11/11/2017

the baby always gets nothing for Christmas

Right? Isn't it how it always goes? I make a list of 9 million gifts/Christmas expenses in our Christmas budget, and the baby always gets the short end of the peppermint stick.


Poor buddy.

Estella NYC sent us this adorable organic cotton Taxi bodysuit (maybe I should have saved it to have something to put in his stocking, heh) and the rest of their items make me think Steve should get his own portion of the budget.

Because, hello, avocado rattle.


In other news, my 5-year-old boy wants a vacuum for Christmas (insert mom emoji heart eyes), while my 7-year-old boy would like nothing more than carte blanche access to every Star Wars and Transformers film/TV series/cartoon ever created.

Spoiler alert: it's going to be a great Christmas for one little dude, and possibly disappointing for the other.

In other frugal news, I'm hunting down everything from Rescue Bots to roller skates and kids rain boots on Amazon Warehouse Deals. This week I scored a Melissa and Doug Water Wow pad for less than $4, and I just grabbed new shelves, a towel hook rack and light fixture for Gussie's room through the Warehouse Deals. For those looking for bargains, it's a goldmine.


Aforementioned size 13 rain boots, procured through Amazon Warehouse Deals and promptly confiscated by the child who never receives gifts. Can't blame him.

Estella NYC is offering Domestic Apologist readers 15% off your order with code Domestic15.

If you end up getting the avocado rattle for your kid, don't tell Steve. I can't let him find out other babies get new stuff.

11/07/2017

interview: ditch the perfection and boil the pasta already

I get to add a new title to my dusty ol' resume: momager.


Has everyone heard that term before? Just not me? I love it. My good friend John is the broadcast operations director at Mater Dei Radio in the Pacific Northwest. For whatever reason, he's decided to keep bringing this momager on the air to talk about the finer arts of, errr, how to make a salad for dinner, and the joys of grocery shopping ALONE. 


Oh, the deep, deep joys.

We also discuss how aiming for perfection in motherhood and household management--and how toxic it is. 

Many thanks to Mater Dei Radio. The full morning podcast (which I listen to even when I'm, ahem, not on the program, because it's terrific) is available HERE and my little interview with John is HERE

10/26/2017

7qt / saving money on house stuff at walmart vs. target

Hello oh thrifty ones!

I've realized something about being a Walmart shopper vs. being a Target shopper. I'm already not a Target fan due to their pick-your-favorite-gender bathroom policy from last year (which, by the way, was a financial disaster for them), but even if that issue could be set aside, I find Target to be a budget buster for me.

It's too easy to spend money in Target. From the one dollar (which now can be $3, I guess?) bins to the clearance women's clothes, then stationery, and of course throw pillows, and hey look the RUGS ARE ON SALE!

Total: $131, and I walked in there with a list that said:
- lunch meat
- kid toothbrush
- foil

So is it sad to say that at least partially, I'm a Walmart shopper because I buy less there? It's a less aesthetically-appealing store? But therein lies the answer: It's a less appealing STORE. As brick-and-mortars go, their inventory doesn't hold a candle to Target's in-stock homewares. But their website? Gold. And, hence, this series of posts, which highlights things I've discovered through their website and app. And ad least for me, when I'm able to peruse items online, I'm less likely to do impulse buys--and much more likely to add it my cart, then click "save for later," and think about it for days, or weeks, or until it fits in my monthly budget.

WHEW! Here's the stuff happily languishing in my cart:

1 / Modern Farmhouse Storage Cabinet, Rustic Gray Finish
This one's been on my radar for ages. Better Homes and Gardens could easily change names to Faux Fixer Upper. Love the sliding barn door and slots for four baskets. $219 isn't bad for a piece this big and cute. Someone please tell me it comes with that pair of hipster mustard yellow rain boots.

2 / Distressed Ogee Area Runner
I keep vacillating on whether or not to put matching runners on either side of our bed in the master bedroom. But if I did, these would be the winners--22x60" for $16.50.

3 / Indigo Border Medallion Rug
Remember my undying love to my jute rug? The love is still there, but the thrill is gone. I'm itching to put something soft under Stevie's little crawling knees. Largest size it comes in is 5x7 for $68. Very World-Market-ish.

