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…

Gotta Stay on Top of My Life, Gotta Stay on Top of My Life - image FJrWtMw on

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.

Gotta Stay on Top of My Life, Gotta Stay on Top of My Life - image 15ac9-schoolresolutions on

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?

Expletive DIY

I love DIY blogs. They’re totally one if my favorite ways to kill half an hour day. They’re as bad as Pinterest.

So, so much to love. The impeccably photographed eye candy. The inspiration to change your own space for the better. The Wonder Woman “we can do it” attitudes (because, let’s face it, 95% of DIY bloggers are chicks…maybe 99%). The fierce full steam ahead perfectionism.

Okay, that last one is a generalization, and while I prefer the usual eye candy “you can do it, stick the landing!” posts, I’m relieved when a DIY fail is shared.

‘Cuz dat be me.

Small 2-step projects turn lengthy and take 70 roundabout troubleshooting steps. More intensive projects take months (or years) and downright threaten relationships. A house of 90 years seems to deeply enjoy throwing constant curveballs, making the simplest task turn into HELL. 

We recently learned a tip after years if “doing it the hard way” (this is easier but not perfect) — drywall screws. The hardware that accompanies, well, most items is often cheap. Namely, all the screws we have ever used to hang curtains or a picture anything decorative, really.

This is what happens, particularly in our old, walls-and-woodwork-as-hard-as-cement house, with those crappy screws —

Gotta Stay on Top of My Life, Gotta Stay on Top of My Life - image 73525-photo2b4_8 on

That’s our most recent DIY fix-up. I had found some inexpensive blinds at Lowe’s to help with our privacy issues in our front room/sun room. They’re not perfect, but since this isn’t our forever home and they’re going to stay with the house, it’s all good. I much prefer darker bamboo blinds, for the record. 😉

Gotta Stay on Top of My Life, Gotta Stay on Top of My Life - image 5b9e6-photo2b2_9 on

This is what we were dealing with. The sheers are window-length (vs. floor-length) and came with the house. A previous owner splattered a tiny bit of paint on them, but I just haven’t had it in me to replace them. So, this has been our view:

  Gotta Stay on Top of My Life, Gotta Stay on Top of My Life - image e92b2-photo2b1_9 on
 I’ve grown to dislike the metal white curtain rods like these. So, I also grabbed four oil-rubbed bronze (almost black) curtain rods to switch the sheers onto. That said, this whole project (which should’ve taken 2 hours, tops) took half a day…plus.
Gotta Stay on Top of My Life, Gotta Stay on Top of My Life - image d713f-photo2b3_9 on

First things first. Take down these annoying things. (And, yes. This is currently our cat room. When we stage it one day, the cat pans will hit the basement and kitty towers will say buy-bye. Until then, we are slaves to our cats.
Gotta Stay on Top of My Life, Gotta Stay on Top of My Life - image d079a-photo2b5_6 on

Thanks, hon. Oh, and I have a spot I just patched near the roofline that needs painting. Just waiting for one of those afternoon energy surges to hit to get those small but annoying projects done. 😉

Gotta Stay on Top of My Life, Gotta Stay on Top of My Life - image a3887-photo2b1_10 on

While we were at it, we took out any and all extemporaneous hardware — some from the 80s, some from the 40s, and these…original brass screws. God knows what these blocks of wood were actually for.

Next up, measuring, marking, drilling, screwing in brackets, and hanging the blinds. I hemmed and hawed over whether to get white or this tone (again, a deeper I would’ve liked more) and I’m still iffy on these. Eh, they’ll do.

Gotta Stay on Top of My Life, Gotta Stay on Top of My Life - image 3b962-photo2b2_10 on

Gotta Stay on Top of My Life, Gotta Stay on Top of My Life - image 18e74-photo2b5_7 on

Gotta Stay on Top of My Life, Gotta Stay on Top of My Life - image 9f20e-photo2b1_8 on

Gotta Stay on Top of My Life, Gotta Stay on Top of My Life - image dc82c-photo2b2_8 on

