Good-bye August

What happens when you have too many disjointed thoughts:

  1. The kids start school next week Wednesday and I think this is the first time I can say with 100% honesty that I wish summer were longer. It was so full of good things.

  2. I’m in a pruning stage. I think it has to do with being so tired of dealing with bullshit. I want to surround myself with people who are kind, honest, and/or interesting. I want to be reading (books, not status updates), engaging (in real life conversations over coffee and not twitter battles), and creating (more than just posts on instagram). I’m working on it.

  3. Jesse and I went to NYC for our 15th wedding anniversary. I adore that city and want to move there immediately. We saw Hamilton. I don’t think I’ve ever been so excited for anything in my life. I almost passed out/threw up when the opening music swelled. I loved every single second.

  4. News about Harvey has just blown me away. Wanting to do something (even if it was just little), I sent diapers and put together a box of yarn from my stash. For non-knitters, I’m sure the yarn thing seems silly (maybe even for knitters), but I have plenty and can’t imagine being in a stressful situation like that without having a project to focus on and help me calm down.

  5. Speaking of knitting, I *finally* bought buttons for Violet’s sweater. They look like this. I haven’t gotten them on the sweater yet, but I’m getting there. I also picked up a set of these because they looked cute. I have no idea what I’m going to do with them. I’ve almost finished Abram’s sweater and I bought yarn (in black) and a pattern for mine.

  6. I spent an evening pricing underground bomb shelters. I’m lots of fun at parties right now.

  7. As illustrated by my list, I’m still bouncing like a maniacal rubber ball between gut wrenching fear for the world we are living in and brief glorious moments of oblivion. I can definitively say that it’s not a good time to be a deep thinker, worrier, news watcher. Maybe it never is?

How are you? It’s been a long time since I’ve heard from some of my internet pen pals. Hope to hear what you’re making, thinking, doing in your little corner of the world. XOXO.

39 for 39

Today, I am officially  one year away from 40. I’m planning on making the last year of my 30’s my best year yet.

Here’s my list for 39:

  1. Mail a handwritten letter each month.
  2. Try the bullet journal method & don’t obsess about making it pretty.
  3. Get my health indicator numbers inline.
  4. Finish an entire coloring book.
  5. See Hamilton on Broadway.
  6. Take a firearm safety/shooting class.
  7. Try paddle boarding.
  8. Smoke zero cigarettes.
  9. Try a new food.
  10. Run/walk a 5K.
  11. Run/walk a 10K.
  12. Run/walk a Half Marathon.
  13. Take a family vacation – just the 4 of us.
  14. Knit myself a sweater.
  15. Read 30 books.
  16. Purge craft space – donate supplies that won’t be used.
  17. Finish quilt top.
  18. Buy a new lens for my camera.
  19. Have family pictures taken.
  20. Continue to practice unapologetic self-confidence.
  21. Go on a picnic.
  22. Take the kids camping. Even if it’s in the backyard.
  23. Buy a new box of high quality colored pencils.
  24. Learn to back up boat trailer quickly & accurately.
  25. Attend Mass.
  26. Take a break from Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, etc. for at least one month.
  27. Abstain from purchasing any sock yarn.
  28. Embroider something.
  29. Create a photo album for each of the kids.
  30. Get a mole check.
  31. Quit drinking Diet Dr. Pepper.
  32. Establish a regular sleep/wake time.
  33. Buy a record player and some records.
  34. Cook more.
  35. Listen to my gut.
  36. Celebrate my people.
  37. Update master list of home projects.
  38. Find a project/cause that could benefit from my time & talents and donate.
  39. Make my bed.

Last year, I made a list of 38 things I wanted to accomplish while 38. I didn’t manage to do them all, but you can read about that here.

Missing It

Today is the kind of day where if the kids were still little and we still lived in our little old house, I’d walk them down to the park by the river. We’d take the long way home and stop at our favorite coffee shop – fruit smoothies for them, iced coffee for me. We’d come home for naps. I’d spread out big scrappy towels on the patio and put out paints and paper and let them make a mess of themselves.

Those days were hard. Long. Touched out. Overstimulated. Endlessly chasing after someone and trying to keep them both alive. And yet, oh, how I miss them. Not for too long, of course, because soon it will be summer and they will be done with school. On nice days we’ll go to the park or to the pool and stop at our favorite places for food. When we get home I will spread out my scrappy tablecloth for crafting and paints on the deck and let them make a mess of themselves. I will be touched out and overstimulated and ready for them to go back to school by September. But I only have so many years (and not enough of them) of this left. I want to remember how much I miss those days and how much I’ll miss these ones.

I love these pictures. I had just gotten my “big” camera from a friend who had upgraded. I had no idea what I was doing, but I was trying to learn. Violet *loved* that dress. She wore it until it had holes in it. Abram half in pajamas because he *always* wanted to wear pajamas. (The other mother’s at his preschool probably thought I was the laziest woman alive because he was always in pjs.)

The Struggle Is Real

Post-1-9 Post-2-8 Post-3-5 Post-4-5 Post-5-5 Post-6-5I know I’ve been quiet.

It’s been the kind of month where you put your head down and slog through.

Some days, you don’t even get out of your pajamas. By some days, I mean Monday. And yesterday. And maybe tomorrow. (I figure every other day is a reasonable dressed to jammie ratio.)

We’ve been busy with family chaos, spring sports kick-off, home ownership updates (and deciding if we want to continue the plans to make updates or move) and just some general yuckiness.

And I don’t have words.

I mean, I have them. But I also have the fear that someone is going to read them. Either some perfectly well-meaning person who reads the blog will bump into me and use the blog to start a conversation and then stare at me in confusion while I try to do words in real life (true story) or someone I care about is going to read what I write and think I sound like an idiot or worry (also true story).  Or wonder why I waste so much time writing about knitting and television and why I don’t go do something productive with my life (which if hasn’t happened yet, probably should). So lately I just write in my journal. Or spend way too much time writing whiny self-indulgent paragraphs a lot like this one.  Most of the time, I wise up and delete them.

But then Jules’ posted this (which is hilarious and honest) and I started thinking about Rita and her thoughts on shitty first drafts (Rita gets the credit and the blame for a lot of my internet usage these days) and I just got sick of not posting anything.

So I’m slogging through life and blog post writing.

Random bits:

I’m watching True Blood (based on the Sookie Stackhouse “The Southern Vampire Mysteries” series). I read the books which were terrible but fun ages ago and had no interest in watching the series, but I can’t seem to connect with anything so I thought I’d try it. I’ve watched the first three episodes. And…I spent a good part of the episode gagging, so I’m not sure it’s going to be the right show for me. I also watched the first season of The Americans (I like it, don’t LOVE it), and the third season of Orphan Black. Tatiana Maslany is a genius of an actress (and Canadian, Marian). My knitting is chugging along slowly.

I made some ridiculously delicious muffins (and took lots of pictures of the process and was going to only post one or two, but then they ended up being the only pictures I took) as well as a giant mess of ceramic bowl and broccoli slaw.

I’ve been reading the same book for over a month. Every time, I get about a chapter in and fall asleep. My brain is only letting me read trashy bodice rippers and YA because everything else just makes me yawn. (College me would be rolling her erudite eyes.)

The trees are starting to bud and the daffodils are out and in full bloom and my lily of the valley is starting to peek out (as is my inherited rhubarb. I need recipes. Or just people who like rhubarb. I always end up with a ton of it and I’m not the biggest fan). I need to decide what (if anything) I’m going to attempt in the garden this year. Last year it ended up being a giant pit of weeds with some radishes and green beans and two beautiful pumpkins, but I feel like I need to make more of an effort or skip it all together. Gardening thoughts? What’s easy? How do you keep on top of the weeds? Am I better off just putting in perennial flowers  and going to the farmers market for my veggies? HELP!

 

What I’m Watching

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Making a Murderer

I’d be surprised if this Netflix documentary isn’t already on your radar. If you haven’t heard of it, it’s about a man who spent 18 years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit only to end up charged (and convicted of) murder (along with his nephew).

