Thursday, April 19, 2018

Spring survey!

Spring is not here and I’m mad. 
We had a beautiful teaser day two weekends ago: sunshine and high 70s. 
Since then it’s been gray and 50s. 
Natasha post this on a delightful day of rain, wind, and low 40s 
and I appreciated it so much I’m stealing it. 

1. What three colors remind you of spring? 

Green grass. 
Yellow sun. 
Purple flower. 

2. What is the first thing you add to your wardrobe in spring? 

Short-sleeve tops. 
After 5 or 6 months in long sleeve, 
I’m over-joyed to turn to a new section of my closet
 (because, unsurprising, my closet is perfectly coordinated by sleeve-length

3. What is the first wardrobe item you ditch in springtime? 

Jackets and coats. 
So many women love layering but I'm just not one of them. 
I like one single layer. 
Simple, easy. 

4. Who mows the grass where you live? 

There are not many household chores I don’t do 
(I take out the trash more often than he does) 
but I flat out refuse to mow. 
When he had his carpal/cubital tunnel surgery, we paid my sister to mow. 

5. What’s spring like where you live? 

Should be: Warm & sunny
Currently: Cold, rainy, dreary. 
I should be happy i can’t say “cold, SNOWY” 
like many north and west of us, 
but complainers gonna complain. 

6. What’s your favorite thing about spring? 

Opening the windows and letting fresh air fill the house. 
I love love love fresh air
 and after a winter of stagnate recirculated air, 
I want the wind to blow through every corner of our house. 

Of course Adam and his allergies don't jive with this but... hehe. 

7. Are you a spring cleaner? 

I’m a meticulous cleaner all year 
but I don’t up my game in springtime. 

8. Are you a baseball fan? 

Not a true fan. 
I like going to games to get a hot dog and beer but the actual game? 
It ranks down there with basketball. 
I’ll take pro football, college football, soccer, and even hockey before baseball. 
That said, Adam is a big Phillies fan so I’ve acquired some fandom by osmosis. 

Annually we take the kids to go see the Minor League Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs. 
Tickets are cheap, seats are plentiful, and we all have fun

9. Tulips or daffodils? 

We don’t get many tulips around here
 (are they even native to southeast PA? No idea) 
but we are flooded with daffodils on every corner. 
I love them as a true sign of spring. 

10. Favorite outdoor spring activity? 

Walks around our neighborhood. 
We do this in summer and fall 
but it feels extra special in spring after being cooped inside all winter. 

Oliver one year ago!

11. Flowers in the ground or pots? 

Mostly ground but we have one pot outside by our front door. 
Adam just made a special trip to Lowe’s to buy this one. 
This makes me smile because all through dating and early marriage,
 Adam gave no indication that he liked flowers or gardening. 
But give that man a house with a yard and he’s become quite the flower lover!

12. Favorite bird? 

We have a bird feeder outside our kitchen window 
and all its visitors bring me so much joy. 
My favorite probably being the male and female Cardinals. 
Also the gold finches, chickadees, grosbeaks, 
and a handful of other birds I can’t identify. 
Oh, Natasha, and we get blue jays too! 

Poor quality, but love all the goldfinches

13. Car wash or wash vehicles at home? 

Car wash. 
We park in the garage so God can't wash ours for free. 

14. When do you pull out your sandals? 

Truthfully I’d go barefoot every where if it was socially acceptable. 
Even in the dead of winter I’m barefoot in my house. 
So as soon as I can shed the layers of society’s “shoe” I’m all for it! 

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Oliver is 2

This kid. 
I could write a book about him. 
and I love him so dearly. 


He's a big kid. 
At around 33 lbs., he's bigger than most 2 years old I know. 
He wears 3T shirts and 2T pants, 
because he's got short little legs and 3T pants look like capris. 

*btw (Allena, haha) I updated Aaron's post with stats here*

I get so many comments from moms on how chubby he is 
(in a good way, they all assure me). 
I love chubby babies / toddlers. 
Aaron was equally chubbing until about 3-3.5 
and then he majorly leaned out, 
so I have no fear about Oliver being too big. 

