A week of summer

It was only a week--a tiny blip in the 12-week universe that is summer around here. But for 7 days I kept my camera handy (Ok, handier than normal) and tried to capture our family's summer vibe in images, while still enjoying the fleeting moments as they happened. That's always the trick. Typically my kids hardly notice when I shoot photos of them, but they definitely do when the volume picks up. More than once this past week I heard, "Mooommm...put the phone down." I did, I swear...but not before I captured a few goodies. Hope you enjoy! To see the full #aweekofsummer series, visit my Instagram feed (@ewmcguire).

Happy Summering! Liz

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If you like this, you might like my #aweekofmornings or #aweekofevenings series.

What a week

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Ten days ago I was in New York City with my 12-year-old daughter and my mother-in-law for a wonderfully busy girls weekend. On a bright morning we stood at the feet of Lady Liberty, learning the history of the statue and the famous poem by Emma Lazarus, “The New Colossus.” We’ve all heard her words: “Give me your tired, your poor....” What I had not heard before was that the poem was written before the great immigration rush and that the statue was not necessarily designed to be the beacon of hope it later became. Yet Lazarus’ words were prescient and came to signify everything hopeful about our country. Her words became as important as the statue itself.

So grateful for the power of words.

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Later that day we walked to the grounds of the World Trade Center. The sight of the first pool took my breath away. It looks bottomless and the list of names surrounding it endless. I wanted to read each and every one, to bear witness to the lives lost. And this was just the outside memorial. Inside the museum, thousands of artifacts, newsreels and tributes captured the horror, confusion and heartache of that time. And just as stirring were the features that captured the collective grief, the incredible sacrifice and the outpouring of support in the aftermath.

We spent hours at the museum, immersed in the stories. I watched my daughter as she read each plaque with great reverence. Days later, when asked what she remembered most about the exhibits, she knew the Virgil quote by heart: “No day shall erase you from the memory of time.”

So grateful for the power of stories and memory.

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And then there was Charleston. I found myself once again talking to my kids about hate and prejudice and trying to explain something so horrible. We talked about the Confederate flag and its unfortunate role in history.

I reminded the kids that Dad and I both went to a Texas high school named after Robert E. Lee. It was the late '80s and our mascot was the Rebels; our school song Dixie and our school flag the Confederate one. The flag appeared on the cover of our yearbooks, it waved in multitudes above our football stadium, it adorned varsity jackets and drill team uniforms. Every Friday in the fall it was shoe-polished on the back windows of hundreds of cars and trucks in support of the Mighty Rebel Football Team.

I am ashamed to say that I rolled with it, or at least didn’t speak up against it. In my 16-year-old mind it was a weird, mildly offensive “West Texas Thing.” A “Football Thing.” It wasn’t until I was finishing my freshman year in college in the spring of 1991 that the flag was officially removed from all high school sanctioned activities and paraphernalia. And suddenly it was such a no-brainer: our community had been painfully insensitive. How had we not spoken up sooner? Clearly the removal was long overdue.

To share that story with my kids was one thing, but to then explain that the flag still flies over the South Carolina capitol nearly 25 years later was a whole other sad reality. My daughter shook her head in disbelief. “Mom, that’s so messed up. The only place those flags belong are in a museum.”

So grateful for the power of common sense.

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And now, here we are...a few days after the Supreme Court has declared that marriage is marriage no matter who you are. The kids and I cheered at the news and they named off a few grownup friends who can now be married in our home state.

In almost no time, Texas politicians lined up to argue the blasphemous nature of the new law, and I found myself explaining yet again that hateful, narrow-minded views are unfortunately still alive even amidst such hopeful ones.

And once again, my daughter found the right words so easily...“Don’t people understand that when you give someone equal freedom it doesn’t take away your own?”

May we move forward with this mindset. May we allow words, stories, memories, and commonsense to be our brave and constant guides.

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All the hours

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We are now fully entrenched in summer mode: the good, the bad, the sunburned.

It’s everything you might expect and are probably experiencing now: really long days, late bedtimes and more wet towels than you realized you actually owned. The days are either luxuriously long or painfully long, and you never really know which until you’re past the point of no return.

Where does the time go? Today ours went toward epic blanket-fort building and several chapters of Harry Potter. It went toward hatching plans for homemade ice cream, and then dealing with the fallout when the plans didn’t materialize. A solid hour went toward organizing two shelves of the garage and convincing the kids to “help” by carving up cardboard boxes in the driveway.

Another hour went toward a frantic last-minute run to the nursery before closing time so we could plant the vegetable garden we’ve tried to finish all week. As with any multi-step project that involves all five of us, there were cheers and tears. When someone dared to ask, “Why are we doing this again?” I was quick to snap, “Because! Because this was all y’all's idea! And because I’m following through! And because planting this garden is probably the most optimistic thing we will do all summer!”

