Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Show Me The Love

In my Stitch Fix post, I mentioned I still hadn't gotten back to my pre-baby shape.

A dear reader commented and told me to knock it off, and I'm so glad she did! You see, I easily fell into the trap of being self-deprecating when it came to my body; her response reminded me to appreciate my body instead. 

She said exactly what I would have told a friend if she'd put her body down. I've been trying to model body positivity to my kids since day one. Like when 3 year old Margaret cradled my booty in her little hands and said, "Dat's bumpy Mommy!" I just thanked her and told her I was glad to have such a strong bottom and legs. When the kids commented on my boobs, or Jack reached out and flapped my underarms for entertainment, I reacted similarly. I made sure they saw me eat what I wanted and not be ruled by a scale. 

But with other women, it's so darn easy to break into the tired habit of communally wishing our tummies were tighter, our pants looser. Or, we put ourselves down in order to appear modest. I knew those clothes looked nice on me, but would that have seemed too show-off-y to say? Even at a Bible Study retreat last weekend with my close friends, we engaged in some stretch mark show and tell, and had a long discussion of rogue facial hair.

So, thanks to the reader who snapped me back to reality, this morning I spent some time thinking about the many reasons I appreciate my body. 

Here are a few:

I am still in AWE of how my body grew, carried, and nourished Baby Andrew, even at age 46!

I am grateful my body enjoys food so much. I love all kinds of food and have no allergies. From our first date on, I have always eaten more than my husband. However, when I was pregnant with Andrew, my heartburn was so terrible, food was not my friend. Even water made me cry. Since Andrew's birth, I've been grateful to able to thoroughly enjoy food again.

My arms are coming through for me in a BIG way. With 2 injured shoulders, I was concerned about having to lift a baby again. They get sore, for sure, but I can (and do!) pick up that 20+ lb hunk of cuteness hundreds of times a day. Today, it felt like 200 times by 8 a.m. An egg carton mattress topper helps give my shoulders a good rest at night, and I'm up for doing it again the next day. Thank you, arms and shoulders!

My teeth have never given me a minute's trouble. They are strong, and except for some stress grinding, in great shape. That's good, because Smiling's my Favorite. 

I'm even thankful for my inch of gray! It represents love and perseverance to me, because I started graying after the sudden loss of my mother when I was 18. It reminds me of what I've gone through and what I can do. 

My feet are a size 7 1/2, about as average as you can get. That makes it super-easy to shop for shoes. And as long as I wear only comfy ones, my feet are happy!

My heart. Grief actually hurts the heart. I felt it. Yet my heart continues to keep me going. Thank you, heart!

Those are just some of the reasons I'm grateful for my body. What about you? If you are suffering from chronic disease, when it feels as if your body is betraying you, some days it's probably hard to find a single thing to appreciate about it. 

I hope your body is kind to you today, and you to it!

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Lead Paint, and Lead vs. Led

When Jack and Margaret were little, I did a lot of furniture refinishing. That's how some of you found me here on the blog. Because I like weathered, chippy furniture, I was particularly careful about lead paint and had all of my antiques tested by a professional.

Years later, I found a treasure, "The Dumpster Dive,"  an enormous green cabinet sitting by the side of the road. When I found it, the kids were way past the paint-licking stage, but I didn't want to take any chances, so I left it outside under the carport for years rather than bringing it inside.

When we moved into this house 3 years ago, I knew I had the perfect place for it in our family room, and because Margaret was a teen by that time, I didn't see a risk of having it inside. It looks terrific!

A few days ago, however, I was playing on the floor with Andrew, when I looked up and realized The Dumpster Dive could very well have lead paint on it. A quick test I ordered on-line confirmed that it does. I can either try to seal it with some kind of poly coating, or get rid of it. I feel like such a dummy for not even thinking about it until now, and I really hope Andrew hasn't suffered any ill effects from it! I'm just sitting here staring at it today, because it's huge and whatever I decide to do will have to be done with Tim's help when he gets home. Gah.