We have two double-width windows on each end of the room, and three windows in the middle (long) wall. So, no matter what, I couldn’t get the correct size (even putting two together wouldn’t work). But, since I knew we’d have the curtains up over the blinds, it didn’t matter! Whew.
Gotta Stay on Top of My Life, Gotta Stay on Top of My Life - image bfe8e-photo2b3_8 on https://megactsout.comGotta Stay on Top of My Life, Gotta Stay on Top of My Life - image 0ad4c-photo2b4_6 on
Gotta Stay on Top of My Life, Gotta Stay on Top of My Life - image 99efd-photo2b5_5 on
The other thing that actually worked out well (aside from broken drill bits and a handful of other headaches) was that I was able to use two curtain rods to create one full-width one for the large window. I just used the smaller “insert” one, took off the finial on the end, and inserted it into a second rod. Plus, we got an extra rod out of the deal, so that made my day.

This story told, we still keep at it. While I thought the whole thing was frustrating and upsetting both of us by the end of the process, Dave ended up glowing over how “well” it went, and how he really enjoys fixing up the house together. So, maybe he won’t roll his eyes the next time I discover a project I want to try… 

One-Ingredient Bathtub Fix

For as long as I can remember, I couldn’t find a product to clean all the years of built-up grime from our tub. I scrubbed as much as I could, so I resigned myself to pretend that it was clean enough for us. Y’know. The surface grime was “clean” so the guilt wouldn’t overtake me when I threw my 2-year-old in. *gulp* Seeing that written, I feel guiltier and guiltier about that.

Well, since my plumber-extraordinaire stepfather’s coming up with ways for us to deal with the horrible bathtub walls, I figured I should make another attempt at scrubbing it. He had suggested a highly toxic solution we’ve all heard of and a razor blade. Seriously. I’m nothing if not lazy, so I wanted to try something else first.

And it totally worked!

Gotta Stay on Top of My Life, Gotta Stay on Top of My Life - image ff245-tub on

Yup, that’s all it took. After wetting the tub, I dumped in the baking soda. (Note that mine’s a generic brand. Use the cheapest you can find.) Be sure you toss it everywhere — sides, especially. You don’t need a HUGE amount, but be sure it’s thick, especially where any grime is particularly caked.

Allow it to sit. Since I was busy chasing a little one around, I let it sit for about 1-2 hours, but less may work, too.

Then, I got a green scrubby (technical term — you know the kind, not TOO rough, but enough friction to work) wet and added a little more water as I scrubbed. Most of it got loosened on its own, but the rough spots needed some good scrubbing. This took about 15 minutes, tops, for a HORRIBLE tub. Sorry I didn’t have a “before”, but I guarantee it’s as clean as it could possibly be. LIKE NEW.

I was worried I’d have to break out the white vinegar, too, but it wasn’t necessary. If you find that you’ve scrubbed (or don’t feel like scrubbing THAT much), do a wipe-down and rinse again, and throw some more on for another hour or so.

Just know that if you leave it too long, it’ll cake on and might be tough to scrape off. All you need is a little water to loosen up the situation and scrub your cares away.

And, now it’s time for the hubs and my stepdad to attack the walls. 😉 I have a feeling I had an easier job.

Do you have any cleaning projects that you’ve been putting off *gulp* years to finally tackle? I can’t be the only one…can I?

Currently – August 15th

Dudes. August is halfway over. Practically. I suck at math. And I make completely blatant observations. Hi, my name is Megan, and I’m awkward.

Oh, and I’m working on a bit of a makeover for this here blog, but am having some layout issues. So, all ya get is the new header. Enjoy the cleanliness while it lasts!

That’s enough of an intro, right? Here’s what’s “currently” going on ’round here…

Gotta Stay on Top of My Life, Gotta Stay on Top of My Life - image 41827-currentlyaug15 on

I’m currently searching for rugs. Well. I shouldn’t say “currently” because I’m always searching for rugs. We have area-ish rugs in our sunroom (with boring, thin stripes; too traditional), living room (there’s also a carpet, but I need to ground our seating area…with a rug that’s only slightly darker than the carpet…der?), and dining room (three words: squares, multicolor, scrolls). The rugs in those areas ain’t cuttin’ it anymore, so I’ve scoured Overstock, West Elm,, and about a dozen others regularly to see if I can find a deal. Unfortunately, even the deals are a tad rich for my blood. Plus, when I find something I *think* might work, I question it. I’m just a questioner when I’m spending a couple hundred (each?!) smackers. I drool at Target this time of year, thanks to back-to-school college kid rugs.

