advent craftiness. you knew it was coming.

Holidays! Can you believe it's already December you guys?! Feels like only yesterday we were Skyping Phil in to Christmas morning from the hospital. Ah, the good ol' days.

And look, the stockings-because we lack a chimney- are already hung by the staircase with care.

Jingle on out of the fast lane, slackers, 'cause I have got my act TOGETHER this year.

It's been a while since I've sung the praises of Pinterest. Me thinks it's about that time again.

As a child, I remember having an advent calendar at Christmas every year and in the interest of keeping traditions alive it was important to me that we start doing that with our kids as well. I checked Pinterest for some ideas of homemade advent calendars and, as I've come to expect from my fellow Pinners, there certainly was no shortage of creativity. I melded some of the collective brilliance together and voila! I give you my finished product:

I filled little bags with fun treats like chocolate coins and peppermints, items such as pencils and small notebooks to keep thankfulness journals, and harmonicas to practice making a joyful noise unto the Lord (while also driving me crazy, to be sure). I also filled about half of the bags with fun family activities such as 'Go look at Christmas lights', 'Bake Christmas cookies', 'Dance to Christmas music' or 'Make gifts for the neighbors'.

I used a paint pen on colored cardstock to mark the date, clipped them to some twine with clothespins and strung the whole deal waaaaaaaay up on the curtain rods in our dining room. To deter sneaky little peekers. My plan is to pull out a Bible verse each day to correspond with what's in the baggies as an attempt at keeping things holy up in here.

Our calendar only goes until the 22nd because of our holiday travels. And it starts today because I procrastinate like a mofo.

Anyone have some fun holiday projects they want to show me? I'd love to oooooh and ahhhh over them.


a shout out to the children's leukemia foundation

I woke up this morning and realized I have three children. Do you ever just do that? Like, how did I get here? It was the sight of Ocean's shoes in the hallway that did it to me. I thought to myself, "WHOA. You are a for real parent. Your kid wears those shoes." Shivers.

Despite moments of weirdness like that, our lives continue to feel more and more normal. The big kids are in school 3 days a week and Phil and I manage to keep ourselves busy in grown-up land. We're trying to be more disciplined and balanced for the sake of the kids, because neither Phil nor I are gifted in those areas. But we're making progress. And we've also managed to squeeze in some fun family time.

Last week we took the kids to the Children's Leukemia Foundation for an Art Day. They got to paint, draw and color while Phil and I hung out and chatted with the super amazing social workers who have been taking such great care of us over the last year. CLF not only represents children with blood cancers, but also children of adult patients with blood cancers. Every Christmas they put together a box of gifts for each of their families; we were overwhelmed last Christmas when a GINORMOUS box arrived on our doorstep filled with wonderful presents for our children. Given the state of things last year, I cannot tell you how much it meant to me knowing that my children were being thought of and cared for when my attention had to be with Phil. Even now, as I write this, my eyes are filled with tears and my heart is bursting with gratitude for the CLF.

As we begin to enter the season of mistletoe, holiday cheer and- let's face it- toy drives, I wanted to draw your attention to this particular organization's efforts. You can find out more about the Holiday Toys program here.


from now on i'm going to let him choose his punishment, because an ice cream trap is way better than what we were going for.

Ocean was having a terrible time when he got home from school today.

Iris had stayed home from school with a raging fever and Phil was working so by the time Ocean got here I was losing my mind between Iris's demanding screams for more juice and Ruby's physical abuse of Iris, for which she shows absolutely no remorse I might add. (It's a new thing. It's disconcerting. I don't know.) So I didn't have much time to connect with Ocean like I usually do in the afternoon. As a result, he was- as my dear southern mother would say- fit to be tied.

When Phil finished working he tried playing soccer upstairs with Ocean but I could hear Ocean copping an attitude. I went up to chat with him and ended up taking his soccer ball for refusal to cooperate, and then subsequently sent him to his room for sassing me. Different versions of this scenario kept replaying over the next hour. I had had enough and went downstairs to deal with the Sicko and the Sociopath. Finally, Phil came downstairs, opened up the freezer and took out the carton of chocolate ice cream. He put two scoops into a small bowl, set the bowl on the table and called Ocean. "I'm going to try a different approach," Phil said. I raised my eyebrows.

Ocean came downstairs and Phil told him to sit at the table. He sat, then noticed the ice cream. "What's this for?" he asked with a smirk, raising an eyebrow.

Phil said, "Do you think you deserve this, Ocean?"

I was pretty sure I knew where Phil was going with this. We have been talking about God's generosity. How he gives and gives, and we often don't recognize it. That it's not by our efforts that we are given so much, but just because we are loved and part of the family. This is something that I want to communicate to our kids. Generosity- recognizing it, appreciating it and replicating it. For about three-and-a-half seconds, I thought this just might work.

Ocean pondered the question for just a moment before he began to speak, tentatively...