So yeah. Optimism. I'm stocking up on it like it's sunscreen. How is your supply of it coming along?

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But wait, there’s more happening!

Beginning tomorrow I’m starting another mini-project on Instagram. Similar to my other ones (#aweekofmornings and #aweekofevenings) I’ll be documenting #aweekofsummer.

I hope you'll tune in!

A game called Summer

2015.gamelife We are one week into summer and for the most part still enjoying the honeymoon phase. The kids have made ambitious Summer Fun lists for us and I’ve made equally ambitious Summer Chores lists for them.

Parenting during the summer is all about finding that sweet spot between freedom and structure, and while it’s never a breeze it’s getting easier as the kids get older. Partly because of the two lists mentioned above. Bored? Great..here’s some laundry to fold! Who’s turn to walk the dog?

This week the kids had no camps or activities, and we quickly found an easy groove of swimming in the morning and hibernating inside during the afternoon heat. In theory, the afternoon hours double as my work time while the kids read, play Legos or use up their screen time. Quiet is of course relative. One afternoon the TV watching turned into an American Ninja Warrior training session complete with a homemade launchpad and Mt. Midoriyama made from the nice furniture and sofa cushions. Yesterday they were busy writing a script to a movie, but that eventually turned into a contest to see who could walk like the best villain. Who knew the sound of three walking kids could shake the light fixtures? Obviously I need to clarify the rules of our afternoon: No interruptions unless your hair is on fire. No climbing doorways. No stacking large furniture. No walking like Professor Snape.

And then there was the afternoon my 6-year-old opened my office door, frowned, and said, “You’re probably going to say no, but will you play a game with me?” The big kids had refused and he was feeling lonely and dejected. Against my better judgement, I agreed.

Now, I’m a fan of games but I have no patience for ones with more than three rules. Give me Battleship, Connect Four or Uno. Even Monopoly is pushing my limits. Don’t even bother bringing Risk into the house. Of course my son pulled out Life. He’s been dying to play this, he said. Dying.

I’m dying too. Life? Worst game ever. Nothing says fun like mortgages, taxes and car payments. I’d rather play Colonoscopy than Life.

In case you haven’t played in a while, there are several points in the game where you and your little plastic car, which may or may not hold several tiny pink or blue plastic kids in the backseats, must make life choices and choose various paths along the way. All roads lead to the promise of a glorious retirement, but the smart players pick the most lucrative and efficient route.

Some of the forks required a little explaining to my son. First, you can either go to college, or you can start a job. Well, buddy...you’re going to college and that’s that. (He chose the college path.)

Next up: Change jobs or stay on the same route? Hmmm...Tough call. Personally I’ve changed jobs a lot. (He took the path of stability.)

And then, more than halfway through the game, after surviving a job loss and buying a $5,000 flat-screen TV, he was presented with this choice: The Family route or the Other route. He already had one pink plastic baby, but no spouse. He steered his car to the Other route.

“Ugh. I don’t care about more kids. I want to win! I want more MONEY!” He paused. I held my tongue because who am I to make that call for him? Sure, you might make more money if you bypass the kid route. Pick the career path and maybe you’ll be crazy rich. Maybe you’ll be able to afford a dozen tiny plastic cars and houses. Maybe you will have a fabulous and fulfilling career. Maybe you won’t be interrupted to play a board game in the middle of a deadline. But remember, there’s more to the kid route than these little squares convey. Stuff that fake paper money can’t buy. Your choice, son, just keep all this in mind.

“Mom," he said, catching my eye, "You know it’s not real life here in this game, right Mom? Even though it’s called Life on the box, it’s just a game. You know that, right?”

Yes, yes I sure do. Your move.

And with that, summer is off to a fine start.

 

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Don't miss a bit of the summer shenanigans....Follow me on Instagram or Facebook!

Music that made me

FullSizeRenderInspired by a recent piece in Rolling Stone magazine, my good friend Nancy from Midlife Mixtape gathered up a group of friends and asked us to share a mixtape of “the songs that made me.” A dozen of us have chimed in. Bless her for giving us a 10-song maximum or we could go on forever. Here goes mine...

1. Put Another Log on the Fire by Tomball Glaser and the Outlaws If you grew up in Texas in the '70s, your family probably owned a vinyl copy of Wanted: The Outlaws, featuring Waylon and Willie and the boys. Sure, one of the boys was female Jessi Colter, but that always seemed natural to me considering I was raised in a decidedly male-centric household. My favorite song on the album was not the popular My Heroes Have Always Been Cowboys but instead a tribute to an obnoxious husband and a wife who has been putting up with crap for too long. My brothers and I memorized every last word: “Now don’t I let you wash the car on Sunday? Don’t I warn you when you’re getting fat? Ain’t I gonna take you fishing with me someday? Well I man can’t love a woman more than that....” This song put old-school country music in my blood and established an affection for honky tonks and rowdy singalongs, which would later come in handy during my college years.

