiterate that it’s actually an issue for the whole family. Namely, I do it, too.


We’re uncontrollable apologizers. And we’re officially sorry about it.

You’ll see on his post the moment that the truth hit us, but let’s just say that our unnecessary apologizing has been passed on to our 2-year-old son. Yup. Show any sign of distress, and he immediately starts faux crying while saying “I sowwy, Mama. Sowwy, Mama.”

Lose something. “Sowwy, Mama!”

Spill something. “I sowwy, Mama! So sowwy!!”

Punish over something. “Sowwy!!” (Okay, that last one is awesome, but he doesn’t know to say “sorry” for doing something wrong; just because we’re upset.)

Some might say it’s not a big deal, or that it’s not a bad problem to have an apologetic kid.

To that I say, well, keep it to yourself. (Yeah. I went there.) You get to feel what’s best or worse for your kids. We get to use our (in this case shared) intuition to decide that this is a problem for us. He’s no off-the-wall, drug-abusing kid, of course, so it is all relative…but it still concerns us. And the fact that our apologetic ways allow people to discredit our feelings is something I’d rather Hadley not have to deal with, too.

Sorry for the blunt moment, but it was needed.

Wait. No. I’m not sorry. God, this is so damn difficult.

Taking the energy down for a moment *turns dial* let’s address the reasons that apologizing can be a negative thing. List time:

* Sometimes…just once in awhile…it’s a manifestation of passive aggressiveness. We all have frustrations on a daily basis. At work. At the grocery store. (I can’t COUNT how many times in one trip I’ll apologize to people at Hannaford for something I didn’t do.) Out clothes shopping. Heck, at home with your partner. If someone ticks you off, be it in a big or small way, sometimes “sorry” pops out when you’re actually upset about something…and aren’t REALLY sorry.

And, I’ll admit. When someone walks in my way or steals the spot in line or takes advantage of me at work…I will passive aggressively say, “Oh, I’m so sorry!” *raises hand* I do it. It’s been done.

* Insincere or overused apologies lose their meaning. The more you say “sorry”, the less you really mean it. The more I hear Dave say it, it simply blends into the conversation. Sure, it’s a word of kindness (usually), but we need to learn how to use our TONE of LANGUAGE to display our kindness rather than jumping around the kitchen apologizing for tripping over each other. 

* Apologizing without thought gives the other person the upper hand. Totally. I tend to apologize as a kindness tactic — regularly saying “Oops! So sorry you caught me eating my lunch. Sorry! What’s up?” Seriously. They interrupted MY lunchtime (which I was trying to get work done during) and I’m hoping, at the very least, to receive an acknowledgement that I’m being put out a bit before dropping my sandwich and helping them out.

Instead, I’ve often found that the person disregards it completely and continues on, like a bulldozer, with whatever their own needs are. My confidence issues ain’t gettin’ any better with crap like that goin’ down. It is what it is, and it’s not great.

So, yeah. There’s more, but that’s the general idea of the thing. Our goal is to raise a happy, healthy, kind, intelligent, confident young man. Part of confidence is being comfortable with yourself and knowing how to act in situations. Regardless of how we appear, Dave and I both have confidence and self-esteem issues. The last thing we want is to pass these on to our beautiful little man. Last thing.

Dave is doing great at trying to identify when “sorry!” is an acceptable response and when it’s probably not the best go-to. He’s not phasing it out completely; that’s not the point. It’s knowing when to say it and when it’s not necessary. That’s all.

I, actually, already started working on my sorryisms at work last year. It. Was. Hard. There was definitely a bit of acting needed to help me learn how to not get plowed over (I also used the sorries as a way to be kind, which often got me screwed over). And, y’know what? It kinda worked. There are still people who are just always going to be hard nuts to crack (which is fine), and I learned which people respect some confidence and some boundaries.

I didn’t start implementing it in other parts of my life. I didn’t think it seemed necessary. But, now it seems it is.

