Thursday, September 18, 2014

Get a job, Liam.

"Liam- why do you always dress like you're going to work? Don't you have sneakers? I don't even own boat shoes and you wear yours all the time. Maybe since you dress like that you should just get a at a toy store, that way you can bring me all the toys" ~Jake 

I had to have a little chat with him about using kind words or no words at all and how we can't make fun of the way people dress but wow was it hard to control my giggles while listening to him rant on about Liam's outfit choices, then somehow turning that into getting more toys.....

Monday, September 15, 2014

Weekend Wrap Up

You guys...I think fall might be here.  I'm scared to jinx is but SQUEEEEEEEE!!!! :)  The weather this weekend was super fall like and cozy...and we loved it.

We didn't have any real plans this weekend, which was gave me time to do some meal prep for the week and organize a few things that have been completed neglected recently.  The meal prep was important because lately I've been coming home from work at 5:30 and asking myself this question:

But first, Friday night was the perfect movie and snuggling night.  Our neighbor had loaned us "Kung Fu Panda", which made the kids laugh hysterically.


I might have taken advantage of that time by sneaking some glances at these little gems....

I had been invited out to a girls night with some fellow preschool moms, and as much as I wanted to go, I just couldn't muster up the energy to join them once I finally got the kids put to bed :(  Brian tried to convince me to go out and that he could try to get them to bed, but I didn't want him to have to do that, I know it's difficult for him to move around that much or bend over.  And honestly, I was fine with just putting on my PJs and plopping down in front of HGTV after they went to bed!

On Saturday, Brian had his first physical therapy appointment; he still can't drive, so the boys and I had to be his chauffeur service.  :)  Our original plan was to head to a playground near the PT office, but it was drizzling when we went to leave...fortunately, Plan B was even better...Dunkin Donuts!!  Pumpkin lovers rejoice....the pumpkin donuts are back!! YUM.


Clearly, they both went with the chocolate donut.

PS-see how I'm wearing a scarf??  I busted out the boots too.

Anyway-Brian's therapy appointment went well, but he was s.o.r.e. for the rest of the day.  His next appointment is Tuesday night, so hopefully it will get easier for him.

Saturday afternoon brought some errands during Liam's nap while Jake had a friend over to play, early bedtime for the kiddos who were wiped out from playing outside in the afternoon, and Brian and I watched "21 Jump Street" that we had on DVR.  It was pretty good, an easy to watch, didn't have to think about kind of movie...which is exactly what we were looking for.  (we watched Divergent last weekend-loved it!)

Sunday morning was church/Sunday school, here are the kids heading into their classroom; I swear I didn't coordinate their clothes on purpose, but once I noticed I had to take a picture! Jake was cold :)

Sunday afternoon I was able to get a bunch of silly stuff organized....nothing that was a huge project, but little things, like rearranging the drawer that has my potholders in it so that it doesn't jam every time I open it.  I also made Pasta-Fagiola type soup for dinner (recipe here:, and prepped some breaded chicken to pop in the oven for tonight. The kids played outside for awhile, then Jake did his thing we knew it was bedtime for the kids, and Big Brother time for us! (don't judge.)

Another weekend of doing not a whole lot, but feeling like we got a whole lot done.  I'll take it. 

Friday, September 12, 2014

Favorite Finds Friday!

This week I'm also linking up over at Momfessionals Friday Favorites!


Favorite Find #1: HGTV's Fixer Upper
I decided to check this show out after my friend Jenn over at Running for Lemons mentioned it on her show in and I was hooked!

Related note: Brian and I have this bad habit of finding a show on HGTV, binge watching episodes on weekend nights on-demand, then growing sick of the show.  I didn't want that to happen with this series, so we're taking our new relationship with it a bit more slowly than in the past.