2. Brass Monkey by The Beastie Boys Ahh, that funky monkey. Brass Monkey was the first song that I knew my parents would dislike, and I remember feeling thrilled and liberated at this prospect. (If this is out there, just think what else is!) The song played at our 8th grade cotillion dance, where I was sporting my first-ever strapless dress. I'm pretty sure that dress was glued on to make up for my lack of curves. I did not let this precarious ensemble stop me from following The Beastie Boys’ instructions to “Put your left leg down, your right leg up, tilt your head back, let’s finish the cup.” It still takes more than an uncomfortable outfit to get me off a dance floor.



3. Fall on Me by R.E.M. I’ll try not to get too emotional about this one, but Fall on Me was the beginning of a long and devoted relationship with R.E.M. It’s a relationship that has continued even after their breakup a few years ago. I’ve played this song countless times, but I still get woozy when I hear Stipe’s voice cracking when he sings, “Buy the sky and sell the sky / And bleed the sky and tell the sky...” This song (and many other cryptic R.E.M. classics that followed) taught me that I don’t need to know what the lyrics mean to love a song. Sometimes poetry is meant to be felt more than translated.



4. Supernova by Liz Phair Liz is such a badass. That’s my assessment of Ms. Phair...and at one point in my life was also my personal mantra whenever I felt vulnerable. Supernova was a vital part of my soundtrack during the unencumbered, action-packed years that were post-college and pre-mortgage. That time was all about dancing in various apartments or bars, climbing mountain peaks, skiing through trees, and taking spontaneous road trips. For a few brilliant years, my only goal was to build up my invincibility. Thank God nobody told me that supernovas shine brightest when they eventually explode.

5. Misunderstood by Wilco The start of another long, intense band crush began with this song and I can hardly believe it, but I was only 25 years old at the time. I was trying to become an adult and was having all kinds of (laughable, but totally real!) quarter-life crises. Was I really misunderstood or just uninspired by my desk job? Who can say, but wow, this 6-minute-long riff gave me plenty of time to reflect on it. Over and over again.


6. Mary by Patty Griffin A few years before I became a mom, I was at a Ben Harper concert under a canopy of lighted oak trees. During his encore he invited Patty Griffin on stage and the two sang what I consider the most gorgeous tribute to motherhood ever. Perhaps they sat on stools. It was likely acoustic. I don’t recall exactly. What I remember for certain were the goosebumps and the surprising tears and the definite knowing I felt in my gut. Knowing that at some point in my life I wanted to feel what she was singing. My own mother was battling a decades-long illness and it had complicated and hurt our relationship in so many ways. In spite of that, motherhood never scared me. I was determined to someday join that raw and beautiful tribe of women.

7. Sigh No More by Mumford and Sons Sigh No More arrived in my life during a year of heavy loss and deep reflection. My mom was in hospice care and I spent months shuttling back and forth from Austin to Dallas to be with her, leaving behind my three young kids and husband. Depending on the day or the moment or the way the wind was blowing, the lyrics brought either comfort or angry tears. Both responses seemed necessary and acceptable at the time. I was trying to take care of so many hearts, so many loved ones. Just trying to hang on...not to hope so much as peace. Four years later, I still find myself working on the peace part.

8. Here Comes the Sun by The Beatles How many times did I hear this song before it made me? It has always been a favorite Beatles song, but it took decades of listening before it really sank its claws into me. Decades, because that’s how long it took for me to have three kids buckled into the backseat of my car singing “Little darling, the smile’s returning to the faces....” Before I knew it, one child picked the song to study for his 4th grade poetry project. And then another sat at a grand piano and played it in front of a large crowd, singing every lovely note with confidence. George Harrison did it pretty well, but he never quite sounded this sweet. May life always feel as simple as "sun, sun, sun...here it comes."

9. Salvation Song by The Avett Brothers This song reminds me that we’re all just doing the best we can. This world is not for sissies. Sometimes just building a life, raising a family, and keeping your chin up and your spirit buoyant--sometimes that can be the hardest part. But there’s grace in this steady work and beauty in the dedication it requires. All I know how to do is try to find something to smile about every single day. To look for small joys and keep my eye on the prize:  “We came for salvation / We came for family / We came for all that's good that's how we'll walk away.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ftt5KH6TnhE

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But wait, there's more! Check out the songs that my friends shared...

Elleroy Was Here Midlife Mixtape Up Popped a Fox When Did I Get Like This? I Miss You When I Blink My Blog Can Beat Up Your Blog Butterfly Confessions Good Day, Regular People Smacksy Arnebya The Flying Chalupa

Love is a rock

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It started with a slick, dark rock retrieved from a mountain stream by a boy totally in his element: filthy, soaking wet and up to his knees in adventure.

