Thursday, March 28, 2013

Leveling the playing field.

When I was staying at my sister's house last week before ditching the kids and heading to Austin, there was a brief moment when we thought everyone might be coming down with the plague. Jack had a fever and was up half the night crying; Finn woke up and immediately barfed in my hands (or was it just a lot of spit?); and Liam felt fine but looked crazy thanks to his jaggedy shark teeth and uncontrollable bed head.

My brother-in-law Erick was worried that the kids had caught the funk going around his university. "It's sweeping through households like crazy and it's bad. Really bad. You gotta get out of here. Seriously. I don't want you to have to miss your friend's wedding. Just go. Now! Save yourself...!"

At least I think that's what he said. Honestly as soon as I heard, "get out of here" I was out the door and half way down the driveway. Not because I was afraid I would get sick (this is not my first sick kid rodeo), but because having a little alone time out of the house for no good reason was too good an opportunity to pass up.

So I did what any girl with nothing to do and two hours to do it would do. I went to Target!

It was the perfect place to waste an afternoon. I had almost forgotten how much fun browsing without kids can be! And since I didn't really need anything (aside from a handful of things I forgot to pack...), I was free to wander up and down EVERY aisle. Twice if I wanted!

When I was got back to their house, my sister was home from work and couldn't wait to see my treasures. I have to say it was probably the most random selection of things I've ever brought home from a store. Even I was surprised at some of the things that made the cut. But there were definitely some keepers.

Two things in particular fell into the, "who woulda thought?" category (and they were both by Sally Hanson!). First up, a cheap and easy French Manicure.

I know a Frenchie isn't the most current look but it's classic and looks nice for a wedding (my wedding was probably the last time I had one). I was looking for nail polish because I forgot to bring mine but kept picking out colors I already had at home. Who wants to spend money on something you have but forgot to pack? I was about to just forget it and use whatever my sister happened to have when I stumbled upon these little beauties.

I had seen them advertised but never tried them. This was my chance! I figured worse case scenario my sister probably had polish remover (which is how you get them off). They're like little stickers that you put on your nails and then file away the excess. I definitely had my doubts. I did them while my sister and I chatted which would really say something if you knew how I multi-task (I don't). It probably took me 20 minutes? And they turned out perfectly. Not even one bum nail (highly unusual for me). It's been a week and they're still going strong. I even got complimented on my pretty manicure at piano lessons today! (More on that later...)

My second happy accident in the beauty aisle? Airbrush Legs.

Yep, you heard that right. I bought makeup for my legs. (I was wearing a pretty short dress to the wedding and didn't want to blind a boat full of people with my lily whiteness.) I went with the lotion variety (in the lightest color available) because I tend to be a little clumsy and didn't want to airbrush the entire bathroom. I was pretty skeptical (it was an impulse purchase, what can I say?) but when I did the trial run at my sister's house we were both completely shocked. My legs looked significantly better! Not that obvious fake-tan look; just more evened out and prettier. Like how your face looks after you put on a little makeup. Even my random mom bruises seemed to disappear. It's waterproof (good in case it rains I guess...or could you wear it swimming?!) but easily washed off in the shower. And unlike the sunless tanning stuff, mistakes are no big deal. Usually if Bill were to comment on the nice tan I had in between my fingers at a wedding, I would have had to just hope no one noticed. But instead, I was able to just rub it off! I suggest every one own a bottle of this to use as needed (like, all the time?). I'm not going to lie - it's going to be hard to save this for legs and special occasions.

Which makes me wonder - do some people use this kind of stuff all the time? Is that why celebrities and beautiful people always look so good? What other secrets are they keeping? Do you have some? Seriously, sister. Spill 'em!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

The littlest Mario Bro.

Yesterday morning, we woke to find Finn standing next to our bed. We must have looked somewhat terrified (that's how I felt anyway - moving away from the crib is not my favorite milestone) because as soon as he could tell we were awake he just sort of shrugged his shoulders and said, "I climbed out." Just like that. He wasn't waiting for a round of applause or anything, just saying hello. Then he ran off to find Liam, helped himself to a bowl of shredded cheese and sat down to watch Blue's Clues.