On non-sticky and non-comfy/ugly clothes days, I’ve been wearing the crap out of a silky blouse I scored at TJ Maxx recently. I’m not usually a Maxxanista outside of their home goods goodies, mostly because their stuff is super trendy (read: only a model can wear it without looking super awkward…and we all know I’m pretty awkward on my own) or downright ugly. I also always feel like, while perusing their racks, I’m searching the clearance racks at Kohl’s (ya never know what you’re gonna get), where I always leave disappointed. This one, however, has some small navy-and-coral (reddish coral?) prints and is flowy enough to make me feel hip but covered up. And it’s weird because I’m not a “blouse” person. At. All. But, it’s my new fave and has made me think about a few other pieces I should try. Isn’t it awesome when ONE PIECE can inspire you for the rest of your wardrobe? Worth the price…which I forget.

Needing me some full-on motivation. It hasn’t gotten any better since last week. Almost every day has been usurped by some thing or another, so my days of “he’s napping, go paint/dust/pick up/go through something” have halted. I’m to the point where I know I should just finish ONE more project before I head back to school and I’ll be happy. Now, which project will that be…?

{I could totally use two for this one, but I’m gonna get creative here. Watch me!}

Despite a really kind offer from loved ones for their house and a deep desire to do so, we’ve decided to put off any moving plans to the spring. Again, we hope to keep working on our beloved-but-small house while keeping our eyes on the market in areas we hope to move. The two reasons we have to move: Our neck of the woods is getting a tad scarier and just isn’t an area we hope to raise kiddos (not so bad that we can’t wait a little, honestly) and since we do hope to have more kids, it’s just too small (it’s shy of 1,000 sq. ft….plus 3 cats…carry the one…yeah, it’s cozy). The two main reasons to wait: Some big ticket bills will be paid off come spring, so our finances will leave us feeling a lot more comfortable to make some changes, and waiting also means that we’ll be able to look more for the wishlist items we hope to have in our “want to own it a long, long time” house. 

I won’t say that I’ve been eating crap recently, but my husband and son are eating tons better than I am. Our dinners are usually the same thing, but I tend to incorporate more veggies and fruit into their lunches and snacks (and sometimes breakfasts) than I do my own. I just don’t pay any attention to mine. I’ve been carb-based for awhile and I’m concerned it’s starting to show a bit around my mid-section. Squishy. So, I’ll be on the search for a lazy person’s workout routine to get my arse moving (see? Moving?) and try to make a few food changes to see what I can do. Needless to say, we haven’t been as active as we all should be for an adorable, young, spry family. *ahem* She says while eying the innumerable gray hairs springing forth from her noggin.

I’m taking part in the Currently linky party, graciously put on by Ot & Et and Harvesting Kale. Gotta love a party you don’t have to brush your teeth or brush your hair to attend!

The Old Art Switcheroo

Last you saw our bathroom, it was darn near finished except for the tub surround. Needless to say, that’s still not done. The shared roofline angle poses an extreme challenge, so I’m calling the room finished — with that very large asterisk.

But, something else has been nagging at me every time I’ve entered the room. It’s the first thing we see, and I made it myself. You’d think I’d like the thing, but nope.

Gotta Stay on Top of My Life, Gotta Stay on Top of My Life - image 44901-photo4 on
Gotta Stay on Top of My Life, Gotta Stay on Top of My Life - image 7c812-photo2_1 on

Vertical. Horizontal. All bad.

I blame my beloved shower curtain. It’s damn near impossible to match.

Gotta Stay on Top of My Life, Gotta Stay on Top of My Life - image be8e2-photo3 on

Gotta Stay on Top of My Life, Gotta Stay on Top of My Life - image 88e1e-photo3_1 on
I added some deeper orange awhile back to try to get the art to work, but, try as it might, the little painting that could…couldn’t.

It’s been a year since I created this little beauty, so it’s been staring at us taunting us for awhile. I’ve been hunting for ideas for just as long. Vintage botanical print? Framed scrapbook paper? Cheeky phrase or graphic? Buy, print, or DIY? 

I searched online for every variation of my ideas. Nothing worked.