I love their decorating tastes, their personalities, and her entire wardrobe.

photo courtesy of
 Favorite Find #2: Reilly's Summer Seat Farm Groupon
We didn't make it to Reilly's last year for their Fall Harvest Festival, but we definitely wanted to go this year since we've had a great time there in the you can imagine my excitement when I came across a Groupon for it this week! Click here to get your's a great deal, we got 4 tickets to the fall fest for $14 (50% off!) and that includes all kinds of activities like a hay ride to the pumpkin patch, haunted house, face painting, marshmallow roasting, and more!  For the full list of activities, visit:

Favorite Find #3: Plum Paper Designs Life Planner
I have probably said 100 times in the past year, "I really need a personal assistant".  It's embarrassing the number of times that I've said to someone, "sure, I'll be there!" only to come home, look at my wall calendar and realize we already have two other things planned that day.  Now, before you start telling me how this is what my iPhone is for and all about the wonders of google calendars, I'm just going to stop you right there.  I love my iPhone.  I have embraced it.  But I cannot, I repeat cannot, get on the electronic bandwagon for certain things.  To do lists and scheduling are some of those things. (example-at work, I still utilize a giant white board that hangs behind me to keep track of my tasks)

I started scouting some out when I was having anxiety attacks over our busy weekends starting next month so I figured maybe it was time to do something about it.  Why have I never thought to use a planner in my personal life??  I used one all through college and (nerd alert) loved it.  The option that I decided on that I hope will work well for me is from Plum Paper Designs.  I got this style, but they had so many cute options it was hard to pick!

photo courtesy of plum paper designs

Isn't it a fun design?

I loved many of the features, including the fact that you could select from a variety of options for layout (I went with a weekly spread with everyday broken down into morning/afternoon/evening) and extra pages for notes, full monthly calendars, and a contacts/holidays page.

photo courtesy of plum paper designs
It hasn't arrived yet, but I will be stalking my mailbox until it gets here and post a full review. It was certainly less expensive than having to hire a personal assistant, so I'm hopeful that it will help me out a bit.

What we've been up to....

So what have we been up to lately? A lot?  Nothing at all?  It feels like both of those sometimes.  Let's take a look.....

The kitchen table has basically been taken over as a work station.  Apparently in 1st grade, they really step it up in terms of homework!  In addition to nightly worksheets, Jake also has weekly quizzes for sight words, spelling words, and vocab words (all different sets of words, by the way) and soon he will start having math quizzes, too.  In an effort to be just like his brother, Liam always wants to do his "homework" too, so he ends up at the table a lot working on some coloring or other art.  I need to pick up some workbooks appropriate for him next time I'm out, I think he would get a kick out of really doing a worksheet.

If you watched the last 2 preseason Steelers games, you might have spotted our little celebrity Liam...someone get this kid an agent!! :)  He was featured on the commercials for the Steelers 5K and Kids Kickoff event, which he participated in last year. Here is a screen shot of him in the commercial, pretty cool huh??

We've had to do some shuffling with my work schedule since Brian's surgery, and last week I had an event in the evening on Thursday....with Brian unable to drive, we needed someone to take care of Liam that evening while I was gone so he got to enjoy his very first solo sleepover at GG and Pappy's house!  He had gone over the summer with Jake and did well, but I was a bit nervous for him to go all by himself....turns out I had nothing to worry about, he had a great time!  Here he is on the way to GG's house, resting up for his big day there :)

We decorated for FALL last weekend, hooray!!

Sunday School started back up last weekend (they go on summer hiatus) so the boys put on their Sunday best for that event.  By "Sunday best" for Jake, I mean that he was very upset that I wouldn't let him sport an actual Steelers jersey to church (even though he did provide a valid argument that it was opening day....) so we compromised and he rocked this Steelers polo shirt instead :)  (side note-look at my gorgeous mums in the background!)

Later that day, we tuned into the game of course! Here is our series of Steelers Selfies:

Gracie wanted less cheering, more napping.


After the game, we headed to our neighborhood's annual block party, which is always a fun evening.  This year, we had local magician Al-Mazing, who definitely lived up to his name!

Waiting on his balloon sword and shield

Loving it!

some football practice with daddy

sand art ornament station
Jake and his buddy, Elijah, showing off their balloons


Thursday, September 11, 2014

9/11: What will our kids know?

13 years ago.  It feels like a lifetime ago, but also like it was just yesterday morning. 