4 / Set of 4 Rustic Frames, 11x14 matted to 8x10
Thinking these would look miiiighty nice and matchy matchy to that farmhouse storage cabinet up above. Four big frames for $25.

5 / Carter's 2-piece cotton pajama set


I keep meaning to just buy these already for Gus. $6.97!

6 / Pioneer Woman Ticking Stripe Comforter


It had me at the words: "100% cotton" and "reverse is floral print." #hearteyes

7/ Pioneer Woman throw pillows
One of each, please. Except that cat one. But definitely the cow.

That's it for my cart! Linking up with Kelly for 7 quick takes.

10/25/2017

what happens when no one hears "no"


Poor Steve with his plastic, rotating nemesis.

Sean and I are five weeks in with teaching Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University (FPU) class at our parish. Last night's lesson had to do with changing personal spending habits--also known as saying "no" to our impulses to buy things because we tell ourselves we "need" them.

I "need" a new van... but really I just want the car that vacuums up after my crumb monsters.  

I "need" another pair of jeans... but really I just want something dressier to wear on date nights. 

I "need" a new rug in the family room... but really I'm just tired of looking at the stains on the current rug.

We've all got to learn to tell ourselves "no." Delayed gratification is a pretty good marker of adulthood. But in this age of snowflakes and the constant urging to treat yo' self, even adults seem susceptible of throwing tantrums.   
  
People hate hearing "no." And so we have a country full of adults who have yes-ed themselves into hundred of thousands of dollars of debt. 

But it's more than just money matters, of course.

That family who insisted that their little girl get to wear a white tux to her first Holy Communion? They were told "no." They didn't like it.

I've had so many more examples lately--at home, at work, with kids. It's maddening. It's disheartening.

It's what happens in a culture when no one hears "no."

I've committed to doing a monthly budget with Sean, every single month, no exceptions. A budget doesn't mean a damn thing, though, if you don't stick to it. It doesn't work if you get to the end of the month, the clothing budget is at a scant $4, and I see a pair of clogs for $30--and buy them. That's not how it works.

It only works if I tell myself "no." It only works if I set that example for my kids. It only works if Sean and I both keep our promises to stay on track with money.

A wonderful couple in our class came to us and asked for help with their budget. They asked us if we put birthday presents for our kids in our budget. We said "yes, we do, but with how expensive parties can be and wish lists for new toys that stretch on forever, our kids hear 'no' a lot."

The couple looked at us.

"Really?" they said. "You tell your kids no about that kind of stuff?"

"Yeah," we said slowly.

Saying "no" to our wants, our perceived needs, our kids' wants, our tantrums, our kids' tantrums... it's not easy. It's not the norm.

But maybe it should be.

10/19/2017

how I failed at meal planning (and what finally made me start doing it)


I'm awful at meal planning.

Additionally, I hate being wrong.

So yeah, this is about how I both learned to do something I hate, and about how I was wrong for not doing it earlier.

FUN TIMES MARE.

I was a dyed-in-the-wool daily grocery store shopper. Back when I had just one babe to tote around in a ring sling, I professed a need, a very real requirement of sanity, in visiting the grocery store every day. I thought as a stay at home mom with days full of diapers and Dinosaur Train that I needed that daily trip to the store, if just to get me out of our apartment for an hour or less each day.

Add my second kid to the carload, and suddenly the trip to the grocery store becomes more than just mom's grand daily adventure--it became LUNCH for my toddler, who swung by the deli counter first for a free slice of cheese, then hit up the bakery after that to procure the token free cookie.

Add some free stickers from the charmed checkout clerks and bam. I've given my toddler an afternoon that rivals Sir Chuck E. Cheese.

Add a third baby to the mix and now I'm rolling three kids deep down the aisles with the double stroller and the preschooler walking alongside. People raise eyebrows at that. They also get out of the way, lest I run over their toes.

Then I added a fourth baby. The first week that school was out last summer and I had all four kids home all day, we went to Walmart.

When we got back to the car after shopping, I swore a parking lot oath to the children and told them to remember this day, remember it well, for they would never, NEVER AGAIN, see the inside of that store all together again, because MOMMY WAS NEVER NEVER NEVER repeating that experience. (I did repeat it. It was equally horrific.)