"I heard a story once. It was about a mouse. And there was some cheese in front of him. But then he realized it was a trap. A mouse trap."

Guess we nailed that one.


all done.

And just like that, Ruby is weaned.

I had tumultuous breastfeeding relationships with both Ocean and Iris. They hated nursing and fought me tooth and nail (literally) at every feeding. I made it a few months with Ocean before I started pumping for him, then we made the transition to cow's milk at about 11 months. I weaned Iris quickly when Phil was diagnosed because nursing was a battle I did not want to fight during that challenging time. She was 9 months old and had no objections. In fact she pretty much responded with, "Finally!" while rolling her eyes.

Ruby has been different. She loves the milkies. As of a month ago she was down to two feedings a day and one in the middle of the night, but without a pacifier or favorite lovey the milkies were her source of comfort and a winding-down before bed. I was seriously dreading having to wean her.


A couple of weeks ago I realized that my sweet, snuggly, easy baby was turning into a crabby, whiny, cling-on. Her separation anxiety was at an all-time high, when- at her age- it should have been wrapping up. She started waking up every hour at night, expecting to be nursed, and screaming like crazy when I would try to put her back in bed. We were both sleep-deprived and insane. For a moment I considered putting a little bow on her head and giving her to my mom as a gift.

In a moment of clarity inside a moment of desperation inside a moment of sleep deprivation I decided that I had to put the kibosh on the boob. Yep, a boobosh. Weaning was our only hope. I started with her nap that day, bracing myself for a battle of epic proportions. Instead of nursing her to sleep I handed her a cup of milk. She smacked it away. I said, "Mommy milk is all gone." She took the cup, drank the milk and I put her in her crib. She went to sleep.

Just like that.

I nursed her at bedtime for another few days, then did the same thing with the milk cup, letting her know that the milk bar was out of order. She fussed a bit, but took the cup and pointed at her bed. I put her in bed with her cup, left the room and she drank it. Then she fell asleep and slept all night for the first time in months.


Since then, she has returned to her sweet, happy self. And she's eating better, sleeping better, talking more and using accurate baby signs. As opposed to beating her chest and screaming always.

This one, she is smarter than I.

So now that we're done I'm sad. I know it was time. She is almost 16 months old and really, her behavior was driving me bonkers. So I know the time was right. But having finally had a good breastfeeding experience after two miserable ones makes me grieve the fact that I won't have the opportunity to do it again.

Not enough to actually have another baby, because A. I can't, and B. I can't. But it's just a little emotional. Just like when they start walking, or they say mama for the first time or I guess when they start driving or go to college. Just another milestone that takes them one more step out of the nest and one step closer to being the independent people we're raising them to become.

Because milk from a cup? I mean, she may as well be drinking a cappuccino.

Big. Girl.


let there be light. fixtures.

We built our house in 2007. When I was 6 days postpartum with Iris we all went to Home Depot to pick out light fixtures. I was hobbling around in a fog of hormones and achy butt, pointing at things for Phil to load up into our cart. It was not fun. It was misery. And we have a house full of boob lights to show for it.

Looking back, I wish I had had more time to choose what fixtures we'd end up with. But mostly I wish Pinterest was around back then.

I recently fell head over heels for this light fixture from Pottery Barn Teen, which I thought would look fabulous in Ruby's room:

Image via Pottery Barn

At $128 it was a definite no-go. But never fear... I began a Pinterest adventure looking for a DIY version.


Image via Freshly Picked

Isn't that gorgeous?? It's made of wax paper! Genius.

Problem: While I really like the look of the white, the colors in the Pottery Barn chandelier were what caught my eye. And the lazy side of me thought it seemed a little labor intensive to use wax paper.

So... I used vellum. I'm not going to go through the whole process because Susan at Freshly Picked has a very thorough tutorial.

Instead, I'll show you a few pictures. Here's the thrifted lamp shade I got for $1.50 at the Ann Arbor PTO Thrift Shop, aka my new favorite joint.

Here's the shade once I had cut off the fabric. I then spray-painted it white.

Pretend that I was smart/awesome enough to take a bunch of pictures of myself circle-punching, sewing and draping. Insert those imaginary pictures here. (Oooooh. Aaaaaaah.)

I installed it above the existing boob light using 4 small screw-in hooks. The fixture has a CFL light bulb so it doesn't get hot. I kept the light on all day today while I was inside and checked it periodically. You know, just in case. It was fine. Barely warm even. (If you attempt this project you'll want to do the same thing since all light fixtures are different.)

Total cost breakdown for the project:
Lamp shade: $1.50
Vellum: $20 (I had to special order the colors I wanted which is why it was so expensive)
Circle punch: $10
Thread and paint: Free. I already had them on hand.
Hooks: Free. My dad bought them for me. =)
Total cost: $31.50

And just for fun, here are some of the other projects I've done in her room:

I have plans to DIY a different kind of chandelier for Iris's room. More on that later. I'm also on the lookout for an industrial style fixture for Ocean's room so if anyone has any ideas about that I'm all ears.