It was quite eerie to watch – not only because of the story – but because it’s based on names I’d heard before within a setting that is only 30 minutes away from where I went to high school.  And after watching it, I spent a good deal of time reading more about the case and I have no idea what to think.

Whether Stephan (and/or his nephew) are innocent is a topic of debate but what this documentary illustrated was that our justice system has serious flaws.  Especially in regards to those who are poor or are “not so bright” (I can’t find a word to say that where I’m not uncomfortable, so I’m just going to quote one of the lawyers.) I want everyone to watch it just so I can hear their thoughts on it. I’m still just baffled.

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The Good Wife

I have a friend who recommends shows quite regularly because she knows that I watch hours upon hours while furiously knitting. This is one of her recommendations. And I’ve been watching it pretty exclusively for the last two weeks. I like it.  Interesting, well-acted characters. A larger story arc built in to a courtroom drama where each episode neatly tidies up the case (but not necessarily the characters lives). In the time I’ve been watching, I find that I enjoy many of the peripheral characters more than the main ones, but what I like most is that many of the female characters are smart, complex, and interesting.

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Downton Abbey

I was just telling Marian in an email yesterday that I could watch and rewatch Downton forever.  If only for the costuming.  Add that it’s an English period drama with a great setting and great acting and great characters, I’m pretty much content.  Sadly, this is the last season so soon I will be forced to rewatching episodes to get my fix of Carson and the Dowager Countess (oh Dame Maggie Smith, I just love you).  And this is another one of those things where I have to say to my mother that she was right. She kept telling me I should watch because I would love it, and I really truly do.  (She’s a wise woman, my mom.)

What are you currently watching? I think I need some silly comedy or something to break up all the drama.

What I’d Like to Tell Her

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Me, in 7th grade, at a friend’s house, before a dance.

You’re going to be okay. In fact, you’re really, really, really going to love your life. It’s going to take awhile though.

Your parents are doing their very best.  They don’t have a clue what they are doing and all the anger and frustration and unfairness of it all – those feelings are completely justified but maybe cut them some slack. You’re going to grow up and become a parent and not have a clue what you are doing either.

It’s okay to still like Barbies (and it’s okay to hide it) but your taste in boys could use a little work. (You’ll figure it out.)

You’re going to get boobs and your period (and eventually wish for less and fewer) so stop worrying so much.

The obsession with paper and pens is only going to become more expensive. Same with books. And don’t even get me started on yarn.

Stop being such an asshole. You aren’t actually better than anyone (or worse) and being a jerk to people probably isn’t the best way to go about making friends.  In fact, you’re going to end up married to someone who didn’t even get a college degree (gasp). And he’s going to be the smartest man you know.

Don’t skip cross country or track your senior year. Your mom is right about this one.

You don’t need to have an opinion on everything. Actually, at 37, I’m kind of jealous at how bad ass you are when it comes to speaking your mind.  I wish you had a little more tact, but I could use some of your backbone these days.

Math gets easier.  In fact, when you’re in college, you’ll positively LOVE it.

You really are awesome. And adorable (I know, I know – you hate it – but it’s true.). And you’re softer than you know (which actually makes you tougher, even if you don’t get that yet). And I love you.

Finally, you should set aside those earrings.  When you’re going through pictures and stumble on this one, you’re kind of going to wish you still had them.

Snow

That kind of white stuff you see?  Yeah, that’s snow.  Not stick to the ground snow, thankfully, but snow.  I washed my bird feeders and moved the posts (I use those stamp down shepherd hooks) now that the landscaping is done and the ground will be freezing.  We still have leaves on a few trees, but I’m sure they will be on the ground soon as most of them are completely bare.

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I looked out to see juncos at the feeder, a sure sign that winter is just around the corner.  Abram has decided that means he needs to borrow his sister’s “fur” coat.  Violet had decided it’s too early and is wearing a sundress in protest.  Ahhh, October in Wisconsin.

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I’ve been busy helping with the school’s Halloween party, and making for Christmas, and fighting off the first virus (hopefully, only) of the season.  The days are full and short and I’m impatiently waiting for my new cooktop so I can fill up on stew and chili and homemade chicken noodle soup.

And that’s my little corner of the world lately.  Quiet and snuggled in and trying to get a little rest in before the holidays start to get mad-making.

things i’m watching

In the last two years I have watched more television than in the 35 previous years combined.  Interestingly enough, a little over two years ago we decided to “cut the cord” and get rid of our cable subscription because we weren’t big television watchers.  A perfect storm of Apple TV and a broken foot completely changed my television viewing practices forever. Here are a few things I’m watching now:

Murder She Wrote (originally on CBS)

This was a Netflix find.  I’d been fruitlessly searching for a digital way to watch Anne of Green Gables (inspired by the conversation on this post by Rita) when this came up as a suggestion.  I remember my mom watching it but I don’t think I ever did (1 – I don’t think my mom would have let me because for as tame as it is – I had an overactive imagination 2 – The only shows I remember watching with any regularity were the Cosby Show and Saved by the Bell).  It’s formulaic and adorable and Dame Angela Lansbury is so perfectly cast.  It’s just good.  And makes for great knitting television.



AA_orphanblack_hero_images-1Orphan Black – BBC

I was completely uninterested in watching this show but one of my friends twisted my arm and I watched the first episode.  Even then I was kind of “meh”.  Then she asked me to watch the second one.  (Have I mentioned I have more of a problem with peer pressure now than I did as a teenager?!? I know that’s completely backward, but it’s also true.)  Now I’m trying to convince her to purchase the third season and watch with me.  She’s less susceptible to peer pressure.


hell_on_wheels_ver4_xlg-1Hell on Wheels – AMC

Jesse doesn’t watch TV.  That involves sitting.  He will, however, come in and watch about half of each episode of this show and then pepper me with questions about the half he missed (which is just my favorite) because while he can NOT sit and watch an hour of television – he really likes this show a lot.  It’s a western filled with men’s men who do men’s men things while building a transcontinental railroad.  Lest you think you’re not interested in that kind of television, it’s also smart.  Well crafted.  And well acted.  It’s one of the more interesting television shows I’ve watched that deals with the theme of redemption.  And you know, if that doesn’t interest you, there’s always Anson Mount.  But if you don’t like smart, character driven stories with some seriously attractive lead characters – this probably isn’t for you.


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Scream Queens – Fox

This is another one of those shows that is completely peer pressure based (and because I kinda have a girl crush on Jamie Lee Curtis).  I’ve only watched the two hour premiere and basing a show on a “pilot” isn’t easy to do.  I would not describe this as smart television.  It wants to be.  It definitely wants to make a statement about social media (there’s a scene where a killer and the victim are standing across from one another texting each other and instead of calling the police, the victim attempts to get help via status update) and society in general.

My favorite exchange in the whole show:

Grace: You’re a horrible person.
Chantal:  Maybe.  But I’m rich and I’m pretty so it doesn’t really matter.

Sometimes it just feels like it’s going to be too campy and too much pushing the envelope and just too much.  I’ll probably try and give it another episode or so, but I’m not sure I’m the right audience.  Have you seen it?  What did you think?


Have you watched anything great lately?  Movies, television, otherwise?  I’m knitting for Christmas so I have a feeling there will be a whole lot more watching in the next few months ahead.

Good-bye brain cells.

(I’ll also take any book recommendations you have to off-set all this television watching!)

Snippets

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Violet spotted a dragon fruit while we were at the supermarket and wanted to try it. I had no idea what to expect from inside or even how we were going to eat it.  Youtube is amazing.

Post-2

Jesse had a birthday.  The day itself ended up being rather terrible so we decided to call “redo” and have a “fancy” family dinner.  Or at least as fancy as it can be with paper towel napkins (don’t kill me, Marian.) because I somehow have never managed to purchase cloth napkins. The kids loved setting the table and using wine glasses as water goblets.

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I wound a lot of yarn.

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A future pair of socks.

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A future hat.

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A future sweater.

I still haven’t finished the sweater I was making for myself, but I did finish a simple little fall cowl and I’ve been reading a great deal.

