You Are Loved

New Years Day always marks the beginning, a new chapter in the story of our lives.  Fresh, clean pages waiting for what each day will bring.  Challenges, triumphs, laughter, tears, it is all there waiting for you to begin.  This year, for the first time in 31 years, it also marked the first time I began a year without my grandma.  As the pages of 2017 unfolded, the story of her life quietly came to a close, all 97 chapters.

97 years.

It feels as though she has been gone in a sense, for much longer.  Alzheimers stole a lot from her in the last ten years or so.  She hasn’t made stuffed peppers, cheesecake or that mysterious green jello confection I loved for quite some time.  The birds, squirrels and chipmunks have long forgotten the kindly little lady who set out trays of bread and birdseed every morning; though I like to think they spent some time pestering the new owners of her quiet country house when she left, sitting on the kitchen windowsill and the railings waiting for their breakfast.  In the years leading up to her broken hip, the Alzheimers brought out more of stubborn side, rendering her grouchy and suspicious, though she always had a smile and never ending cacophony of crazy sounds for Wyatt that delighted his baby and then toddler self.

A few weeks ago, as she sat in her wheelchair, singing to herself, nervous about the crowd in her room who clearly knew her, though she couldn’t quite place us, he reminded her that she needed to catch him and giggled still while she trilled and whistled for him. In his four short years with her, their roles switched quickly. She held him, and then suddenly my toddler was admonishing “Grandma Sophie” to eat her food, knowing that she would share the cookie on her tray with him. He went from sitting on her lap to take a ride with her in her wheelchair, to pushing her oh so carefully into her room as she shuffled her feet to help.

I can remember many years ago, talking to her about when I would get married and have kids and how she would be there, of course.  She smiled gently and told me, that she may not be around anymore when I got married.  Even though she had played a rousing game of wiffle ball with us in the backyard earlier (in which, she hit the ball over the house), she WAS getting older. It was fun to tell her, “told you so”, on my wedding day years later 15 days away from her 90th birthday. Her presence there, getting to meet Wyatt and my sister’s little one all defied the odds; but then again, that is what she had been doing her whole life.

In reality, the 31 years I knew and loved her are just tiny glimpse into her long life.  She wasn’t always a mother, grandmother and great grandmother.  She was the little girl sitting on the front steps of the house on the South Side who casually told an admiring passerby that if he liked her, he should give her a nickel.  She was the woman who swam across the Mon River and back because she could, barges and all.  She was the woman who astonished my grandfather by painting the house before he got home from his shift at J&L Steel. He never knew what color it would be when he got home. She raised 5 kids into smart, successful adults on the South Side before it was cool. In her lifetime, the Hot Metal Bridge,  transported just that. She could swear in English and Polish and frequently carried on conversations in a mix of Slovak and Polish with our neighbor.

She taught me to appreciate a good Polka and butter pecan ice cream. She had an infectious giggle and a beautiful smile. She set her hair in pink curlers at night that we would forever find after she had visited. As my sisters and I sprinted up her driveway from the neighboring dog, she sprinted back down it wielding a broom and then proceeded to call the neighbor and put the fear of God in them afterwards.  Her candy jars were always full when we visited and somehow we never missed the cartoons we couldn’t watch on her tv. Rock climbing, hose spraying and exploring were always encouraged at her house, along with piano playing and imagining.

All of the events I have only read about in my history classes, she lived through.  Born in 1919 at the end of WWI, she grew up during The Great Depression.  Imagine living through that and the fast forward to the technology and privilege we all experience today.  She never had a cell phone or computer, though she enjoyed the ability to swipe through our phones to see pictures and got to experience the magic of FaceTime.  The world she left behind, is a much different place than the world she was born into.  I suppose that is always the case, but after living almost a century, the differences are even more staggering.

At a time in my life that has been a little trying, I’ve adopted the motto, “If Soph could, so can you,” and I am forever grateful to that tiny Polish woman and her determination.  She always signed her cards and letters, “you are loved.” Three simple words that carry so much meaning; it was never a question or an afterthought. I only hope she knows just how much she was loved in return.

 

 

Love, loss and kindness.

I wasn’t planning on writing about this. I have come back to this draft a few times in the past few days, debating on whether or not to share. Adding, deleting. I most certainly am NOT trolling for condolences and attention.  On October 14 though, we learned what it is to experience the loss of miscarriage and in the past two weeks I have been surprised by how many women and their families silently carry the same experiences. It is ok to talk about it.  It is not something to feel shame over and hide. Losing a child before you had the chance to know them is the most complex and difficult thing I have ever had to process and until it happens to you, it is so hard to know what to say or do.

I don’t want to be morbid.  I don’t want to brood over this. I don’t want to get sucked down the rabbit hole of grief. As I have learned in the past three weeks we are most definitely not alone in experiencing this type of grief.  We are not the first people on the planet that this has happened to.  Miscarriage is a cruel.  It happens. It hurts. It doesn’t discriminate.  Even when you are doing everything right, everything can still go wrong.