Here are a few of the ways that we’ve been addressing the issue:

* I’ve been talking to Hadley in a low-key, “it’s not a big deal” sort of way when he says it. We talk briefly about why he said it, and usually why it’s not needed. If it IS needed, I’ll say something like, “It was good of you to say you were sorry. When you *did such-and-such naughty act*, you were making bad choices and hurting our feelings, so it was a good thing to say ‘sorry’ about.” Or whatevs. I’ve seen a quick decrease in his use of the word. Sometimes a quick one or two sentence chat gets into his smart little brain better than a super big lecture or hitting him over the head with it.

* We’re not doing anything like a “Sorry Jar” or anything so drastic. Sometimes an apology is totally warranted, especially in marriage or in the day-to-day. But, we’ll gently remind each other, “Honey, you said ‘sorry’ and it’s totally cool, you didn’t do anything wrong.” While Dave likens it to quitting smoking (it’s definitely a habit), it’s not the sort of thing you need to kick yourself over when you accidentally let one slip. Sorry happens. It’s a process.

* If I’m truly sorry for something, I state why. I like to use “I’m sorry because…” any time I’m actually admitting a mistake or a poor wording or any number of reasons. Self realization is where it’s at. It also makes the apology carry so much more weight. It gives “sorry” back its importance.

* We’re having issues, but working on finding replacements for “sorry.” It’s difficult because there’s a sweetness attached to it that nothing can match. Again, it all depends on the situation. Sometimes it’s best just to cut it out. Other times, say someone’s having a bad day, just responding “Dude, that sucks” doesn’t show enough empathy. So, we’re feeling it out. Saying “I’m sorry your day is so terrible” might just have to be a replacement for the time being.

And just because I prefer to end on a positive note, and I hate that I was super harsh at the beginning of the post (I’m not sorry, but I don’t want it to be taken the wrong way), here are some of the awesome things about “sorry”:

* Sorry can melt your heart when it’s said at the right time…especially by someone who’s admitting a wrong or who happens to be an adorable 2-year-old who seems to be connecting to you while saying it.

* Sorry can hold so much power, when used sparingly. When you truly make a mistake and can own up to it (the hardest part), saying “I’m truly sorry” and owning the problem, then finding a way to fix it, it can earn you respect. Or not. But maybe!

Care to add anymore positive things about “I’m sorry”?

Being Kinda Productive For Once

I finally kickstarted my “get some $%&# done around the house” engine. Maybe the guilt of not doing stuff was hanging over my head. Maybe the fact that I purchased paint weeks ago and it was sitting, unused, on our deck. Maybe I finally got enough energy (or overcame the mental demons). Maybe I wanted to find “bursts”(remember those?)  of easier-to-manage tasks (or chunked-up tasks) to make it seem simpler.

Whatever it was, I got to work. And, slowly but surely, the trend continues. It even spilled into the nearest vicinity like a nasty plague (not to the neighbors; to Dave!).

I had already wire brushed a majority of the formerly invasive ivy plants which had attacked the side of our foundation. Seriously, the left caterpillar-esque tendrils of plant veins clinging with what looked like millions of legs ON the cement. There were areas that I just painted over them (uncool, I know), but for the most part those buggers were gone.

So a few quick tips for painting a foundation…

Use a crappy brush. This is actually one of my FAVORITE short rubber-handled angle brushes, but it had seen its day. Your brush will be ruined and will no longer be able to follow a straight line. It’s a drunk brush, but it works for this purpose.


Use horrible posture and wear the least supportive shoes on earth. Seriously. I know you want to take several minutes to get up then walk like you’re 90 when you’re done, right? Follow this example:

Show your toddler-toting guns. Seriously, I didn’t know I had those. Thanks for the awesome picture-taking, Dorky Daddy!

My actual advice is to use an old newspaper to not only catch drips but use as a guard. Yes, it’ll keep paint from getting onto your garden beds/driveway/etc (it actually works; the stuff you see is actually junk from when they put in our new window) BUT it keeps your brush from getting dirt/gravel/mulch/randomness stuck in its bristles.