Things have been simple and quiet and good.  We’re busy with home projects, and homework, and soccer practice.  My list of things to do grows faster than I can check things off but nothing to get in a tizzy over.  It’s a happy rhythm where I go to sleep tired and wake up excited.  I think that’s about as perfect of a life as you can get.

37.

I know things have been quiet around here. It’s not because I haven’t been writing. I have. A lot. I’ve just been doing it in a more tangible way on more personal topics. With a pen. And paper.  In a journal. Sometimes you just need the physical act of writing.

Today is my birthday.  I am 37.  If you would have told me at 18 that this is what my life would look like at 37, I would have smacked you and run away screaming but I’m generally happy – just a few areas that need some tweaking.  I’d also like to point out that 18 year old me didn’t know much about life (or being generally happy for that matter) so what she thinks isn’t all that important.

So what am I hoping to accomplish this year?  A lot.  Because while I’m grateful to be turning 37, I’m in a bit of a whirl about it.  It just feels so old.   Not old, old.   Just the acknowledgment that this life  isn’t unlimited and so I need to take care of myself mentally and physically and pursue the things that make me happiest old.

Which lead me to making a list of the things I want to accomplish before 38.

Make. Everyday. Whether that is working on a knitting project, creating artwork with my kids, sewing a pillow cover, cooking a new recipe. Something with my hands every day.

Establish Routines. Wake time.  Bedtime.  Housework.  Errands.  Find a rhythm that works.

Focus on health.  Mental and physical.  Eat more vegetables.  Stay active.  Get to Mass with my family.  Exercise.  Write.

Purge & Organize.  Know what is important and take care of it.  “Let of the things that no longer serve you”. Create space.  Acquire things that will be used up and loved.

I think it’s going to be a very busy year.  And a very good year.

Between the Woods and Frozen Lake

I grew up on the western shore of Michigan where winter is snowy and cold but these western Wisconsin winters are a different beast entirely.  In Michigan, we ice skate and sled and call off school if it’s below zero.  Here we’re bundling our children up in -20º temps and loading them on those big yellow buses. The months of January and February are almost exclusively spent indoors because if-you’re-outside-for-more-than-ten-minutes-you-actually-could-die-from-the-cold.  There’s a reason we’re the originators of the indoor water park and drive around with emergency coffee can/candle heaters in the backseat of our cars.  This place can be brutal.
No matter how Violet protests that winter isn’t until December 21, Mother Nature is ignoring her.  I know a great many people grumbling about the early cold and snow and I don’t blame them.  Winters here are long.  Two years ago we had snow in May.  And this year I don’t think we ever managed to top 90º. Below zero temperatures in November, and rumors of another colder than normal winter (when winters are plenty cold enough, thank you) have got a great many people talking about how we might all just be a little crazy for living here and I’m starting to agree with them.
But since it’s November, and we are still in the double digits, and I really needed to get outside and “blow the stink off me” (did your mother say that as a child?  just mine?), I put on some boots and tromped out. We live close to a water retention area that is wooded and grassy and has a couple of ponds that Violet has named “Swan Lake” and “Crystal Pond” and I love that I can be completely surrounded by woods (enough that I’m too chicken to walk here at night) but am really only a five minute walk from my home.  Or a gas station.
It was a beautiful day.  Curtains of snow were falling off branches and landing with puffs because of the wind.  The cold was brisk and bracing but not needle piercing, face falling off cold.  And then I came home and warmed up with some steamy lemon tea and my homemade vapor rub.  (Abram shared a butt kicker of a cold with me.  Does anyone else notice that a kid with a cold hardly seems to slow down, but when WE get the cold it’s like the germs go into overdrive and knock us on our keisters?)
And now it’s almost 8 o’clock and I’m going to bed like a granny.  But that’s one nice thing about winter – it’s dark by 4, so it doesn’t feel like cheating at all when you crawl into your jammies by six.

What I’m Up To:

I know I haven’t been posting.

I’ve been knitting. I’m not going to have all my Christmas presents done in time. New Year’s presents should totally be a thing.

And watching insane amounts of television (The Walking Dead, Nashville, Pretty Little Liars are on permanent rotation around here) because I can knit while watching TV. I need to learn to like books on tape. Or podcasts. Or more educational television. Because I fear my brain may just rot and run out my ears (Pretty Little Liars is most specifically to blame – it’s a complete cream puff of a show and much of the acting is TERRIBLE but I can’t. stop. watching.)

I’m snuggling and reading with the littles (This is Abram’s current every night read. Violet is reading this to me most nights.)

And settling into a quieter winter routine. Well, as quiet as possible with Thanksgiving and Christmas and a family vacation around the corner.

Random Stuff Monday

1. At a fundraiser a few months back, a group of us ended up winning this amazing seven course Rustic French dinner with wine pairings. It was beyond amazing. And I don’t know if it’s the tired, maybe a little hungover part of me talking or the mushy, weepy, softy side but I feel so amazingly blessed to be surrounded by some REALLY GREAT people.

2. The people I follow on instagram are made up of 60% knitting/yarn, 25% cats, 10% friends, and 5% bloggers that I really enjoy. This largely means that I spend a lot of time dreaming about yarn I’d like to buy and the cat I’d like to add to our family.

3. Violet had her first “real” orthodontist appointment today. They placed the spacers around her molars so they’ll be able to put her expander in at the end of November. She’ll also have a partial row of braces across the top front of to help correct her cross bite and fix the crowding. Weird thinking about her being in braces already.

4. I’m having some mixed feelings about social media these days. I’m not going to get all dramatic and delete my FB profile (shocking, I know) but I do think there will be some changes as to what I post and how often. Some really wise women have talked about having a personal policy of how much and what to share and I think it’s time to create one for myself – especially as Violet and Abram are getting older. And for some reason, social media can really start to feel like middle school. I’d like to avoid the hurt feelings and drama as much as possible.

5. A friend of mine sent a link to this Myers-Briggs-esque personality quiz and I love these things so I took it right away. I was surprised at the result. In the past I’ve always been an ESTJ. This most recent go-around, I ended up with ISFJ. I retook the thing five times and had my mom, husband, and the friend who sent me the link confirm that it sounded like me because while I know I’ve become more introverted as I age (I NEED downtime to recharge my batteries), I wasn’t expecting the thinking/feeling change.

6. I need a nap.

7. I attempted to do the all-natural deodorant thing. I tried one store bought brand and another paste type stuff that a blogger recommended. Two things happened and it didn’t matter which one I was using: I got really terrible irritation under my arms (which is a sucky place for irritation) and I smelled bad. So I went back to store bought aluminum ridden Secret solid. In the decision between harmful chemicals that glide on and leave my pits pain free or natural methods that leave me itchy and stinky, I’m taking the chemicals. In the effort to be a hippie, I fail.

We All Deserve to Wear White

Today, I stumbled on a blog post titled “I Didn’t Deserve to Wear White” (I’m not linking to it because I refuse to send any traffic to a post that promotes an idea that I would like to fall off the earth). Normally, I try to just move along because I am not a religious blogger. I read some. I have a few favorites. But my answer to a great many things theology is a resounding, “I don’t know” so I tend to just keep quiet and blog about happy things. Like knitting. And reading.

This last post, however, was the purity ring that broke the beast with two backs. I don’t know what it is with the interwebs (or the people I keep stumbling on in the interwebs) but I’ve just been inundated the last few weeks with FB memes, blog posts, tweets, and discussion posts that promote the purity culture ideal. And I’ve had enough.

Source

Here’s me in a nutshell: My grandparents are Catholic. My mom left the church shortly after divorcing my dad. My step-father has evangelical leanings and I spent most of my youth attending evangelical churches with my family and evangelical youth groups that give that movie Saved a run for its money. I started really questioning my faith around 17 and left the church at 18. When I did return, not until my mid-thirties, it was as a Catholic.

As a recovering evangelical, I read these blog posts and I hear the voices of my own youth group.

Damaged goods. Tainted. Impure. Defiled. Used chewing gum (yes, really).