So, I’m learning to navigate this newest of grown up experiences.  Words have been hard for me to find, for a lot of reasons. Initially the shock and grief, and then in the last three weeks, the kindness and love of our family and friends and all they have done for us.  The food that showed up so we wouldn’t have to cook. The fun Wyatt was still able to have. The cards, text messages, offers of help and time, all of it. I think it’s easiest to fall down the rabbit hole when you are alone and alone has not been an option for us.  People have been there is some small way every day since we lost little Michael.

So instead of allowing myself to drift into the dangerous waters of what if’s and blame, I’m making a conscious choice to focus on the positives.

I am healthy.  Mike is healthy. Wyatt is healthy.  We are still a family. We are surrounded by people who love us all. It was not my fault. The time I spend with Mike and Wyatt has become even more special- living in the moment has always been difficult for me.  My mind is constantly going, going, going.  In the last three weeks I have been more able to appreciate each hug, each laugh, each conversation so much more deeply.  Those are all GOOD things and I refuse to miss what is happening in our lives now because of something that is done and out of my control.

At the same time, that does not negate the fact that Michael existed, if only inside me. He was our son and a brother to Wyatt, irregardless of the fact that we did not have the time with him we thought we would.  He will not take his first steps, or share his first smile, but he was there and he is loved.  He is missed.

It’s a delicate balance; remembering him and what could have been but pressing on and looking towards our future without him in it. We are doing our best though and some days we succeed better than others. Things definitely have a much more normal feel around the house and our schedule and slowly but surely we are having more good than bad times.  Bad hours and bad minutes, but not many bad days. Like seeing the 6,914 storks displayed at the zoo representing the same number of healthy happy babies delivered. Like reaching to put away a vase and realizing I have to move his urn. Like the dresser in the spare room we will never fill with his blankets and clothes. Those are not days, they are moments I have to navigate as they come.

Again, I’m not looking for comments or condolences, likes or shares.  So instead of worrying about doing that, today, of ALL days, take a moment and focus on your positives; the people in your life that make it worthwhile. Open a door for someone. Think before you say something harsh.  I think that one of the lessons Michael has taught me is to remember to be kind. We could all use a little more of that in our lives and I’m thankful he is my sweet reminder.

 

 

 

This Average House- Part IV

We have a floor!!! *cue bells ringing, fireworks, and my happy tears ugly cry*

Never have I EVER heard so many creative ways to swear coming out my husband’s mouth, but the new floor is great for a lot of reasons.  I like lists so I made a list. Also, finishing it turned into ANOTHER late night so I’m tired and don’t have the words for telling all the things about the floor and how it works. Lots of people have put these suckers in by now.  You know the drill. If you are looking for something more informative check out This average house- Part III Armor Garage Countertop Resurfacing Kit Review or Hey look- something new! This Average House-Part I But I digress.  Here’s the list:

  1. It’s not the old floor. Duh.
  2. It looks fancy but it’s technically not. Which means I can continue to cook as messily as usual without feeling too much guilt.
  3. #louiethelabradane and Boots found a reason to bond by sitting together in one arm chair while the creative swearing and hammer blows rained down in the next room.
  4. We actually had enough of it to finish the entire floor which was touch and go at one point while Mike worked through the process of cutting the stuff.
  5. I only have one smallish pile of flooring occupying the floor space in the game room as opposed to two, which greatly decreases my odds of tripping and falling.
  6. We are the proud owners of a fancy saw with a laser beam which means I can find more difficult things to make Mike do new projects to try!
  7. Everything in the kitchen slides because we gave it all furniture coasters to protect all the hard work and swearing. Also, I’m pretty sure they aren’t called furniture coasters but at least I didn’t totally disgrace myself by saying we put them on all the furniture feet.
  8. I feel like I am walking into a magazine every morning so I’m actually trying harder to keep it looking that way.
  9. Wyatt can slide around on it.
  10. And last but not least…WE ARE D O N E in the kitchen, for now.  Life can resume being normal without random things piled in random places.

Now I just need to return all the random things to their correct places and prepare for someone’s birthday party this weekend…someone who is going to be four.  Someone whose birthday has me turning into a giant bowl of mush. I was fine with one. Two felt good. Three was a little harder. Four I am struggling with. It also probably doesn’t help that we attended a wedding this past weekend and after being so excited to dance with Mike and I he ditched us for the first pretty dress that came along and held his hand. Namely the flower girl who told me they were getting married.  So I spent the evening chaperoning his first date. Cue all the tears and many trips to bar for wine. Don’t judge.

This average house- Part III Armor Garage Countertop Resurfacing Kit Review

If you’re just joining us, I’ve been documenting our average kitchen refresh.  Today is a big deal because today is all about my favorite update, the counter tops, AND a review of a pretty awesome product from Armor Garage.

I probably spent the most time researching what to do about the countertops than I did on all the other projects we tackled combined.  First, we considered just replacing them completely.  After a few hours on Home Depot’s website, trips to Lowe’s and Home Depot, we decided it wasn’t worth the time or money. Plus, we reasoned that the counter tops were still in very good condition; no cracks, no stains, no water damage.

Just oh, so yellow.