He presented the heart-shaped rock to me in the completely casual way that 10-year-old boys often do. Check this out, Mom. You should have it. And I reacted in the overly sentimental way that 42-year-old Moms often do. I love this so much, buddy! I will find a special place for it next to all the other treasures you have given me!

Because things have a way of working out this way, his small gift started a habit that I've continued for a year. Whenever I'm out exploring, walking the dog, or really anywhere...one eye is on the lookout for heart-shaped treasures. Usually they are rocks, but sometimes leaves, cacti, shadows or puddles. A friend swears they seem to find me, not the other way around.

All three kids have joined in on the hunt. On my weekly runs with my oldest son, he insists we bring along my phone so we can photograph any hearts we find. For me, this simple tradition has become a moveable gratitude practice, a moment to pause, a hello from the universe, a hug from a lost loved one.

It's a small reminder to seek and you shall find. Look for love and you'll find it everywhere.

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Follow me on Instagram to see more of my #heartshape and #heartshaperock collections. #loveisallaround, y'all.

 

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A week of evenings

I had so much fun capturing bits and pieces of our mornings with my #aweekofmornings series that I've decided to tackle the flip side. The dark side, in my opinion. It's only Tuesday, and I'm already daunted by the task. With three kids ages 6, 10 and 12, our evenings are often a complicated test of logistics and endurance. Long gone are the days of scheduled toddlers and early bedtimes. (Longer gone are also the days of walking around with a wailing newborn in the witching hour, so let's keep some perspective.) For me, the glory days were a brief and perfect time when our family's evening routine consistently looked like this: Kid dinner promptly at 5:00, baths at 6:00, bedtime at 6:30, and adult-only dinner afterward, with no nuggets and ketchup in sight.

Now our routine changes daily depending on work responsibilities, kid schedules and carpool duties. When I have my act together and our schedules allow, I prep dinner in the morning and have it ready for all of us to enjoy together. Sounds lovely, but for us it's only a realistic goal maybe twice a week. Many other nights I'm throwing sandwiches in a bag, raiding the kids' lunch boxes for whatever they didn't eat earlier, and hustling everyone into the car for soccer/ballet/biking/etc.

Despite the full calendar, we carve out mini-routines where we can. Bedtime always involves books. It always involves rituals, no matter how small or strange. One kid wants hugs and kisses and movie-star air kisses in a very particular order. Another kid prefers a quick tuck-in, a special repeated phrase, and lights immediately out. The other wants the sheets and pillows just so and then a glass of water with ice and multiple check-ins just in case. If there's anything we've learned as parents, it's to not fight these evening rituals too much, no matter how exhausted we are, no matter that some feel like stalling techniques, and no matter that a kid was just screaming at us 10 minutes ago because they had the Worst Day Ever. Nobody likes to go to bed grumpy, and the rituals seem to settle us all down.

That said, there's no predicting how an evening will go. Someone can forget homework at the last minute, or fall apart because favorite jammies are dirty, or just be sick and tired of dealing all day. Other nights there is singing in the shower and relaxed chapters of Harry Potter. Your guess is as good as mine...Tune in to my Instagram feed this week, and we'll find out together.

2015.04.07.evenings-1 Monday 8:30pm. Busy boy avoiding bed. Patient dog waiting for attention.

2015.04.07.evenings-2 Monday 8:30pm. Already well past his bedtime and he's asking for 5 more minutes.

 

2015.04.07.evenings-3 Monday 8:45pm. Late dinner for our dedicated ballerina.

 

My #aweekofevenings project runs from April 6-12, and all the images can be found on Instagram @ewmcguire.

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In other news...

I was thrilled to have the story of our new mother/son running routine featured on Huffington Post last week.

I have a new professional Facebook page and would love to get your Like on it. 

Thanks again for all your enthusiasm and support.

xoxo, Liz

Run with joy

 

2015.02.OwenRun-1 For months my 10 year-old son and I had been battling too much. Nothing dramatic, just a steady, exhausting cycle of nagging/ignoring, cajoling/sighing, yelling/yelling, then crying/crying. There were all the predictable triggers: homework, chores, screen time. Every day I practiced complaining about dirty shoes on the sofa and Minecraft on the computer, and he practiced scowling and stomping. We both got really good at being disgusted with one another.

The small stand-offs became almost daily routines and I soon realized that no matter the outcome of each argument I felt like I was losing every single time. First I was furious, then heartbroken.