I came home full of wrath and fury, pounding out plans for meal planning, once-weekly trips to Costco (made on the weekend, just me, myself and childless cart) and meals based on "family-size" bags of assorted freeze-frozen proteins, 30-pack yogurts, 4-lb packages of meatballs and many, many prayers.

I failed. Never once even planned nor executed a meal based on that model.

I continued my haphazard, expensive, daily grocery store trips, continued to make dinner based on whatever I felt like making that day, and continued to bust our grocery budget.


Fast forward through the summer to August, when I started a part-time job at the boys' school.

I learned quickly that one cannot:
- care for a small army of small children
- be on-site at a job 3 days a week
-work from home an ungodly number of hours a week
AND
- even have time to step foot in a grocery store.

It just didn't work. Something had to give. I had to get over my aversion to planning out our family's meals, and had to commit to one weekend shopping trip.

I had to face what had stopped me from meal planning. At the root of it was this stupid, stupid belief: Once you commit to planning out dinners, days in advance for your family, you've got to be innovative! You've got to try new recipes! You've got to take direction! You've got to have discipline! You've got to have respect for your director!

Or so I convinced myself.

The truth? The truth is that a "meal plan" can mean "I plan to have frozen pizzas for dinner."

What the what.

I realized: What (or who) was stopping me from doing that? After all, I'm the mom, right? I get to plan this stuff, right?


I was basing my concept of meal planning on someone else's life--someone who needs 7 new meals every week, based on varying world cultures and taste sensations; someone who doesn't have 4 kids under age 8, is working part time, and whose husband travels roughly 50% of the month.

Friends. This has been a life-changer for me.

I've begun meal planning for REAL LIFE. And instead of beating myself up for meals that aren't instagram-worthy, I'm cheering that dinner gets done, the dinner didn't break the budget, and the dinner wasn't an emergency $45 trip to Red Robin at 6:30 pm.

Here's my list of stuff that makes meal planning a reality for me, not just a guilt trip:

- buy a box of mixed salad greens, a container of my favorite salad-topping cheese (I love bleu) AND a bag of over-priced salad toppings. I love anything with a dried cranberry and a candied nut in it. It runs me about $2.75 at Walmart. Could I get those things way cheaper in the bulk bins at Winco? Yes. But Winco is a lot further from my house and I'm already saving money as it is by making a reliable salad side dish stretch over 3-4 days.

- raw veggies as legit side dishes for the kids. My kids love "cold carrots" as they call them and detest them when hot/cooked. They also love cucumber. I used to think serving either of those for dinner didn't really "count" as a healthy side dish. HA. Now I've let it go and I whip one or the other out with nearly every dinner.

-  frozen meals: they're way cheaper than takeout/delivery. My favorite is this one. And yeah, I'm stocking tater tots, chicken nuggets and gluten-free meatballs every week, too.

-  "no-recipe" dinners. I've stopped holding myself to some golden standard in which dinner recipes for my family must contain 3 fresh herbs, a 1/2 cup of bone broth, a boneless rib roast, assorted root vegetables and some leftover red wine.

No. You know what makes a simple, healthy meal? Baked salmon, steamed broccoli and a box of risotto. I can make that in 20 minutes, with the crawling-but-not-walking baby attached to my leg, with minimal swearing.

 There's a whole list of these at Fun, Cheap or Free.

Leave your best meal planning tips for me in the comments! Please!!

7/26/2017

"mom, were you on the news?"

Why YES I WAS, KIDDO!


And by "the news," we mean anything playing from the speakers of our van that isn't Raffi.

God bless the hubby of a good friend of mine. He works for a Catholic radio affiliate, and for some strange reason, he got it in his head that I'd be a good candidate for an interview for NFP Awareness Week. (it might have something to do with having a van full of children, ahem.)

Really. God bless him. If he starts getting complaint calls about the crazy lady who compared being on the Pill to eating a Twinkie for dinner, I'm changing my name and leaving the country.

Due to my verbosity, the interview is playing in two parts, one today and one tomorrow (Thursday) on the Morning Drive program on Mater Dei Radio in Portland and surrounding areas.

Listen live here. Or find part one of the interview here.

And thank you John!!