I moved on to counter top resurfacing/refinishing/making less ugly kits.  The price point was more reasonable and we would be the labor so we could save there too. Once I started looking into them and reading reviews, I was still on the fence.  I didn’t want to learn a painting technique.  The Rustoleum kits are popular but the actual process was a nightmare.You put on a coat of adhesive and then dump a bajillion and one tiny pieces of “granite” onto it.  You put on so much, in fact, that you are required to VACUUM UP the extra.  Nope, nope, NOPE.  I knew I would have tiny pieces of granite all over my house and in everything for the rest of forever.  I kept reading reviews and there were so many reports of the poly top coat yellowing, staining easily, and the finished product chipping very easily.  So after I did all that work and vacuuming, there really wasn’t much of a guarantee that it would hold up to day to day use.  My kid puts his cups in the sink by whipping them at it and his aim is not too fabulous.  Clearly, they will receive “wear and tear.”

Finally, in the depths of the internet, I stumbled on Armor Garage and the clouds parted, the sun came out, and birds began to sing. Not literally, because spring in western Pennsylvania, but in my head it was nice.

Armor Garage specializes in industrial floor epoxy and garage floors.  Their floor coatings are military grade.  Large vehicles, heavy equipment, airplanes, you name it- they all drive on top of their product every day.  Clearly whatever product they offer needs to be tough, durable, and stain resistant.  And they happened to offer a kitchen counter top kit.

They had my attention.

I started googling for reviews, pictures, tutorials and was surprised to not find very many.  The ones I did find were excellent, as were all the before and after photos included on their website.  I concluded that many people didn’t look to a flooring company for a kitchen counter top resurfacing kit and sent an e-mail to the company with a few questions I had about the product.  I explained that I hadn’t been able to find many reviews, and that I would be more than happy to provide one after we completed our project.

As it turned out, they have been wanting to add a step by step tutorial and asked me what color I wanted to use.  Then they sent me a kit. Can we say customer service? I did, many times as I did a happy dance in the kitchen.  Dogs and child were appropriately mortified.

A couple weeks later, two separate shipments arrived at my door.  When shipping paints and other chemicals, expect a slower shipping window because of regulations that need to be followed.  After I unpacked the boxes this is what was included:

 

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From the left: 4 in. roller tray, paint brushes (2), corner roller for granite epoxy, 3 in. roller handle, 3 in. roller cover for base coat/topcoat (2), special effects roller for granite epoxy, 1 qt. primer, 2 qt. stone epoxy, 1-2 coats clear top coat, instructions.

The only items not included that we used were painters tape, plastic sheeting to cover the front of the cabinets,and some extra roller trays.  Since we were already in DIY mode, they were all things we already had on hand.  Easy!

To get started, Mike quickly removed the old caulking from the counter tops behind the sink.  We were going to replace it anyway and it made it easier to get a cleaner line when we taped. We also wiped down the counters to remove any grease, dirt, etc. that would keep the paint from adhering correctly. We had one shot at this, and weren’t planning on messing up.

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Next, we taped off/covered anything that we didn’t want covered in granite epoxy.

We paid special attention around the edges of the sink to ensure a good seal because replacing our sink wasn’t on my list.

Finally, we were ready to PAINT!  This was a huge moment for me.  I may or may not have hovered with the camera and drove Mike a little crazy. I should also be clear that since Mike’s painting skills>my painting skills, he was the official painter.  I declared myself photographer, item fetcher, inspector, window opener/closer, and cheerleader. It’s not easy being an over achiever, but someone has to do it.  Usually the person that is famous for leaving paint drips every where and making paint foot prints on the floor.

We used a brush to cut in first and followed up with the included 3 in. roller.

The directions specify that the base coat is slightly  textured and it’s true.  It dries with a finish that reminded me of plaster.  We opted for two light coats to make sure we applied it evenly and covered completely and let it dry to the touch between coats.

DSC_0714DSC_0715I was in love already.  I was in love with a base coat. That, my friends, is how much I was ready to see the dreaded yellow go.

Once those coats had throughly dried, we were ready to start the fun part- the granite epoxy! The directions warned that the paint would have a milky blue color out of the can and that is EXACTLY how I would describe it.  Using the corner roller, Mike cut in small sections, and then rolled.

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We ( meaning Mike), found it was easiest to go very slowly and we never had any splatter problems.  The directions clearly stated to lift the roller when you came to the end of a stroke instead of rolling again. We just had to be sure to remember the edges and sides.  It kept it manageable.  This coat took the longest to dry, but it was totally worth it. This was also, in my opinion, the smelliest step.  We didn’t want to open windows or run fans that would stir up dust and dog hair so we got out our trusty plastic sheeting and created another kitchen crime scene.  It kept the fumes in the kitchen and out of the rest of the house.

It took a solid 24 hours to dry, but as it dried the colors got deeper, darker and more varied. Once we were absolutely certain the entire surface was dry, we applied two coats of the clear coat with the same technique we applied to other two coats.  Mike cut in with a brush and used the 3in. roller to apply.

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We waited as long as we possibly could to let it dry; meaning even when we KNEW it was dry, we still held off on putting everything back a little bit longer. Like, a few days longer. Mike touched up the paint around it and applied the new caulking in the meantime.  The instructions said to let dry 24 hours, but we used an abundance of caution simply because they looked so much better and who wants to mess that up?

I mean really….DSC_0773DSC_0774And let’s discuss the before and after, shall we?