Things were not always this difficult between us. In fact, from the very beginning our relationship was a breeze. I grew up with only brothers so I like to think I understand boy energy and humor. Personality-wise, my son and I have much in common. We are happiest outside, no matter the weather. Every day we require ample time to move and sweat and DO, balanced with ample time to just sit and dream. We are really good at leaping before looking, then getting frustrated at our impulsiveness and backpedaling into a plan. We are both playaholics more than workaholics.

But none of these similarities were helping us much, and I missed the easy connection we had always shared.

So one night, after a particularly ugly argument over homework, I approached him in his room. “I would really like to find something fun for us to do regularly--just you and me.” My voice caught and tears brimmed. He replied, “Don’t worry, Mom. I’m not going to college yet.”

I laughed--at both his wisdom and naiveté. I was not worried about college. I was worried only about that particular day, and the next day, and maybe the next, but no further. I was worried about the current heaviness between us. I was not looking for a cure-all for the battles or some lofty psychological insight into why mothers and sons fight at this stage. I was simply looking for a way to inject more easy, light moments into our days.

He suggested we run. We had run together before and casually finished some 5K races, but we had never made it a regular habit. He had never before shown interest in consistent training and I was, to be honest, a little protective of my own running schedule.

Running had been my sanctuary for almost two decades and I was accustomed to escaping family life five times a week to meet a steady group of friends and training partners. I wasn’t sure how I would add another layer to this carefully orchestrated routine, but I knew it was worth trying.

So the next Saturday morning, I met my friends at our usual predawn hour. I finished our 7-mile loop and while the rest of them kept going, I ran home to meet my boy. He was still in his pajamas, on the computer, and had not seen my reminder note. It was 29 degrees, there was hot coffee in the kitchen, and I was starting to chill in my sweaty clothes. I nearly ditched the whole idea. But as soon as I asked, “Hey bud, still want to run a few with me?” he jumped up with a cheerful Yes!

The next 30 minutes were pure joy. Following his lead, we launched into “adventure running”...half running, half exploring our neighborhood and nearby trail. My boy zigzagged along the sidewalks, tightrope-walked every curb he found, jumped over rock walls and benches, and paused when he saw an interesting tree or funny graffiti. For every mile I ran, he seemed to run a quarter more with his diversions.

He chattered about ideas for his latest cartoon series, and asked me lots of ridiculous What If questions. Even though we’ve passionately covered the topic before, we spent at least a mile discussing why Super Speed is obviously the best superpower ever. Even better than flying and invisibility, we agreed.

Along the way we vowed to register for an upcoming race where volunteers enthusiastically douse runners with colored powdered until they look like toxic circus clowns. After last year’s race, we were blowing blue gunk out of our noses for days, so we decided this year to wear bandanas for protection. “We will be the Booger Bandana Brigade, Mom! We will have a booger mascot! I can make us a booger logo and everything!”

And it was in the middle of this boogery monologue that I had the distinct and intoxicating feeling that this moment was exactly what we needed. There was lightness and laughter between us again. Welcome to your new Saturday morning routine, I thought. I am totally in.

A month later, our regular runs have not solved everything, of course, but the constant heaviness is gone. Knowing that once a week I am guaranteed time with him that is void of arguing and frustration somehow gives me more patience and empathy on the other days.

We have found a simple space that contains only joy and ease, and nothing could keep me from showing up there. I could run for miles in it.

 

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Like this? Share it with a friend! Don't want to miss a thing? Subscribe to my feed! xoxo, Liz

A week of mornings

Mornings: Everybody’s got them. I happen to be a fan of them, and this week I’m documenting mine on Instagram. I’ve always been a morning person. As a kid I was the one at sleepovers who woke up early and had to lay there quietly, listening to unfamiliar sounds until my host would finally, finally wake up and show me where her mom kept the Froot Loops.

In college I consistently took 8:00am classes and would come home for lunch (and a nap) right as my roommates were waking.

A decade later as a new mom, I thought my early bird tendencies would totally pay off...but as all veteran parents know, every sleep habit goes to hell when a baby comes along. It wasn’t until I made peace with the fact that I would be exhausted for several years that I stopped counting my hours of shut-eye and got back into my regular early-morning routine, despite how my babies were sleeping.

Now here I am with growing kids and a busy family schedule. Waking up early has become a key factor to my personal happiness because absolutely nobody in my family needs me at 5:00am. That means it’s all about my own needs until the split second I walk back through the door...and then all bets are off.

The mornings aren't over this week, so there are still more photos to come, but here's a small taste of the whole series. Enjoy!

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The #aweekofmornings thread was started by Xanthe Berkeley and has some incredibly lovely photos from all over. Plug in that hashtag and serve with your favorite breakfast!