5/26/2017

7 tips for post-partum thrift store success


Thrift stores: they're an assault on the senses.

The racks and racks and racks of clothes. The music playing overhead on damaged speakers. The Febreeze. Oh, the febreeze is thick as fog.

And the clientelle... it's a group you wouldn't find in a Nordstrom.

But then again, you wouldn't find me in a Nordstrom, either! Ok!

So. Why do I love thrift stores?

Because I got tired of finding myself 2 months post-partum in the summertime, and having no shorts that fit. I refused, REFUSED I TELL YOU, to put my maternity shorts back on, and yet my regular shorts were still a good 2-3 sizes away from fitting.

I got tired of being six months post-partum in the spring and having zero shirts or dresses that I could wear to mass and nurse in discretely. Cue my Sunday morning meltdown.

I got tired of being four months pregnant in the winter and having to dig out the maternity clothes, only to realize that last time I was pregnant, my first trimester was in July, not December, and I had exactly zero pants that fit.

Back in January when I wrote about my losing battle with minimalism, Sean and I added up how many sets of clothes I need to outfit myself in the various combinations of pregnancy/post-partum/nursing in  summer/winter.

It's a FULL 10 SETS OF CLOTHES.


Stevie's shocked, too.

I began thrifting as a budget-friendly answer to my ever-fluctuating body size and shape. I regularly hit up my favorite local thrift store about twice a month. Here are my tips to making that one, solitary, beautiful hour on Saturdays at naptime, out shopping alone, worth it:

1. Find cotton blouses. 

My wardrobe is full of 100% cotton button-downs because they are a workhorse of a shirt. They stand up to being washed weekly. They are universally flattering. If I hang them up while slightly damp instead of drying them all the way, they don't need to be ironed. And, most importantly, I feel great in them.

Gap and Land's End made great cotton button downs. I can usually find good Old Navy ones as well.

2. Skip the knits.

When I'm thrifting, I generally skip over shirts that are knit blends of rayon or polyester. Even if they're in great shape on the rack, they're still more prone to pill, wrinkle and fade as they're washed.


3. Shop for bottoms IN ANY SIZE. 

When I need jeans, black pants or khakis for mass, or skirts for every day wear, I flip through the racks in both my normal size, then also a size down, and a size up (or 2). Obviously the items in thrift stores come from a hundred different brands and manufactures, and so sizing is all over the place.

I'm nine months post-partum and my current rotation of bottoms (all thrifted, by the way) contains items in size 6, 8, 10, and 12! I don't let a number dictate whether I'll try on something. I get a victory in walking out of a thrift store with a pair of J. Crew chinos that make me feel confident. I could care less what size they are.

4. Shop for bottoms, actually, all the time. 

Jean and pants are a terrific aisle to start in for someone who hasn't done much thrifting before. My theory is that women discard their jeans and pants way before they're either out of style or worn out, either due to their size changing (*raises hand*) or making room for other items in their closet. Either way, the thrift ladies win. Thrift stores are chock full of barely-worn ladies' jeans and pants. Carpe denim.

5. Try it on--selectively.
Thrift store dressing rooms often leave something to be desired--namely, clean walls and fresh air. I try not to spend more time than absolutely necessary in them. Pants almost always need to be tried on, unfortunately, due to tip #3. But with shirts, if I've got a good feeling about a piece, I'll often bag it without trying it on. At about $3/shirt, I'll take the risk.

6. Save more money with extra discounts. 
I never seem to remember this but on Sundays at all (I think) Goodwill locations, one color tag is discounted to either $2 or $1. On any given day at my favorite thrift stores, tags of three different colors are either 25%, 50% or 75% off. Some thrift franchises even have points/reward programs.

When items are already so discounted, these extra discounts can make things amazingly cheap. For instance, I thrifted my entire Mother's Day outfit (cute navy blue wedge shoes included) for about $10. #notbad

7. Go alone. 

Some ladies are superhuman and are able to navigate thrift stores, dressing rooms and crowded aisles of used junk, all with CHILDREN IN TOW. I am not one of those women.

And with that, my bag of tricks is empty. If you're a fellow thrifter, I'd love to hear how you score the deals.

Linking up with the Kelly for quick takes!