I couldn’t be happier with this product or my new to me kitchen. I held off on posting until after we have really used the kitchen again and I have no complaints.  I have spilled ketchup and spaghetti sauce without a stain. I launched a Tervis mug out of the cupboard onto the counter without a scratch or chip.  The areas that are closest to heat are holding up like a champ. I thought I might have something to complain about or a “but”, but no.  Not one.

A couple of final thoughts:

  1. Our final surface is a little textured. If this isn’t for you, the FAQ and directions suggest sanding until you get the texture you would like.  We were drunk with joy at losing the lemon yellow so that wasn’t something we were worried about.
  2. This finish is what I would describe as “granite look”.  If that will bother you, save up for the real granite.  I am quite content with moving into this decade.
  3. If your kitchen is larger than ours, you may need to order extra supplies.  The reps at Armor Garage are more than happy to help you figure that out.  Square footage and coverage of surfaces is what they do on the daily.

So, yay!  If you made it to the end of this, congrats and thanks for sharing in my joy at ditching the yellow countertops.  Also, if you’re still around and interested in the kit from Armor Garage, they are offering a $30 credit if you send in a picture of your finished product. We all know you instagram your meals, take five seconds to take a picture of your handiwork and you get $30.  There’s no excuse not to.

The final installment of This average house will be coming up shortly with  a reveal of the ENTIRE finished product once we get the floors in. Another DIY with flooring we bought off of the app OfferUp.  If you are feeling generous, I’d love for you to share this one, if not for me, for Armor Garage.  They deserve the love.

If anyone needs me, I’ll be lounging luxuriously on the counter with a glass of wine.

 

 

This average house- Part II

I’m trying something new today.  I’m jumping right in.  That’s right! No digression.  No pithy conversational lead in.  Today we are cannon balling right into the topic at hand; how  my love of following directions to a T was saved by my husband’s love of getting it right.

After painting the kitchen I was pretty much giddy at how well it turned out.  Just changing the color was enough to take it from drab to “on my way to fab!”.  It was instantly a brighter, happier space.  From there we had to tackle the cabinets.  The new brighter, happier space made them look that much more out of place.

I’m not going to comment on my rhyme. I’m not going to comment on my rhyme. I’m NOT going to comment on my rhyme.

After much research on my end we decided that we would just go with the Rustoleum Cabinet Transformations kit in white. It came with just about everything we needed and a list of things we would need to purchase.  Most of which we had lying around.  Easy. We also  decided to stick with plain white. No tinting.  No glaze. We decided this for a couple of reasons:

  1. We were trying to make the space brighter and since I usually prefer a darker wood finish that would have defeated the purpose.
  2. When you purchase the white kit, you walk to a shelf, pick it up and purchase it.*  That’s it.  If you want to try out the kit and prefer to use of one the many other color options you’ll have to make a stop at the paint desk to get your base color tinted. I’m lazy.
  3. White cabinetry with a small child and large dog seemed like a fool proof idea.

The kit comes with an instructional DVD which we watched.  You can find it here.  To me it felt a lot like watching the instructional video we had to watch and sign off on before they let us take Wyatt home.  Mostly information I already knew or could have figured out on my own, yet it still managed to terrify me slightly.  Like the time I freaked out because we sponge bathed him out of the order they told us.  He survived, and ultimately our cabinets would too; this time thanks to my husband.  I’d give him credit for the sponge bath survival too but clearly no one is going to shrivel up because we washed their arms after their knees.

I also used this video from Ashley’s Green Life.  Not only could we not afford new cabinetry or want to, but her tutorial reminded me that by painting the cabinets we were also making a green choice.  There is nothing WRONG with my cabinets.  They are in great condition, they are HEAVY (as evidenced by the muscle it required to remove the doors from all of them) and we didn’t NEED to replace them.  We just wanted a different look.

Those tutorials can go into way greater detail than I can because they include lots of advice and pictures that I was too tired to take.  Projects like this need to be completed after bedtime and accordance with Mike’s shifts at our house which often means long hours and late nights.  With ONE (!!) project left to go the cabinets are still the leader for most tedious and most annoying.

We dismantled the kitchen per instructions. We taped it off so it looked like there was some crazy homicidal stuff going on in there.  We prepped, washed, de-glazed (note I saw no difference after using this chemical that smelled awful and made me fear for my skin) and labeled according to instructions.  Then we applied the first coat of two base coats.

It was bad.  Like, REALLY bad.

It should be noted that Mike is the painter of the family.  If you need further evidence feel free to drop by and check out the drips on the section of the wall behind our stove that I created and completely didn’t know existed.  Mike thinks it should be hidden, I like to think I have left a last impression on home that will be here long after we move on. Either way, even my clueless self could see that coat number two was NOT going to cover.

But the directions said ONLY TWO coats.  WHAT DO WE DO?!?!

As it turned out, I needed to go to bed because it was 3AM at this point and when my panic switch gets flipped it’s usually a sign I need to recharge my batteries.  Mike was finishing his coat number one on the cabinet bases and promised to follow me.

Except he didn’t.  Because he knew that once the rule follower was out of the room he could be the rule breaker and fix everything without me breathing down his neck predicting gloom and disaster because we declared mutiny against the instructions and clearly the cabinets would self destruct.