By having sex before marriage, we’re throwing away the most precious gift we have to give. The one that belongs to our husband. (I’m just going to just skip over the embedded idea that a woman’s sexuality isn’t her own but is somehow the property of her husband.)

Shame. Guilt.

Ridiculousness.

I am now a mother. I have a daughter. And I can tell you right now, if any person says to her that the most precious gift she can give her husband is an intact hymen, that person will get the most passionate momma-bear dressing down I can manage.

Whether she has sex before marriage or not, my girl will NEVER be used chewing gum. She will NEVER be damaged goods. If and when my daughter walks down that aisle, I want her to feel no shame in the amazing, God-created person she is whether that person has had sex outside of marriage or not. I want her to have no doubt in her value as a woman, wife, human.

And I want that for every single woman.

A woman’s value is not in her virginity.

She is not “Certified Angus Beef” to be labeled “pure” and trotted out as superior.

The shaming of our girls, whether intentional or not, needs to stop.

Every woman deserves to wear white if that’s what she chooses.

A Good Weekend

About a month ago, my sisters, mom and I decided to see Gone Girl together. My mom and I both read and enjoyed the book so we were looking forward to it. Then about a week ago, I got a text saying she thought it might be a little too risqué to see with her daughters (you know, Ben Affleck full frontal and everything else) so we went back and forth trying to figure out if we were all going to try and get together.

I headed over to my parents’ on Friday night and enjoyed fish fry, knitting, and the gubernatorial debate (that actually wasn’t enjoyable, but I think it’s important to know these things). On Saturday, my mom agreed to visit two local yarn shops with me which (I should have called first) happened to be closed (like chain the doors kind, which makes me sad) so we had a late lunch, visited Target, and a couple of consignment stores.

On Sunday, we met my sisters at an amazing shop, had lunch, and headed to the mall. I got to see my dolly of a nephew, catch up with the sissies I missies (I am a dork, but I had to throw that rhyme in there), and finish almost all of my Christmas shopping which puts me a little ahead of schedule (I like to be done BEFORE Black Friday, because people go crazy-town after that). When I say ahead of schedule, I just mean with shopping – many of my knitting presents are going to be New Year presents.

 And then I decided to try and get a shot of myself using one of the many mirrors in the shop because I’m going to make an attempt to embrace the camera, if only to say “shut up, voice in my head, I’m doing it anyway.” Of eleven shots, these are the two I’m keeping.

Yup, that headless camera woman, that’s me. But I’m including it because that yellow desk? I loved that desk. If I had Jesse’s truck with me, I would have purchased it in a nanosecond.

It was a much needed breather. Now we are back to the hustle and bustle. Flu shots, parent/teacher conferences, laundry.

The Many Systems of School Paper Storage

Papers. Everywhere.

If you have school aged children you know what I’m talking about. Homework, art projects, and the daily reading, exercise logs that all need somewhere to go. I’ve developed some really good systems for “keepsake” storage which I’ll get into at the bottom of the post, but I was really struggling with the graded homework and the papers that needed regular access (spelling words, Book-It charts, etc) so this weekend I decided it was time to find a way to get those papers off my counters – while keeping them accessible to the kids.

I started by getting a couple of manila folders and labeling them. It isn’t pinterest worthy, but it works.

Then I scrounged up this basket that was holding all those totes and bring-your-own grocery bags by the door (I moved those to an empty cupboard in the kitchen) and hung it underneath their daily checklist.

Ta-da. Quick and easy to grab and put back. Off my counters. Major win.

Now to deal with the homework.

Last year, I put all that paper in green hanging files in the bottom drawer of my desk but it ended up taking up a lot of room that I didn’t really have, so I was thrilled when I found these great expandable files from Russell + Hazel.

I love them because they match the binders I use for bill paying and household management. I keep them in the basket on the side of my desk. Easy to get to, but not in the way.

Finally: the keepsakes.

I bought two of these file boxes from Target when Violet and Abram were in preschool. Their big artwork doesn’t fit in them (I have underbed storage containers for those projects), but it keeps a good majority. At the end of every year, we sort through their “homework” files and pick out a few pieces that they want to add to their keepsake bins and we toss the rest.

My favorite part of this? The lids open up with an additional storage area. We’ve been having all of their teachers sign a copy of “Oh the Places You’ll Go” that we will give them when they graduate. (Thank you, pinterest, for the great idea) I love that I don’t have to scrounge around for the book, but know exactly where to find it.

Okay, so here’s what I want to know…how do YOU keep track of all the paper that comes home?

**I’m participating in the write 31 day blogging challenge by sharing my adventures in creating a beautiful and useful home. You can read more about that here. For updates and sneak peeks, please find me on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram (I’m @ohkatiejoy).**

Grandma's China

Actually, it’s my great-great Grandma’s china. And since it has been in my possession it has sat safely wrapped and stored.

Until today. Because having my great-great grandmother’s china in boxes in the basement while a china cabinet sits empty in my dining room is a real waste. I’m still having visions of 100 year old china fragments lying everywhere, but I’m hoping that will pass (and the kids will continue to stay out of the dining room).

The teacups have been lost and replaced with mismatched ones at some point in history.

A few pieces are chipped, some have been broken and mended. A few are from a different pattern. In searching for some information I learned that the stamp on the back refers to the manufacturer and the plate style but I couldn’t find the pattern information. After another couple hours digging online, I found the pattern. The internet can be so amazingly handy.

As an added bonus, I had this leftover teacup that didn’t have a hook in the cabinet. I’ve been trying to find a few things to place on these wonky little shelves at the end of my kitchen cabinets because I’m not a decorator and little knick knacks aren’t things I think about so wonky little shelves sit empty for two years and look even wonkier.

Anyway, I put this teacup with an old recipe (I need a little frame for it) on one of them and am calling it good. They’re still wonky shelves, but now they are wonky shelves that make me think of having my Grandma in my kitchen.

**I’m participating in the write 31 day blogging challenge by sharing my adventures in creating a beautiful and useful home. You can read more about that here. For updates and sneak peeks, please find me on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram (I’m @ohkatiejoy).**

Useful & Beautiful

I wasn’t sure about joining The Nester’s 31-day-challenge this year. I tossed around a few ideas but nothing really caught my attention. Then I decided I’d just skip it and focus on house projects that have been nagging at me for the past two years. Enter my internet girl crush, Jules, and her blog, Pancakes and French Fries. She startedThe William Morris Project ages ago and it’s been a long time favorite feature of mine – she tackles creating a more intentional home with humor, honesty, and a heavy dose of reality. After talking to Jules (and her warning that it would kick my butt), I decided that blogging about thirty-one days of making my home more useful and beautiful was the accountability I needed.

williammorris


Some of the projects I’m hoping to tackle:

Day 1: – Purge/organize master closet
Day 2: – Purge/organize pantry
Day 3: – Unpack grandma’s china
Day 4: – Remove wall decal from hall
Day 5: – Replace broken bookcase in family room
Day 6: – Create a homework/paper/school stuff storage solution
Day 7: – Update the Master List
Day 8: – Purge/organize family desk area & Locate/organize important papers

– Create a momma’s tool box
– Purge/organize laundry room cupboard
– Purge/organize utility room (I’m breaking this down into multiple/smaller projects)
– tools
– seasonal decor
– household items
– Rewire parking meter lamp
– Have vanity/bench repaired/refinished
– Get curtains/rods for living room/front room
– Paint basement
– Sand/paint Violet’s nightstand
– Paint 1/2 bathroom
– Purge/organize garage shelving
– Replace knob on my side table.
– Add shelving system to spare room/craft room
– Purge/organize kitchen junk drawer(s)
– Reorganize medicine storage
– Purge/organize craft supply
– Scrape and replace caulk in MBR shower
– Scrape and replace caulk around kitchen sink
– Organize/purge/add shelving to cleaning closet
– Organize pictures
– Put pictures in/hang large collage frame
– Move clock/touch up paint in front room
– Replace or repaint mailbox post
– Replace Abram’s broken light fixture
– Scrape star stickers off guest bedroom/craft room ceiling
– Change over entry-way bins from fall to winter gear
– Purge/organize kids’ bathroom closets
– Purge/organize MBR undersink storage
– Purge/organize make-up/skin care drawer
– Purge organize upstairs hall closet
– Adapt upstairs hall closet to linen closetI know I listed more than 31 things.