5/22/2017

what NFP looks like, four babies deep

It's posts like this that make Sean nervous when I announce I'm blogging more frequently. : / Ha.

So eight years and four babies ago, he and I were here:


Then here:


Awww. Positively AWASH in blind naivete.

Next here:


Love the bump-as-toddler-seat. Another one here:


and then there was another one here:


and good grief now we are here:


Spots are still available in our workshop how to look THIS GOOD in family pictures. Call today.

I wish someone would have told me (and hey, maybe they did) that the woman in each of those pictures would feel dramatically different about NFP in every snapshot.

I've felt elated by being able to use NFP correctly and space out the births of my kids.

I've felt terrified at the idea that another baby was coming, sooner than I would have planned.

I've felt like a biological bad ass, knowing my cycles and correctly identifying both the conception date and due date of a kid.

I've felt like a unschooled idiot, unable to say whether I ovulated on day 14 or day 24. (Those fluctuating hormones when you're trying to wean.. man, they're nuts.)

I've felt deeply grateful for NFP, knowing my body is free from synthetic hormones and implants (yikes).

I've felt like shaking a tired fist at NFP for not being as simple as... as synthetic hormones or implants.

Now, I've resolved to make NFP charting not an afterthought, or something I try and remember to do if I have time. Now, it needs to be the priority. Writing about NFP resolutions is always tricky, though. Nothing gets you pregnant faster than saying "we're back on the charting wagon!" But since taking my fourth trip 'round the maternity ward last summer, I have substantial motivation to keep the womb room vacant for a while.

I'm tired. Sean's not feeling great. The kids, they all seem so little sometimes. Joe and Amby learned how to pour their own milk this year, so, yeah, that helps. But still. What's it like with four kids? You know the line.

I've learned (finally! slow! learner! alert!) that NFP can't be a passive feature of my marriage, if I want to delay having another cherub. NFP isn't a cute creed that we hold in unison with all the other NFP-using families out there, making us members of the larger-than-average-families club.

It's work. It is a daily, hourly commitment to observing fertility signs--and that was a doozy during Lent when I decided I'd take up drinking a gallon of water every day. #tmi

It's a struggle. It can be embarrassing, for all parties. It's a guarantee of awkward marital conversations. It's a guarantee you'll watch a lot of Netflix.

But. To me, NFP is synonymous with bodily honesty. To me, it's the total fulfillment of "allllllll of me loves alllllll of you." I cherish the simplicity it brings to our bedroom, to our marriage. You don't need much to practice NFP. I think that's worth a lot.

Using NFP right now to delay/avoid conceiving looks so dramatically different than it did for that girl in the white dress up there, kissing her groom, beginning her marriage. She had her paper chart all ready to go, with multicolored stickers to spare and a Creighton FertilityCare handbook at the ready.

She also had a flip phone and thought Facebook was stupid. Ha.

Fast forward to today, when my iphone buzzes at 10pm each night to remind me to chart. I use this simple app (which I absolutely love). I use these ovulation test strips after I think I've charted peak as a double check (you can buy them on Amazon for about $40/ 7 tests). We talk about how the cycle is looking. And then... the baby usually cries. Heh.

Eight years in and four babies later, and NFP and I are still getting to know each other. Here's to a long and happy relationship.

5/18/2017

7qt / what I'm loving at walmart vol. 2

Let's play another round of cheap yet moderately fashionable wardrobe add-ons!

1 / high neck swing tank


Nice modal fabric, a high neckline, a long-ish length AND A RUFFLE. Never have I clicked "add to cart" so fast and paid $7 so willingly. Date night. It's out of stock in everything but white right now, but I'd bet it gets restocked soon, based on how popular it was online.

2 / toddler girls knit dress


Gus has been living (and climbing, and digging in mud, scaling the wood pile, etc.) in this $5 cutie of a cotton dress. The stripes nicely camouflage the mud (and the jelly, the cheetos, the neon popsicle drippings...)

3 / woven skort


I am now that person who wears skorts (provided they have the skirting in the front and back). Confession: I love them. Cute as a skirt, practical as shorts. YesI am an SNL skit come to life. : /  This one comes in "railroad stripe" and it costs a whole $3 and fifty cents. Come. On.