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Before/After

Apparently it really does take months to unpack, but I think we are now as close to settled as we're going to get. As promised, I've got lots of before and after photos for you. It's so weird seeing the old photos of our home, even though most were taken just a year ago. The rooms are familiar and strange all at once. A quick overview of the remodel: We started with 1,650 square feet (3 bedrooms, 2 baths, 1 living room and 1 small loft that we used as a bedroom). The goal was to get all the kids upstairs, rearrange the downstairs for better traffic flow and add a second living space. We also wanted to brighten up the entire house and pare down our furnishings to make everything look more cohesive. It was a tall order, but our awesome team made it happen. Because of neighborhood restrictions, we were limited on the amount of square footage we could add, but we were able to fit 3 new bedrooms and 2 new baths upstairs in 830 sf. (Hooray for a creative architect and a determined homeowner!) We went from 1,650sf to 2,480sf and love the final result. It feels like our old house vibe, but better...What more could we ask for?

 

EXTERIOR BEFORE: 2014.02.03.House-23

EXTERIOR AFTER: 2015.04.House-3

ENTRY BEFORE: IMG_4621.JPG (1)-2

ENTRY AFTER: 2015.02.04.House-57

ENTRY AFTER: 2015.02.04.House-51

LIVING ROOM BEFORE: 2014.02.HouseBefore-10

LIVING ROOM AFTER: 2015.02.04.House-35

LIVING ROOM BEFORE: 2014.02.HouseBefore-13-2

LIVING ROOM AFTER: 2015.02.04.House-38

DINING ROOM BEFORE: 2014.02.HouseBefore-22

DINING ROOM AFTER: 2015.02.04.House-6

DINING ROOM BEFORE: 2014.02.HouseBefore-19-2

DINING ROOM AFTER: 2015.02.04.House-12

OFFICE BEFORE: 2014.02.HouseBefore-8

OFFICE AFTER: 2015.02.04.House-83

KITCHEN BEFORE: 2014.02.HouseBefore-16-3

KITCHEN AFTER: 2015.02.04.House-14

STAIRS BEFORE: 2014.02.HouseBefore-23

STAIRS AFTER: 2015.02.04.House-64

MASTER BEDROOM BEFORE: IMG_4645.JPG-2

MASTER BEDROOM AFTER (now TV room): 2015.02.27.House-3

MASTER BEDROOM BEFORE: IMG_4652.JPG-2

MASTER BEDROOM AFTER (now TV room): 2015.02.27.House-11

UPSTAIRS BEFORE (photo is 5 yrs old, but gives size perspective. This was the entire upstairs): IMG_1224

NEW VIEW LOOKING UPSTAIRS: 2015.02.27.House-23

And then some AFTER photos that don't really have BEFORE shots...

NEW MASTER SUITE (created by combining two small downstairs bedrooms and a hall bath): 2015.02.06.House-27-2

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2015.02.06.House-29

THE 12-YR-OLD'S ROOM: 2015.02.06.House-6

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NEW BATH (GIRLS): 2015.02.04.House-100

NEW BATH (BOYS): 2015.02.04.House-113

THE 10-YR-OLD'S ROOM: 2015.02.06.House-16

2015.02.06.House-17

THE 6-YR-OLD'S ROOM: 2015.02.04.House-109

2015.02.06.House-22

GOOD LUCK CHARMS BEFORE: IMG_4624.JPG-3

GOOD LUCK CHARMS AFTER: 2015.02.04.House-17

Thanks for taking the ride with us! If you want to see previous posts about the project, check out these... Makeover Madness Dismantling I Spent Three Solid Days Obsessing Over Grout Color So You Don't Have To Moving Home

Also, big thanks to our team: Paul DeGroot, ArchitectGary Zygmont, Urban Home Builders and Houzz, which fueled my obsession and inspiration for every last design detail.

Throwback Thursday: Namesake

So many things I love about this photo, which I shot a little over 6 years ago....

My wee one was only a few weeks old, and we had gone on tour to show him off to loved ones who couldn't travel to see him. Here he is meeting his great-Grandpa, who shares his middle name. When I hear the phrase circle of life I think of small moments like this...beginnings and endings all blurred together, propelled by the love and energy of everyday life. Forget the big, bold stuff. Richness lies in these tiny atoms of beauty and grace.

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What my dog is wondering right now...

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What time does the school bus come? Do I smell a snack? What's so funny 'bout peace, love and understanding? Is it nature or nurture? How long til Liz makes me get off this yummy rug and on to my bed? Why does everyone in the house have a regular bed except me? What does “weight-management” dog food mean? I bet Isis from Downton has a sweet deal. And a king-sized bed. How did Katy Perry changed clothes so quickly during the Super Bowl show? What the hell, Sarah Koenig? Does anybody really know what time it is? How long until dinner? Plant, animal or mineral? Remind me again why Pluto can’t be a planet? How does gravity work? Why is it OK to chew on that rectangular thing but not this one? If everything evolved from amoebas, how do we still have amoebas? Squirrel? Squirrel?? Is it mind over matter or matter over mind? Why does Liz think I need music on when she leaves the house? I'm a dog. And the mailman is coming in 3, 2, 1.... I hope I peed on enough spots this morning. I totally could have caught that chicken if I hadn't been on the leash. Why the hell are there chickens living in the middle of our city? If a cat meows in the neighborhood and nobody hears it, did it really make a noise? What's the frequency, Kenneth?