It's fresh on my mind today obviously because it's the anniversary, but also because of a conversation a coworker and I were having yesterday.  The conversation topic was, what will our kids know?  How will they feel about it?  And what do we tell them?

I'm assuming it will just be a historical lesson to them, and that's hard to imagine.  It's hard to imagine the day when they come home with questions, and just hard to imagine that for another generation it will simply be something they learn about in school....kind of like when the Challenger exploded or JFK's assassination for my generation. Events that we are well aware of the historical significance of, but ones that we don't fully grasp aside from what we learn in school and what our parents tell us about their experience that day. I'm assuming that's what 9/11 will be like for our children.

And how DO you go about explaining such a day to them?  How do you tell them that you woke up on that beautiful day like it was any other day, only to have the rest of the morning and night continue in slow motion as you tried to process what had happened?  How can you tell them that you and your roommate had a sleepover in her tiny double bed that night because you were both too scared to sleep alone? Will they ever be able to process how things got to that point that day?  Will they wake up every year on the anniversary with a tightening in their chest, hoping that there isn't a repeat?  I hope not...for their sake, I hope not.

Maybe you start from the beginning....about how I woke up and started to get ready for my 10am I sat down to eat a bowl of cereal in our living room apartment, flipped the TV on to Regis and Kelly literally just in time to watch the 2nd plane hit the towers.  How the only thought that went through my head was "wow, that was weird", assuming that it was just a freak accident, that it was a flight problem...never thinking it was a terror problem.  Blissfully unaware about what was about to unfold that day.  Going to class, sitting through a full class before Pitt closed for the day, as it finally came out what was going on.  Frantically trying to get a hold of family, my friends, anyone....but not having any luck as all of the cell phone lines were jammed.

I remember walking back to my apartment, alone, just hoping that like me, no one else knew what to do so they would head there.  And they had, my 2 other roommates were already there, glued to the TV.  Which is where we sat all day.  And all night..until finally someone, I don't even remember who, made an executive decision that we needed to turn the TV off. 

Is that what's best for them?  To know it all, so they realize the gravity of the situation that day? Because it seems like that's what happens when the topic of 9/11 comes up....people inevitably discuss where they were and what they were doing. Of course, I hope they will learn the historical significance as well, and that they will learn to honor those who lost their lives that day.  So do they need to know where I was?  Is that really an importance piece to understanding the day, or is it just what naturally comes up in conversation?  Does it really matter how the day affected me?  Not at all, in the grand scheme of it is even worth telling them if they ask? 

I think that I've asked more questions in this post than actual statements....but I think that's because 9/11 is still full of questions for so many people.  For my kids, when the time comes...I will tell them where I was if they ask.  But my portion of the story is such a small, insignificant slice of that day, that I hope instead they want to know more about what mattered that day.  About how we can never forget, and how we need to continue to honor both the victims and the heroes of the day.  And I'll talk to them about the lesson Mr. Rogers taught us all about times of tragedy:

image courtesy of

Hopefully they will understand the heroes of the day, and will understand enough about the day to realize why we can't forget. 

Brian's surgery = success!!

Perhaps you remember me mentioning in a previous post that Brian had torn his rotator cuff and was scheduled to have surgery in August. After what felt like waiting forever, that day finally came and thankfully, the surgery was  successful.  PHEW!

Hey husbands, here's a free piece of advice for you: file this one under "things I should never say to my wife when I'm about to go under anesthesia and have surgery".  Ready for it?  DO NOT, under any circumstances, start telling your wife on the way to the hospital where she can find all of the important documents should, heaven forbid, something happen to you in surgery.  I was already a nervous wreck about him having this surgery done, so this was pretty much my reaction:

Ok, I've caught my breath. We can now return to our regularly scheduled blog post.

The surgery itself was a success, though the recovery has been hard for him.  We had heard that it was, but I don't think either of us was really prepared for just how hard it would be, and how truly immobile he is with the huge contraption that he has to wear.  Here is a shot of the brace, though you can't see a lot of it in this pic...take my word for it that it's large, makes him uncomfortably warm, and has a million velcro straps.