Eating Matzo at Passover


Oliver is the world's biggest mama's boy. 
From the second he wakes up, 
his first request: "Mama? Mama? Mama?" 

Around 8 months old, I wrote about him being a Velcro Baby.
And while I may not be physically wearing him anymore, 
he still prefers me to anyone in the world, 
including Adam. 
While Aaron was - and still is - a mama's boy, 
Oliver is magnified to the extreme. 
(Probably because I'm home with Oliver all day.)

How do I feel about this? 
About 75/25 love/hate. 
I love his attachment to me and his undying love for me. 
But man, SOMETIMES it would be nice to not be his only world. 


Close behind me, however, is my dad and Adam's dad. 
Oliver loves Grandpa and Pop Pop like crazy. 
If he can't have mommy, he'll go to them. 

When we were in Florida, my mother-in-law got to hold Oliver ONCE. 
The other seven days he spent with me or Pop Pop. 

Even funnier, is that Oliver gravitates to any man in the relationship. 
I.e.: in all my friends' relationships, he will go to the boyfriend/husband, 
but not to my girlfriends. 
It's truly the strangest thing. 
Perhaps with mommy being the center of his universe, 
he has no use for any other women? 
Someone suggested maybe he'll be gay, 
and I said:
 "That's fine with me too! I want him to follow his heart.
So, Oliver, remember, 
whoever you are, 
whether you end up with a woman or a man
I will support and love you! 


Oliver is snuggler. 
Every morning Adam gets him out of his crib 
(I hear the "mama? mama?" start the second Adam opens his door) 
and brings him to our bed. 
He snuggles up right next to me and it's just the most perfect thing. 

If I sit on the couch while he is watching TV, 
he will immediately get up and sit with me. 
And he'll lie his head on my arm or chest, 
and it's just heart melting. 


Now, all that aside. 
This child has major monster tendencies. 
I mean, he has a TEMPER and it is VIOLENT. 
Terrible Twos started long ago for us. 

If he's mad about something, he HITS WITH A VENGEANCE. 
If he's unhappy, anything becomes a projectile. 
Including... dinnerware. 

Some people will say it's because he has an older brother, 
and he has to fight for himself. 
That may be true. 
He has reduced Aaron to tears on multiple occasions

But it's not even that, sometimes Oliver is just  BAD ON PURPOSE. 
Like I tell him NO, 
Like point-blank smiles and laughs. 

Evil child. 

Sometimes it's cute, like "don't eat that apple." 

But more often than not, it's actually serious. 

Overall, these Terrible 2s/3s are going to be some interesting years. 
And perhaps there will be behavioral issues past that age. 
We will see and address accordingly!


But good or bad, I love this child so much. 
He is silly. 
He is independent. 
He is cuddly. 
He is opinionated. 
He hits both sides of the good and bad spectrum, 
and can do so within minutes part. 
And we love every inch of him. 

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Life Lately

A little babbling post about life lately. 
Where do I start? 
Birthday mania. 
Is everyone born in the spring because it sure feels like it?! 

Aaron turned 5 in March. 
His indoor pool party was a smashing success. 

Oliver is turning 2 next week. 
We did a joint birthday party with his cousin, also turning 2 this month, 
but kept it low-key with only grandparents 
(in this case, 3 sets of grandparents). 

Oh, and then throw in a half dozen friends' birthdays, 
plus Passover and Easter, 
and we are just celebrating 
(read: eating and drinking
our way through spring. 

What else? 
Let's talk about everyone's favorite topic: WEATHER. 
It seems we are FINALLY turning a corner in the weather. 
I don't want to jinx it but... 
Seriously, this is long overdue. 

I realize that our friends/relatives up in NY are still in the thick of snow/winter, 
but down here in Pennslyvania, 
spring is SUPPOSED TO come early. 
"Supposed to" being the key words here. 
My friend and I ran the Hot Chocolate 5K in Philly on April 7th 
and there were SNOWFLAKES. 
Not many, but I counted a few.  
Philadelphia should not see snow in April. 

Well, this week seems to be what we have all been waiting for. 


