A Zoo and a Sandwich

Life has been wacky. Kudos to MK for taking a timeout!

Last week, Harker and I took a parallel field trip to Todd’s class’s field trip to the Metro Richmond Zoo.

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This was a park space, NOT an animal enclosure.

How early does that classic boyishness start, I ask you!? We had a reasonably good time, though the highlights for Hark were going strollerless for short bursts of time and seeing Daddy walk up.

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There is no camera built that can capture the amount of peanut butter on this child at this time.

We were also delighted to drop in to see a very special Aunt, and I completed the shouldn’t-be-an-achievement-but-guys-it-TOTALLY-IS feat of driving home from Richmond without a GPS!!!

I also realized the incredible affinity I have for the individual who convinced children that crusts should be cut off of sandwiches. What brilliance!!! The crust is the. best. part. !!! And what’s more – removing the crust for your child (At least, at first? As far as I know?!) is a parenting rite of passage that I’m over the moon for. What easier, pain free way do you get to show that “mother’s love”?

You guys, I’m not kidding about this. Sitting in the car, sharing PB & J sandwiches with my little boy, I felt like a Mom.

And I mean that in the best sense possible, and I mean that in a deeper way than I can show you in one wonky little post. Loving Harker is the easiest thing I’ve ever done. Getting to the point where I didn’t feel guilty that he’d been stuck with me, well, that’s been a different road entirely.

I’ve heard the road of parenthood is paved with self doubt, but for now, all that I’m going to focus on is a picnic of PB & J to share on our adventure.

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It looks like he took the picture, doesn’t it?!

Ready to Hit the Road?

As we enter prime travel season, it’s an unpleasant fact that automobile accidents increase. They are terrifying, emotional, and physically painful, even in the best of circumstances. Especially when traveling with children, it is beyond critical to not leave certain preparations out.

Baby Driver

Do not allow your child to actually operate the vehicle!

One preparation of which Todd and I were made aware during our infant care class is the CHAD sticker program. From the Traveler’s Protective Association website:

The CHAD safety seat child identification program has been developed as a result of a traffic accident involving a 13-month old boy named Chad. The baby-sitter who was driving was killed. Chad was injured but no one at the scene knew his identity. Only because an emergency room nurse recognized him could his parents be quickly located and his injuries be treated.

What a horrifying circumstance! To protect against this happening again, the TPA has created the CHAD – Children Have An iDentity – sticker. They (or similar emergency identification stickers) are free from local law enforcement agencies and fire departments. You can also have the installation of your child’s safety seat verified if you call and make an appointment. They look like this:

Emergency personnel are trained to look for stickers like these in case of a crisis. One hopes that the most for which they are ever needed is the peace of mind that your child would receive the care that they need without undue delay from waiting to identify him or her in order to authorize treatment. May your summer travels be swift, safe & super restorative!

Like This

Like this!

Not Like This

… not like this!

Getcha Some (Momentum, that is.)

I seriously cannot be the only person who struggles with this scenario: your to-do list is as long as you are tall, you have a very short window of time between commitments (like children, or jobs, or both) in which to complete all the items with the panache and effortless grace of Holly Golightly cum Martha Stewart.  Rather than beginning at the top of the list, and drudgingly completing whatever you might be able to squeeze in; rather than cherry picking the quickest, easiest items, or trying to triage the most incredibly urgent, I say, start with a different list.

The items below are my sure-fire activities to start productivity with positivity! Just be sure to keep them small, quick, and why don’t you add some happy tunes?

1. Make Your Bed

Seriously, could it get any easier? I adore my bed. It’s a fluffy oasis when the rest of the house is… not. It’s brightly colored, it’s soft, it’s cool. But – there is something that just wracks my nerves when this oasis is a big, fluffy mess. Maybe because it’s too tempting to climb back in…

Bed

At any rate: it’s a beautiful way to draw a line in the sand about order in your day. Go do it, right now!