Here's a blurry/jumpy Miss Roo enjoying her new chandelier.

Working on something you saw on Pinterest? Get in on the Young House Love Pinterest Challenge!


it's too hot to blog.

I feel like I might die from heat-induced exasperation and annoyance.

Yes, yes. I'm a weenie-whiny baby. And I'm officially opening the floor for all of you to lovingly poke fun at my intolerance of this heat. I know some of you have it much, much worse, speaking in terms of temperature and humidity/misery-quotient. I've been to Atlanta and Dallas, and lived in North Carolina. So I know 90 degrees is nothing compared to what some of you must endure. But my midwestern blood is thick, baby, and I can't take it take it take no more.

So instead of having to use up precious energy blogging about how much I'm sweating, I thought it would be less disgusting to make a Suburban Matron inspired pie chart to indicate how I'm spending my time*.

*Just go ahead and assume simultaneous sweating is occurring with each activity.



We were driving to our friends' house this evening. Just to paint you a picture, Ocean and Iris sit in the third row and Ruby is in the second row. I was in the passenger seat and Phil was driving. We grown ups were chatting and things were fairly quiet from the peanut gallery in the back when suddenly something flew from the back of the car, sailing past my head and splattering against the windshield, showering me with wet, cold grossness.

I screeched, "What the hell?!" and looked over at Phil. His eyes were huge. I examined a blob of goo on my arm and determined quickly that it was applesauce. It was all over the side of my face and down the front of my shirt, and of course it covered the dashboard. By this time Phil was saying something to the kids but I interrupted, "No. NO. Pull this car over NOW."

Phil pulled into the first driveway he saw, which happened to be a day care center at pick-up time. I hope it doesn't make me a terrible parent that I thought at that instant, "Oh man. This means I can't really yell at them like I want to."

I opened my door, grabbing a pack of wipes on my way out, and sprang around to the other side of the car. I opened the door and proceeded to give them the weirdest lecture I've ever given to date. While covered in applesauce.

When apologies were said (many times over) and I had cleaned myself up to the best of my ability (with a few wipes and an old sippy cup of water-- let's hear it for never cleaning out my vehicle) I got back in the car and looked at Phil, shaking my head. We both sat there for a second in silence when I realized how ridiculous this whole thing was and we quickly covered our mouths so the kids wouldn't hear us cracking up. I slumped down in my seat and mouthed again, "What the hell?!" Phil whispered, "I just can't believe they threw applesauce. Who does that?"

I mean, it's not like I've never wanted to throw a full cup of applesauce across three seats in a moving vehicle. But there's a time and a place, tiny people. There's a time and place.


who she is

It's been 13 months since this Ruby character arrived onto the scene and I think I really like her.

She's loud like her sister. And she says what's on her mind. Mostly that's Dada or, when she gets a glimpse of Phil from across the room, Hi Dada. She says Ara for Iris, Ny-ny for Mimi (my mom) and as far as I can tell she doesn't have a word yet for Ocean. She says my name, "Bwwwwwaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!" As in, she whines and screams when she sees me. Seriously, she still doesn't say mama or mom or mommy or anything. BUT when you drop something on the floor she will put her hands on the side of her face, gasp and say, "Ah-deh" (Oh, dear).

She has six teeth. Four on the top and two on the bottom. They are perfectly white and perfectly gappy.

She is extroverted. She waves and says hi and buh-buh to everyone who passes, cars included. She smiles the brightest, loveliest smile anyone has ever seen and makes you feel like you're the greatest person who ever lived.

She is just now learning to drink out of a cup and isn't all that into food yet, although she will eat pretty much anything off of the floor. Sequins, rocks, Legos... We went for a little stroll yesterday and had been outside for a good 10 minutes when she opened her mouth and spit out a pistachio shell that I had no idea she'd been sucking on.

She hates to swing or slide. She actually is terrified to swing. Which is strange given her affinity for stunts.

By that I mean, she climbs. Anything that looks like it might be climbable. One morning last week I left the room for a moment and Iris started yelling, "Ruby's on the chair!" I thought she was on a little child's Ikea chair. I came into the kitchen and she was standing on a bar stool just looking positively smug. A few days later I left her in her highchair to run upstairs. Two minutes later I heard her yelling and hustled downstairs to find her standing on the kitchen table. She wiggles out of grocery cart seatbelts and stands on the seat while I have my back turned reading labels, and she likes to stand facing backward on the seat of her rocking chair and rock violently, presumably trying to tip it over. Phil lovingly calls her Evil Knievel.

Her favorite book is "Hand Hand Fingers Thumb" and she whips through it almost faster than you can read it just so you will start it all over again. I think she likes it so much because of the drumming. She loves to pick up a stick or a spoon and bang on the nearest object she can find. Intently. And with purpose. She seems to really enjoy making rhythms.