All of this LEAD talk made me think of something else entirely.

Many people mix up the words LEAD and LED.

I see a lot of great writing every day, and this seems to be a common error, even in published books. I'm not judging-- I recently put the word asses in a blog post when I meant assess! So, what have I noticed? I commonly see phrases like, "I felt lead to write this article." This is incorrect. The person is not talking about a metal. It should be, "I felt led to write this article."

SO, how does one remember the difference? I don't know.

LEAD (as in lead paint, a bucket of lead) and LED (as in I led the dog down the hill yesterday, I felt led to share this with you) sound exactly the same.

LED is past-tense.

Of what?

The word LEAD (rhymes with seed)

LEAD (verb, what a LEADER does) sounds different. "I hope he or she will lead our nation with grace and dignity."

Not sure why I'm riffing on this today, but if it helps anyone catch it in his/her writing, that would be great.

Now if we could only eradicate: "Thank you for the support you have shown Kevin and I," and, "Please give it to Kevin or myself."

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Stitch Fix Home Run

When my latest Stitch Fix box showed up, I wasn't very optimistic.

I'd just watched a great Netflix documentary called The Minimalists and donated half of my closet's contents to charity. Getting new clothes in the mail didn't seem very minimalist. I'd completely forgotten I had scheduled this fix a few months ago.

I also hadn't updated my preferences with current wardrobe needs and the fact that my body is not back in pre-baby shape. It is STRONGLY recommended that you communicate with your personal Stitch Fix stylist before a fix to ensure the best outcomes. Just a few sentences  about your tastes and current needs can help steer her in the right direction.

Could there possibly be anything in there tempting enough to claim both closet space and $$$?  My last fix, I ended up keeping just 2 out of the 5 items.

Who knew it would be very, very close to a home run?

The first item was a comfy shirt. I thought I'd pass on this because it was expensive, but once I put it on, I fell in love with the soft, quality fabric and the fact that it covered my butt and had a bit of ruching on the bottom. Truth be told, I'm still wearing a few maternity tops because of these same features. Also, burgundy is one of my all-time favorite colors to wear.

Bowie Solid Dolman Sleeve Top in Burgundy by Laila Jayde: $58

The next item was a colorful top made out of sheer fabric. It had the coolest sleeves and would be fun for now, as well as in the spring or summer with white jeans. I like how it is different from anything else I own.

Welllens Bow Sleeve Blouse by 41 Hawthorn $58

The next item was a pair of skinny velvet pants. I was not impressed by the price, but I was impressed by the fit. Super skinny and stretchy, but definitely pants not leggings. I'd call them velvet jeans if that makes sense. I can wear them with shirts that don't cover my butt. I've been looking for a pair of nice black pants for over a year and wasted over $40 each on 2 different pairs that DIDN'T work, so I decided to go ahead and invest in these. The only thing that would have improved them is if they had a wide, high elastic waistband (can you tell I'm still wearing maternity pants a lot, too?)

Baby not included.

Krissy Velveteen Skinny Pant; Kut From the Kloth $88

The next item was a cuff bracelet. This was my only disappointment because I remember the profile I filled out a few years ago says NO JEWELRY. I'll need to check and see if it still says that. This cuff is so cute, but I don't need it. In fact, I have a Stella and Dot cuff that I bought for myself for Christmas still hidden somewhere in this house. I hope to find it before Valentine's Day.

Ali Wrap Around Cuff Bay to Baubles $28

The last item was a dark purple (burgundy?) dress. This could not be MORE ME if it had my SSN embroidered on the hem, or if it were free. Sure, it looks suspiciously like a dress I already have, but that's because it is EXACTLY what I love, and is a better length for me. It also reminds me of the magic royal blue Stitch Fix dress I shrank a few years ago and have been missing ever since. Yes, that's a dog fence in my bedroom in an attempt to keep the baby from pitching over the weird 3 foot drop onto the hardwood floor. Thank you, 1980's home design.

