Thursday, April 27, 2017

Organization Inspiration

I love an organized home. That has been one of the challenges of having a new baby. I had grown accustomed to having things stay in their places for the most part. But now my living room looks like this every day:

The adjacent kitchen doesn't fare any better, because
he can tear apart it apart in record speed. I am reminding myself to surrender to this season because I do know that it's only temporary.

However, I still love organizational strategies, and I thought I'd share one of mine that really works!

Tim and I had a folder stuffed with recipes that were printed off the computer, ripped out of magazines and newspapers, and on recipe cards. Each time we wanted to cook something, we would rummage through the pile looking for our tried and true recipes, but they got lost amidst scraps of paper and the many recipes there was NO WAY we would ever get around to making.

Often, Tim and I found ourselves asking each other, in frustrated tones, "Did you put the recipe for X back?" Later we'd find it in another stack of papers, stuck to the fridge, or shoved somewhere in the folder.

Next, I tried putting everything on the computer, but I found it awkward to cook while looking at a screen, and I didn't want to let go of some special old recipe cards from family members.

The solution that has worked for us the past 3 years is surprisingly low-tech. The reason it works so well is that it's crystal clear to both cooks how to use it, so we each follow the system!

Large 3 ring binder
Tried and true recipes on cards, printouts or from magazines (I suggest being selective and only including recipes you will cook!)
Plastic sleeve protectors

Put 2 recipes in each sleeve, one facing front one facing back. The order is not important because all recipes will be equally accessible. Category is not important either. My previous attempts categorized things by type of dish, but I find this much simpler. Because there aren't hundreds and thousands of recipes, they won't get lost.

With a Sharpie, number the plastic sleeves. (Remember when I made that ice cream cake for Jack's 12th b-day?)

Write or type up a table of contents with a name of dish and the recipe number. We have about 75 recipes so far.

When we need a recipe, we look at the table of contents to find out what number the recipe is, then take out the sleeve to cook with in the kitchen. A bonus is that if we splatter on it, it wipes clean.

Because the number is on the sleeve, the recipe always finds its way back to the proper place in the binder.

I use Pinterest and magazines to find new recipes to try, and IF they make the cut, they get added to the binder. I hope someone finds this ridiculously simple idea helpful. What is your favorite way to organize recipes?

My LOVE of streamlining and organization led me to discover an awesome deal on a HUGE "Bundle" of online resources that includes eBooks, eCourses, and even printables to help me in my home. While my goal was organization, I was thrilled to find out that it included MANY other topics of interest to me as well: home decor, goal setting, recipe books, saving money, parenting, and even faith. It feels like Christmas in April to me! Don't let the "Homemaking" title fool you. There is something for everyone here! There are only a few days left in which to purchase this bundle, so I wanted to be sure to share it with you here: 

Wednesday, April 26, 2017


Everything goes into Andrew's mouth these days. He likes to look directly at me as he puts mulch in his mouth and laughs.

Yesterday we were playing in the basement when he started crawling away from me, up the stairs. As I approached him, I noticed he had something in his mouth. It was a small metal ball, super heavy, and about midway between the size of a regular and a large marble. I have no earthly idea what it is, why it was in our house, or where he found it.

I stuck my finger in his mouth to pluck it out and he started giggling. Then, he darted his eyes around looking for something else to stick in. What a ham. No wonder I shove a pacifier in there at any opportunity.

I hope this stage ends soon, because only one of us finds it amusing.

It got me thinking. When we face a crisis such as a near-choking incident, do I feel any more or less anxious than I did before I knew what I now know? That kids can die. No, really, MY kids can die.

People ask me if I'm more protective because of what we've gone through. For the most part, I think I'm pretty much the same: careful in many ways, yet casual in a few others, and not overly anxious. Some people's parenting will always feel too lax for my comfort level, and others' will seem too restrictive.

The fact that my views on that haven't changed all that much shows I am either a slow learner or it is gift, for which I should be grateful.

For I know now that bad things happen, and that prior tragedy does not safeguard you. I also know that even though water safety was my number one concern as a parent, so much so that I refused to look at houses on water or with a pool, my son drowned, just four houses from home.

Things will happen. Some of that will have to do with me, some of it won't. And there are many times that I'm going to mess up, but everything will still turn out okay.

So we just do our best. We scour the floor for odd metal marbles. We try to rig up a 60 degree driveway with a safety net. We say a prayer when our new driver gets behind the wheel. Please. Please. Please.