She loves to dance.

She also loves to sing and knows how to use a microphone. Her favorite song, I think, is the song we sing to bless the food before our meals. She lights up when we hold hands and start singing, "Lord we thank you..."

She likes to climb onto the couch, grab the remote control and point it at the television, over and over. Yet she is the only one of the three kids who doesn't like to watch TV.

I think she would really like dolls. We've had to become a doll-free zone because Iris is terrified of them. Ruby is often found walking around the house, clutching one of Ocean's super heroes under her arm, giving Iron Man kisses or rocking The Incredible Hulk.

She has dark blond ringlets that stick to the back of her chubby neck when she's all sweaty from running around with Her Big Kids. She likes to play with her hair when I'm nursing her before bed. Her bright blue eyes get heavier and heavier while she drinks her milk and mindlessly twirls the hair on top of her head.

She has a wonky toe on each foot. The middle ones. They hide underneath the toes on either side.

She can sign "All done", "Please", "Hat" and "More".

She smells like summertime.

Photos by Isaac Smith


it's the rainy season. must do projects.

It's been raining here for roughly 539 days. Instead of my slippers I just get out of bed and put on my rain boots. When it rains, my children cry all day and I do projects. It's how we pass the time.

Remember when I was organizing paperwork? And I mentioned that I wanted to paint my china cabinet?

Just to recap, we bought it from a guy on Craig's List a few years ago, intending to paint it. I'm a huge fan of pretty wood and would never paint something unless it was ugly. This was ugly. There were parts that had been stripped and then, presumably when the owner realized what a tedious job it would be and changed his mind mid-project, painted over with a not-quite-matching shade of brownish paint. Classy.

So about a month or so ago I got the gumption to tackle it. I got a buttload of sandpaper and went to work on a Wednesday night. I made it through The Middle, Better With You and Modern Family when I accidentally knocked over that huge roll of paper to the right. It may not look like it but it weighs about a million pounds. It teetered around for a while and I did this awkward little avoidance maneuver where I jumped back-no-sideways-wait-it's-going-to-fall-on-my-big-tooooooooooooooooooe. And much cussing, and later bruising, ensued. The mission was aborted and I avoided eye contact with the china cabinet for about a week after that.

It took me a couple of weeks and several glasses of wine to sand, prime and paint this bad boy. Last week I finally finished up, switched out the knobs and filled it back up with my precious things.

Much better and worth the effort, I think. I probably wouldn't do it again, though. My toe is still recovering and it was a super tedious task.

With that project done I've been looking for the next thing to do. Phil and I were driving through a random neighborhood the other day and found this black faux leather ottoman just sitting on the curb. The only thing wrong with it, other than the fact that it was black faux leather, was a wonky button. We stopped and I threw it in the car, figuring I could slipcover it pretty easily.

I got some awesome brown and white zebra upholstery fabric on sale and used this tutorial to make my slipcover. It was a two-evening project but I'm pleased with how it turned out.

For my next project I'm going to figure out how to use my camera. White Balance is my nemesis.

What about you? Got any good projects going on?


the end is... here?

I hate to be the one to break it to you guys but Judgment Day is today. Well, only if you're in America. I guess if you're not in America it doesn't count or something? Because CNN hasn't been reporting any apocalyptic type situations in Asia or Australia. And I've heard nary a trumpet blast in my neck of the woods so either someone's lying or I'm completely screwed.

My friend Lindsay emailed me the above link yesterday. Yesterday. I would have liked a little more notice but what can you do. She then stated that I should be on the lookout for a pair of shoes and half-eaten burritos at her house. I think I'm going to get one of those bumper stickers that says "In case of rapture this car will be unmanned", put it on my car and then leave my car parked in the middle of Main Street in downtown Ann Arbor.

I'm thinking that if Amy's still around the date was probably miscalculated. Amy? You there?


the question we should be asking is who exactly "they" are.

Iris: I would be sad if my bottom came off.

Me: Yeah. That would be... weird.

Iris: Yeah, I don't want a big hole there!

Me: Good thing it won't come off. It's on there pretty good.

Iris: Why? Did they use a special kind of glue? Bottom glue?


getting stuff done.

We've had some ridiculous fluctuations in temperature here in southeast Michigan and within any given week (and sometimes any given day) we experience everything from 40 degrees and rainy to 75 degrees and sunny. This is nothing new for springtime in Michigan but it's just been a little more extreme this year. It's nothing to complain about given the severity of weather in other places. So all things considered I'm grateful that the only 'problem' this produces is an abundance of laundry, but it is a bit of an inconvenience nonetheless.