 

Replacing the irreplaceable

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If you follow me on Instagram you may have seen this photo. I have an affection for heart-shaped rocks and photograph them whenever I spot one. This particular limestone treasure sits on the property line between our wonderful neighbors and us.

Unfortunately we are losing these neighbors soon and I'm seriously bummed about them leaving our street. They aren’t going far, but anyone who has been lucky enough to have an amazing next-door neighbor knows how special the relationship can be.

So, now that their house is on the market I’ve offered to help screen the shoppers. It’s a crazy world out there and you never know who you’re going to get. To make it easier on all of us, I even drafted a handy questionnaire. For my readers’ benefits, I’ve included the correct answers. If you are a good candidate or know one, I just might put in a good word for you!

1. Do you have kids? Between the ages of 6 and 12?

Correct answer: Yes and Yes. No offense to the young professionals, the empty nesters, the intentionally childless, or the families with babies who make a midlife uterus do nostalgic flip-flops. But yeah...we are looking for neighbors with young kids.

2. Do you like kids?

Correct answer: Oh I get it. Trick question...because not everyone who has kids actually likes kids and not everyone without kids dislikes them. But yes, I like kids. Especially the noisy ones.

3. Is your kid perfect?

Correct answer: Are you serious? What a dumb question. No...Is yours?

4. Will you freak out if my kid acts like an ass to yours?

Correct answer: No? Maybe? I hope not, but if I do, I will be able to talk about it like a grownup. See answer above: kids are not perfect. And newsflash: neither are grownups.

5. What will you do if we see each other early Sunday morning, braless and in jammies retrieving our newspapers?

Correct answer: I will wave from afar. Unless I have really good gossip that cannot wait.

6. Do you keep avocados in stock?

Correct answer: Yes. And if yours is firm and mine is ripe and you need it for a recipe tonight I will gladly trade you.

7. Do you have a dog? Does it sometimes bark?

Correct answers: Yes and yes. It’s a dog...sometimes dogs bark. But I put it inside or give it a bone to chew on when the noise gets too much.

8. Would you mind if you found my kids digging through your recycling bin for building supplies?

Correct answer: No problem, as long as they aren’t drinking from my wine bottles.

9. Do you appreciate the difference between the all-day playdate vs. the 30-minute, outside-only playdate?

Correct answer: Oh yes! The all-day, in-and-out of the house/yard/pantry playdate is awesome and so wonderfully old school. But then there are days when the house is actually clean and you want it to stay that way for more than 5 minutes. And let’s face it, sometimes we need our space. Those days I'm all, “Stay outside! Thirsty? Turn on the hose! Hungry? Wait til dinnertime!”

10. Will you invite me to every single jewelry/kitchen gadget/clothing party you host?

Correct answer: I am allergic to those kinds of parties.

11. If my kid politely asks you to buy whatever kind of scout/charity thing he’s selling, will you buy one?

Correct answer: Every single time.

12. What’s your stance on toilet papering the house and trees?

Correct answer: I don’t if you don’t.

13. Are you going to blog about me behind my back?

Correct answer: I won't if you won't.

Hammering

2015.01.write-1 Sometimes you just have to start. Pick up the damn hammer and put a hole in the wall. How hard can that be? It’s only a tiny hole. Sure, it might end up being in the wrong place...too high, too low, too wonky. There is always potential for error. In fact, you may get a few holes into the project and realize you have the entirely wrong kind of equipment. You may have to pull everything out and start completely over, in the process making a mess or making a scene. Cleaning, patching and cussing invariably follow. If you are lucky, there will be no permanent damage.

But you have to start. You have to remember that this is not your first time. You’ve sat right here, usually in a January much like this one, and you’ve made plans and charted goals. You are not a rookie. You know that starting is the hardest part.

Yet. You are experienced enough to know that once you do finally start, once you make that first hole, you’ll eventually hang something on that hook, and it’s quite possible this something will look like garbage. Perhaps its no fault of the artwork, but once it’s placed, it simply may not work in the spot you imagined. You may find yourself starting all over again. You may have to scrap the plan entirely.

You may even (gasp) have to live for a while with a bare hook on the wall...goading and taunting you for your inability to finish something. That’s certainly one way to look at it. It’s often my default. But you could also take that bare hook as a sign of determination and optimism...a sign of starting. A sign of doing the hardest part.

A sign of picking up the hammer and hammering away.