And it’s a good thing he did, because when I woke up in the morning he wasn’t in bed because he never came to bed.  Four coats and all nighter later, my cabinets looked like this:

IMG_6965A MAJOR improvement, no?**

And it wouldn’t have happened if it were up to my rule following butt.

Not only have we managed to really make a difference in the kitchen, this whole ordeal, project has reminded me why Mike and I work so well together.  I get bogged down in following directions and I’m always struggling to overcome it.  Recently I started ad-libbing when I’m following a recipe and that has been a HUGE step for me. When it comes to projects with paint and time and consequences though, I balk.  I’ve reasoned that a recipe can be adjusted to our tastes, but a project like the cabinets has instructions for a REASON. So after two coats I would have decided it was ruined and I was wrong and now they will look awful for always.

However, Mike is more realistic and logical.  The problem at hand was not that we needed to stop because the instructions said to; the problem was simply that it was going to take more than two coats to really cover our darker cabinets.  Simple.  It turns out that for us the magic number was four.  After those four coats we got right back to rule following and instruction reading and all was harmonious again in my world.  Plus, the cabinets turned out great.  We opted to spray paint the existing hardware because it was easier cheaper and I couldn’t find any new ones that matched up with the style of the cabinets and wouldn’t break the bank. Once again, we are #livingwithabudget. So we found a spray paint that matched the new non-boob lights and went with it.

In my next, This Average Home (Eat your heart out Bob Villa) installment find out what happens when you do a little research, take a chance, and make THESE disappear:

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The suspense should be killing you about now….if not, c’mon.  I’m making lemon yellow countertops DISAPPEAR!  Super exciting stuff.


*You CANNOT do this at Home Depot. You CAN do this at Lowe’s. Unless you want the dark kit, then by all means, you can go to Home Depot.

**We could have filled in that decorative part with putty and sanded it but once again; lazy.  Also 3AM.

Hey look- something new! This Average House-Part I

Oh hey- long time no see.

I’ve been pretty quiet in the last few months, but in my defense the last few months have been pretty busy around here.  So, if you have been waiting for some posts, here they come! If not and you are scratching your head wondering why in the world you are getting notifications from me in your inbox, hopefully you stick around. Let’s jump right in, shall we?

We have been talking about moving for a long time now, and no, that’s not happening yet, so please control your enthusiasm. You see, the more we talked about it, the more we think about putting our house up, there has always been an elephant room (nope, not a typo) crouching in the corner. I like to imagine it as those funky elephants from Dumbo when Dumbo finds himself in a *cough* altered state of consciousness. If you haven’t watched Dumbo as an adult, you really should because I have all kinds of questions.

But back to our personal elephant- the kitchen.

There was nothing WRONG with it, per se.  At the same time though, there wasn’t a lot going right for it either.

Yep- there it was.*Linoleum of an undetermined date. Laminate countertops of an undetermined date but VERY determined shade of yellow.  Cabinets that were installed because they mostly fit and didn’t take advantage of the limited space the room offers. A poor attempt at paint colors by a very misguided me.  It was just kind of unfortunate. And dated. And not very us.


When you walk into our house, no matter what door you choose, you are immediately confronted by our kitchen and living room. (Thanks 1950’s layout) Our house isn’t located in a very competitive housing market- people aren’t dyyyiiinnngg to move into our neighborhood. We have made some modest updates to EVERY other room of our house and the fact that we had avoided the kitchen because we weren’t sure we wanted to invest our time and money into it was glaringly noticeable.

After a lot of thought, we decided to set aside a very modest (i.e. we are cheap) amount of money and see what we could tackle to make it more functional to us in the short term and more appealing to a buyer in the long term. We decided on the big three- floor, cabinets, and countertops.

As of today two out of three of those projects are complete and we have added a fourth because when you start doing something you always find something else to do. Especially when you spend a lot of time wandering the aisles of home improvement warehouses to find the bathroom for your three year old who has to go NOW.

As I eagerly started researching and drooling over carefully curated Pinterest pics I quickly realized a couple things:

  1. Everything is expensive- especially things we thought would be inexpensive. (I’m looking at you new laminate counter tops)
  2. Many people that share images of #DIY and #homeremodel already live in a house that I would describe as #blessed.

So, I decided that once the fumes subsided and we took down the plastic that made it look like we were planning to murder someone, I would ultimately share some of what we did here. I figured there are probably a lot of people like us out there- people who can’t afford a kitchen #redo but are looking for a kitchen #refresh.  People who live in houses that are less than 3,000 square feet and like to consider their closets as walk in because technically I can fit inside it with the door shut and my face pressed up against the fancy dresses that live in the back because I only have so many friends and cousins who can get married in one season. People who spend hours trying to find DIY tutorials for things that LOOK like Pottery Barn or Restoration Hardware because buying the real thing at this time in our life would be the equivalent of taking our savings and using it as a bon fire. Mmmmm… s’mores toasted over twenty dollar bills. And I mean twenty DOLLAR bills.