On a related note, we've hired Gracie as his full time caretaker.  Her requested salary was treats and snuggles, so it's working out well for everyone.

Oh and see that recliner he's in?  That's pretty much his new home.  He has to sleep IN that thing.  Yep, didn't know that until we were being discharged from the hospital!  He did try sleeping in the bed one day last week, but it wasn't supportive enough for his arm, so back to the recliner he went.  He's been doing his at-home exercises and he can start physical therapy at the end of this week, so I think he's looking forward to (hopefully) regaining some of his mobility back to that arm.  He's been working from home by having phone appointments with clients, but even with that he's going stir crazy (he can't drive until the brace comes off)...can't say I blame him! He wants to get up and move around so that he doesn't go stir crazy, but sometimes if he's up for too long without having his arm propped somehow, it puts too much pressure on it and it's very sore for hours after.  We are in week 3 of recovery, the brace stays on for 4-6 weeks, so keep your fingers crossed that it can come off after 4.

Here's the other complication that happened around the time of the surgery: 3 days before the surgery, Liam got sick.  102 degree fever, headache, chills, etc...took him to the doctor, said it was a virus that it just had to run its course.  It finally did go away, but he was in rough shape for a few days.  Brian had his surgery on a Friday (Liam's illness overlapped with his surgery), then I started to feel like I was coming down with the same thing over the weekend.  I perked up a bit by the beginning of the next week, only to have Jake come down with it.  Full-blown, fever, miserable....had to miss day 2 of the new school year. Then my mom (who had been at our house the day of the surgery and around sick Liam) came down with the virus.  Fast forward to Friday of that week and I had to leave work early....yep, the full blown fever struck me hard.  I was miserable most of that weekend.  Then poor Jake (who had been better for a few days) came down with a stomach bug on Sunday that involved puking most of the afternoon.

So if you pieced those events together, you probably noticed that there was someone (if not multiple people) sick during that entire week after Brian's surgery.  I have 2 things in response to that: first, I think it's obvious I am not in the running for a caretaker of the year award considering I was sick twice in that week period and also, we have the BEST parents in the world who were willing to stay with us and care for our sick children!!  Seriously, it was a rough, rough week and I don't know how we would have survived or who would have been taking care of Brian if they hadn't been willing to help us out.  So THANK YOU from the bottom of our hearts to our parents!!

I have no idea which of us were sick in that shot above, but I'm sure someone was.  Or we were at least harboring the germs that would wreak havoc later....

That's all I have for now on his surgery, I will be sure to post an update once we know if that contraption can come off.  Thank you for all of the thoughts and prayers that people sent to us over text message, emails, and facebook messages...we appreciate you thinking of us!!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Top 5 Tips for Surviving Travel with Children

I consider us to be a family who travels frequently; 5ish hours in the car to visit Brian's family a few times each year, 5ish hours to visit our BFFs in Virginia at least once a year, and a vacation thrown in there.  The kids (and dog!) are usually great in the car....sure we all have our moments (me included!) where whining comes out or people get hungry at the very end of the trip...but overall, we consider ourselves to be very lucky that our kids (including the fur child) are good little travel companions.

That being said, we've learned a lot along the way so here is my list of top travel tips when you are accompanied by the little ones.

1. Pack what you can the night before.  Even if we can't load it into the car the night before, I like to have everything that we can piled up by the door to the garage before the morning.  There's nothing worse than trying to get last minute stuff together AND hauling things to the door AND dealing with kids under your feet who are anxious to leave.  We try to do all of the packing and piling the night before our trips, after the kids go to bed. 

2.  Allow plenty of time to load up the in, much more time than you would think you would need. This was our first year taking the Swagger Wagon to the beach (aka-the minivan...don't be jealous) and we thought it would be a breeze to pack it up for the beach.  I mean, the last time we went, we crammed in everything for 4 people into a teeny Nissan Sentra.  The van should be easy, right?? Don't get me wrong, we had more than enough room...but trying to figure out the best way to stack everything without it tipping over or shifting during travel was a challenge.  Something that we thought would take about 30 minutes to do took over an hour.  Here is a selfie of everyone once we were finally in the car....with our looks of awe that we had so much more room to work with this year!