I haven't been able to put away any winter clothes, yet I've had to tap into the summer stash as well. Some days we have to change outfits in the middle of the day because the weather changes so drastically. Double the clothes to wash = laundry paralysis. There's so much to do that I'm not sure where to begin and we end up with a DEFCON 1 laundry situation, like the one brewing in my bedroom right now:

(Sidebar: I once saw an organizational show where the decorator walked a mother through her messy house and there was a pile of laundry in the hallway. He stopped and asked the mother, "Do you consider yourself a good mother?" She tearfully answered Yes and, gesturing to the laundry on the floor, this wifeless, childless buttmunch decorator had the nerve to say, "What about this situation indicates that you are a good mother?" My desire to kick him in the junk was overwhelming.)

You're probably thinking something along the lines of, "Maybe you should quit blogging about it and git yer butt to folding, woman." And I will. But first, in the spirit of procrastination, I wanted to compile a short list of things that, while important in and of themselves, give me a false sense of productivity in that they don't truly address the daily housekeeping tasks that I should be doing to ensure that we don't end up living in filth.

1. Changing the dead batteries in a toy or electronic device.

2. Making lists.

3. Going to Target.

4. Putting away the 3 largest objects in any given room so it looks cleaner.

5. Rearranging and/or changing out artwork and photos on the walls.

6. Trapping the mess inside of closets by closing the doors.

Okay, I'm really going to start folding now. Are there little things you do around the house or at work that make you feel more productive?


discipline fail.

Ocean and Iris are at a strange discipline-transitional phase where time outs are no longer effective. Ocean just pretends he's in a rocket ship and Iris lays on her back and belts out show tunes until the timer beeps. When I ask why they're in time out they make something up just to get out of it. It's like a police interrogation gone horribly awry. Yeah yeah yeah I tripped someone or threw my food or kicked the dog we don't have just get me the crap out of this cold, dark foyer so I can get back to the very important business of ripping up three rolls of toilet paper like a hamster and stuffing microscopic pieces of it into every nook and cranny in the entire house, thankyouverymuch.

At the suggestion of several friends I've now employed the rather effective technique of taking away something of importance for a certain amount of time, based on the offense. You grab something out of her hand? Oops, there goes your Spiderman. You scream in his face? Sorry, Ducky goes bye bye for a few hours. Toy is removed. Behavior is corrected with a conversation. Toy is returned within 24 hours. It works beautifully for my kids.

Normally all three kids are quite well-behaved in public. I always like to anticipate potential blow-ups before they happen-- I know their limits and eating/sleeping patterns and stressors and hot buttons and reactions to changes in barometric pressure. Like if it's 3:08pm on the first Monday of the month, we had cheese for a snack and it's rained for the last three days, we can stay at the mall for approximately 1.5 hours before Iris loses her mind and goes crawling on all fours like a "syterapots" (triceratops) through Macy's with her underwear on her head. This is the kind of deductive reasoning we do here.

The other day, though, I found myself out with three rather unruly children and not one beloved object between them to use as a disciplinary tactic. Ocean and Iris both had more than one stern talkin'-to about running away from me so close to the street and then they started that awesome I'm in your face but I'm not touching yoooooouuuuuuuuu nonsense that's been infuriating parents since the beginning of time. Flustered by Ruby's screaming and the older kids' racing around in circles while simultaneously whining and poking at each other I did what we, as mothers, try to never do. I spoke before I knew what I was going to say.

What I meant to do was communicate a concise, "If X, then Y" scenario in which the kids would get the message that there would be an immediate consequence for any further disobedience. What happened instead (and I blame, once again, the stress hormones released by the screams of the baby and the low blood sugar from not having had a snack and what the heck let's go ahead and blame the barometer as well) was that I said this:

"Ocean! You-- stop it. Stop it now. In fact, you have lost... uh, standing.... privileges. You no longer have the... privilege... of standing. You must sit down. Now. Sit."

And Ocean and Iris both looked at me like I'd lost my damn mind. Because I had. But Ocean sat down with kind of a little smile like he was going to humor me even though I clearly had no earthly idea what just came out of my mouth and I took my own time out before packing all of us up and heading home.

Where we had a nice snack and then a nap.


a walk on the child side

Oh, yeah. This just happened:

And it took me back here, when Iris took those first few steps.

I get all kinds of disbelieving looks when I say life gets easier when baby starts walking. Experienced moms click their tongue at me and new moms say I'm crazy.

Which is probably valid.

Say what you will. I stand by my argument that walkers are easier than crawlers. Yes, walkers have a bit more potential to get into stuff and yes, you kiss a lot more boo-boos but aside from that there's a new kind of freedom that happens for baby and mom once they get to runnin' around. Baby is now free to explore her environment on her terms and I get to do things two-handed again. Score.

I relished this transition with Ocean and Iris but it's bittersweet this time since Ruby is absolutely, positively the last baby. I can hardly believe she will be the big O-N-E in a few short days. I seem to have misplaced the last year of my life. Has anyone seen it?


college collage

This conversation just happened this evening in the car:

Ocean: When I get big to go to college, I'm not going to go to college.

Me: What will you do instead?

Ocean: School.

Me: Well college is school, but it's the kind of school where you go and live there and learn stuff.