4 / inflatable pool


The beauty of a walmart: short skorts and inflatable pools all in one cart. This is an audience poll: are inflatable pools any good? I bought 3 of the plastic shallow kiddie pools last summer, all of which acquired quick holes from Amby throwing rocks in/at them. Think an inflatable might be any tougher? Or is the answer that I've got to make Amby stop throwing rocks in the pool? (Please say no.)

5 / ozark stainless steel tumbler


My beloved plastic travel coffee cup developed a big crack in the lid, so I'm considering going the stainless route. This seems like a winner, purely based on the 3,200 5-star reviews... and considering it's $7.74.

6 / swim shorts


I need to revisit and update my ode to the swim dress post from a few years back, but this is the first year in many moons that I get to wear a non-maternity (and dare I say non-nursing-friendly) swim suit. I prefer the coverage of swim shorts and skirts, regardless.

"Taking Four Kids to the Beach" should be the title of a kick-butt cardio Crossfit-style workout at every gym, because it would contain six hours' worth of:
- deep squats
- resistance running through sand
- treading water
- carrying 40-lb weights (that scream and kick) through blistering parking lots
- kettle bell swings with the toddler as she screams "AGAIN!! AGAAAAAAIN!!!"

A friend sent me this imomsohard video tonight on swim suits and it is EVERYTHING.

7 / real shorts (levi's signature high rise shortie)


I ordered these a size up so they'd sit lower on my waist and thereby not be so... short. But I have a feeling I need a bottle of spray tan and a pair of booties to pull them off. Or maybe a trip to the returns department.

Go forth and shop thriftily!

Linking up with Kelly for 7 quick takes.

5/16/2017

mid-year 2017 book reviews!


I told Sean the other night: "Having a catchy book to read is AWFUL. All I want to do is, you know, read it all the time, to the detriment of the children's upbringing."

I think I have to cut out any of the chick-lit romantic/mystery novels, because I find myself yelling "Yes, turn on another Super Why! Even a Wild Kratts, if you're feeling fancy!" to the minions in the family room as I sink into an armchair with my library tome and an iced coffee. Not good.

1. Orthodoxy - book club
G.K. Chesterton
I'm giving myself brownie points for the fact that a work by Gilbert Keith is my first completed book of the year. Absolutely loved it, proud that I finished it, moderately understood most of it, dramatically underlined lots of it. His perspective on liberalism, fairy tales, materialism and the childlike monotony of God made me think about how every age has its madmen and its lunatics--and yet every age has the hope of a renewal of faith.

2. A Hundred Summers
Beatriz Williams
Seemed to be the book everyone was reading last year. Definite beach read that I finished in a few days (cough cough BY IGNORING THE CHILDREN cough cough). I thought I saw the twist coming in the first few chapters, but no! It surprised me with 20 pages to go til the end. Not a deep twist, true, but good enough to make me gasp. A little on the raunchy side.  

3. The Well - book club
Stephanie Landsem
OH MY. I admit to being a book cover snob who cocked a skeptical eyebrow at historical fiction set in the time of Jesus. But good golly, this book swept me up in an incredible (fictional) account of the woman at the well. Not the most well-written and not the sharpest dialogue, but a fantastic imagining of the harsh realities for women, especially shamed women, in 30-something A.D. Palestine. Riveting and hopeful. Our little book club devoured it.

4. Home Cooking
Laurie Colwin
You win, Mags. :) I added this to my list as soon as my wonderful book worm friend recommended last year, and I'm so glad I did. Possibly the best line (though the competition was fierce): "I'm never on a diet that I cannot be talked out of." Amen.

5. Boys Adrift
Dr. Leonard Sax
Good golly. Should be required reading for anyone raising, teaching, coaching, or otherwise encountering BOYS. Sax begins with a root question: Why do young men today lack ambition and goals--besides those associated with video games? He drills down to five root causes that, in his opinion, have created a generation of slackers. I drove Sean nuts for days, saying "I have to read you just this paragraph" and then would go on for pages. One chapter, though, on plastics and the dangers of water contaminants made me freak out, possibly unnecessarily. But the rest was pure wisdom and great advice from a man who sure sounds like he's done his homework.