Another random note for this post: 

(methane gas is 23x worse than the carbon dioxide emissions) 
I've wanted to try composting for a while, 
but every site made it seem SO DAMN COMPLICATED. 
There's barrels and layers and turning and wtf no. 

Finally, I found this site which really broke it down for me.  

We are doing an outdoor, aerobic, cold, continuous compost. 

This means I don't have to buy a barrel 
or make layers 
or turn anything. 
I just collect kitchen scraps and then go dump it in a corner of my yard. 

What to compost? 
From the same site, I found this great list which is helping. 
Anyone out there tried composting? 

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Top 5 Kids Clothing

Another post of my "series"
 (can you even call it that if there's only one other post?) 
of top five favorites! 

Top 5 Kids Clothing 

Price: $16-$20 
Available: Amazon, Zappos, etc 

Generally, I don't spend a lot of money on snow gear. 
Being in southeast Pennsylvania, 
I'd say we get 3-5 "real" snowstorms a year. 
And only one or two produce multiple snow play days.  
This means, I buy the cheapest boots, snowpants, and puffy coats. 
(Puffy coats = NOT car seat compatiable coats) 

BUT mittens, I spend a lot of money. 
Mittens are the secret tricky part of snow play. 
The fingers need the most warmth, 
but mittens are usually the first to fall off. 

Enter: Snow Stoppers. 
I read about these on (of course) Lucie's List . 
They extend wayyyy up the arm, 
ensuring they never fall off (plus keep arms extra warm). 
As long as they go on before the coat, 
they will never ever fall off. 

Price: $44 (lots of sales) 

These stupid trendy PJs. 
I used to make fun of them 
and even wrote a post about:
 "hey look I'm a cool mom for paying a fortune for these stupid PJs

(the PJs Oliver is wearing in the photo above 
are the first pair I bought Aaron back in December 2014)

Well now, jokes on me because they are the only PJs my kids own. 
They are so so so durable. 
They look like new after 1,000 washings. 
Other PJs we had would pill and fade, 
but these are still brand new. 

I've gotten better at catching their sales, 
and now can usually buy them between $20-$30/apiece. 
Which is still double what I pay for any other type of clothing for my kids, 
but hey, they are worth it.

Also, on a side note, whenever people ask: 
"What do I get a kid who has everything?" 
I tell them these. 
Everyone loves cute PJs 
and especially families "with everything" can appreciate quality. 

Price: $30 
Available: Amazon 

Again, Lucie's List to the rescue. 
(Although I can't find the link so...?) 

I don't like anything on my feet (socks, slippers) 
but Aaron must have inherited Adam's cold toes 
because even if Aaron is STARK NAKED (which happens a lot) 
he still has something on his feet. 

With our hardwood floors (including stairs, and no runner) 
I have banned walking around in socks. 
Socks + wood stairs = broken neck 

But most slippers, even nice ones from LL Bean, got kind of gross. 
And Aaron definitely preferred "sock-like" feel versus slippers. 
Enter, konfetti. 
They have perfect grip on the bottom to avoid wiping out, 
but still feel like warm socks. 

Adam's dad likened them to those grippy socks they give you at hospital... 
and then commented on how he may get an adult pair for himself. 

My only complaint is that a lot of the designs are pretty hideous. 
The ones pictures above are what Oliver wears. 
Aaron's are pretty ugly but he loves them. 

Oliver wearing another pair of Hanna Andersson PJs and his konfetti slippers

4. GAP Jeans 
Price: $15-$40 depending on whatever sale 
Available: GAP 

My boys wear a lot of jeans. 
They are rough-and-tumble kind of boys, 
and jeans are the only thing that stand up to that level of activity. 
Khakis and other "soft pants" don't stand a chance. 
I've tried a lot of jeans, 
but keep coming back to GAP. 

Specifically, my boys tend to be chunky size, 
with shorter legs. 
Aaron less so now, 
but Oliver still is. 

GAP tends to be on the "shorter, chunkier" side. 
Old Navy, for example, runs super tall and thin. 