Alright, I’m exaggerating here but I’m trying to make a point; not everyone can afford a complete kitchen renovation and that is OKAY. If your circumstances allow for it, I’m still happy for you and will drool over your instaperfect images, but it wasn’t our reality. In a world that is continually shoving flawless, perfect images of EVERYTHING in our face, it’s important to remember that you don’t need to keep up with anyone, Kardashian or otherwise. (Side note- a testament to how embedded Kardashian everything is in our world, the word Kardashian was just autocorrected for me. Yet, autocorrect still can’t  correct for the millions that do not know the difference between their, there and they’re.*facepalm*)

So, in conclusion and after much digression, I’m trying to say that I’m going to be doing some posts about our kitchen #refresh so the in the middle folks like us are represented.  One of which will be a step by step guide and review of a product that really wowed us! In short, new territory for me and plenty of digression and rambling to make you feel right at home.

If you’re still reading, thanks. I’m a bit rusty, but I’m sure I’ll work out the kinks.  Until then, enjoy references to Dumbo and the Kardashians in a single post.

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*Except the light fixtures. I forgot to take a picture before we removed the boob lights. So just imagine a pair of those builder grade staples in gold.

A few thoughts for the Ulta Cashier

red-792139_1280Hey girl-

I’m sure you’re totes busy working your way through that new Gwen Stefani Urban Decay eyeshadow palette, but I was wondering if you could come up for air for just a moment so I can have a friendly word with you. By the looks of your eyes you’ve already hit all the purple shades hard any way.

You may not remember me from earlier this afternoon- I was the loon in line with a small, loud, boy-shaped kid.  We spent some wandering around the make up and skin care products while I displayed some Tourettes-like behaviors, “No, no, NO!” and “PutitbackputitbackputitBACK”, are some of my go-to phrases. I would occasionally pick up something, put it back, meander back to the same product, look at it and put it back again.  I managed to try on a shade of a new lip balm/stain that I took too long debating over to purchase.

Eventually after many circles and what probably appeared to be shoplifter-like behaviors we finally made it to the short line at the register to which my small person wailed, “Not ANOTHER line, momma!”, while I explained through my teeth that this was the only line we had found ourselves in today.  I gazed wearily at the sample size products and my little guy delighted in the over-priced lip balms shaped like lips.  I clutched my birthday freebie coupon like a golden ticket and the only other item I managed to get it together enough to purchase; some make-up remover wipes.

I probably wouldn’t have had an issue, but I was able to hear you make chit chat with the woman in front of me, making a more expensive purchase than my own, that was also sans a freebie coupon. You made sure to let her know all about the upcoming beauty events and my ears perked up when I heard you mention an event for a brand I happen to like and use.  I made a mental note to ask you for details.

You never gave me us, a chance.

I watched your eyes glaze over with condescension when I passed the coupon and my meager purchase across the counter.  The looks you gave my little guy as he desperately tried to “pay” by tapping the pen onto the credit card screen. The newbie eye roll I got because I tried to give you my rewards card, but didn’t need to because my coupon had already taken care of that. You didn’t even try to make small talk.  I could tell you wanted to get myself and my kid out from under your poorly contoured nose ASAP.

You didn’t even tell me about the event I wanted to ask about.

As I left the store I reasoned out that maybe you thought I had overheard you telling the customer in front of me.  Maybe you forgot. Maybe I should have asked. Maybe you thought I was too preoccupied. Lot’s of maybes bounced around in my brain as I strapped my squirmy guy into his seat and headed down the road. There was one that I couldn’t seem to shake though- maybe, just maybe, you didn’t think I was the type of customer to tell.

You made me feel embarrassed to be in the store with a rambunctious kid, though I’ve seen teens and women in the same one behaving with far less respect for those around them.  He said excuse me when we passed people, greeted others and was as kind as any self-respecting three year old should be.

You made me feel like I wasn’t entitled to my tiny trial size mascara because I didn’t drop an exorbitant amount of money other products today and my reward card status isn’t top tier.

You made me feel like shit.

Beyond how I felt today, your attitude is a part of a bigger problem. The internet is a treasure trove of memes, articles, videos and who knows what else based solely on making fun of moms and their yoga pants, less than perfect appearance, ponytails, clutching coffee cups. Some poke fun at us, others champion our disheveled style and still others heckle us for looking less than perfect because there are still neanderthals out there who believe in a Stepford Wives kind of look. Bloggers encourage moms to “take time for themselves” and indulging in swiping on some make up or a new pair of yoga pants.

The whole thing is a load of crap and it drives me nuts- but you, lady at Ulta, you perpetuated the negative end of the stereotype.  You saw my naked face, my cheap purchase, and sneered at my patronage of your store. Wrong move, honey. You don’t know crap about me, my makeup habits and you certainly don’t get to make me feel unworthy of shopping in your store.

If you knew me, you’d know I buy some higher end make-up and have favorites I use on the regular.  I don’t have the extra money to experiment with my face as much as I like so I stick with what works.

Nope, I don’t contour my face a la Kardashian, but I do know enough about it to know that you are doing it all wrong.

If you would have taken the time to enlighten me, the lowly mom, about your upcoming events I would have asked you all about it because I love that brand’s foundation and am almost out.  Should I buy now, or is it worth it to wait? I’ve been wanting to try their blush too. And how about that new skin care line?

I’m glad I only sampled that lip balm instead of bringing it home.  After it had been on for less than an hour my lips felt drier than the Sahara. Since I can’t afford to make impulse buys, I try things out so I know when I’ve found a real winner. That was not it.