Then, while Dave was sitting in the car with a napping Hadley and I was in Target running an errand in the frame section, I found myself perusing the wall art. Most of the time, regardless of the store, I run into art that doesn’t suit our taste for one reason or another, but I tend to look, anyway.

On this particular day, I looked quickly, assuming there’d be nothing. Then I saw these two, and skeptically sent a picture to Dave to see which he liked.

Gotta Stay on Top of My Life, Gotta Stay on Top of My Life - image 2349d-photo1_1 on

Initially, I liked the one on the left, but in person it’s a bit busy. I wasn’t sold yet, but the more I described them, the more I liked the juxtaposition of the large graphic cochlear shell against the faded map and linen lining on the right. Plus, the teal blue looked like it just *might* coordinate, if not match, the curtain.

Gotta Stay on Top of My Life, Gotta Stay on Top of My Life - image 5362f-photo5 on

Gotta Stay on Top of My Life, Gotta Stay on Top of My Life - image 2b859-photo2 on
I think it does. It’s the same tone family as the lighter blues and even plays well with the cornflower blue (looks navy, but it’s not). It all goes to show you that you needn’t have a matchy-matchy room to have a nicely put together one. And, sometimes you can’t tell until you bring a piece (some art or an accent pillow or new sheets or anything) into the space whether it’ll work.

About $15 later, it was more than I wanted to spend, but still not much even in DIY standards. Plus, I don’t want to pull my hair out anymore when I walk into the bathroom…which helps.

Now, if only I could get some guidance on my tub’s wall surround (it’s getting worse; someone did something wrong way back when). Otherwise, I’m calling the bathroom D-O-N-E! I’ll share a final reveal soon.

Currently – August 1st

It’s weird. In a way, I’m like, “Dude. How is it already August 1st?!” In another way, I’m like, “Okay, that sounds about right. The summer isn’t going THAT quickly.” Either way, it’s disappointing, but I’ve enjoyed being lucky enough to be home with the munchkin everyday. Plus, every year seems to go faster, for better or for worse, so I know summer will be upon us before we know it, and there’s a buttload of fun to be had in the meantime.

Here’s this week’s currently…I’m goin’ vertical this week. 😉

Gotta Stay on Top of My Life, Gotta Stay on Top of My Life - image 211ab-currentlyaugust1 on
I’m seriously needing to stick my feet in some sand and warm lapping water sooner rather than later this summer. I’m hoping to possibly take the monkey to a lake some place locally to get the job done. Just once a year, that’s all I need.    

This mama’s been listening to her inner self and working on finding some balance. This is ongoing, but finding rewarding external and internal rewards for a job well done or achieving a goal here and there helps.

 She’s also been trying to rack her brain (since when did this blog turn third person?) to remember all the child rearing advice she’s ever heard to deal with “not listening,” “screeching and crying the instant he hears no,” and “asserting his choices which are against parents’ orders.” Not the “he’ll grow out of it” or the “just wait until three…” or the “that’s nothing; my son did such-and-such” advice. The real advice that gives you something — anything — to try. Internal giggling to relax myself and gain perspective doesn’t seem to cut it anymore; I detest this sort of thing. The fact that it isn’t a constant and he still shows huge signs of the sweet, joyous boy I know does help.

I’ve been learning about some updates and new ways to use the SmartBoard in my lessons this year. Professional development, peeps. Good times. Daniel Tiger’s been teaching me a lot this summer, too. And Wild Kratts, Hadman’s new favorite. Of course — animals.

I’m not jumping back into school mode quite yet. After receiving our assignments in the mail, I find myself already dreading and detesting some changes that weren’t made. Instead of letting it all thrust anxiety into my chest, I’m holding on to summer a bit longer. Enjoying the luxury of my little man and my at-ease mind.

We haven’t had a lot of building going on lately; mostly fixing, sprucing, painting, patching, scrubbing, wiping, sanding, rolling, etc. Yep, still working on the house as long as the weather cooperates. We want to be ready to put ours on the market when the right one comes along; way better to do it now than try to run around and get it done during the school year. Besides, we all know I won’t have EVERYTHING done and will have to scramble a bit, but I know I’ll appreciate the stuff I’m doing now later.  