 

Some days, if I’m lucky, I might tackle two projects. Some of these will be finished outside the 31 day window. But if there is one thing I’ve learned about keeping a home is that “useful and beautiful” is a constantly changing definition so the updating and changing of the list is continual. This is a good place to start, for now. Hope you’ll join me!!

Monday, Monday

Yesterday was a beautiful day. Upwards to 80, sun shining. Jesse had a work function so the kids and I thought we’d take a walk in a local wooded area. The mosquitos were terrible; we lasted less than a half an hour before we turned around. When we got back home, the swimsuits came out and they played with a Rubbermaid container, the hose, and their snorkel gear for over two hours. It was heavenly.

With no school today, we were hoping to go to the zoo. But the forecast is chilly and calls for rain and we don’t have any rain gear. I looked to see if I could find rain coats at the local sporting goods stores and Target but no luck.

So we went for a “hilly ride” and then came home. I have some cleaning I’d like to get done.

It’s not nearly as fun as the zoo, but it’s the way it goes.

Fall has definitely returned today and the rainy skies and cool temperatures scream for down comforters and nap times.

I think I’ll have to crank some tunes, poor myself a hot cuppa, and get moving. Happy Monday! What are you up to today?

Homemade Vapor Rub

One of my childhood memories is getting out of a really hot shower and having my mom rub Vicks all over my chest before wrapping a big fluffy towel around my middle and sticking me in footie pajamas straight from the dryer. I don’t remember how sick I was, or how old I was, but I remember feeling loved, cherished, and less miserable.

And up until recently, my recipe for a nasty cough, a case of the sniffles, or just a general ugh was a hot shower, that blue jar, and pajamas. But then I started learning about essential oils and how easy it was to use them. And more importantly how I could make my own vapor rub without petroleum products. I made my first batch following this recipe in February and have since made it a few more times tweaking it toward our own family “tastes”.

With cold and flu season just around the corner, I knew it was time to make some more and I posted a very messy picture of my kitchen on instagram. A few of my friends had questions, so I thought I’d share my recipe here.

You’ll need:

A double boiler or (like me) a glass pyrex in a larger pan
1/2 cup {organic} sweet almond oil oil (coconut oil gives it a thicker consistency in the tin but melts down on application so we use that if I don’t have almond oil)
2 Tablespoons Beeswax (either grate some up or use pastilles)
Essential oils (eucalyptus, peppermint, rosemary, lavender)
Containers (I use these tins in either the 2oz or 4oz size and lip balm tubes for baby foot applications but a jelly jar would work great)

Directions

Melt your beeswax and oil in the double boiler.
Remove from heat.

Add essential oils:

Full strength:
Add 25 drops eucalyptus
Add 20 drops peppermint
Add 10 drops rosemary
Add 10 drops lavender

Baby strength:
Add 10 drops eucalyptus
Add 5 drops peppermint
Add 5 drops rosemary
Add 10 drops lavender

Pour into containers, let set. Cover. Store in a cool, dry place. Rub on chest or feet when necessary.

Another perk: I feel a lot less greasy the next morning than when I used the store bought stuff.

As for which oils I use: As you can see I have both Young Living and Mountain Rose Herbs bottles on my {messy} counter. I started ordering from Young Living a little over a year ago and I’m quite happy with them but I’m also happy with Mountain Rose Herbs – I get my beeswax and a few of my oils from them in addition to containers. I have some friends who are huge fans of DoTerra and while I haven’t tried them, I certainly wouldn’t be afraid of recommending them. I’m a little skittish of purchasing essential oils off the shelf at a grocery store, but if you have a brand that you use and trust, I say give it a try.

**I am not a doctor and am not qualified to treat illness or prescribe medications. Please see your doctor for any medical questions.**

In the Fall

It is officially becoming fall. Temperatures are in the 40’s at night and we’re leaving our windows open and burrowing down beneath blankets. I love the changing colors and the crisp air and the pumpkins and the mums and the honeycrisp apples. This is hands down my favorite time of year.

And also one of my hardest. It’s the time of year my depression starts talking.

You won’t be good enough until you do ALL.THE.THINGS. Organize everything from top to bottom. Keep a perfect home. Have a better kitchen. Prepare organic gourmet meals. Attend that fundraiser. Work on the committee. Volunteer. Serve on some non-profit boards. Train for a marathon. Stop being fat. Drive a better car. Journal every day. See ALL.THE.PEOPLE. Go out for breakfast. Lunch. Dinner. Coffee. Do more. BE MORE. Even then, you won’t be good enough. Everyone will see what a fraud you are. You will die alone with hundreds of cats and they will eat out your eyeballs. Yes, I’m exaggerating. You’ll probably only have tens of cats.

This monster in my head is a cruel beast.

So here’s what I have to say to that monstrous voice in my head:

I am enough.

If I die in the perfect and perfectly kept home, as a prime physical specimen, having served on volunteer committees and boards, with hundreds of people at my funeral, I am enough. If I die alone and hundreds (or tens) of cats eat out my eyeballs, I am enough. Either way, I’m dead. And it doesn’t matter a hill of beans which one of those lives I’ve lived as long as it’s the life that made me happy because I. AM. ENOUGH.

(Ideally, I’ll reside somewhere in the happy medium of that equation.)

So here’s what makes me happy in the fall:

Saying no.
Curling up.
Taking on a few projects that will make the upcoming holidays less stressful.
Knitting.
Watching old movies.
Drinking apple cider.
Walking the dog in the woods.
Baking bread.
Writing blog posts.
Learning my new camera.
Creating anything.
Spending time with my people.

What are some of your favorite fall activities? Do you tend to get a little “blue” this time of year?

Craft Thursday: Butterflies

I want to say thank you so much for all your kindness yesterday! I was screwing around, crashed my site, and lost the post but everyone was so sweet and thoughtful and supportive. It made me feel really good about a a really tough decision and I appreciate it.

One of the benefits of dropping out of school is that the hour that I had budgeted for some reading was used cutting out construction paper for a Craft Thursday project. We haven’t really been able to craft since I’ve been back in school so it was a nice way to unwind when the kiddos got home. This was another idea from Meg Duerksen because I like to craft but I am NOT creative so I steal other people’s ideas. (Yeah, internet!!)

Basically, I cut out a bunch of wings and bodies from large construction paper I had lying around.

Then I used the scraps and a few other pieces to cut out shapes. Lots of different shapes that I just eyeballed and thought looked cool. Most of the time I had two sheets of paper lined up together so I could cut them into the same shape at the same time because I knew I would want to make mine symmetrical.

I had the paper and glue sticks all laid out on the table for when the kids came home and we got right to work.

There was a little skirmish about who got what color and whether the butterfly needed to have two wings of the same color but I let them hash it out and was pleasantly surprised when they came to an amicable compromise.

Violet wanted hers to be “not all symmetry, Mom, but part”. The rest of the pieces she used to tell a story. There’s a cat who lives on a butterfly wing with a hat and a scarf. And the butterfly made a second smaller wing to help hide him from his enemies. I love her inventiveness.

Abram just got to work picking out shapes and colors he liked and gluing them on – using his sister as inspiration here and there.

And mine is symmetrical as I planned. I kept thinking the top part of the wings looked like eyes and eyebrows so I kept adding things to try and make it look a little less like a face. My favorite part is the curly antenna. (Violet gets credit for finding the pipe cleaners to use for antennae.)

We have quite a few shape pieces left over to use when I find another project for them. Any ideas?