Nothing to see here, really. Just enjoying the picture. I look badass. Painting. With a “Life is Good” (“Half Full” glass) hat and my too-big cast t-shirt from our high school production of “Once Upon a Mattress”. It’s my go-to painting shirt and has splatters from every set I’ve ever painted on it. It’s getting buried with me. But, of course.

 

The perfectionist-without-perfection will admit right here, right now, for all the world to read: I’m not a fan of the paint color. I’m not sure what I was thinking. I know I wanted a more charcoal color, and admittedly this one looked darker on the swatch (and in the can, which tells me it’s not mixed wrong). I’m positive it’s the combination of a super bright summer sun and the angle with which it hits the foundation. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

It also dries dark…er. Darker. Kinda.


Either way, it looks cleaner and brighter, so it’s fine. I’m not going to nitpick. S’all good.

I started the project late last week, then spent time with family on Saturday and got back to business on Sunday during naptime. Since there’s a chance of rain today, I’m not expecting to finish today (I’m about 2/3 done), but if I do, I do. And I kind of hope I do.

No worries, though. I’ve got another project halfway finished that will grab my attention if the “rain rain rain comes down down down…”

This. Damn. Ceiling. Okay. So…ahem. This spot had a super budget style light fixture installed…but it had been placed where the angled ceiling meets the straight part of the ceiling in our upstairs hallway. Like, a half circle was cut out of the angled ceiling. Crazy town.

 

(This is actually after I patched it for the LAST TIME.)

We’ve patched and sanded sporadically over the years, always putting it off longer. There were times we had thin little sheets of crappy patchwork hanging precariously. The cats had grown to ignore them, so used to the crapfest were they.

So, Sunday morning after we went out to breakfast (and I had discovered that my favorite antique center nearby wouldn’t open for another hour, egad), we returned home with one foul-moody, high-strung mama on board. I felt like I was spinning my wheels, so I checked my short list of house to-do’s, grabbed my sander and step stool and started the a-gypsum a-flyin’. (Not sure if it’s really gypsum in drywall…or whatever our house is made of…but work with me here.)

Of course, since I threw myself headlong into the project (happens. every. time.), I had failed to check on our spackle supply. D’oh. Very little, and all dried out.

Sooooo, Dave was good enough to watch Hadman while I ran to Lowe’s. Of course, $100-something later I also came home with a few super cheap window blinds and a handful of other do-dads for other projects…and my beloved Dap goes-on-pink/dries-white stuff.

I applied, then had lunch, put the munchkin down for a nap, and hit the outdoors (see: foundation painting). After Dave had gone inside and got the little guy up, I finished my painting for the day and headed indoors to sand, yet again.

I’m sure you already know this, but start with the lower grit number (it’s rougher); the higher, the gentler (finish with the gentler stuff).

Oh, and another word of advice. Don’t take selfies. Seriously, just don’t. But, if you MUST take a selfie, be sure to do it ONLY when you can embarrass yourself royally with it. 


And don’t lick your lips after sanding. Stupid idea.

So, today I hope to slap on a coat of ceiling paint (how do I have two gallons of THAT in the basement but am incessantly out of what I usually need?)

Oh, and I also took the cat tower’s rope scratching post from annihilated (spelled that on first try, woo to the hoo!) to looks-like-new —

RIP Monty Mouse. He squealed. #beardsleesourgodfather #jaspersourmuscle

Complete with massive amounts of help and support from Beardslee along the way. #notreally #heslept  He made some headway on reupholstering Daddy’s computer chair completely in cat fur, though.


And I thought I’d share a few pics of how the garden’s doing, along with its fashionable tulle attire (to keep cat poop out of our food…how’s THAT for fabulous?).

Last I knew, those things (to the left, to the left) weren’t trees. Too bad they turned into trees this summer ‘cuz they’re bogarting all the sun for my garden, man.