So, that’s it this week! What’s currently going on in your neck of the woods? Listening to anything cool? Learning something new? Jumping into anything not-too-gross? Do tell!

Late to the party, but linking to Harvesting Kale and Ot & Et‘s linky shindig. Thanks, ladies!

Mama Must-Haves

Today’s post contains affiliate links. They won’t make your computer explode or steal your identity…I hope.

So many friends and acquaintances on Facebook (and, y’know, in the real world) are having babies left and right. We’re in talks ourselves, but are still putting off a second bambino for the time being. We’re also pretty private about things; that “don’t tell anyone until the second trimester” thing is law for us, outside of one or two close family members or a BFF.

All these gorgeous shots of tiny shut-eyed beauties got me thinking about Hadman and what it was like to bring him home those 2+ years ago. Oh, how terrified and unprepared we felt. I’m tons more laid-back now, and Dave’s improved immensely. We’re kinda rocking it, parentally. Most of the time. 

Whenever we choose to have another (if we should be so lucky, knocking on lots of wood), I’m excited to try some things that, for one reason or another, didn’t work out with our first little guy. I’ll admit that, while I “tried” cloth diapering, I didn’t succeed — okay, I failed at it. So, that. There’s that.

Also, with how humongous our monkey was, babywearing didn’t really work out, either. It is what it is, but I hope to try it in the future. Maybe a future babe will enjoy it (and it’ll probably make life a bit easier with a bigger brother running around).

But enough of the stuff that didn’t work for us. Here are some of the stuff that I wouldn’t live without that worked out awesomely for us…

Gotta Stay on Top of My Life, Gotta Stay on Top of My Life - image 9d006-mamaaffiliate on

#1 – It took awhile to decide on a pump to use at school everyday, so I took a risk purchasing this Medela In Style Advanced Breast Pump. Turns out, it wasn’t such a risk, after all! This thing is a work horse. It comes with everything you need (you’ll need to replenish your storage bags, but that’s pretty much it). Once you get the hang of, y’know, feeling like you’re being milked in a small space at work, it feels like routine — thanks to this machine. Considering how nerve-wracking the whole concept of pumping can be, having a pump you can trust with such a delicate process is golden.   

#2 – I know, I know. You’re thinking, “isn’t this supposed to be essentials for parenting a baby?” Yup. We read to Hadley from week one, and it’s pretty much his favorite thing to do today. And he’s two. This was our first Mo Willems book, and we’ve been addicted ever since. Have you met Elephant and Piggie? If not, you totally should. They’re the gateway drug to Pigeon. I also foresee some Knufflebunny in our future.

#3 – This Fisher-Price Space Saver High Chair (in a neutral color; ours is tan with polka dots) is probably the baby product with the most longevity. We used it from about 5-6 months until the present, and I foresee using it for awhile still. As the name implies, it saves the space of a regular high chair by utilizing a regular old dining chair as its base. When the time comes, this thing will store awesomely, too. I just can’t say enough good about it. Seriously.

#4 – Dave insisted that I include Sophie, and I can’t blame him too much. She’s a classic, she’s adorable, and Hadman lovingly chomped on her for quite awhile. Plus, giraffes turned out to be his spirit animal during his first year, so it was a perfect match. Don’t mind the price tag on this one; she’s worth it.

#5 – Glass bottles?! Are you insane?? Yes, but that’s beside the point. These classic Evenflo glass bottles worked wonderfully and put my super-obsessed mama mind to rest about BPA and all those other nasties, especially when warming. We also used the smaller 4 ounce size, especially when he was holding his own bottles. Side note: When the kiddos get bigger and you’re heading to a place that you know will have a tile floor, just keep an extra eye on the bottles. Made that mistake once; will never make it again.

#6 – If you’re a new mama and you’re having a hard time getting your little one to sleep at night, all I can say is — SWADDLE, SWADDLE, SWADDLE! Then swaddle some more. These organic muslin blankies are what I prefer thanks to their breathability (especially when your newborn is a summer baby) and flexibility, which allows just the right amount of movement and comfortable snuggliness. Seriously, it sounds crazy, but these were a lifesaver. Probably the only reason we got ANY sleep.