This morning, he did it again. "I got out myself," he said. Then threw night-night and his guys onto my bed and climbed up to "get cozy." So let me get this straight. As far back as I can remember, you've woken up every single morning yelling, "Mama!" until I come get you and now all of a sudden you're a super stealthy ninja who can climb out of your crib without making so much as a peep?!

Yes ma'am.

This is so Finn. As soon as he does something, he does it. There is no turning back, no second guesses, not even a struggle. It's like all he has to do is decide and, bam! Game over. The only trick is he has to be the one to decide. Don't even try to make suggestions. Unless of course you're going to suggest painting or going outside. He's almost always up for one of those.

He's a big fan of story time, too. It's not unusual for us to hit up a few different ones each week. He has his favorite librarians, knows what to expect from each program and could probably find his way around without any help at all. He loves the songs, the puppets, the kids and, of course, the books.

If it was up to him I'd read ten books before nap time every day. At least ten books. And then I'd sing all the songs I know and lay down on Liam's bed next to him until he fell asleep. Sometimes that's just what we do. But not always. Sometimes he just has to deal with the cards he's been dealt. This can mean he rolls over and goes right to sleep or plays quietly for a bit or screams and cries until he decides he's had enough.  

He has really big emotions. Sometimes he even hits - the saddest, most intentional hitting you've ever seen with unwavering eye contact and a quivering chin - and regularly has his feelings hurt badly enough that he breaks down and cries. The worst is when he feels left out (it happens a lot with a much older brother) because he would never ever leave any one out if he could help it. This kid has a heart of pure gold. 

He's funny, too. He says things that just about knock me out of my chair. Like when he came in from playing outside and I asked him if he wanted to take off his coat and hang it in his room. He said no. Twenty minutes later I asked again. Still no. A couple hours later I noticed he was still wearing it. "Finny," I said. "It's warm in here. You should take off your coat." He looked me straight in the eyes and said, "No, Mama. I can't! I too busy."

True dat. Busy, bright and sweet as can be. What a kid.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Best friends' wedding.

For whatever reason (maybe because I have a sister I'm close to or because I got married at 22), I haven't had a ton of "best friends" in my adult life. This might sound crazy - how many best anythings does one gal need? (and, like, how old are you?) - but you know what I mean. Best friend sounds like who you take to Disney On Ice when your parents say you can invite a friend. Like the obvious choice. It's exclusive by definition. You can't have more than one that's best.

Or can you?

Maybe instead of meaning "best" as in #1 ranking, "best" when used with friend can just mean wonderful. Totally awesome. Cream of the crop. Yeah, that must be what it means...

Because this weekend my best friend from high school, Emily, got married and all of our best friends flew to Austin to celebrate with her!

It was such a fun weekend - filled with almost enough/way too much Mexican food, a few hijinx, a million bats, and lots and lots of laughter.

We look so Charlie's Angels trying to touch that bridge!

We laughed a lot about our wild and crazy days in high school (which we thankfully realized were actually pretty safe and innocent and not at all  rapey* like they could have been), but also reminisced about the vacations and reunions and girls' weekends and weddings we've gotten to enjoy together since then.

Trisha's wedding was first (15 YEARS AGO!) and the more I think about it, the more I think that may have been what cemented us girls in our five-way friendship. Because while we had all been friends in high school, we had also been friends with a lot of other people. It's not like we were an exclusive five girl clique or anything (but if we were, I'd totally be the edgy one - just look at that short hair!). If I'm totally honest, I don't remember ever intentionally hanging out just the five of us before that wedding in Utah 15 years ago.

But since then? It wouldn't make since to do it any other way. These girls are my best friends from high school!

the bride had several outfit changes... : )
Thankfully we've had five weddings over the years which have been perfect reasons to drop everything and coordinate schedules (and flights and babysitters and time off work...) to keep our friendships rolling. 

My wedding, almost 13 years ago. I'm excited!

Mine again...Trish was 6 months pregnant!

Jaime caught the bouquet at Sum's wedding...and was next to get hitched!
So, until this weekend it had been more than eight years since the last wedding. Eight years! Fortunately that wasn't the last time we all spent time together because now that we've gone though the roster, we're going to have to start getting creative if we want to keep our five girl clique going strong. 

       the END of the night...after lots of salsa dancing/hair whipping

I think we can make that happen...