I hear a sob and look in the rear view mirror to see Iris crying.

Me: Iris, what's wrong?

Iris: (chin quivering, tears now streaming) I don't want Ocean to leave!

Ocean: Well that's my choice, Iris.

Me: Ocean! She's sad... please be sweet to her.

Ocean: It's okay Iris.

Me: Iris, maybe you and Ocean could go live at college together, just the two of you.

Iris: (wailing) But I will miss YOU!

Me: Okay, okay... what if you guys go to Michigan and you can live in our basement. We'll get you some bunk beds and you can have an apartment down there.

O & I: Yeah!

Iris: We can have our own college in the basement!

Ocean: And we can draw ALL OVER the walls!


iris's breakfast: wednesday

By request Iris is enjoying a bowl of vanilla yogurt and cold pizza with green and black olives, onions and green pepper

Also I think Ruby may follow in her sister's footsteps since she's currently enjoying the crust from Iris's first piece of pizza.

This is not the strangest breakfast I've seen around here. I'll try to be better about documenting them.


mount paperwork: climbed and conquered.

It took me longer than expected to tackle the mountain of paperwork in our house but I am happy to report that I'm officially done.

I wish I could say the only problem we had in this area was incoming mail and medical stuff but tragically the kids had a crisis of their own brewing in the corner of our dining room:

They do multiple art projects every day and the table is the most logical place to do crafts so we had set up a little contain-all/catch-all station next to the china cabinet. The problem is I never had a plan for it to begin with so this area quickly became a pile of supplies mixed up with artwork with no real purpose other than sending me into fits every time I thought about it. And can I have a little mommy confession time? Most of this "art" wasn't worth saving. What can I say? We can't keep everything and the majority of this didn't meet closet wall standards.

I tackled this while Ocean was in school, Iris was playing quietly and Ruby was napping. I got myself a big cup of coffee and started going through The Pile. Most everything went into the recycling bin. The pieces that made the cut were those which made me smile with delight. Drawings of our family, hand tracings, writing samples. I didn't follow a set formula for keeping or pitching, just whatever felt right. Then their respective art went into color-coded bins which my mom bought me over a year ago for this very purpose. (I'm a slow learner.) The bins fit neatly on the top shelf in our foyer closet which is located directly on the other side of the china cabinet wall- out of sight but easily accessible.

Now what to do with the art supplies? I have a basket way up high in our mudroom that contains the art supplies over which I maintain control- paint, sequins, glue, markers and tape. I want them to be free to get a piece of paper and draw whenever the mood strikes but I don't want it taking over our eating space. So I cleaned the clutter out of the bottom of the china cabinet and voila:

The far right is an empty shoebox full of paper for drawings. The middle is our trusty craft carousel, full of washable crayons, colored pencils, safety scissors and glue stick. The far left side has an empty shoe box for the kids to deposit finished artwork, and I will go through it when it's full to figure out what stays and what goes.

So here's the finished project:

Other paper-related areas that I tackled last week:

-The corner of the kitchen counter where all the bills land

The amount of crap is staggering


Smaller basket, tidier nook

-My backlog of coupons

Cut and filed

-A cardboard box full of stuff that needed to be sorted, shredded and/or filed

"Shred me!"


As a side note, this project got me thinking about my china cabinet. We bought it off Craig's List a couple of years ago for $40 with the intention of painting it but I just never got around around to it-- does anyone know if I have to sand before priming? Because that will determine whether it gets painted or not. Thoughts?

Also, for those of you who are tackling projects of your own feel free to link your posts in the comments. I want to see your progress!


all better

Nine days and a combined 7 pounds later everyone is finally healthy. The kids are asking for and eating olives and peas. Mixed up in a bowl. For breakfast.

A sure sign that everything is a-okay, digestively speaking.

All surfaces are sanitized and I'm in the middle of the laundry pile from hell as we speak but there's no better kick-off to spring cleaning than a good old fashioned bout of vomit and diarrhea, don'tcha think?

I'm so motivated in fact that I decided to take part in Simple Mom's Project: Simplify. Candice's closet inspired me to start making a dent in some of the clutter we've accumulated over the last few years and the Simple Mom project has some great ideas for getting started with those clutter magnets in the home as well as creating lasting organizational systems to help keep things tidy.

I'm joining the party sooooooper late (why attempt to be punctual now?) but started with, and already made some serious headway in, the paperwork department. I can't tell you how absolutely buried we are in the paperwork associated with Phil's myeloma. Medical bills, insurance forms, disability claims, doctors notes, lab reports... all of you guys who have been through similar situations or have had chronic medical conditions totally know where I'm coming from. And not to mention the normal life stuff like bills, catalogs and magazines that come through the mail and just get chucked on top of everything else. Until now I haven't found the motivation to tackle it all. I mean why on earth would I want to spend a whole evening sorting through a mountain of paper when I could watch reruns of Greek on Netflix? I think the technical term for this dilemma is "laziness". But seriously, I'm so sick of the real estate it's taking up in my life and on my counters so I took a stab at it last night and I feel about 20 pounds lighter. And that's not even because of the stomach flu.