#7 – The sooner you get a potty chair, the better. Santa brought this Bjorn Baby potty, which has since lived in the kitchen (under the above Space Saver chair, actually) and is utilized daily. He’s not fully trained yet, but the fact that he’s shown an interest since about 18 months is incredible. Thank you, Santa! He also knows that it’s HIS special potty, so that’s pretty great, too. Quick tip: Get a cheap little plastic bin and leave a handful of board books, along with dipes and wipes, next to your main potty. You’ll get sick of the books (seriously, we could recite our four books from memory), but it’ll make potty time way easier and fun for everyone.

#8 – We got a few bottles of Baby Bee shampoo-and-body-wash for our shower, and I’m so glad we did. I don’t think I’ve had to buy a bottle yet! I just keep refilling my small one from the huge bulk-sized one. This is Hadman’s main soap (he’s also used one I had to review, which was fine), and I prefer it because a) it works, b) it’s natural, c) it smells AWESOME (he doesn’t smell like a little hippie baby; he smells just like a BABY…you know the smell…the one you want to bottle and never let go), and d) it makes for a super fun bubble bath. I’ve even been known to use it as shampoo when I’m low from time to time. #noshame #notsorry

What were some of your essentials? Do you agree/disagree with any of my suggestions?

Oh, and feel free to check out the rest of my baby list items (I’m still adding) if you need a few more suggestions. Hint: Cheapest organic crib mattress EVER. Just sayin’. 

Why Would I Want One of Those?

Our house is a step back in time. Our TV is an Admiral. (Dave’s from a long time ago.) No flat-screen. Just a big black box. We keep it prominently displayed just in case someone considers casing the joint. (And when it goes, we have a second just-as-outdated TV waiting in the wings.)

We have a record player (that also plays cassette tapes – I only have one anymore – and radio) in our sun room.

And, in an unfun take on the ever-popular, ever-ruined (in the library world, at least) “Where’s Waldo” books, just try and see what’s missing from our kitchen. Aside from general housewifey cleanliness.

Gotta Stay on Top of My Life, Gotta Stay on Top of My Life - image 95769-kitchenwtext on

Yup, no dishwasher.

There are a couple of reasons that we never took that plate plunge.

First, there’s no realistic space for the thing without making the place look seriously effed up. The base cabinet would look all funky near the sink, and there really isn’t the space for it there, anyway. Our kitchen’s a pretty good size (there’s a wall of cabinetry behind where I took the picture and tons of space for a small table/stools and cat food – priorities, people – on the right), but it was built in 1920, so there’s really no non-awkward place for one.

Oh, and for the record, I’m not sure if it’s the more efficient way to wash or not. I should probably search for some ways TO make it more efficient, but the comparisons seem minimal (and, in all honesty, I’m tons faster than Dave at it, so I think it’s a tad more efficient the faster you are; play “beat the water”, it’s fun. *shakes head* It isn’t.). Still, I’ll continue the search. In case you’re wondering, here are a few interesting articles: Treehugger (love them), NPR (love them, too) and GizMag (who?).

Anyhoo, the other big reason is that we really don’t care. We’ve been offered the gift of a dishwasher several times, but we always quickly agree that it wouldn’t be necessary. We really don’t mind washing dishes by hand. And, regardless of what it may sound like, we tend not to have a full sink of dishes always waiting to be washed. (Sometimes a couple of random mugs or a plate and a knife or fork from breakfast. Maybe.)

I know. Crazy, right?

I guess that, since we’ve lived here, we’ve really gotten used to this method. Our apartments didn’t have dishwashers, but we both grew up with them (and I’m assuming Dave didn’t do a lot of kitchen cleaning as a teenager…just a guess; I, however, have done an @$$ ton of it since early childhood), so we know the pros to those magical mystery machines. Really, yes, they’re great. We get it. We do.
But, a dishwasher’s not a necessity. Plus, I’ve come to enjoy dish washing.

Okay, wait. The wording’s wrong there. I’ve come to enjoy not mind dish washing. Using a brush (we used to have one for just the baby’s stuff plus a bottle brush to keep it all “less contaminated” and started using the old baby brush on our stuff…now that he’s allowed to eat dirt and other things I can’t fathom, we’re using the same one), it’s fast and easy, and seeing an empty sink and full dish rack is completely fulfilling.