The Flap of a Butterfly Wing

When I was 18 and a freshman in college my boyfriend and I broke up. Because when you are a freshman in college and your boyfriend is a freshman in college four hours away, that happens. You listen to sappy love songs and cry for a week, you crank up dance tunes and party for a week, and then you start to get over it. Unless you happen to be like me, where instead you fall into a two year tailspin that involves almost getting kicked out of college, dropping out of college, and racking up a bunch of credit card debt while drinking too much and calling your ex in the middle of the night sobbing because your life is a mess and you just know you are going to grow up to be a failure and it is all his fault.

Yes. This happened. No. I’m not proud. Yes. I’m super glad to be in my 30’s.

I wanted to attend a Big-10 school, study political science, get my law degree, and run for President. I was young, idealistic, and driven. I worked hard to get into UW-Madison and once there I worked my butt off to get good grades. Until the bottom fell out. Then I skipped my finals. And pretty much every class the following semester. Russian Lit in Trans was the exception. I LOVED that class. Nothing like the Russians and a good depressive episode.

I can’t imagine who I would be or what my life would look like if I hadn’t messed it up so spectacularly. I probably wouldn’t have been President but I also probably wouldn’t have been hit by a car walking across the street (sober) to see a boy who would end up breaking up with me in the middle of the night, in my hospital room, with his mother sitting next to him.

Yes. This also happened. And no, I’m not proud (though he should be ashamed). And yes, I’m glad to be in my 30’s.

I didn’t graduate from a Big 10 school. But that car accident pushed me to a place I needed to be. I married the most wonderful man and ironically, graduated from the same school the tailspin inducing boyfriend originally wanted me to attend. At 28. I didn’t go on to law school, but worked briefly as an accountant before becoming a stay at home wife and mother. It’s been a messy but good life. A life absolutely nothing like I had pictured it when I was 18.

My missed opportunities? I regret them but wouldn’t change them. They taught me some hard lessons. They make some great stories. And every single one of them got me to where I am now.

First Day

I sent my babies off to school today. Both of them.

And I’m getting a little misty as I type that. Because it’s been seven years since I’ve had at least one of those critters at home. SEVEN. That’s not really a long time but it is a really long time and the house is quiet. Which is perfect, because I’m back at school.

I started off by taking two classes but decided yesterday that I would only take one. For a lot of reasons.

1) We have a vacation scheduled during my semester and I want to be able to work ahead. One of the classes didn’t allow for that and I didn’t want to be doing school work on vacation.

2) I think easing back into this school thing is probably a good idea.

3) I want to be able to enjoy my life AND enjoy school. I could probably do both and still take two classes, but probably not as much as if I just took one.

4) Money. Tuition is expensive and I can think of other ways to spend that money right now.

5) Christmas knitting. I know. It’s an absolute ridiculous reason to drop a class BUT it is an absolutely ridiculous legitimate reason. I’ve got projects and projects and projects to finish before December 25th and writing paper after paper each week makes that almost impossible. (See also #3 – I can’t enjoy life if I’m not knitting.)

6) I want a clean house. If I’m at school the whole time my kids are at school…no clean house.

7) I’m not ready to shut down the blog. And I would have to. (Again, #3.)

BUT, I’m taking a class. And I’m reading the textbook and I’m stupid happy because library science, people. It’s awesome. I couldn’t even shut up about all the interesting first chapter snippets I read over the weekend (the people spending the weekend with me LOVED it, I can assure you) and I’ve already got a good start on my paper for next week. I’m the biggest, happiest dork EVER.

Five Goals (September)

I’ve always been a checklist/goal getter/dream bigger kind of girl. This year I realized that a lot of the things I was setting out for myself to accomplish just weren’t getting done. So I decided to pare down my list to five things, join Hayley for Goals with Grace, and 1) really focus on the things I wanted to do 2) not stress myself out when things weren’t being checked off my list.

Let’s start off by looking how I did with August’s Five Goals:

1.
Read 4 books.- I read The Ocean at the End of Lane by Neil Gaiman, This is How You Lose Her by Junot Diaz, The Brief and Wonderous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz, The Weight of Small Things by Sherri Wood Emmons and am currently reading Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell

I’d recommend “This is How You Lose Her” and “The Ocean at the End of the Lane” but thought “The Weight of Small Things” was clunky and terrible. I’m enjoying “Cloud Atlas” but it’s slow going and I don’t want recommend it just yet.

2. Ride 100 miles. – This isn’t even funny. I rode three miles. THREE. I think I need to focus a little more on that come September.

3. Knit (finish) a scarf. – I’ve got about 20 inches left to do but I had to start another project. I LOVE the herringbone pattern (especially now that I’ve figured how the first stitch works) but it’s BORING. I had to mix it up by adding another Christmas present project to the mix.

4. Purge/clean/organize kitchen cabinets. – I got half of them purged, cleaned, lined and reorganized. I have about three more to take care of before I can officially check this off my list of things to do but the one’s I was worried about are done.

5.
Prepare back to school routine/chore charts.Done.

September’s Five

1. Ride 100 miles. (Let’s try this again)

2. Purge linen closet.

3. Frame & hang pictures for “Grand Central” wall.

4. Establish a household/school routine.

5. Finish scarf & secret Christmas knitting project, start mitts.

Craft Thursday:: Simply turning the Page

I originally planned doing crayon resist watercolors today but the kids and I started, didn’t like how they were turning out, turned over our papers and just painted instead.

Which, when I stop to think about it, is a metaphor for this summer. I had great and intricate plans for this summer – activities with the kids (zoo, camping, days and days at the pool), a list of projects around the house (plant, grow, harvest a garden and attempt canning, re-landscape the beds in the backyard, figure out which room was really going to be the craft room/home office and then organize/decorate it), and a few jobs for Jesse and me to tackle.

Then I hurt my foot. And Jesse’s work schedule exploded. I got sick. He got sick. Our kids got sick. It sucked.

So I called and told a friend how much it sucked.

And she agreed and then said (because she doesn’t sugar coat things for me), “You aren’t going to want to hear this, but you need to accept it all with joy because you’re just making yourself miserable.” She’s right, I didn’t want to hear it.

{Pause for pretty pictures}

Mine – I have no idea what I’m doing so I just throw paint on until I like it.

Violet’s – She wanted to make a series of symbols. I love how it turned out (and that she made her own crayon resist for her name).

Abram’s – He actually spent awhile painting his crayon resist painting but decided he didn’t like it at the last minute (I think because V and I got sick of ours) and painted this instead.

I wish I could say I took my friend’s lesson to heart, but I didn’t and I was pretty miserable and cranky for a good part of the summer. And then…I got fed up being miserable.

I accepted that it wasn’t going to be the perfect, pretty summer that I planned and I turned the page and just relaxed into it which didn’t make it a summer filled with fun or accomplishment, but at least made me less cranky.

I wish I would have listened sooner.

Happy Anniversary

I’ve been married to the most wonderful man for 12 years. To celebrate we spent the first night at the family cabin and the following morning headed into Minneapolis for amazing food, a great show, and more amazing food. Then we came home and loved on our babies a little.

Friday night fish-fry in the Northwoods. And a Shirley Temple (because I’m still a ten year old).

We ended up with a free room upgrade because of an overbooking.

We were WAY up in the tower and below a rooftop wedding ceremony was being set up. We didn’t actually get to see the wedding but I loved watching people arrive.

Our favorite restaurant is not the place for a vegetarian but their steaks are divine and their lobster cakes unbelievable.

I laughed so hard. And was ashamed of myself for laughing so hard. I was certain we would all be smote for attending such an irreverent show, but it really was just too funny.

The next morning we had brunch at a place recommended by one of my favorites (this girl needs to have a lifestyle blog or something – she’s way better than Gwyneth) and it was AMAZING. I had bourbon glazed french toast with pecans. To. DIE.

We came home to these pretty flowers and happy children. Dumped water on our heads and made a donation for the ALS challenge and are now back to life as normal.

Feeling very, very blessed.

Craft Thursday:: Planetary Systems

Violet has been obsessed with all things solar system ever since she started reading this book so I thought it’d be fun for us to attempt this project.

We had everything on hand. We set it up in about five minutes, worked for about an hour, and clean up took about five minutes. As craft projects go – ideal.