And when we scoop out that marble or Lego, discover that we forgot to latch the baby gate and he's now on the top shelf of the cupboard, or swoop to grab a toddler heading into the street because we've grown distracted, we breathe a grateful sigh. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. For we know that many times, often, almost always, things will turn out okay. Sometimes because of us, other times despite us.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Baby Proofing Update: New Railings!

As you know, Little Andrew quickly broke through our half-baked solutions to keep him off the stairs.

My strategy then became to teach him to stop, flip over to his tummy, and go up or down the stairs that way. He is very adept at this method, which is a relief. Now that he's walking, I hope he doesn't get too gutsy and think he can go walk down the stairs frontwards, but so far so good.

Even though he is now a master of the stairs, we were still left with the project replacing the stair railings that had been removed by the previous owners. I absolutely approved of their choice of getting rid of the clunky 1980's railings, but I knew we needed to do something eventually, if not for the baby, then for me, and for resale.

I did not feel safe having nothing to grab onto, I lived in fear of sleepily pitching over the 3 foot drop in our bedroom in the middle of the night, and I didn't like how on the main staircase, if Andrew got off track, he could fall off either side.

I got 4 estimates and soon found out that this would NOT be a cheap fix. However, I didn't want it to be something we'd take care of right before moving, not ever enjoying it for ourselves. Too often, we save projects until we move and think, "Why didn't we do this sooner?"

I chose the least expensive estimate, which was less than half of the others, and I'm quite pleased. It wasn't exactly like comparing apples to apples, because the scope of the job changed with the estimates, but I still think I got the best deal possible. The spaces are pretty small, and we don't have a foyer, so I chose much smaller, understated newel posts than I did in our last house. I stuck with square balusters-- my favorite.

I'm really pleased with how it turned out! I feel safer, and in these days of not getting much accomplished, I'm glad to have checked something off the list!

Here is the new railing in our BEDROOM:

Here is the new railing in our LIVING ROOM:

Wednesday, April 19, 2017


Andrew has been taking a bottle in the middle of the night for many months. As "the middle of the night" inched closer toward morning over the past few weeks, I came up with a "brilliant" way to get him off the bottle. If he wakes up after 5, instead of giving him a bottle and trying (usually fruitlessly) to get him to go back to sleep in bed with me (why won't he snuggle???), I'd just get up with him and start the day. That way, he would no longer associate waking up in the night with being given a bottle. Not sure what I'll do if he wakes at 4:58, so this plan may not be completely thought out.

The other kids didn't use bottles, so I have zero expertise in this area. I'll report back on how it goes, but for now let's just say we are oh so tired. I am a night owl, so a 5 a.m. wakeup call is particularly grueling.

Sleep deprivation (and grief brain, baby brain, and menopause brain) are taking a toll.

Tim and I were in the yard with Andrew yesterday. Tim mentioned having little luck cutting back our liriope using gardening shears.

I held up a finger in a Eureka-like gesture. With enthusiasm and certainty, I said, "I know what you can use! Carrots!!!!"

Ugh. Last I checked, scissors and carrots were not the same thing.

If you want to feel better about yourself, I'm hare all day. Ha! I just saw that typo. I'm leaving it.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Stitch Fix Reveal!

My latest Stitch Fix was a winner!

Let's take a look at what I found in my box.

1) Dear John Bayley Roll Cuff Bermuda Short: $68.00.

Basically, white denim shorts. No photo. I needed new long-ish shorts, and white would have been a good choice, but these were too tight. Also, too expensive!


2) Market and Spruce, Amberley Cut out Detail Top, Teal Green: $48.00

While on paper, this would be a great choice for me: striped, bright, soft, long, fun detail in back, I HATED this shirt on me. Margaret and I both had this visceral reaction to it. Perhaps it's the way it clung. Or how it reminded me of a shirt I had during a particularly rough patch in middle school. Or, perhaps b/c Margaret said, "It looks like it came from Kmart." Now, you KNOW I am not a clothes snob, but if I could get this from Kmart (or Walmart, or Target) it would be a lot less expensive.  I was surprised not to like this shirt on me.


3) Finn and Grace Karyn Off the Shoulder Knit Top: $28.00

Please pardon the black bra. I specifically requested a shirt to show off my shoulders. I wanted to see how this trend looked on me. The answer: while I like my shoulders a lot, this baggy lump of ugh did nothing for me. Maybe it would have been better in black or royal blue, rather than tiny red and cream stripes. Margaret, who would look gorgeous in a potato sack, asked if she could have it. Because it was priced reasonably, I said yes. She had better wear it!

KEEP, but not for me.

SOOOOOO, why do I consider this Fix a success?