I was lucky enough to get to bring along my every-day best friend as well. He took pictures and bought us drinks and hung out in the red tent without complaining (or making it seem weird for the rest of us) and even drove us around in a convertible all weekend!
Turns out we don't LOVE a convertible (so windy and exposed!) but I found it sort of charming that he picked one out (and stuck with it even after the girl at the car rental counter confirmed that, yes, it was pretty douchey). 
Our hotel room had a wall-sized window in between the bedroom and the bathroom and the hallways were littered with the most random art wall hangings I've ever seen. A basket of puppies next to an old timey portrait of some man and then right on the other side of the hall, a Starry Night print and a calendar written in Chinese. But the bed was super comfy and we didn't really care about the rest of it (like our neighbor's balcony that looked right into our room...). We can have fun no matter where we are. 
Which actually sounds like a pretty solid wish for newlyweds - may you have fun together no matter where you are. Amen to that.
*Sorry, rapey was one of my favorite words this weekend. No idea why. Schezuan was also very popular. Not the food, the word. It was a very silly weekend...

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Tuesday with Maggie.

Okay, so probably no one cares about this except me but I'm a little bummed that Tuesday came and went and I didn't post anything. I swear I'm a woman of my word - I just got busy!

We drove to Louisville yesterday after a long, leisurely morning at one of my favorite neighbor's. I was supposed to be going over to grab Liam from his sleepover but three hours later we were still just chatting away.

There was a time when this most likely would not have happened. I probably would have taken the out after one cup of coffee so I could go home and pack really fast so I could post to my blog before hitting the road.

But lately I care less about the relationships I have through my Internet connection, and more about the connections I have with the living breathing people in my life. This seems obvious, I know, but when you have hundreds of "friends" out there in cyber space, sometimes you can feel like a busy little social butterfly even though you've hardly left your house. I don't see anything wrong with reconnecting with an old friend on Facebook or getting to know someone through their blog, but it's no substitution for the real thing.

Anywho. After my neighbor and I chit chatted all morning, I ran home to pack for a few days at my sister's house and a long wedding weekend in Austin with almost ALL of my favorite old friends. Now, I despise packing for a normal agenda, but for a wedding in a place I've never been but always wanted to go with friends I don't get to see very often? That's kind of my nightmare. Add in the fact that I had to do it FAST and you have what may or may not be a disaster. So far I've discovered I packed a shirt that I KNOW was in the donation bag but forgot to bring pajamas and warm socks. Thankfully Bill packed for the kids. Otherwise who knows what they'd be wearing right now. Not that it would matter. We're just watching Elf while my nephew Jack naps, waiting for Moose and Ick to come home from work.

I'm writing this on my iPhone which is a really great thing to be able to do but also sort of slow going and awkward so I'm gonna go ahead and wrap this up. After I add a bunch of random pictures just because. Hope y'all enjoy the rest of your week!

For the love of God, how long does it take for loose teeth to FALL OUT?!

His pet rock Rocky wasn't the only googly eyed art at the museum.

He's wearing his daddy's's too small but he loves it.

When Liam's away, we go to sushi!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Earning its name: the living room.

The other night we had a babysitter and when she walked into our living room she was like, "Woah! Am I in a different house?"

It reminded me that I never blogged about redoing our living room over a month ago. That's crazy! I mean, if a pillow gets recovered but no one gets to see it on the Internet, does it even count...

I guess it didn't seem like that big of a deal because it was such an unplanned thing. I had always liked our living room just fine but then one day it completely stopped working for me. It was too earth toned and dark and crowded. It felt small. The rug had seen much better days. I just...hated it.

I blame our pretty new bedroom. It's made the rest of the house look sort of blah in comparison.

Not knowing where to start, I zeroed in on the wall color. It was a nice medium brown but with only one window, exposed bricks and heavy drapes, it suddenly seemed way too dark. I had to lighten it up and bring in a little contrast. For whatever reason, I had blue on the mind. (We have several different shades throughout our house and I don't hate any of them yet.)

Lucky for me it was a Saturday so when I decided I had to paint right this second, Bill was home to help. I ran to Home Depot, took almost a whole minute to choose a color, then came home and put my man to work. He hates painting (but likes me!) so it actually worked out great. He said he'd do as much as I wanted so long as he didn't have to waste the whole weekend on top of a ladder. I agreed, we got to work, and in three hours we were completely DONE. I think we set a new world record.