I'll probably skip this week's challenge with the kids' stuff because I stay pretty on top of their clothes already and their toys are no longer a huge issue after last week's absolute kid crap takedown. I figure I'll just tack another week on when it's over and handle my closet and wardrobe then since it might finally be warm enough to bring out some spring clothes at that point. Or at the very least maybe we'll be done with the winter storm warnings and I can put away my winter boots.

Anyone else taking part in Project: Simplify? Or just doing some spring (or seasonal) cleaning on your own? Do tell!


if you don't want to read about me feeling sorry for myself over a dumb stomach virus stop reading now.

Not to be all Woe Is Me but seriously, this stomach bug has been neverfreakingending. Ocean started puking last Tuesday night and didn't leave the couch for about 48 hours. He wasn't able to stomach any food until Thursday when he ate about a dozen Cheerios and a saltine cracker. Progress! Iris started with a tummy ache on Thursday also but never barfed (yay grape juice and colloidal silver) and neither of them have had much more than toast, saltine crackers and a few juice popsicles since. Oh, I mean besides the Doritos this afternoon. You can ask Phil about that. And then ask me about the subsequent fallout. Or maybe not because it was gross.

In hindsight Doritos were a bad idea.

I'm so, so sad for how rotten they feel. I really am. There's nothing worse than when your precious little babies are feeling badly. But mostly the whining feels like it might drive me to drink. I'm not sure if their incessant fussing is actually a result of illness or just the six straight days of PBS Kids we've watched. (Does too much TV make your kids irritating too? No? Just mine?) Once Ocean was able to lift his head off his pillow I finally turned off the TV and Iris flipped out. I told her that our brains were going to turn into mashed potatoes and she stopped crying long enough to look at me completely wide-eyed before bursting into tears.

Mashed potatoes? Seriously? If you're lying I'm totally calling my Congressman.

And just in case you're wondering how quickly you can blow through two gallons of Clorox bleach and 75 pairs of latex gloves the answer is 48 hours. Say what you will about nasty chemicals and landfills but it was worth it because the rest of us were spared and also right now I don't give a rip about anything but not barfing.

What happened to the good ol' days when a stomach virus only lasted 24 hours? Hem. Haw. Sigh.

Here's a cute baby to make amends for such a disgusting conversation topic.

What's wrong with you people? Quit yer whining and give me milk. Milllllllllk.


uncle! UNCLE!

I promised an update on that whole black tie optional situation. I decided to wear this:

But, as it turns out, I got hit with the flu and had to stay home. Wheee! Thankfully our friend Eric went in my stead and he and Phil had a great time at the ball, then went to the bar and closed it out while I was shivering and sweating under my covers, the surrounding floor littered with tissues and Dear God Why?s.

And now, we've been hit with another stomach bug. Only Ocean is affected at the moment and I blame myself for getting cocky since we already had this junk a few times (Hello, immune systems? Are you freaking there?) and I totally slacked on all my preventive ritual silliness. In fact when my precious little guy started ralphing last night I totally panicked because I was completely out of cranberry juice, colloidal silver AND probiotics... and Whole Foods was closed. Thankfully my mom saved my butt as she is apt to do, driving to my house at midnight to bring me the rest of her stash which got us through the night.

Ocean told me that today is the worst day in the world and I can see his sad little 5-year-old point. Also he wailed that he's "a hungry little boy who likes to eat" when I denied him a bowl of Cheerios. So pitiful. But I know he'll feel much better in the morning after some sleep. We ALL will feel better in the morning, I gather.

I'm pretty delirious from lack of sleep and caffeine withdrawal (something about people puking around me makes coffee really unappealing) and I keep typing the wrong words so I'm gonna wrap it up before pulling out the air mattress for the night.

Please send me news of the outside world, particularly stuff about sunshine and warm temps and daffodils blooming and people NOT throwing up.


the story of (our) stuff

Is it just me or does it seem like babies are born into the world and then immediately have all their junk shipped overnight to your house? It's like one day I went into labor and left for the hospital with a neat, tidy home only to return to overturned furniture and primary-colored plastic crap littering every square inch of my house.

All my kids leave little snail trails of stuff wherever they roam but Iris has the most intriguing style of creating a mess. She likes to put stuff in stuff. She gathers every assortment of container she can find-- laundry baskets, tupperware, toy bins, hampers-- and dumps everything she owns into them. Helping her clean up is maddening because it's essentially starting from scratch to put everything back where it belongs. We've talked about it a lot this week because frankly I'm sick of dealing with the mess. The kids don't really have a lot of toys but they do have a few toys with a lot of small parts. Like this:

And this:

And of course, these:

This afternoon I walked into Iris's room where she and Ocean were up to no good. I knew this was the case because as soon as I crossed the threshold into her room they both fell prostrate and remained perfectly quiet and still, as if they were playing dead. They call this Camouflage, and they do it when they're making bad choices. Sure enough, they had a laundry basket full of plastic animals from A to Z, all the play food from their kitchen and about 20 plastic hangers that came out of goodness-knows-which closets. (A nest, Iris informed me later.) Also, Ocean was wearing his Wolverine costume and Iris had blue glitter paint on her face but that seems to be beside the point.