It also gets me off my @$$. It’s easy to fall into the “sit and stare at the TV” mode after eating, especially a bigger meal like dinner. But, knowing that there’s a pile of dishes waiting in the sink makes me completely unable to relax. No way. So, after the dishes are done, sometimes I ride off the rush of having accomplished at least one tiny bit of housework for the day, using the adrenaline to get something else done…or patting myself on the back and feeling that I’ve deserved some TV/blogging/’s-uncomfortable time.

And what’s better than that? Even when we move one day and, say, the joint doesn’t have a dishwasher…I doubt we’ll jump on the bandwagon.

What about you guys? Who’s a hand washer? Who swears by their dishwasher? Who just makes their kids do it like my mom? I can’t blame her, really. Her parents got an automatic dishwasher after she graduated and got married (which happened practically at the same time), so I think she realized what her value was to the family. 😉

Come to think of it…wait a minute.

Hmm. Hmph.    

Lemony Goodness

Apparently lemons are my thing lately. I’m hoping to make a lemon cake for Hadman’s birthday this weekend. But today’s not about recipes. It’s about essential oils.

I’ve had my starter kit for a couple of weeks now, and I’m discovering the awesomeness of each kind s-l-o-w-l-y. As a problem strikes, I turn to Google to see which oil will help me out. It’s been fun to learn about these all in a hands-on way. And it’s kinda funny to see how excited, amazed and clueless Dave is about these little viles of magic. I’ll never forget the first time he set eyes on them and said, “Aww! I’m so sorry they’re so small. Is there a bigger size to buy?” Sure, 15 mL is a small container, but for the most part you’re only using a few drops to maybe 10-20 in one use. So, they actually last quite well.

So, while I’ve been using lavender on my pillow (Dave says it’s the best sleep ever), an “arthritis” blend for my achy knees (I’m not old, really), tea tree on my feet when I feel like I’m coming down with a summer cold, and peppermint to chase away an upset stomach, I thought I’d share my current FAVORITE use for essential oils. By far the best.

See, while I’m not a laundry hater, and I stay on top of it pretty well, I have a tendency to get that smell goin’ on with it. You know the one. The I-forgot-the-load-and-left-it-in-too-long-on-a-humid-day musty smell that, if you wear the clothes, follows you all day.

I’m the queen of that smell, it seems. Am I the only one?

Well, the only EO that I’ve decided to relocate out of the handy carrying case is the lemon — next to the washer. It’s going to stay there until it’s empty…then I’m getting more to repeat the process!

Gotta Stay on Top of My Life, Gotta Stay on Top of My Life - image 17da7-lemoneographic on

There are two ways that I use the stuff. I’ve come to add it automatically (10 drops, give or take, depending on the size of the load) to the washing detergent before dumping it into the washing machine. If I don’t get to the clean-but-wet load in a day or so, I haven’t noticed that musty smell AT ALL.

Then, if the load has been in the dryer and is displaying any not-nice smell, I put about 10 drops on a washcloth (it can stain, so make sure it’s an old cloth or one you’re okay with staining; this hasn’t happened for me, but you never know), toss it in, and run it until everything’s dry (or run it for awhile to “fluff” the load). If it doesn’t take it away completely, repeat the process. It shouldn’t take more than two “fluffs” to rid the clothes of the smell.

The reason that the lemon EO is so ideal for laundry use is its disinfectant qualities. (It can also be used in other cleaning applications, too.) See? The stuff ain’t just for aromatherapy! I’ve found a couple of links (like this one – alternative to disinfectant hand gel?! – and this one) that give you far more information than I currently can on other incredible uses for this lemony goodness.

Does anyone have an EO uses that they can’t live without to share? I’d love to pick your brain!

By the way, I’m not a seller of any essential oils, so these opinions are just to help out anyone interested in the benefits of EOs, no strings attached. 🙂     

How Does Your Garden Grow? Part Deux

French makes me feel fancy. “Deux.” Mrs. Turner would be proud.

{She might be a tad less proud that I giggle incessantly when I hear the word. Hee hee. Sounds like doo. I am the perfect person to have a boy, I tell ya.}

Now that I’m freshly showered, in comfy clothes, listening to a sleeping baby on the monitor, and half-watching (I’m the champion at half-watching stuff) the Canadian station (cooking shows with adorable accents, yay!), I’m ready to tell of the harrowing tale of my foundation planting today.