First we splatter painted our black construction paper with white acrylic paint to make the background. Violet wanted to make her stars with her fingers instead of splattering paint and that’s the fun of crafting with kids – letting them use their own creativity.

Once that was done, we drew our planets on watercolor paper using a circle template I had from my scrapbook days and then painted them in. This was a blast. Everyone worked so hard and Violet peppered us with Solar System factoids. For example, Jupiter is so large that all the other planets combined could fit inside of it. Pluto used to be considered a major planet but it’s really just a part of the Kuiper Belt. The gases on Venus make it the hottest planet in the solar system because it traps the suns heat and doesn’t let it escape back into the atmosphere. Basically, she made me feel stupid.

When we finished painting, we set them out to dry and had lunch. Then we cut them out and used a glue stick (I love glue sticks) to attach them to our “star paper”

Violet’s

Abram’s

Mine

Some how a few of my planets were stolen to finish out Violet and Abram’s systems, but that’s okay. I probably wouldn’t have used them all anyway. It was a great, simple project.

Empty Nesting

In two weeks, both of my babies will be heading to school.

I’m excited. And sad. Ready. And nostalgic.

I know to call it empty nesting is a bit dramatic. I’ll drop them off every morning and pick them up every afternoon and it will be many years before I’m truly empty nesting.

But I am dramatic and I don’t know what else to call the child-free hours (where I’ll be cleaning and studying and volunteering and hopefully having lunch with my friends) so “empty nesting” it is.

I don’t want to dwell too much on how quickly the baby years and the toddler years and the preschool years have gone because time is still going. If I stop for too long thinking about all the past stuff, I’m going to miss all the amazing stuff right in this moment.

I know it’s gotten popular to romanticize the early years. To talk about how fast it all goes and how much you’re going to miss it. People can go on and on with the “one day will be the last time {fill in the blank}” until you’re bawling. Let’s not be those people.

Am I going to miss certain things? Absolutely. But there’s also a whole slew of things I don’t miss and a few things I’m even looking forward to not missing.

I want my children to grow up (it beats the alternative) and I want to (as my mom once said) work myself out of a job by teaching them to be independent and capable. Just not all at once.

School starts in two weeks and both of my babies will be in elementary school. It’s going to be very quiet around here and yes, I’m a little sad. But I’m mostly happy. They’ll be learning new things, making and developing friendships, and seeing a little more of the world. And I will be too.

I think that’s something to celebrate.

Monday Madness

I can’t believe it’s Monday again already. Our to-do list was overly adventurous this weekend (I wanted to reorganize/purge the garage and utility room and get the whole house before school organized) and not everything got completed. I’m going to be super busy this week finalizing all the pre-school organizations but the good news:

1) I have the kid’s responsibility charts completed.

2) All school supplies, school shoes, school clothes are purchased and organized and ready to go.

3) My responsibility chart and daily schedule are starting to take shape in my mind. The blog might start to get quiet in September as I’ll be taking two classes towards my MLIS.

4) I have tuition paid, books ordered, and syllabi reviewed for those two classes.

5) This time of year is my absolute favorite. Back to school is a natural “reset” and I’m just humming with new plans and goals. Throw in new notebooks, pens, and pencils – I’m in heaven.

As soon as I finish up here, I’m going to tackle a 10 minute purge. Basically, if you’ve never done one before – you grab a bag or box and walk through your house and toss anything within eye line that you don’t find useful or beautiful. I don’t go through drawers and I ignore the little knick-knack that I don’t want to keep but don’t want to toss. Instead I just focus on the piles of random nonsense that we all seem to end up having – magazines, catalogs, that toy no one plays with and have no idea how we acquired. I was doing them about once a month but got out of the habit but think it’s time to reinstate them.

Then it’s grocery store, kitchen cleaning, and cleaning/sorting/lining a few cabinets.

What are you looking forward to this Monday?

The Muppet

Molly is the third dog that has come in to our life since Jesse and I were married. After the first two, I didn’t know if we’d ever get another. Lucy (Jesse’s first dog EVER and the dog love of his life) was amazing but at her six month vet appointment we found out that she had a genetic kidney disease that would progress rapidly. While we adored every single second with her, she didn’t even make it to her second birthday before it was time to let her go.

We picked up Sunny on a whim. It was completely my mistake. I’d been without a dog for three years, I wanted one, and I didn’t bother to think that a three year old, a just-over-one-year-old, and a puppy might be a little more than this momma could handle (which of course it was). When we had some food guarding episodes that resulted in Jesse (and then Violet) being bit, we gave her back to the breeder.

A few years later, I started looking around again. Occasionally I’d email the Mister a puppy picture and get nothing but “NO” in response. After a few months, he started talking about maybe getting a dog and how maybe this time we shouldn’t get a golden retriever because Lucy was just too precious and we’d never love another golden like her.

So I started looking at golden doodles. And about fell out of my chair. Spending a ton of money on a dog that was essentially a mutt had absolutely no appeal. But we kept coming back to this one breeder. The prices were high (they were everywhere) but not as high as some and they looked to really love their dogs, and their puppies were ADORABLE. (The health guarantee that allowed us to keep the dog even if something was wrong was a huge decider.) So I called her and we talked. And we talked some more.

And then Jesse and I talked. And talked some more. We spent over a month teetering back and forth before deciding to put down a deposit on a future litter. After our last two experiences, we really wanted to do the right thing. We both felt that having a dog would be a wonderful addition if it was the right dog but we didn’t want to repeat the mistakes of the past. And then we put down the deposit and teetered back and forth about whether it was the right time. I don’t think the two of us have ever been so undecided.

When we finally went to pick up Molly, the kids and Jesse played with her while I talked to the breeder about training, food, and adjusting the puppy to her new home. She was an adorable and goofy and looked like a Muppet with her long eyelashes and floppy, curly-furred ears. When it was time to go, she curled up in my lap and rode the whole way home without fuss.

She’s still goofy – she loves Abram’s socks (and only his) and will walk around with one in her mouth whenever she can. She’s been known to go and search one out of the laundry basket which just makes me laugh. She’s unbelievably soft after a grooming and I could just sit and pet her all day. She loves attention and will sit at your feet and just vibrate until you lean down to pat her (she used to jump and nudge your hand like crazy, but we’ve been working with a trainer on that).

She’s been a good decision and I’m grateful. A family just feels “more right” with a dog. And having her curled up on my feet during the winter while I knit? Heaven.

How to Treat a Summer Cold

I hate summer colds.

The weather is perfect and I’m walking around with a head full of snot and a nasty cough. Even worse is now my son has it too! So here’s what we are doing to make sure that we’ll be down and out for the shortest amount of time possible.

Rest. Yesterday, I sorted through my bookcases pulling a few books three boxes to donate. Today, we are curling up with movies and books and coloring books and crayons. Anything to keep it low key.

Neti pot. The first time someone told me to try one, I scoffed. The second time, I sneered. The third, I just out and out said how disgusting I thought it would be. And then I ended up with the most horrendous sinus infection of all time and was willing to try anything. A little distilled water heated to body temperature (test it on your wrist like you would a bottle), a pre-mixed packet, and it’s like magic. Instantly feeling a little a better. I usually do this two times a day (once in the morning and once before bed).

Thieves – I like to use it for a sore throat (I just put a drop on my tongue) and diffusing at night really seems to help the duration of the cold. I’m not a doctor and I’m not making any medical claims, I just really like the stuff.

Homemade Vapor Rub – I’ve been the biggest fan of Vick’s VapoRub ever since I was a little kid. Nothing like getting out of a steamy shower to have your mom rub in on your chest and wrapping you up in a fluffy towel. Since we’ve been trying to reduce the amount of petroleum products we use as a family, I was so glad to find this alternative. This recipe smells amazing, helps me breathe, and because it is made with coconut oil and beeswax it doesn’t feel as greasy as Vicks.

Massage oil – I don’t think there is anything worse than sinus pressure and since my colds almost always turn into sinus infections, I like to try and help clear them as much as possible. I’ve made a massage oil to rub around my nose, ears, and over my cheekbones for relief.