Love the gold zipper in the back, and the tiny sleeves!

Delfine Ponte Dress by Eliza Jayde $98

The verdict?

I kept it all! I know this sounds weird, but I even kept the bracelet. The reason? If you keep all 5 items in a fix, you get a 25% discount. I figured it was worth keeping the $28 bracelet if I saved $82.50 on the entire fix! 

I guess I didn't have a very minimalist week, but I'm hoping I'll get a LOT of use out of these items rather than having them just hang in my closet. I love having fewer clothes in my closet, and I'm committed to culling things down to only items that I LOVE. Good thing I loved this Fix!

Do you think the dress can be dressed both up or down? I hope to wear it to a charity casino night and a bat mitzvah. 

If you are interested in getting clothing in the mail selected for you by a personal stylist, try Stitch Fix! 

The photo below includes my referral link:

P.S. Stitch Fix has started service for men's clothes and Tim says he is in a clothing rut and wants to try it! Ha! I'm getting him a gift certificate for Valentine's Day. Can't wait.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Gray/Pink Teen Bedroom Reveal

Thanks for the great response to the High/Low post about Margaret's gray/pink teen bedroom makeover! I have photos today of the room's current state, although it was hard to get the colors to show up perfectly with my phone.

We still have one MAJOR thing to do, which is to create a gallery wall on the long wall opposite the bed. This is where the room will really get its personal style, and considering how much time teens spend in their beds, eating, studying, watching Netflix, etc, she'll get to see it a lot. Margaret hopes to start by having some of the photos she's taken enlarged and printed in black and white. Can't wait to see what else she chooses. I tried to get whole room photos today, but clothes strewn about thwarted me. Hope these snippets will do!

This photo shows the nailhead trim headboard, bedding, Target lamp, and small mirrors from TJ Maxx.

To the right of the bed is an antique dresser that used to be my mom's. It could use a new coat of paint, but for now we just spray painted the knobs gold. This dresser has been every color of the rainbow.

On the other side of the bed is the Target lamp I LOVE on an end table I got out of the trash when Margaret was 2.

Further left is a rubbermaid storage shelf that we already had. We just bought gray/white cubes from Target to go in the top cubbies. 

She enjoyed picking the accessories from Target:

On the same wall as the rubbermaid storage is the vanity area. The vanity gets a lot of use. Here's the ghost chair, the Target desk and fluffy pillow, plus a gorgeous gold mirror I found by the side of the road.

One last thing: 

On the "don't you love social media?" front, here's a NEW mirrored night stand to replace the wooden one I got out of the trash! My childhood friend Brad and his wife saw the blog post last week and offered us 2 of these for free. They were just languishing in their exercise room! Margaret is THRILLED. "Doesn't that just take it up a notch?" she said. Yes, yes it does. I like it even better than the one I found on Amazon.

Her room is less cluttered than before, and she's really enjoying it and the sense of calm it brings, except for the pile of clothes on the floor. 

Now to get to that gallery wall... 

Monday, January 16, 2017

Adventures in Diapering

I'm sure Jack and Margaret must have done some squirming when we changed their diapers, but  Andrew makes diaper changes an Olympic event for both of us. And it's painfully obvious, this Mama is no Olympian.

Months ago, we moved the changing pad to the floor, since his lunging in every direction was heart-stopping. He's much safer on the floor, but it gives him too much room to work with as I try to man-handle him into a diaper.

Poopy ones are my favorite.

He gets suspicious as I carry him up the stairs. When I place him on his back, he starts to wail at the injustice, perhaps lamenting that excrement removal keeps him from his favorite activities of immersing his hands in the toilet, reorganizing the pantry, crab-crawling his way up the stairs, or changing my Facebook Profile picture while messing with my phone.