I know a woman or two who have the whole makeup artistry thing nailed.  Not only are they able to do all the things with all the tubes, wands, brushes and pencils that make you pretty they know the true purpose of make up; they make women feel good about themselves with or without it. They would never make such a snap judgement.  Their main goal is make women feel confident in their own skin and help you find as many or as few products as they want to enhance it. They may also gently tell you that your look was a little too heavy for daytime.

Oh- and if you have a problem with my little boy being in such a girly store you can kiss my ass. He knows momma wears make up and sometimes she doesn’t. He also knows that  I’m the same person no matter what is or isn’t on my face.  He sure as hell will know better than to treat anyone with anything less than kindness, unlike you. Someday in the very very distant future, when he sees a woman he knows well without make up, he won’t be shocked, and he’ll see beauty no matter what.

So fear not, myself and my progeny won’t be darkening your door again anytime soon. I’ll take the extra time and energy to go to Sephora where I know for a fact I’ll get much better service.

 

 

Five Reasons My Three Year Old Would Be a Plausible Presidential Candidate

In America we like to get a jumpstart on things.  We finish up with that pesky season summer before Labor Day, skip over holidays such as Halloween and Thanksgiving before the Halloween candy has a chance to go stale in favor of amping up for Christma…err the holiday Frozen season extravaganza and blindly purchase school supplies before we have gotten any use out of our season passes to the community pool.  Yep. We like to be prepared.
 
So it should come as no surprise that a full year and then some out we are gearing up for the election of our next president.  My newsfeed, news apps, local news channel and even the celebrity news outlets are jumping right on the 2016 Election Express and I find every day I can get my daily dose of politics, whether I want it or not. 
 
This overloadexcessive, plethora of information bombarding enlightening me daily, got me thinking.  I am a registered voter, parent, citizen, former teacher, human who likes think that even though no pyrotechnics go off, synced with “Born in the USA” as I enter my local polling place to cast my ballot, I do indeed, rock the vote.  The senior citizens who run the whole shebang certainly seem to think so, considering I’m usually the only person under 65 in there. Since I’m clearly a voting superstar, and the media is telling me it’s time to draw my line in the sand, I sat down to decide what makes a good candidate.
 
Sigh. After a cursory glance at a few talking points, watching a couple clips, and reading a few interviews I came to a conclusion.
 
My three year old could do this. 
 
I came up with five qualifications to be a presidential candidate this go round and I like to think they are pretty comprehensive. Ahem.
 
1. A presence on social media.
Hellloooooo I post pictures of him, of things he’s done, the good, the bad, the ugly all day every day. That’s not even counting when I post little sound bites of his day to day conversations with me.  He gets more likes on one picture than Donald Trump’s hair has in its lifetime.  
 
2. The ability to stall, sidetrack, and befuddle your opponent and the media.
Don’t know the answer to a question because you’re wrong? Don’t want to answer a question because you don’t want to admit you’re wrong? Easy.  At three, he is a master of changing the subject abruptly by all means necessary.  Whether it means outright refusal, flattering me with attention (“Mommy you a pin-cess.”) or just retreating to high and lofty ground (“NO I told YOU 11 times!”) he is the king. When all else fails you can always just run to your room and slam the door. Hopefully if you ignore it long enough, it will go away.  This tactic also applies to the broccoli on your dinner plate.
 
3. An unwavering belief in your own rhetoric.
“Mommy, can I have more turkey?”
“Sure bud, but it’s actually ham.”
“NO! I tell you it’s turkey, ‘member??”
“Sweetie, it’s ham.  Look.”
“I TELL YOU IT’S TURKEY!”
“So, do you want some more turkey?”
“Yes.”
*Facepalm*
 
4. Playing up your emotional side
He hasn’t quite grasped some of the larger issues on the table yet, but if you need to see some quality human emotion just tell him that he can’t watch Paw Patrol.  He also knows how and when to wield the phrase, “Mommy, you broke my heart.” That has to count for some votes, somewhere.
 
5.Knowing the value of a good insult.
“Graduated last in his class at Annapolis-dummy!”
“He is a fool!”
“Stupid dog!”
“A totally overrated clown who speaks without knowing facts!”
“C’MON STUPID SHOES!!”
“You’re Farmer Stinky”
 
Three of those were uttered by my three year old son and three were spoken by a 2016 presidential candidate.  See? He fits right in.
 
So while the rest of you are reading about e-mail servers, insults, and trying to remember exactly how many Republican candidates are vying for the top spot, I’ll be busy.  The only thing between my son and running for president is his age.  Hopefully if I write, tweet, and get enough social media coverage I can get them to drop the eligible age from 35 to three. 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. or bust. 
 
Farmer Stinky approves this message.

Who has time for headers? Not this gal.

Life lately has been a whirlwind and even though right now there are about 49238409385798450398 things I need to be doing or should be doing I am writing here for a few minutes to decompress.  Well after I help Wyatt stuff himself into his underwear the right way because, God love him, he’s incapable of pulling his underwear up anyway but sideways which leads to some underwear issues I have never personally encountered but am suddenly an expert in.