I put 10 ml carrier oil (v-6, olive oil, almond oil) in a glass jar and add:
-2 drops eucalyptus
-2 drops peppermint
-3 drops rosemary
-1 drop tea tree

Grilled cheese – Because it just is good.

How do you help treat a cold?

Hi, Monday.

Hey there, Monday.

Yeah, that’s about how I feel…giving you the stink-eye.

Nawww…just kidding. Though I do wish it was still the weekend so I could be hanging out with some of my favorite people.

On Friday, we met my sissy and her kiddos at the cabin and proceeded to eat, sleep, and Scrabble our way through the days while the kids swam. And tubed. And swam. And tubed. And swam.

Jesse was the grill master.  And the fry-master. Well, the pretty-much-everything-master. AND he brought up these Guinness battered shrimp that he got from work.  Oh. My. Word.  They were sooooo good.  We had them with steak and asparagus. My sister also introduced me to these fruit beers which sound like an absolute no, but are very, very yummy. Perfect for summer. I really want to try Serendipity.

Violet stuck her tongue out at me any time she noticed me trying to get a picture.  Her cousin was a LOT more cooperative.  (I love both those girls.)

Actually, I love my sister and her crew so much I could eat their faces off but I think her son is beating me to it!!

I miss them already.

But now it’s Monday, and I’m going to the allergist and getting ready for a friend who is visiting this week. Are you looking forward to anything this week? And could you say a little prayer for me…I’m nervous about this whole allergy panel.

Can I get an Amen?!?

I have no idea where the summer went.

But I am completely ready for school to start.

With just about a month left before we all hit the books, all of us getting a little sick of each other, and Violet taking a knee to the eye (she’s fine, just has to take it easy until the swelling goes down), I thought now would be a good time to steal some brilliance from the interwebs and start our own Craft Thursday.

 I picked some plain wood birdhouses at Michael’s while they were on sale, set up a painting station with an old tablecloth and cardboard box “palettes” and we all set to work.

Mine took about three times as long as theirs did and that was WITH them taking breaks to scooter around the block so Violet could “work on {her} vision”.

I think Abram had the most fun adding all the different colors to his palette and mixing them around. He called it making tie-dye.

Once they’re completely dry, we’ll be displaying these indoors, but if we were going to leave them outside we’d clear coat them with polyurethane.

A Daily Checklist for the Kids

This summer is flying by and I really want to kick back and relax and enjoy the last few weeks before my babies head back to school. But I also know that the prep work I do today will make that transition come September a whole lot easier. With that in mind, I’ve been reviewing different ways to make routine/chore charts.

One of my favorite ideas was Jessica’s The Morning High Five (and all her other high fives) but because I wanted the full day on one sheet of paper, I gave up the fun little handprint and created my own form. (The daily five concept might be stretched when I say your “daily five morning, daily five afternoon, daily five evening” but I wanted something for the printable that wasn’t my kiddos names, so pretend.)

With one of my children being a pre-reader, I made one using mostly clipart. (Anything to help along that independence – especially on school mornings!!)

My kiddos like to check things off once they’ve done them (and I’m the same way) so I laminated them before clipping them to their boards and attached a 3M Command hook for hanging a dry erase marker. This also allows me to write in/update their chore of the week without having to print a new form. (I use this list to help me assign chores but I know there is a list attributed to Maria Montessori on Pinterest as well. Basically, if they show interest in me doing it – I start teaching them and once I get comfortable with them doing it, I add it to their rotating list)

If you are interested in these printables, let me know if you’d like the clip art or word version and I’ll send a pdf to your email!

My Five Goals

I’m two books behind schedule on my 50 books in 2014 goal; I really need to start being more active now that my foot is starting to really heal, and I have quite a few projects I want to tackle. Since the beginning of the year, I’ve been writing down 10 tasks to accomplish each month and then promptly ignoring all but one or two.

This month, I decided to make my list shorter and focus on the things that make the most sense (have the biggest benefit once completed) and then blog it so I have the accountability.

1. Read 4 books.

2. Ride 100 miles.

3. Knit (finish) a scarf.

4. Purge/clean/organize kitchen cabinets.

5. Prepare back to school routine/chore charts.

I’m linking up with the Tiny Twig’s Goals with Grace this month if you’d like to join in!

Lessons from the Summer

1. “It” really does do go by faster than you could imagine. Abram turned five. Violet, seven. All three of us are heading back to school in September and it seems like just yesterday that they were babies. It seems like just like yesterday I was a baby.

2. I don’t enjoy reading out loud. I’ll do it – especially if one of my little’s ask – but it makes me a little crazy because it’s so sloooooow.

3. I’ve been purling the first stitch all wrong for the last two years (and now I know the right way to do it).

4. I should never buy another piece of jewelry. I wear my diamond earrings, my Stony Lake necklace, and the ring Jesse bought me when I had Abram. And that’s it. All the rest just makes a big mess in my jewelry box.

5. I like road trips with my kids.

6. If Jesse isn’t around, I really can remove a fish from my hook without cutting my hands or squealing like a girl. But only because I have to.

7. When the doctor tells me to take it easy and rest, I really should take it easy and rest.

8. Birkenstocks are really, really supportive shoes. (And I guess they are fashionable?)

9. I like jersey sheets. Except for folding them or making the bed with them. So basically, just sleeping on them.

10. We have hummingbirds in our yard.

Linking up here.

Hair Problems

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I have this hair cycle. I grow it to a little past my shoulders, cut it into a pixie, and start all over. I really want to have hair to the middle of my back – minus the fact I can’t stand having to blow dry my hair and wet hair on the back of my neck gives me the heebs which is why I always chop it.

It seems like I would just embrace the pixie (which my husband adores, most of my friends applaud, and I think I look pretty cute in) but I just have this idea of me with longer hair so I keep repeating the cycle.

And now I’ve reached that point in the cycle that every girl growing out a pixie dreads:

The one where no matter how talented your hairdresser – you look like you are midway from a pixie.

Because you are midway from a pixie.

My other hair dilemma (it’s earth shattering stuff on the blog today) is whether I embrace my gray. In the last few years my hair has decided that it’s going to be really finicky about taking on color. As in, twice the processing time and half the amount of time between color. And I’m gray. Not quite fifty percent, but easily more than twenty-five. At what age do you accept the salt and pepper? I feel like 36 is too young, but the amount of time and money I spend not accepting it is enough to give me more gray hair. (This is also one of those moments when I want to smack my sister who is only four years younger with maybe 10 gray hairs on her whole head. Brat.)

I’m tempted just to flip a coin. Advice? Grow it/chop it? Dye it/Accept it? Stop being so vain and shut up about your damn hair already?

Allergies

I’ve had weird allergy responses ever since high school. When stressed, or worn, or about to get sick – I’d break out in hives. I typically avoid scented detergents and soaps because I’m much more likely to develop a reaction if I’m using them (but not always) and I’m beyond loyal to my deodorant brand because any time I’ve tried another, I’ve regretted it. It’s odd but it’s not all the time odd so I’ve never really done anything about it.

On Friday evening, I went to the emergency room. The back of my throat was swelling and the antihistamines I usually use weren’t doing much of anything. This isn’t my first go round with bizarre angiodema (which is a fancy way of saying facial swelling) so I typically don’t worry too much. When my lip or eye or tongue start to swell, I take some Benadryl and Zantac (yup, the stomach stuff works great – especially for hives) and if that doesn’t do anything, I go to the doctor and they put me on a course of prednisone and stronger antihistamines. It clears up and I continue on my merry way. I’ve never had my throat swell though and throat swelling is scary (thankfully it never impacted my breathing).

Since it’s been happening more and more frequently and I can not find a common denominator (so far I’ve given up Reece’s Pieces, my favorite skin care line, a favorite skin care product, a certain essential oil, and a sunscreen in the hopes that I’ve found the culprit, but it just keeps happening), I’ll be meeting with an allergist in a few weeks (once the medicines clear out of my system) to figure out just what is going on with this crazy body of mine.

I’m really hoping I can start eating Reece’s Pieces again.