Okay, not harrowing tale. Annoying yet rewarding experience tale? Yeah, that. That’ll work.

So, after Hadman’s breakfast and SECOND poopy potty break of the morning (love that he’s using it, but when you’re on a time crunch, oye!), we shuffled to the car and zoomed off to Lowe’s. I commandeered our buddy’s favorite shopping distraction these days, the “car cart”, found the topsoil, and stocked up. For this space, I needed 10 bags. Not sure why that’s relevant, but just thought I’d say. Oh, and they cost $2.10 each (usually they’re on sale, but I’m the idiot that waited ’til the freaking week of July 4th to do get my flowery goodness on), so it came in at under $25.

After filling the back of our SUV with the stuff, we perused the aisles again. They weren’t lacking stuff, but I didn’t see anything I liked. Plus, my mom mentioned that one of the local joints the town over might have some stuff still, and that they often have sales. Whomever said mom was always right…well, they were right.

At the local joint, I utilized the stroller. This kid can’t really be allowed to walk ‘cuz he doesn’t listen to “no” or “stop” properly yet. Maybe 10-20% of the time, and it’s not worth playing those odds on a very busy street. He had fun shouting out the colors he saw in the flowers. After awhile, I had decided on two 6-packs of red impatiens for $3.09 each, and four “4-for-$10” perennials — three mountain gold alyssums and one lamb’s ear plant (so soft!!!). Speaking of soft, Mom’s going to be dropping off a family favorite, silver mound artemisia, for me to plant, too, so I may have to shift these guys around, but I THINK I have a spot for it.

So, when we got home with the goods, I turned my attention to the monkey. That’s my strategy: chunk the day into manageable pieces and analyze what can be done in what time. It’s how I roll, and it usually works. Usually.

Lunch. Yet another potty break. Down for nap. Minimal fussing. I slap on my sunblock and sneakers, grab my gardening stuff, start to grab weeds and…downpour. Damn it.

Gotta Stay on Top of My Life, Gotta Stay on Top of My Life - image d7167-photo1_3 on

I came inside and grumbled online until, luckily, it subsided. While it was super drippy (as in, dripping on my head and back) and super messy, the weeding was done pretty quickly.

Gotta Stay on Top of My Life, Gotta Stay on Top of My Life - image 60df9-weedy on

I piled the bags of dirt near the spots I needed them (easier than one big pile). Then, I actually placed them where the dirt was needed when I cut so that a) I didn’t have any unnecessary messes and b) it was less of a lug to spread the dirt. A bit of a workout, but altogether silly easy.

Then, I broke up and evened out the dirt. I planned out where the flowers would go, and, of course…the rain started again. This time, it was more of a drizzle at first, so I just smiled, laughed, and kept going until everything was in the dirt. No way I was going to give up another naptime just to dig some holes, rough up the roots, and plant. No frickin’ way!

So…picture me…running to put stuff in the garage (scaring some outside kittens while I was at it, oops!)…snapping a few fast “after” shots (while getting a couple of “looks” from people driving by, of course)…and rushing inside to get a quick shower before Hadman woke up.

I felt like I achieved a huge feat just getting the outside of the house semi-presentable. 🙂 Now I won’t have that embarrassed feeling every time we come or go. Sure, I despise the hosta that has taken over, but I’m workin’ with it.

Gotta Stay on Top of My Life, Gotta Stay on Top of My Life - image 525f7-flowers on

Oh, and I meant to snap a picture of our netting on the veggie garden, but. Y’know. Rain. I’ll try to grab one next I think of it!

Do you have a spot around your foundation to plant? Do you have hedges or plants or flowers (or a combo)? How do YOU deal with this fun-yet-awkward spot? Or do you have a different spot that proves challenging to plant at your place? I’d love to hear!

And HAPPY INDEPENDENCE DAY!!! Hope you have a great time, however you’re spending it! Dave’s got the day off so we’ll have some family time, and you know I’ll be watching “Yankee Doodle Dandy” at some point. (And it’ll probably make me start a “John Adams” marathon soon, too.) 😉 Enjoy!