This summer has been so short and jam packed that I blinked and the retail world has declared fall.  We did so much but it felt like I didn’t get to catch my breath and just enjoy any of it.  It’s like summer was one giant tornado of Disney World, birthday parties, visits, BBQ’s, picnics, puppies and jobs.  That doesn’t even count the time behind the scenes so to speak prepping for all those events and then quietly managing them so that no one finds out I’m a fraud. Aren’t I supposed to be cherishing all these moments? Enjoying them? Where are the made in the movies montages where the mom gets to sit back and take it all in as she tearily contemplates how wonderful her life is while holding a steaming mug of coffee or glass of wine contentedly watching some scene unfold while music composed just to bring moms like myself to tears as well swells in the background. Then the whole family walks away holding hands, or stares out over the ocean as the sun sets, or gathers in for a group hug.

Oh, I live in the real world you say? And that will never ever happen? Oh.  Well.  Okay then.

I’m probably extra over the edge because in the span of a month we made two big adjustments in our family. I started working from home again and we decided to adopt #louiethelabradane.  Yes he has a hashtag. Yes I’m making it a thing. When my brain finally craps out over here I’m planning on marketing him a la #marniethedog and #boo and getting all the free kibbles and bits I can out of him.  Considering he’s going to be the size of a horse, he will eventually need to earn his keep.  Its either that or he’s going to begin gnawing on my house in the hopes that it is made of food.

Louie has been an adventure because while we were acclimated to having a large dog, we are NOT acclimated to having a jumbo sized puppy.  So there has been much puppy leash biting, training, yelling and no matter what I do or say Wyatt’s Simba, Mike’s socks and my bras keep going missing. If you come to my house and happen to sit on a bra, please don’t be offended.  Just quietly signal to me so I can hide it before Louie finds it again.  I can’t afford for him to nibble too many of them or I’m going to be going braless in public.

Add to that the fact that I’m pretty sure he and Wyatt are the exact same people age and together they are a force to be reckoned with.  My house shakes as they thunder through it leaving an extra large path of destruction and despair (mine, not theirs) in their wake. “THIS is why we can’t have nice things!” is something my neighbors are probably tired of hearing.

So, of course, now is the perfect time for me to work again. My days for the past month and a half have been crammed with Wyatt, Louie, general upkeep and food around here and feverishly trying to remember how to make my brain work. Oh and occasionally having a conversation with Mike. I’ve lost count of how many times one of us has broken off a conversation with, “Nevermind, i’ll talk to you in about 15 years.” Cue the mom guilt about enjoying these moments and picturing an empty house that is spotless and quiet and then the tears start.

Dorie the fish has a better attention span than me lately and trying to work has just left me stressed and frustrated with myself. The more I try to plan ahead the more my plans go wrong. The less I try to plan and be more “go with the flow”, I find my projects flowing so far down river I can’t catch up. I never used to struggle with focusing like this.  To be fair, though in the past I was able to stick with a pretty set routine.  Today? HA. I was guilty of procrastination, yes, but I had time to do it. Now I feel like there are days I don’t even bother trying because I know this or that is going to prevent me from sitting for longer than a 5 minute stretch and I feel defeated before I begin. I thrive on schedules and am afraid to implement more in our house because I don’t want Wyatt and Mike to think they accidentally wandered into Army boot camp. The lack of planning works for their schedules because they change so very often.  So I try to go with it, even when it leaves me feeling like a ball of nerves because due dates do not change.

The mom guilt is truly ridiculous. As a good friend likes to remind me, I’m with Wyatt more than most people and I make good use of that time. I’m so aware of that. But then mom guilt rears it’s ugly judgmental head and I bang my head against the table because Wyatt is parked in front of the tv watching Octonauts for the 43rd time that day. In the middle of trying to finish an assignment an endless refrain of questions is running through my head instead.

Should we send him to preschool? Am I providing enough learning opportunities? Am I providing too many? Should I find him activities? What if I burn him out on activities before he is old enough to have any say? Will he know enough for kindergarten? What if he knows too much for kindergarten and he becomes THAT student? Am I setting him up for underachievement? 

You know- none of the important stuff like is he healthy and happy.

I feel pulled in so many directions and it is very clear to me that the right choice for me is being home because I’m a freaking basket case. All you moms out there who manage to do so much more than me- I’m in awe. Also, I need tips. For instance, what coffee do you use? Mine is just not cutting it. When I compare my to-do list with other people’s I instantly am ashamed and appalled at how little it is and how I struggle to accomplish it. It’s a vicious cycle, the more I stress the less productive I am and the less productive I am the more I stress.  I fantasize about matching home office decor, sunny window seats and quiet time to work at a desk with a vase of fresh flowers. I am currently trying to hold off on purchasing the most ridiculously priced yet oh so efficient planner because I can’t justify that I deserve it/need it because really, how hard is my day compared to other people.

I like the work I”m doing. I like the company I’m working with. I like using my brain. I just wish I could fast forward to a few months down the road when I have it all together again. So many times I wanted to update this thing over the summer and just couldn’t get to it. So i’m making time now because procrastination and mom guilt are hitting hard today and I”m not really accomplishing much else.

I also instantly feel guilty for complaining on here and indulging in a poor pity me moment. This is also probably more appropriate than unloading all of my stress and worries on Wyatt over his peanut butter crackers and juice. So I guess it all balances out. Unlike my life- that’s still a work in progress these days.