2. Eat Something

Not just anything, though: eat something lively! As the saying goes, you are what you eat. If you want to be a pure ball of energy and light, that’s what you need to focus on eating.

Feeling Lively

Let Kemi Nekvapil explain more about that principal, and her overall perspective on being creative AND effective in her Big Hearted Business Inspiration Bomb video.

3. Plant Something

Along the lines of being lively above, if you want to bring life to the world around you, then do it! An herb garden is a fantastic way to do it, because it is simple, relatively cheap, and thrives on being used and abused. Oh, fresh basil, cilantro and sage. Yum!

Plant Something

We got our killer planter boxed from our friend Kathryn (Yes! That very one from the baby shower post yesterday, and who blogs over at Life Spruce!)

4. Paint Something

Now, we’re getting heavy into project/to-do list territory. There are, at any given point in space-time, at least a half-dozen places where a very simple swipe of paint (really, the lack thereof) is making me utterly batty. So, to this, I say snag that paintbrush we all keep in the fridge for “someday” and paint already!

Paint Something

NOTE: Keep this light – touchup, correction and the like. Do not tackle a whole room on a whim! Or at least, don’t say I told you to, unless it turns out really well. Then send me before and afters and thank me for being such a great life coach!)

5.  Pay It Forward

Leave something you don’t need on your curb and post a curb-alert on craigslist. Take a load of gently worn business clothing or baby items to the local women’s shelter. Drop off a bag of cat food or towels at your municipality’s Humane Society. You’ll be clearing out clutter that you don’t need, and reminded of just how good you have it – and that is some serious positive momentum!

Friday Fun – Details Forthcoming

Bonnie here, and I’m getting your weekend started with a really tasty cop-out: Not Quite Nigella’s Easy Individual Beef Wellingtons. I’m whipping them up right now for my husband’s birthday dinner using ground beef instead of filet, but I’ve made her duxelles before and they are divine. 

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A quick shout out today to the man who brought MK and I together – Happy Birthday, Todd! You are an incredible husband, father, son and teacher. I am so incredibly lucky to share a life with you, and here’s to many, many more wonderful years together!

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A quick shout out today to the man who brought MK and I together – Happy Birthday, Todd! You are an incredible husband, father, son and teacher. I am so incredibly lucky to share a life with you, and here’s to many, many more wonderful years together!

Vision Quest

The show Happy Endings is one of my favorites – check out reruns on ABC.com. Apparently, it’s in danger of getting the axe based on traditional statistical television viewing analyses (I don’t know either), but here’s a fantastic article that describes how it’s different from the other six attractive friends in an urban setting sitcoms that have sprung up since the success of Friends.

One character (Jane Kirkovich) is super organized and intentional about every. single. thing. she. does. She’s always trying to get her friends to be the same way (last week she tried to make over the friendly slob, Max). In the episode that inspired my post today, she tries to help Penny decide to happen to life, instead of having life happen to her.

So, it’s a silly sitcom, but I watched it at a time in my own life when I was trying to articulate just that idea. Thanks to Pinterest, I was quickly and easily able to assemble my own vision board of sorts. I named it “The Jane,” in honor of the character who inspired me.

Most of my own board appears to have become positivity central (Sidebar: does anyone else have Pinterest load only random parts of their boards occasionally?). I have also pinned visualizations I particularly liked that indicated, for me, what home is about, or career ideas, along with some very special role models. A few of the highlights that are cooperating at this time:

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The key component of an effective vision board is that it gives you a visual shorthand to feel inspired. Not in the way that window shopping or Pinterest does – this is not about having a to-do list. This is about feeling out what your life looks like when the to-do list becomes a been-done list.

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Mama Knows

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Me, circa 1989

Tutu

Pink is my color. Obviously.

When I was little, I loved to dress up like a ballerina and twirl, twirl, twirl. When I was finally big enough to take dance lessons at Forest Dance Academy, I was so tremendously excited! I was exceptionally adorable, but not preternaturally talented. In fact, I was downright overwhelmed. “Mom, I just can’t keep up! They are moving so fast, twirling their arms, switching their feet, and spinning across the floor! All the others girls aren’t having a problem at all!”