3.  SNACKS.  Snacks, snacks, and more snacks.  I know other moms have rules about no food or drink in the car, but I'd rather vacuum up some crumbs and wipe up a spill than lose my mind on a car trip.  I try to pack things that are not too crumby/messy/sticky (baggies of animal crackers, squeezy applesauce, squeezy yogurts, string cheese, fruit, etc)  We have a compact soft sided cooler that I toss everything into; they each get their spill-proof thermos cup (you can see Jake's in the pic above) in their cupholder and then we're set.

4.  Car entertainment. I am not opposed to taking a "whatever means necessary" approach to keeping my sanity during car trips.  If that means that each kid watches a movie then plays with their Leap Pads for a solid hour, so be it.  Those two items are definitely the biggest sanity savers to me....they each have their own DVD player and own Leap Pad (and head phones to go with them so that the rest of us don't have to enjoy "The Lego Movie" for the 12th time) If you do want to take along some non-electronic entertainment, my kids love those little play packs you can pick up at the dollar store or dollar bins in Target...they have a small coloring book, a few crayons, and sheets of stickers.  But my advice here is to just go with it...put aside any usual rules you have about how many electronics your kids can use and just keep handing them entertainment.  And snacks to go along with the movie, obviously.  Because they will demand that as well.  It's like I'm living in "if you give a mouse a cookie" sometimes.

5.  Hope that they sleep.  There is nothing that brings me more joy when I'm stuck in the car than looking back and seeing the two little travelers in the back, peacefully snoozing away like little angels.  The car ride goes by faster for everyone AND they are well-rested and in better moods when we arrive to our destination after a little nap.  And a bonus feature to the kids naps: it gives Brian and I a chance to talk in peace and quiet and enjoy some time together away from the daily grind....even if we are stuck in a car :)

Feeling like a winner that I looked back to see this!!
...and then again on the way home from the beach!

There you have it my friends, the few ways that I try to keep my sanity in tact while traveling.  What are your favorite tips and tricks to travel?

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Playroom Makeover

An alternate title to this post could have easily been "Peace out, paneling!" 

When we bought the house one of the first comments I made was "that paneling has got to go!"...yet here we were, nearly 5 years later and we hadn't done a thing about it.  Brian enjoys painting projects and has done other areas of the house for us, but I think we were intimidated by the paneling.  We knew we didn't want to invest in the process of ripping it out and replacing it, but we were also nervous to just paint over it...what if it looked worse than when we started?  There were too many unknowns.  And then there were shelves...LOTS of shelves.  Half of a wall is all built in bookcases which is great for storing toys, not so great for trying to paint. 

Let's start with some before pictures shall we? (don't mind the photobombing kids) I liked to refer to this wall as the place where wood came to die an unsightly death. (sometimes Brian calls me dramatic...I deny such accusations)

Wood + dark brick + more wood + too many toys = ICK
opposite wall of the paneling
So, as you can see, the dark paneling combined with the dark brick wall on the opposite wall gave the room a very enclosed feel.  We both loved the brick so obviously that wasn't going to we decided to wave goodbye to the paneling.  We had talked in the winter about possibly hiring someone to do the painting (see paragraph above about our insecurities in doing it ourselves.  By "ourselves" I of course mean Brian)  Then when Brian injured his shoulder in the spring, that pretty much sealed the deal that we would outsource this project. 

And now, I present to you the after!


The pictures don't even do it justice, it seriously looks like a whole new room!  (It also helps that when I had to remove stuff off the shelves for the painter, I secretly boxed up a bunch and stuffed them into the attic instead of putting them back out...shhh....the kids haven't even noticed they're gone!)    We are SO happy with how it turned out, and the painter said he had no issues going over the paneling aside from it needing some extra primer.  I also decided to leave the curtains (which had come with the house) off of the windows and I think that makes a big difference. 

We went with Sherwin Williams Perfect Greige for the walls and the shelves are a white that we already had.  Here is a before/after side by side shot to hopefully give you a better view:

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