I start in Veteran Mama pose as I breathe deeply and try to press his little body down with one hand,  lifting his chubby feet with the other. A quick release of his torso to whisk the poop-filled diaper away gives him the opportunity to perform a quick flip and land in what I like to refer to as The Wheelbarrow.

This is when his head and chest face downward, he's twisted in the middle, and I have his legs and bottom raised high in the air. He paddles his arms in a swimming motion off of the end of the changing pad and onto the floor. Before I lose my grip on his legs and my mind, I attempt to dislodge any large clumps of poop.

Then the quick little rascal scoots away, his prodigious rear so clenched and dimpled, it's nearly impossible to make progress on the more recessed areas of his nether-regions. "Crack is whack," I mutter, as I nab him by the trailing snaps of his onesie and try to gently poke a wipe where it  really needs to be. His body may be stationary for the moment, but his legs stay moving in a cartoon-style running motion.

When I lose my grip on the onesie, clearly taking a deduction on my final score, he darts out his door into our tiny hallway, grabs the baby gate, which I have (thankfully) locked, pulls himself up, and clings to the bars like a unduly happy circus animal.

My 47 year old shoulders ache from effort, but I know we're near the finish line. I crawl up behind him on the hardwood floor, give him a loud smoochy smooch on the soft folds of his neck and finish my floor routine with Standing Diaper, something moms have perfected over many decades. It's slightly inferior to Regular Diaper, as one chubby cheeks seems to be hanging out more than the other, but it'll do.

He's no longer stinky, or confined, or angry. I conclude a diaper and an unsnapped onesie is perfectly appropriate indoor winter wear, because I'm not about to wrassle him back into pants. I scoop him up, and we head back downstairs to take a bow, hoping that the next poop is hours away.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Gray and Pink Teen Room Makeover, High/Low Edition

Margaret and I re-did her room on a budget.

To raise money for the project, we found whatever we could around the house to sell on a yard sale site. This helped us set our budget and also get rid of excess clothes and accessories that were cluttering up her room. We moved a bunch of books and keepsakes to the basement.

The look she wanted was Hollywood Regency meets Modern, and she was able to find a lot of ideas online. She wanted a mix of metals and textures, with a lot of white throw in.

To plan for the room, she sent me links of what she wanted, and I poked around for less expensive options. In some cases, we went with her choices, and in others mine. We are both happy with the results, and I thought I'd share the process with you here:

The paint color we  used was a continuation from our lower level: Benjamin Moore's Moonshine, a soft gray; we kept the white trim as-is.

An upholstered queen headboard was the centerpiece of the room. This is the one she wanted:


Ella Headboard from Pier One: 449.00

I found this one:
Baxton Headboard from Overstock.com: $129.99

VERDICT: We went with the lower priced one from Overstock and it works perfectly!

She wanted pale pink bedding and there were LOTS of options! 

She chose this set from Urban Outfitters:

HIGH Eyelash bedding in Rose: $189.00 for comforter, $49.99 for 2 shams

I found this much less expensive one, that is quite similar in tone and texture: 

LOW Amazon LUSH Decor Belle 3 Piece quilt Set: $74.99

 And this one for even less, although not in the perfect shade

LOWEST Amazon Chez Moi Collection Ella 3 piece comforter set: $49.99

VERDICT: She asked for a gift card from her grandparents for her birthday, and went with the more expensive option from Urban Outfitters. She loves it!

Fuzzy Throw Pillow



Target throw pillow (FAUX): 17.99 (sale)

VERDICT: We decided that real sheep fur wasn't as important to us as price, so we went with the Target one.

 For lamps, she was looking for antique brass like this one.

Crate and Barrel Theorem Aged Brass Lamp: $219

LOW Amazon Satin Brass Hoyt Table Lamp 79.99

Target Hudson Industrial Brass Table Lamp: $49.00

VERDICT: Target for the win-- again! What a great lamp. I hope she gets tired of it, because I want it. Wait until you see it in her room.