Mom, around 1979.

Mom and Dad, from their yearbook, around 1979

Patiently waiting for me to spew all of my tiny worry and melodrama, my mom calmly told me, “It’s okay, Bonnie.”

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At Mom’s nurse pinning ceremony: Aunt Jennifer, Mom, Dad & Mom’s Mom – my Grandma Dixie

Before I could negate her statement with an emphatic temper tantrum, she went on:

At the Beach

Mom & Dad at Myrtle Beach last summer

“You’ll get it soon! You just need to take it a little bit at a time. So, first, just focus on the feet. When you can do that part without thinking so much, add the arms. Then you can add the jazzy hands, and twirls, and leaps. You can do it, just give yourself the chance.”

Mom and I

Mom and I before my and Todd’s wedding

Thank you, Mom, for the awesome advice. It’s wisdom that has helped me in every facet of my life so far, from dance class to being a wife and mom to career choice. Whatever it is I want to do in the future, too, I know that I’ll nail it – just sticking with it & taking everything I can one step at a time.

Customized Toms Shoes for Zero Dollars!

I did not think it was possible to love my Toms any more than I already did. Todd bought them for me for Christmas & they are classic black:

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However, they didn’t go that great with skirts, which I especially love to wear in the warmer weather. Obviously, I refused to take an unflattering picture, but this is what I felt like:

In pursuit of a new professional wardrobe that matches style with an intense uptick in practicality (No more peep-toe pumps! Tear!), I’ve had my eye on these babies for an upgrade:

However, $65-$70 for a new pair of shoes for an occasional job (I’m substitute teaching right now) is not in our Dave Ramsey budget!

Enter my favorite two tools for creativity: a really sharp pair of scissors and a lo-temp hot glue gun.

1. Trim

I cut out the granny elastic that comes all the way up the foot, right along the canvas. Next, I rounded out that cut a bit to soften the toe cleavage, and twice snipped about 1/4 inch into the half circle I had cut in order to be able to fold the canvas over.

Bazinga!

Bazinga!

2. Fold

Fold over the raw edges. I began with the sides, since they were more stiff.

Looks like shark teeth!

Looks like shark teeth!

3. Glue

The trick to use when gluing both layers of fabric together, and then ultimately to the inside of the shoe, is to go very slowly and use as little glue as possible. The glue should cool off fairly quickly, and you should be able to squish the fabric around to keep it a little bit malleable and fairly flat. [If you’re like me, you’ll do this far better on the second shoe.]

To recap: Trim, fold, glue (first sides, then front) and you will have this:

Ta-da!

Ta-da!

Already, these hard-lovin’ shoes were a lot more skirt friendly. But while sitting on the couch at the end of the day, as we are wont to do on weeknights at the ol’ Birdhouse, I decided to go one step further for  my little dream boats. I broke out a Sharpie for the white foam soles.

What was I thinking?!

What was I thinking?!

One mild hand cramp and a flabbergasted husband later, this is my finished product:

BASR

Foggy Spring morning magic!

And this is how I felt this morning, slipping them on:

*Humming to self while friendly rodents help me prepare for the day*

[Humming delightedly to self while friendly rodents help me prepare for the day…]

Those are Cinderella’s toeless feet, in case you didn’t recognize the helpful mice matrons.

So that’s how I’m starting my weekend – new, princess-approved shoes for free! What are you doing to celebrate making it through another week?

Heart of a Home: Our Kitchen

Much like introducing herself through MK’s relationship with the dogs, I think that you can get to know me the surest through the iterations of our kitchen.Family Pic - Cropped

Todd and I bought our first home in July 2009. It’s a Cape Cod built in 1946, with all the charm and (as we found out after signing the papers) chaos of a 70 year old building. We adore our little birdhouse, as I call it, like it’s a member of the family. A tempestuous member, but one of us, nonetheless.