Price: $10-$20ish 

I'm pretty particular about my kids outfits "matching" 
and particularly with babies, 
I found a lot of "print" options but not a lot of solid alternates. 
Or at least, not in the solid colors I wanted. 

Enter: primary. 

(Oh, and a few stripes now.) 

Got some crazy fun leggings but no solid onesies? 
Have a thousand print onesies and no solid leggings? 

Now that my kids are older, my favorite shop is their SWIM SHOP
I find all these cute swim shorts, 
but no matching long sleeve rashguards. 

See those adorable print shorts? 
Well that solid color orange rashguard matched perfectly

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

With great age comes great responsibility: part 1

Age 5 is a pretty big number in my head. 
It's the start of kindergarten. 
It's also halfway to double-digits. 

And with this big turn in age, 
Adam and I decided to implement two new bits of responsibility. 
First up: 


We started experimenting with a chore chart at Aaron's 4th birthday, 
and I wrote all about that here
In short, it was successful in helping us establish some routines 
(like taking dishes to the sink) 
but overall we didn't rely on it much. 

After I read Natasha's post 
about her almost-nine and almost-seven year old kids doing chores, 
it sparked in me the idea that YES Aaron is capable of doing much more

I used a few different pinterest pins to give me ideas (this and this
and finally came up with something to start. 
The biggest obstacle was going to be the motivation
Since that had been our biggest issue in the prior chore chart. 
We decided on the ultimate motivator: 

Aaron and Oliver get one TV show after breakfast, 
and Aaron will do anything to keep that TV show. 
So we decided that his chore chart has to be done the day before 
(I have a reminder on my phone to check it every night 7pm) 
and then he can have his morning show. 
If he fails to do so, Oliver gets to watch the show but Aaron doesn't. 

So far, this has been HIGHLY motivating! 

Our 5 year old chore chart: 

Make bed. 
[Hep] Empty dishwasher
Pick up toys after nap. 
Put away folded clothes. 

Clean his bathroom toilet. 
Water plants. 
Take out his bathroom trash. 

One Week Evaluation

On the dishwasher, Aaron is tasked with silverware, 
and does 10x better at it than Adam does! 
(I think Adam is not aware that there are silverware dividers)

For cleaning the bathroom, 
I give him a bottle of vinegar/dish detergent. 
Our cleaning lady already has the bottle premixed 
plus it's 100% safe for him to use 
(and pretty effective too!). 
He LOVED cleaning his toilet. 
I mean, LOVED it. 
I intended for him to only be responsible for his toilet, 
but he insisted on cleaning both our master bath and downstairs toilet as well. 
Perhaps it's the spray bottle? 
I don't know. 

Plant watering can be... messy. 
I sent him around with a rag to clean up spills but you know what? 
He didn't spill a DROP! 
I did have to fetch some plants for him that are particularly high up, 
but otherwise he was great. 

Taking out the bathroom trash still requires help, 
since he can't tie up the plastic bag himself. 
But he does carry it downstairs and out to the garage, 
which is about 100 steps further than Adam takes it, haha. 

Overall, the first week has been great. 
He's been enthusiastic and excited to do his chores. 
We'll see how this is still going on week 52, ha!

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

How to Keep a Clean House in 5 Easy Steps

How to Keep a Clean House in 5 Easy Steps 

If you didn't snort at that title, 
then please read it again. 

There is NOTHING easy about keeping a house clean. 

Everyone has their own method of doing it 
(or, alternatively, not doing it). 
So herein I'm sharing the ways that I keep my house clean. 

But before I dive in, 
I want to acknowledge that keeping a clean house 
requires some ratio of money and effort. 

The more money you have, the less physical effort needed.
The less money you have, the more physical effort needed.

I'm sure Oprah never spends a second tidying up her house. 
As for the rest of us, 
it's going to require a larger degree of actual work
although that can vary with both children and hired help (again, money). 

Step 1: Own Less Shit 

We are a ridiculously materialistic society.
When I gave my house tour
I had a little rant about how 95% of the houses in our neighborhood, 
having so much shit in their garage that they can't park both cars. 
AND these are all houses with full-size basements, 
which I'm sure are also crammed with shit. 