Makeup Vanity:

West Elm Mid Century Modern Desk: $399


VERDICT: Target desk! Easy to put together, and it keeps all of her makeup neat in the wide drawer.

Vanity Chair:

Online these range from 450.00 on down. We bought one from Tuesday Morning for 99.00 (not available online), but here is one just like it, for less.

Amazon Casper Dining Armchair in Clear: 71.27

VERDICT: I still think we got a pretty good deal, but I wish I'd seen this one sooner and purchased it.

Pier One Mirrored Silver Dresser: 999.95

Wayfair Mirrored Dresser: 580.60

VERDICT: Mirrored dressers are lovely, but even at almost 50% off retail, the "low" one from Wayfair was outside our budget. Instead, we kept the same 75 year old white dresser she had and spray painted the handles gold for an update.


LOWEST Amazon Graham Mirrored 2 Drawer End Table: 169.99

VERDICT: Yep, she wanted a new nightstand too. This one is indicative of the MANY mirrored ones we looked at, and the price is the best we saw. However, we were still out of funds, so we painted her old nightstand's handle gold and are keeping our eye out for a more modern, less expensive nightstand down the road.

We are leaning toward something like this, but hopefully on the cheap:

Hay Needle Baby Relax Miles Nightstand: 149.99

I hope you enjoyed seeing our choices and are inspired by how Margaret got the look she wanted, with the budget she had to work with. While she only got a few new pieces of furniture, the room is transformed!

Up next: Photos of the room itself! 

(affiliate links provided for your convenience)

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Why I'm a Great Mother

The day before our Christmas trip to Mexico, I hired a sitter so I could do all of the last minute things needed for travel outside the country with a baby.

So naturally, I ended up wandering the aisles of my favorite thrift store, McDonald's ice tea in hand, crossing nothing off my list.

I am a registered germaphobe, so it's more than a little surprising that I'd choose to go to this particular place in the heart of cold season, busy and crowded as it was, and full of used stuff.

More remarkable, still, was that I let my guard down and glanced over into the toy aisle, an aisle that had been off-limits in my 10+ years of thrifting. Jack and Margaret knew not to put a single toe in that aisle, with its plastic items strewn about, likely covered with baby slobber, e-coli, and boogers. Sure, the loudspeaker periodically chastens parents to keep their kids with them at all times, but no one enforces it, and the toy aisle often serves as the perfect place to dump littles off while mom shops a few aisles over.

And on this cold December day, the aisle was hopping and hacking-- full of kids who were likely too sick to go to school the last day before vacation.

But it was in that petri dish of a toy aisle that I spotted IT.

Back in our (germy) church nursery near the turn of the millennium, my kids played with a large plastic "garden" you could sit in.  Not that it made much sense, but the garden consisted of a plastic picket fence, some spinning plastic birds, flowers, and a mailbox. They'd make a bee-line for it, play with the plastic flowers, and put a germy plastic letter in and out of the pretend mail box for hours.

When I spotted it, I wanted my late-in-life miracle baby to have his own plastic garden to play with, once I'd cleaned it up, of course. Except it meant venturing into the germ zone, in December, one day before a major milestone family vacation.

Why didn't I just lick a urinal at Dulles Airport?

Shoring up my resolve, I darted in, then hoisted the behemoth onto my cart. As I tried to wheel it toward check out, something else caught my eye. Bags and bags of ball pit balls. Because if Miracle Baby wasn't enamored enough with the garden and its 15+ years of embedded germs and memories and fun, I could fill it with ball pit balls! Looking back, I see that this was the moment when my senses completed their leave-taking, because there is nothing, nothing, NOTHING more disgusitng than ball pit balls of unknown origin. Haven't we all heard the tales of horrible things found in ball pits? Syringes? Vomit? The wayward turd?

But what (I imagine) Miracle Baby wants, Miracle Baby gets, so I threw the bags of balls on top of the "garden" and made my way out of the store. A fierce winter wind threatened to topple us, but we made it to the car.

Except it wasn't my car.