6. The Jeweler's Shop - book club
Karol Wojtyla
I am no longer the Catholic poser who everyone just assumes has read The Jeweler's Shop. Ha. Yes, enjoyable. Yes, very different to read a play in book form than to see it performed. But yes, something must be a little lost in translation, right? I don't know. The dialogue felt a bit redundant in spots. But it is uncanny how a never-married Catholic priest (or was he already a bishop when he wrote it? hm) can so insightfully write about marriage, write about women, write about the love of a man and wife and how it changes, grows, fades, and renews itself over time. It's almost as if he were a saint, or something...

7. The Secret Life of Violet Grant
Beatriz Williams
Ok, ok, I've got the Beatriz Williams bug out of my system. Pitted against A Hundred Summers, I'd say I enjoyed Summers over this one. But again, I read it in a few days and remained glued to every page. All in all, I'd call it a shade more graphic than Summers, too, and without good reason. Compellingly written and a fine beach read, for sure, but not one I'd easily recommend.

And that's the list! I need to get through The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Thursday for book club, and after that, I was thinking of Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver.

Honorable mentions go to every Zita the Spacegirl book, which I read to the boys and we both LOVED. That Ben Hatke, he warrants his own separate post, methinks.

If you've got recommendations, throw 'em my way!

5/14/2017

my motherly sunday best vol. 1

Hey, Rosie! Joining you for my inaugural contribution to the Sunday festivities.

Also, my inaugural photo shoot in front of the garage door. First of many, I know. That's what everyone's wanting to hear.






I've often thought that "veteran motherhood" comes when your children are teenagers on the brink of adulthood, and you look back at the baby years with wistful yearning.

No. I think I achieved "veteran motherhood" TODAY because I remembered to take a group photo on Mother's Day BEFORE MASS--that means it was before the carnage of post-mass maple donuts. Before any diapers overflowed their absorbent dams. Before my shirt had wet chew marks from the teething baby.

I'm just now realizing that my outfit is entirely thrifted. The shirt is a super-nursing-friendly rayon fabric by Merona, the skirt is actually a skort (LOVE) from Kohl's, and the shoes are muy comfortable wedges. And I procured all of it for less than $10. As they say, boom.

Last thing: Gussie's bow lasted through the homily. World record.

2/20/2017

navy + yellow living room refresh





It only took me TWO ENTIRE YEARS in this house to figure out how to best configure my living room. I'm really crushing it in the home decor arena, oy .

We inherited the beige couch from the previous owner. It's not exactly modern nor does it have anything resembling "clean lines," but it's incredibly well-built, clean and comfortable. And since I didn't have room for two new sofas in my budget, there it stayed.

futonchairs / lamp and pillows from Ross

This futon. This navy blue linen, convertible-to-sleeper, $209 futon... I shopped around forever online, telling myself how dumb it'd be to buy a piece of furniture online. You can't sit on it! You don't know how well it's built!

Yeah, well. I wasn't having any luck locating a navy sofa in stores or online that was under $1000. So when this beauty popped up for 1/5 that amount, I pulled the trigger pretty quickly.


After all, what do Sean and I say to each other daily? THIS IS WHY WE CAN'T HAVE NICE THINGS. #kids

The futon arrived in a few days and Sean set it up in maybe 30 minutes. Thar she blows.

Then a few days ago though I was perusing overstock.com when what do I see on their homepage?



Man, that looks a lot like my Walmart futon.

*quick site search for Novogratz Brittany futon*


THIS IS MY FUTON FOR $100 MORE THAN I SPENT.

*mental high fives myself*

1/26/2017

minimalism and motherhood: a fight I'm always going to lose

I've read the books: The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, The Nesting Place.

I read the minimalist blogs, read about the capsule wardrobe projects, 10 pieces of clothing for 10 days, more and more and more. People seem to write a lot about minimalism (myself currently included, I guess, ha).


I pin the pins of white pristine bathrooms, of stark white living room walls adorned with nothing more than two black Ikea frames holding abstract art, with a charming fiddle leaf fig plant (or whatever they're called) sitting serenely in the corner.

I read it because it's all so clean. So beautiful. So dreamy. So simple.

And unattainable. For me. Right now.

My motherhood is incompatible with minimalism.