Oh, and the trellis near the garden in that picture? History. (It was being eaten by ants.) That was Dave’s huge project this weekend, and it’s awesome to finally have the thing down. Plus, a farmer helping neighbors move asked if he could take the posts and everything (ants and all), so it all got a second life. *warm fuzzies*

Summer squash lookin’ all growy and stuff…

Can you see what I see? Look closely…little neon green cuteness. (I don’t mind that they’re cute. I just mind the taste when they turn red and, y’know, “edible.” Ew. I love my husband enough to grow him two tomato plants, guys. That’s mad huge love.)

Right after I picked one handful of lettuce, right before I picked the rough-around-the-edges leaves. Keeping it real.

Our first “bounty.” Just a teensy strawberry (I moved those near the front of the garage and they’re doing “eh, okay”) that Hadley ate immediately, a couple of cherry tomaters and jalapenos, and a fistful of lettuce.

Whew! So! I know it’s a long one, but that’s how we’ve been productive lately. How about you? Getting anything checked off any lists — even if your list includes sitting on a sandy beach with something cold to drink? (I’d like to live vicariously.) Go ahead, tell! Or just post some horrific selfies in the comments to make me feel better about my lack of selfie skillz.

How Does Your Garden Grow?

We’re at just over a month since we planted the veggie garden, so I thought I’d give you an update on the situation out there.

Truth be told, this set of pictures was actually taken last week, and they’ve grown an incredible amount even since then. We’ve got some serious growth goin’ on. The squash has bloomed, several tomatoes and peppers have flowered, the lettuce is doing great, and nothing seems to have died. Sooo, we’ve got that goin’ for us (she says as if she wishes Bill Murray would crash HER bachelor party).

On the “are you KIDDING me?!” front, however, our love of animals has bitten us in the heiny. Dave has taken to putting food out for some of the neighborhood cats (I know, I know…but…), and while they’ve never been an issue with the garden in the past, they decided to get down and dirty this year. I’m talkin’ potty.

So, of course after attempting to dig out the problem *ahem, ahem* and hope and pray that we don’t end up dead-by-cat, we tried a couple of things.

Straight vinegar sprayed around the perimeter.

Nada.

We discussed a plethora of options, from sticking a million plastic forks in (um…no) to sprinkling hot pepper around (I read that it’s toxic; I don’t want to hurt/kill them, for crying out loud), and finally, one that we’re testing now…

Netting.

Dave’s mom gave it to us, and I can’t believe he used ALL of it. I haven’t grabbed any shots, but just envision white netting and barely being able to envision a garden underneath.

I guess it doesn’t really matter, since a) it seems to be working (it didn’t even collapse when one of the kittens decided to attack what I’m hoping was just a butterfly that had landed atop it), b) it’s the best way to still allow light and water in without allowing, y’know, the nastiness in, and c) the garden ain’t there to be purdy. Well. I mean, I enjoy looking at it, but ultimately, it’s not the point.

Harvest time should be interesting, though. 😉 Of course, we will keep you posted!

Oh, and speaking of gardens, I’m finally getting to work in the front foundation bed. I know it’s late in the season, but I’ve been super sick of the look of weeds, spent tulips, and general depressed landscaping. Besides, in our area, a hardy plant will last well into fall (barring any early frosts).

I’m kind of thinking that, in the fall, I’d like to divide and transplant the insanely huge hosta (I’ve never been able to keep one on the other side of the house to give it some symmetry, this one just gets too much sun) to the side other side of our front porch, near a boxwood bush. That way, that area’s pretty much “planted”…for keeps. No matter what I do (well…except for tomato plants…ahem), it always seems sparse over there, so this’ll kill feed two birds with one stone hamburger. One, get the obnoxious hosta out of the way. Two, fill in this tricky spot.

Look at that brain. Always a-clickin’.

Then, I can plant some ornamental grass and other lower-growing stuff in the front. Picture me Googling and pinning a buttloat of “small foundation garden” ideas. Truth be told, not finding much, but there’s time.

So, what’re you growing this summer? Anything good? Or are you hitting up the farmers’ markets? I can’t wait for the veggies to start coming in. With the new cholesterol fighting game we’re playing, the organic store veg is starting to break the bank!