Our first round involved a face lift – paint that matched, knobs that weren’t plastic, and storage that made the space shift from feeling like a butler’s pantry to an actual (if miniscule) kitchen.  Seriously. I can’t find anything as small as this kitchen with four doors and full-size, functional appliances anywhere. Not even on Apartment Therapy or at Ikea.

That remodel was so much fun. We were new, excited homeowners, and the changes were simple enough to instantly wake up the space without too much stress or major investment.

Before:

After:

Before:

There was a small table here when the house was listed. A table, people! An eat-in kitchen with no space to cook, and with a dining room two steps past!

After:

Flush with that success, we tackled slightly more complicated projects, with the intention to come back and more deeply personalize our kitchen’s appearance, and increase it’s utility.  However, like the dishes that pile up relentlessly and without noticing that it’s happening, Todd and I stopped working together as much.

By the time we finally revisited the kitchen reno, with intentions to add a dishwasher and knock out a wall, we could not cooperate to complete much more than pull down old tile to put up a beadboard backsplash, and replace a stainless steel drop-in sink with a white acrylic one. Todd and I were frustrated with the house, with choices we had made, and with our communication. The sunny yellow color we tried to force on the room didn’t fix anything. Though it made this space almost my dream kitchen, we were still trying to make it something that it wasn’t.

Todd and I weren’t feeling or working like a team, and it makes me sad to think of the time together that we missed out on. That’s a story for another day, though, and the part that’s important today is that the mini-kitchen reno that almost broke us was our wake-up call.  By the time the Spring rolled around in 2011, we had sorted ourselves out, and were ready to tackle bigger, better things.

Before:

In the Middle:

Seen here without the doors or tiling completed. This is how it looked when we got the news.

And this was just in the nick of time. One week – seven days – after Todd and his dad installed our first dishwasher, custom cabinets, and farmhouse sink, we found out that my mystery illness had ten fingers, ten toes, and a very cute nose. Yes, my little negative pregnancy test was actually born on November 29, 2011.

Harker, at only 8 days old!

But not before one more kitchen update! See, somewhere along becoming a mother, I learned that the only way to thrive is to truly trust my ever-growing gut. And one morning, when I woke up, I made a choice that was not merely pregnancy hormones, as was generally perceived at the time. It was right for this little house. You see, two years ago (WOW! When did that happen?) I decided that the cabinets needed to be blue. Like, dark blue. Not girly turquoise, not neutral Robin’s Egg bland. Something between Williamsburg and Navy blue.

Almost nobody was painting cabinets blue at that time. It was still just glossy white, or sometimes black. Even then, it was still a pretty niche look.

Full Kitchen

Upper Cabs

Sometimes we have to be flexible, and still get professional help. Somewhere in all of the mishigas, we asked a local contractor to come in and cut a hole in the wall. We had originally planned to know the wall down, and then realized that would mean new floors and ceilings. Thats not why we live in an older home. So, we decided to cut a box in the wall as a pass through and breakfast bar. What the contractor advised was to make it an archway, and it’s now one of my favorite things about the area. It lets natural light into the “landlocked” kitchen, allows easy conversation with dining room, and didn’t force a structural change to the house.

Breezeway

Along with trusting our instinct, we’ve also learned to go slow, and feel out the right was as we go. If we can’t do something together, it’s not right for us. Which isn’t to say we have to do everything together – this pegboard is a great example of that. Todd put it up for me as my Valentine’s Day gift this year. He did the work, but it was something we both wanted.

Pegboard

Most of all, I love our kitchen because it is where we gather, when things are good and when they are not. It is where our friends and family break bread with us, but it is also where they break a sweat with us. Our kitchen reflects (to me) the beautiful jumble of undeserved blessings that I am so grateful is our life. What changes have you made since moving in to your home? Do they help you document the eras of your life, like the rings in a tree?