I cannot be a wardrobe minimalist. I have maternity clothes for a VAST array of seasons, climates and belly bigness, then post-partum clothes for the same. I've got the nursing clothes and the non-nursing clothes. And since I'm soooooo open to life (hi NFP!), I've got to keep 'em all. Till I die. (I kid! Kind of!!)

I cannot be paper-clutter minimalist. My 6-year-old produces no less than 8 pages' worth of illustrated maps to imaginary countries, engine diagrams and Autobot renderings, DAILY. And he expects every page of his creation to be available for about... oh, eight weeks, give or take.

I cannot be a toy minimalist. My 4-year-old competes with his older brother's imagination by creating an army of Lego structures each day, and asks me to "keep them safe" on the kitchen counter.


I cannot be a mess minimalist. Gussie's favorite pastime currently is taking anything that's in a basket out of a basket. And then walking away.

I cannot be a baby-gear minimalist. This baby's new phase is "supported sitting"--code word for "not actually sitting but REFUSING to merely lay down anymore"--which means the Bumbo chair, high chair and exersaucer are always in use. And always in the way.

Maybe taken on their own, I could integrate each kid's mess into a minimalistic-looking house. But taken all together, they're train cars on a stopped track, each crashing into the one ahead of them, and I'm the brakemaster who can't hold the lever back against the impact.

But. I am a stay at home mom. I didn't pick this profession so I could have unmarred Benjamin Moore Gray Owl walls and perpetually clean faux-fur white rugs, heh heh.


There's a simple reason why minimalism is popular: white space. To the eye, a design with ample space devoid of content lets the eye focus on one beautiful subject. It's why fashion bloggers pose against white brick walls. It's why they take photos on white sheets. It's the entire reason why a "flat lay" became the MO of so many IG accounts. All these design strategies hinge on white space.

But my children? 

Happy little anti-white space flurries.

They take a freshly wiped table and cheerfully smudge it with fingerprints and ketchup.

They take a freshly vacuumed floor and delight in dumping out the Legos on it.

They dodge into a clean, tidy bathroom and emerge only after leaving the towel on the counter and the soap dispenser sitting in a little pool of suds.

And it's all good. My kids live in a house, not a photography studio.

I want them to come home from school and know they can find their stuff, more or less where they left it.

I want them to know that their mother likes the house to be be clean and tidy, but that she also likes them to be themselves--to the maximum. And that's just as good as the prettiest minimalism, any day.

1/19/2017

3 ways I look at my phone less (and my kids more)

The sweetest friend emailed me and asked how to be more present to her two little kids during the day. She feels terrible seeking the social media distractions that plague us all and wanted some practical tips for severing the iphone-in-hand addiction.


For me, the unholy trinity of facebook, instagram and bloglovin frequently distract me from my kids, sucking me down the online hole. And climbing out of that hole isn't as simple as just putting down my phone. I have to pick something up. 

Depending on the time of day, I try and do one of these alternatives:

1. With the baby

I pick him up, put him in a sling and start two-hands-required household work. It's hard to read blog posts while folding laundry. Or doing dishes. Or drying tangled hair.


Saving my household work for when the baby is up means that I can zone out, guilt-free, during naptime or before everyone's up in the morning. Once the boots are on the ground, though, it's all hands on deck, quite literally.

2. With the toddler

I turn on music on my phone--and set it down.

Amazon Prime has a bunch of Sesame Street albums and playlists that we listen to all through the day. Or I'll turn on a YouTube playlist of Raffi songs. Preferably the Bananaphone playlist. Because it's a phone with a-peel. AHAHAHAHHHAHHHAA.


Every time I get the impulse to pick up my phone, the music reminds me that it's off limits.

3. With the preschoolers

Once the babies are down for naps and I have one-on-one time with my 4-year-old boy, I pick up a deck of cards. Seriously, one deck of Star Wars playing cards that I found for .69 cents at at Goodwill has revolutionized our afternoons here. I taught both boys to play 7-Up. Sean wants to teach them poker next. Pretty soon they'll be running the baccarat table on the school black top at recess. Guard your lunch money, kids.


Amby's also great at playing Memory with me. He tries to help me win. Even so, he usually beats me. :)

Do you have other strategies for engaging with your kids instead of mindlessly staring at your phone? Love to hear 'em.