4) Pixley Ellie Printed 3/4 Sleeve Blouse, Cobalt, $48.00

This dark blue shirt with swans on it is unusual but very flattering. I thought for sure it was a NO-GO until Margaret insisted I try it on. I like that it's not something I'm going to see in every store. I also love the flowiness and the length. Cute with white jeans. I hope we have some cooler spring days because I want to wear this one a lot. If I become The Swan Lady, so be it.


5) Wisp Ryenne Jersey Dress, Blue: $84

I was hoping for a cute summer dress that could be super casual. This fits the bill. The shape is really flattering, and it is long enough and roomy enough for me to wear on any given day. On the floor with Andrew, my underwear won't be showing. It's loose around the tummy, so a big Taco Bell meal won't be an issue. The fabric is a fun batik pattern and is flowy and soft. Also, it shows off my aforementioned shoulders without looking dumb. I plan to wear it with Birkenstocks for casual, silver flat sandals for a little more dressiness, and wedges for church.

So, I'm keeping 3 out of 5 on this FIX. Because I kept just one item, I can take $20 off the total (my "styling fee"). Considering I cannot stand summer clothes, I think this went very well!

STAY TUNED! As promised, I ordered Tim Stitch Fix for Men for Valentine's Day and we scheduled it for next week. Ha! I can't wait! I wonder if he'll look like this guy:

Monday, April 17, 2017

College Spring Break or Mid-life Spring Break?

The past 5 1/2 years have worn me down, the past year has threatened to do me in with exhaustion, and the past week, Spring Break, didn't do much to help.

When you live where we do, Spring Break locales are often exotic: Aruba, Turks and Caicos, Mexico, London, Italy. Social media lets you know what fun/sun others are experiencing as you brace for another "Staycation" of dental appointments and haircuts.

In 18 years, we have not been on a family Spring Break trip, but I was determined to make it happen this year, despite Tim's confusion about whether or not Spring Break "is a thing."

We would fly to FL and stay with Tim's parents. The only big expenses would be the jacked-up holiday airfares and the cost of a dog-sitter. We'd take a friend so Margaret would have a teen companion.

The first snag hit when we reached the ticket counter in the wee hours. Andrew was supposed to be a lap child, but I forgot to bring any ID for him. The other times I'd flown with lap children (many moons ago) this was not a requirement. The reason for the ID was not to make sure we weren't kidnapping him, but to make sure he was under 2. If we purchased him his own seat, they did not require any ID at all! Unfortunately, when I offered that up as a solution, the flight was overbooked.

So we scrambled. I frantically texted Tim to tell him NOT to park the car and to run home and get Andrew's passport. He didn't get the texts, and we lost 20 minutes. By the time he reached the ticket counter, the agents were trying to help us connect to someone, anyone, who could prove in writing Andrew's age. I called the pediatrician's office, but the switchboard didn't have access to his files at the early hour. Tim tried to get into our health insurance account, but he didn't have the passwords available. Our insurance card had his name, but not his D.O.B. We re-set account passwords. We waited on hold. We made progress, but our time window was closing.

The agents said if we didn't leave immediately, we would not make it through security and onto the plane.

Finally, we split up, and I headed with the girls to the terminal and our flight, leaving Tim behind with the baby. I would have stayed with the baby and tried to straighten out the mess, but I had no idea where Tim had parked the car, and we were afraid the solution might include running home for the passport.

Tim struggled with the insurance website and finally found the info we needed, but by that time it was about 10 minutes too late to board the flight. I hate to think that if we had been calmer and more focused, we likely would have all made it on the flight. Or, if I'd just grabbed Andrew's passport...

Tim ended up having to take Andrew home, get the passport, get a ride to a DIFFERENT airport, and board a later flight to Florida. By way of Milwaukee. It was not an auspicious beginning to our trip, but Tim and Andrew were troopers. Oh, did I tell you it was Tim's birthday? Happy Birthday, Tim.

The 3 main days of our trip were enjoyable, or as enjoyable as they could be while sharing a room with a 5 am riser/wailer. I had forgotten how vacation with a baby/toddler is never truly a vacation. The weather was beautiful. Andrew enjoyed playing with his birthday toys from his grandma and seeing a digger and a trash truck in the neighborhood on their morning walks. The girls went shopping. Tim got to play tennis with his dad. I met some lovely ladies who had read my book, and connected with an old friend. We went to a beautiful local beach and reminded ourselves that next time we would schedule more than just an afternoon for the soothing power of sea and sand.