So the room was very light blue but the rest of the room was the same as before. And guess what? I still hated it. So I pulled out my binders full of magazine clips (like Pinterest before Pinterest!) to search for inspiration and began to pull together an idea.

After I figured out what furniture to keep, what to move out, what to move in, what to replace and what I needed to find, I decided where everything should go for now (not an easy task in a small room with two doors, a brick chimney and a very low window).

Then I just had to pull it all together.

I looked around at the light blue walls, orange bricks, green couch, brown leather chair, striped chair, warm wood floors, white wainscoting, big black TV, books, toys, etc. and thought I must have lost my mind. But with a few coordinating pillows, new window treatments and the right rug, it went from looking like a big hot mess to practically a whole new living room!

Okay, maybe it took a little more work than that (i.e. two dozen trips to various Home Goods locations and at least a million hours looking at rugs online...), but it came together. And that's the most important part.

The rug is actually two rugs. I liked the idea of layering and it just so happened that our old rug looked kind of cool upside down so I went with it. Finding the right top rug was another story. I knew I wanted something that would wear well and be easy to clean (or better yet, not look that dirty in the first place!) but every time I'd stop browsing and check my shopping cart, it was full of fancy, light-colored rugs. I knew it would only be a matter of days before we spilled something or tracked in dirt or had 50 people over to eat chili and watch the Superbowl so our rug would need to be super forgiving.

I finally decided on this one (from One King's Lane) because it was high quality/low price (under $200), indoor/outdoor (I can literally take it outside and hose it off if I need to), soft but durable, interesting but subtle...this is why it took me so long to make a choice. It was also incredibly hard for me to pull the trigger because I'm used to bringing things home to see them in the space before committing (I return as many things as I keep). Shipping back a rug sounded like a nightmare so I had to be really sure before I bought. Making a decision was the hardest part.

The easiest part was the window treatments. We have very tall windows so finding curtains that are the right size takes a lot more work than stopping by Target. But I saw something on Pinterest that was a total game changer. Instead of buying curtains, buy table cloths! They come in lots of different sizes that work great for windows. Even very tall ones! And you can easily find a wide variety at places like Home Goods for less than $20. So for around $50, I got brand new curtains for my extra tall windows! With a new custom bamboo shade (no Pinterest short cut for that one), our once so-so window now looks very grown up and lovely.

{Full disclosure: even though I could have gotten them just the right length, I messed up and bought the wrong size. By the time I went back to exchange for the longer ones, they only had one left. One! By then I really liked the curtains so I spent several days calling and driving around to different Home Goods stores (and Marshall's and TJ Maxx...) trying to find one more table cloth that was the right size. Finally I decided, screw it. People only notice my curtains are a few inches short if I tell them and thanks to our handy dandy bench, they don't even bother me anymore. So I decided to just accept that I'm not perfect and move on with my life.}

And speaking of the bench! I love having it in the living room. It's great for extra seating, makes a cute little desk when the boys pull up a chair, and is perfect for Finny to stand next to to play with his guys.

So, anyway, that's it! Friends love our new living room and so do we. It feels much so much bigger without the coffee table which is perfect for where we are in our lives right now (the more floor space for playing, the better!). It's brighter during the day and cozier at night. It's just a good fit for our family. These pictures don't really do it justice but without a wide angle lens it's hard to really capture a small indoor space. I guess you'll just have to come see for yourself! ; )

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Learning to let go.

The first time my parents visited after Liam was born, my dad couldn't stop talking about what a great neighborhood we had for raising kids. "What a cool place for my grandson to grow up. You've got the park and all these great alleys...I can't wait for him to learn to ride a bike!"

I was like, "Dude. Are you insane? I mean, I don't want to freak you out or anything but this neighborhood is not exactly Leave it to Beaver-ville. It's cute, sure, but it's urban. Haven't you heard the random gunshots? Or met our neighborhood crack whore? You can't seriously think I'm going to teach this precious baby to ride a bike and then just send him off down the alley all by himself. Can you?!"

"You worry too much."

I'm sure it's exactly what I used to tell him when he and my mom wouldn't let me walk to the park in our neighborhood by myself. I couldn't believe they wanted to come with me. I swear I was the only loser at the playground with my parents hanging around. So uncool...