It's simple: 
The less shit owned, 
the less to clean up. 

You can be the most organized, 
storage-solution-friendly person possible
hell you can be the Poster Child for the Container Store
but in the end: 
the more shit owned = the more shit to put away. 

Step 2: Get the Mail Under Control 
(and other paperwork) 

When I walk into the vast majority of homes
the first thing I spot is piles of mail. 
Weekly ads, junk mail, magazines, catalogs, etc. 
And school-age children bring home their own piles of paper. 

Next to laundry piles, 
paper piles are the greatest eye sore in a house. 

My method: I go through the mail IMMEDIATELY. 
This means walking in from the mailbox, 
hovering over the recycle bin
and immediately ripping junk mail right in. 

If something needs follow-up 
(coupons, bills, paperwork, etc), 
it goes upstairs to our office. 

If I want to pursue a catalog or magazine later, 
it goes in my nightstand. 

Within 45 seconds of bringing the mail in the door, 
the mail is no longer visible. 

Don't have time to go through the mail? 
Then I leave the mail in the mailbox until tomorrow. 
Or the next day. 
Our mailman may hate us, 
but I give him a sizable gift at the holidays 
to thank him for all his Tetris efforts. 

Step 3: Find a Laundry System 

I am often exasperated at the MASS AMOUNT OF LAUNDRY
 that can be generated by my family of four. 
Like how is this even possible? 
Do we change our outfits 3 times a day? 
What in the world is going on? 
(These remain unanswered questions)

My current system works prettty well at keeping the piles at bay. 
I have two reoccurring laundry reminders on my phone: 

Cold-Water Laundry (darks, jeans, etc) every other day. 
Warm-Water Laundry (whites, underwear, etc) every 4th day. 

On those intervals, I do exactly one load of laundry. 
One load is bearable to wash, dry, fold, and put-away in 12 hours. 
It's not overwhelming and it doesn't suck up too much time in my day. 

Step 4: Daily Clean-up

Every single day
I pick up every inch of our house. 
Every piece of paper gets put away. 
Every dish washed. 
Basement piles get carried down and put away. 
Toys dug out from under the couch. 
Blankets folded. 
Haul the dirty socks from the mudroom to the laundry basket upstairs. 
Hang up Adam's jacket after work (cue eye roll).
 Every. Single. Thing. 

The idea is that at one time every day, 
my house should look like an HGTV reveal. 

I split this time into two. 
I do the first floor/basement after kids go to bed, 
but do the upstairs in the morning after my shower. 
Very infrequently, I do this pickup during nap, 
because the kids destroy it so quickly afterwards. 

If this is done every single day without fail, 
it becomes a pretty quick process. 
I tend to skip this on Saturdays
but then I spend even MORE time on Sunday 
than if I'd just done it Saturday. 

Skipping one day is dangerous. 
Skipping two days is catastrophic. 
Skipping three days I might as well just burn the house down and start over. 

Step 5: Hire a Cleaning Service
(Yes, this is where the money part comes in.) 

There was a time I thought: 
"Oh, if I just had a bi-weekly cleaning service, 
my house would be clean all the time.
I have at least a dozen relatives and friends 
who have a bi-weekly cleaning service, 
yet their house is a disaster
Oh the pictures I could post 
(except someone would find them and murder me). 
A cleaning service in no way guarantees a clean home. 

a cleaning service can help 
by freeing up time to do other house-tidying. 

We have a cleaning lady 
(she prefers the term "Domestic Goddess") 
who has cleaned for us since Aaron was born. 

Because she spends her time cleaning, 
I can spend my time picking up. 
I can spend more time tackling home organization
because I don't have to worry about taking time to do the toilets. 

And just to be clear (again),
 I am fully aware that most homes cannot afford a cleaning lady. 
Hence the ratio of money and physical effort: 
for those without money for a cleaning lady, 
it's going to take a higher level of physical effort. 

Aaron at the same age as Oliver now, 
sweeping the floors in our old townhome

And that my friends, are my 5 "Easy Steps" (har har) for keeping a clean house. 
What tips/tricks can you share?