The night before our departure, however, I started feeling sick. Tim, his parents, and the girls played dominoes, and I tried to keep a low profile. Soon, however, not just my profile was low. I started vomiting, my heaves waking the baby. Curled up on the bathroom floor, I prayed it would be limited to me. In the night, as I dealt with simultaneous vomiting and diarrhea, the others started to fall.

Margaret's friend.


The was no way we could get on our return flight. We couldn't do that to ourselves or others.

Tim made some calls and got us new flights for the next day. He and his parents stocked up on ginger ale and saltines. I was in and out of sleep/vomiting/pooping myself.

I was unable to care for the poor girls.

By afternoon, Tim started to have diarrhea, and his mom felt off.

Andrew showed no signs of illness, or slowing down. Margaret, head down, listlessly handed him crackers as I rested my face on the cold floor. Tim slept a bit. I checked on Margaret's friend every few hours, looking for a thumbs up in the darkness. We willed the hours to pass, and limited our movements to pushing Andrew's toy cars to him and contemplating the pros/cons of taking a sip of water or eating a popsicle.

I looked around the carriage house, feeling guilty that we'd turned it into a biohazard site in just a few short hours, longing to be home, but not sure how to get there. Wondering how hard my in-laws would be hit.

In the morning, after two flights, we made it to D.C.

The next day, Easter, half of us made it to church. We canceled Easter Dinner, but were able to enjoy the beautiful day.

I know some college Spring Breaks are riddled with vomit, sleeping on the floor, and watching the sunrise after being up all night, but I didn't think our first (last?) family one would be the same.

Hope YOU had a good Easter. He is risen!

Here are some happy photos from the trip. Note: We got lots of great pics of the girls, but we don't post without their permission.

Beach Fun:

 Blue Jays outside our window:

Yarn leading to hidden Easter Baskets:

First Easter Basket: 

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Ghosting in Babyland

Have you heard of ghosting?

It's a dating practice where one person just suddenly disappears with no explanation. It seems inconsiderate and more than a little shady.

  1. 1
    the appearance of a ghost or secondary image on a television or other display screen.
the practice of ending a personal relationship with someone by suddenly and without explanation withdrawing from all communication.

I'm not sure if I've ever been ghosted. There was that time right before college when my boyfriend started avoiding my calls, but he eventually had the guts to show up on my front porch and break up with me, probably prodded by his mother into doing the right thing.

As parents of a newly minted toddler, Tim and I both feel the pull toward ghosting. No, we can't leave our home or relationship with no explanation, but we do disappear without a word sometimes.

A few weeks ago we were in the small living area of our house. Tim and Andrew were playing on the floor, with Tim clearly in charge of childcare. I had my back to them as I sat at the dining room table a few feet away.  At some point, I heard whiny cries from Andrew, turned around, and saw no one. Tim was gone. I soon found Andrew stuck under the couch.

Later, I was like, "Dude, what happened to you?" Tim said he had gotten really, really tired and withdrew to take a nap, saying nothing to me.

I'd been ghosted!

Now before we judge Tim too harshly, I'll admit that yesterday I said, "I need to run and go pee," before Tim drove Margaret to school. I deposited Andrew in Tim's arms and ran up the stairs. Once in the bathroom, I started thinking that a quick shower would hardly take any time at all. By the time Tim hunted me down to hand back the baby, I had peed, showered, and dressed.

One of the biggest challenges to having a baby at this stage in life is that we have experienced at least 10 years of some degree of personal freedom and now it's gone. I feel the pinch the most when it comes to my writing and personal hygiene. Tim feels it at work as he must rush to come home and relieve me, and he misses running and playing on a soccer team. Oh, and sleep. We both miss sleep.

I ghosted Tim recently when, after pulling into the garage after an errand, I just stayed in the car. And stayed. I may have dozed off a little. It's just so tempting to try to carve out a little more alone time when we can find it.

After almost 25 years together, our relationship has a lot of give and take. These days we just have to be able to find the other person in order to give back the baby and take a break.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Andrew is ONE!

We celebrated Andrew's first birthday last weekend. 

Family came in from Cleveland on Friday. 

On Saturday we hung out:

Then went to D.C. to see the sights and catch the kite festival:

On Sunday we did a little decorating, and welcomed grandparents and cousins:

Andrew opened his presents and played while we caught up:

Then, it was time for the CAKE SMASH!

He was so quiet and tentative at first, but I think he did a fabulous job! Yummy.

While Daddy gave Andrew a quick bath in the tub, the rest of us ate cheesecake in honor of our friend whose heavenly birthday was Sunday.

Then, the clean bean was ready for hugs from mom and more playtime:

Happy Birthday, Andrew Luke. We are so glad you are here.