Now I don't know if it's the cabin fever or the snow we got last night or this cold we've been passing around for a month but for some reason this little scene was my tipping point. I got the trash bags and started putting stuff in them. I wonder how often Salvation Army gets "Mom's Final Straw" donations? Well, they're getting one this weekend. Holla!

After a brief lecture on being responsible for their things I tossed the dirty laundry they had emptied from the basket down the stairs and started making my way down after it when Ocean, pointing solemnly at the pile of laundry at the bottom of the steps said, rather altruistically, "Actually, Mommy, you need to be responsible for your things."


black tie optional

Phil and I have an event on Saturday night, at which he is one of the speakers. The attire is Black Tie Optional. I'm having a hard time figuring out what this means.

We all are confused.

And by that I mean I don't want to have to buy anything. The kids helped me go through my already meager closet offerings and it has me wondering if I can get away with my trusty LBD or a cocktail dress.

What would you wear? Keep in mind this is Ann Arbor so things tend to run a degree or two more casual here, and also there's still lots of snow on the ground. (Although I'm pretty sure my winter boots do NOT fall under the category of black tie anything. Right?)



It was a Tuesday.

You arrived with the morning sun, streaming into our lives with your bright smile and sweet spirit.

You were crying.

So were we.

Happy 5th Birthday to the little boy who made me into a mom.



Well, it was only a matter of time.

Phil came down with a nasty cold last weekend (for which he is now on an antibiotic and had to go to the hospital for a neupogen shot last night. Good times.) and now all three kids have succumbed to the snot and hacking cough. I'm the only one still holding my own but me thinks it won't be long since Ocean hands me a used tissue every 53 seconds and Ruby keeps sneezing directly in my mouth. There isn't enough Purell in the world, people.

I'm hyper-sensitive to bringing contagious kids out in public places given our own susceptibility to infection, which means I generally don't go anywhere with them when they're drippy and hacking, so we're pretty much house-bound which makes the world feel like it's stopped for a few days.

We did get outside for some playtime after that crazy snow happened since I had to dig us out of a foot or so over the last couple of days-- and also spent a fair amount of time digging out unwitting motorists who attempted to drive down our treacherous street. (Stay off Fifth Street after a snowfall, Ann Arbor! Try Seventh or Main if you must head downtown.) I brought the two big kids outside with me to play in the yard while I shoveled which allowed Ruby and Phil to sleep while we got a little fresh air, but it's generally way too cold and snowy to have sick kids outside for too long, even with the scores of layers I impose on them. Plus frozen snot is just sick.

I'm kind of running out of ideas to keep these kids occupied. We've baked, crafted, sewed, planted, bathed, cleaned and danced. Any other suggestions?


some have skeletons in their closets. we have...

Oh my word. Can I pretty please just show you the inside of Iris's closet?

I wish I could get a good picture of the whole thing, but because it's inside a closet it's hard to get the whole angle. The drawings cover a surface area of about 5 feet wide and 6 feet tall. I love how their names and hand tracings are all over it. Not that they could deny doing this, but it just shows how totally in the moment they were and certainly not at all concerned about being found out.

Left: Ocean. Spiderman.
Right: Iris. Spidergirl.

I will not mention which parent was on duty when this scribblefest went diggity-down (hint) but all I know is I came home in the afternoon to approximately two tiny people attempting to persuade me to not go into Iris's closet and exactly one big person shaking his head in either complete agreement or utter disbelief. I think he was still in shock, really.

Iris pointing out her rainbow elephants.

What appears to be a mythical creature and two people presumably being crucified. Which is weird because we haven't yet broached that subject.

Naturally I hightailed my hiney right on up to the scene of the crime. And what a sight to behold, eh? I couldn't even really be mad. Oh, make no mistake, they got a scolding and the crayons have been banished to a very high altitude for the time being. But... it's gorgeous. So intricate and well-thought out and I'm pretty sure there's a scene from the book of Revelation in there somewhere. The color! The detail! And it's taller than I am, you guys! It's like an itty-bitty little Sistene Chapel and they worked so hard on it and honestly... I don't have the heart to make them clean it off.

More elephants and some raindrops.

Our solar system. With space ships. It's at the top, about 6 feet high.

Occasionally I find myself wandering in there to admire the masterpiece. I don't really know if we'll let it remain but I try to imagine how I'll feel looking at this when the kids are teenagers, or when they're grown.

Oh so proud.

It can stay, right? It's inside a closet after all...