Eventually, of course, they let me go to the park and my friends' houses and on hikes and adventures and I was pretty much free to go wherever my bike could take me.

Which now? Seems insane. And sort of...impressive. How in the world did they ever let me go?

I'm guessing they must have trusted me and themselves and the general goodness of the world enough to see that the potential benefits outweighed the potential risks.

Or maybe they just casually yelled out to me that if I wanted to keep going around the block alone, it was okay.

That's how we did it. Last week we left the house together, Finn on his little push bike (for like 30 seconds before he made me carry it), Liam on his Razor, and Penny on her leash, but after a few houses of Finn moving slower than Christmas, I started to feel bad for Liam having to wait and yelled out, "Hey bud! If you want to keep going all the way around the block, you can. If you're comfortable with it, so am I!"

Well, of course he said yes, and for a second there I felt really proud of both of us. I could see his confidence as he kicked and pushed farther and farther away from me. He didn't turn back once. Not even when he got to the corner which was the farthest he'd ever been allowed to go by himself before. As soon as he turned and I could no longer see him I thought, "Oh my God. What have I done..."

Just as a bit of panic was beginning to take hold, one of our neighbors pulled up and said, "I just saw your son - he looks so proud!" I took a deep breath and reminded myself he could do this. We both could! We've been around the block a thousand times and he's been navigating everywhere we go for at least a year and our neighborhood is much safer than it used to be. It's not like I dropped him off on the freeway to play in traffic. It's just once around the block... 

Still. It was probably less than a minute before I decided I had had enough waiting and turned around to head home (we were still only half way down our block). 

I knew once I saw him, I'd kick myself for second guessing this whole thing. But Bill was working from home and would probably not be okay with this abrupt loosening of the apron strings. Would it be the worst thing in the world if I happened to intercept Liam before he ran into the house boasting about his adventure?

But as I got closer to our house, I actually started to get nervous. And it wasn't just because I knew my husband was going to be mad. What if something...happened?  

I could not wait to lay eyes on that child!

Finn was taking his sweet time so I ran ahead briefly to see if I could see Liam. I could tell right away he wasn't in the front yard. I thought he might have still been making his way around the block so I  peered around the corner. No sign. I quickly checked the porch but his scooter wasn't there. Dammit. Finn was taking forever. "Baby, come ON!" I yelled. "I need to find Liam!" I was starting to sound a little crazy. I couldn't wait any longer. I left Finn on the sidewalk and ran into the house yelling, "Liam! Liam! Are you here?!"

"Uh, yeah," he said laughing. "I'm right here talking to Dada."

Bill was giving the The Look. "Yeah, he's telling me all about his adventure...about the guy he stopped to talk to..."


I was so glad to see my baby I didn't even care that I was in trouble. I ran out to grab Finn and then came back in the house to hear all about Liam's Big Adventure.

It was...epic.

He said he had never felt so free. And that when he looked up and saw the moon (it wasn't the middle of the night or anything...just evening...early evening) it looked different. Bigger somehow. He said he had never seen it look so beautiful. 

Yeah, yeah, yeah, just get to the part about the guy!

Well. He "ran into" a guy (not literally) and stopped to talk for a bit. The guy asked him things like, "What's your name?" and "Where are your parents?" and "Is that your Mama walking by with that baby?" (Nope, that's just some mom witnessing a lone seven year old and a creepy old man having a little chat while she WALKS ON much for the village.) You know, just all the nightmarish things you never want your seven year old to tell you after his very first solo trip around the block. Bill was doing his best not to freak Liam out but if looks could kill, I would so not be writing this right now.

I know it sounds bad. And it was definitely not ideal. But it wasn't terrible. I know exactly who the guy was that Liam stopped to talk to. And while I wish Liam would have just said hi (or nothing!) and kept on scooting, I know for certain that their little exchange was harmless. And it's a good thing, too. Because now that Liam's had a small taste of freedom, there's no way he's going to give it up without a fight. 

But we have a few more things to address before that happens again. Because trusting my child and myself and the greater good in the world is all fine and good but there's nothing like a few specific ground rules to set a parent's heart at ease. Although I think the easy days might be behind us. The letting go is the hardest.