I forgot my husband took my big car that day and left me with his small Toyota

I didn't know how I'd get the garden in the car, but I knew it would involve touching it more than I already had. And my hand sanitizer was running low by that point.

Getting it in the car would likely involve full body contact. I needed a plan. The trunk? No amount of shoving could make it fit. The front seat? Even with the seat fully reclined and pushed back, it wasn't even close. I'd have to somehow get it in the back seat, even though that looked impossible. With all the shoving and maneuvering, I'd already worked up a sweat even though it was bitterly cold outside. I was  making a spectacle of myself.

The back seat was my last chance.

I almost gave up, turned around, and re-donated it to the thrift shop.

Finally, I did what no parent ever wants to do and unhooked the baby's carseat-- so expertly installed by my husband-- and tossed it aside.

That provided enough room to POTENTIALLY get the garden in the car. I turned it on its side and shimmied up against its nasty plastic edge. Nothing short of full body contact and repeated thrusting could get it in the car. The plastic grazed my lips. Ugh. I wrapped my arms around it and humped that garden with determination until I managed to wedge it in enough to shut both car doors.


I eventually got it out and cleaned it enough to set it up in the house. After school, Margaret walked in and her face lit up, "I remember that garden! That was my favorite thing to play with in the nursery! Did it come with the piece of plastic mail?"


"That was the best part."


Sunday, January 1, 2017

Monday Musings!

When we moved three years ago, we didn't notice our clothes dryer was ridiculously loud. It was just background noise for our strangely smooth adjustment to a new house down the road from our old one.

When a sweet teenage friend came to stay with us for a while, she proclaimed, "Your dryer is REALLY loud!"

Hmm.  Maybe. I guess I was already used to it. It didn't bother me that much.

Soon it became the norm for people to comment on the dryer. During our kitchen remodel, each of the four men working in the house mentioned it on separate occasions. I mean, who notices DRYERS??? The final straw came this fall when an HVAC guy was doing a maintenance check in the basement when I turned on the dryer. He shot up the stairs yelling, "What was THAT? I thought the house was going to blow!!!"

We had to face the fact that maybe, just maybe, our dryer was not quite okay. We googled the brand and "noise," and found the problem was not unique, and there were concrete steps to take to deal with it. One afternoon, one cut finger, and several youtube videos later, Tim fixed the dryer and it now purrs like a kitten. It just took us THREE YEARS to deal with it.

This has me thinking of how easily the loud dryer became normal to us, even though we had to pull the door shut in order to hear the tv or talk on the phone, and I had a ringing in my ears on days when I did multiple loads.

I've written a lot about getting used to things, and how it is often necessary. I've had to get used to  living without Jack's physical presence, even though 5 years later I still find it bizarre, shocking, and excruciating. Time in itself does not heal all, but it does help us adjust, day in and day out, to reality. Heck, I must admit I am still getting used to the idea that I'm 47 with a baby, even though that baby turns 9 months old this week. I guess at some point it will start to seem normal.

But as the calendar page now has not only a new month but a new year on top of it, I wonder if there are other things that we are living with, that we have grown accustomed to, that really could be  improved if we would just take the needed steps.

(In my life these tendencies range from putting all of my goals on the back burner because of the baby, speaking and being spoken to by family members in ways that are curt and transactional not relational, and my leaning toward sloth rather than health and connection because eating candy and watching TV by myself takes less energy and planning than figuring out how to exist any other way)

But maybe that which seems permanent and unchangeable needn't be that daunting, and perhaps isn't even really that unique. There was a comfort that a bunch of other people out in google-land had the very same dryer issue Tim and I did and chose not to keep living with it.

Perhaps we've talked ourselves into believing that certain patterns/habits/situations might be a nuisance, but they're not really a big deal. I know that's what I do; and as a result, I put off positive changes in favor of inertia.

I wonder, are you living with something you've convinced yourself you cannot change, or that it's not a big deal?