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Happy New Year, readers!

I’m looking forward to a new year of storytelling through words and images. Thanks for being here and inspiring me to start...and then to keep going. Liz xoxo

All is calmish and bright

Only an optimistic fool like myself would expect to move into our house the week of Thanksgiving and have everything JUST SO by Christmas. Maybe other people can pull off that kind of magic, but they must be the kind of people who do their gift shopping in October (why don't I ever do that??) or who don't get struck with the Family Flu the week before Christmas (the family that fevers together believers together). So yeah, this week optimism took a hit and reality stepped in. Somehow, unpacking the last dozen boxes loses priority when you realize you still have multiple VIP gifts to purchase and Amazon Prime cannot save your sorry ass this time.

Which explains this room below...formerly known as our master bedroom, eventually to be a TV room, and currently Staging Area for all our random crap that doesn't have a home yet or hasn't been snuck off to Goodwill.

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As an antidote to that room, I've tried to carve out some spaces of calm among the clutter. These bookshelves are one of my top favorite things to come out of the remodel. When I need a little dose of tranquility, I go sit in front of these shelves and think...We might not be settled, We might not have any presents under the tree, We might not have planned our Christmas Eve meal for 12, We might still have Christmas cards to address...but by God at least all the red books are lined up together just so.

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Here's hoping that your holidays are filled with cheer and that you find your own happy little place of calm when you need it.

 

Liz  xoxo

 

 

Moving Home

This is our final, crunch week for the home remodeling project that has been consuming our lives for the past year...Hooray! We move in this weekend, just a few days before Thanksgiving...Hooray? Of course I'm so ready to be back in our house, but the holiday timing is not ideal. Or is it?? A few great reasons to move the week of Thanksgiving...

1. You are totally off the hook for all cooking responsibilities. (Sorry family, the pie pans are packed. Hello, Whole Foods!)

2. You have no time to shop or get sucked into Black Friday drama.

3. No need to haul the Christmas tree out of the attic..it's already sitting in the driveway!

4. You already have the gifts that every kid on your list wants anyway...giant, empty cardboard boxes!

Wow, I'm feeling better already.

I have been lax in posting photo updates here, but hopefully you've seen some of the updates on my Instagram feed. Here are a few of those progress photos. There are lots of tweaks and touch-ups happening right now, so I'll post true After shots once we are in and a bit settled. Stay tuned!

 

BEFORE:

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NOW: 2014.10.26.house-30

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BEFORE: 2014.02.HouseBefore-23

NOW: 2014.11.18.house-3

BEFORE: 2014.02.HouseBefore-10

NOW: 2014.10.05.house-1

BEFORE: 2014.02.HouseBefore-16

NOW: 2014.11.18.house-15

 

Happy Thanksgiving to you! I hope you have a moving-free holiday. Or if you do move, may you enjoy your store-bought pie, canned whipped cream, and cardboard box gifts.

Cheers, Liz

 

 

I spent 3 solid days obsessing over grout color so you don't have to...

When you tackle a complicated project like, say, tearing the roof and walls off your house, you want a large team of experts on your side. As seems to happen in many life-altering adventures (parenting comes to mind), you start with a few hand-picked experts. And then your team grows. Slowly and organically at first and then suddenly reaching cartoon proportions.

That’s exactly where we are now. My team of invested experts now includes, but is not limited to: architect, builder, husband, vendors, subcontractors, friends with great taste, friends with strong opinions, family members, children, neighbors who I adore, neighbors who I don’t even know, designers on Houzz, strangers who comment on designers on Houzz, the lady in the checkout line at Home Depot, the guy at the veterinary clinic who overheard my phone conversation....

For better or worse, as we near the end of the remodel, this team is still right beside me, weighing in on every last little decision.

 

Me: So I’m doing all white subway tiles in the kitchen and the new baths. Same size everywhere. You know...clean, crisp and affordable. Classic and modern all at once. I’m looking for a sense of continuity. I love it...decision is done!

Expert 1: Actually the grout color will make all the difference. It can radically change the look of the whole room. Radically! Don’t believe me? Let me show you 5,000 photos as proof.

Expert 2: White on white is really the only way to go.

Expert 3: Only boring people do white. You aren’t boring.

Expert 4: I tell all my clients to go one step darker than the color they most like.

Expert 5: I tell all my clients to go one step lighter than the color they most like.

Expert 6: I tell all my clients to go with their gut.

Expert 7: Dark grout doesn’t show dirt.

Expert 8: White grout can be bleached.

Expert 7: Dark grout is more modern.

Expert 9: Dark grout is too modern.

Expert 7: Light grout is too traditional.

Expert 8: Light grout is more versatile.

Expert 10: This brand of grout doesn’t stain.

Expert 11: Don’t believe them--all grouts stain!

Expert 12: Black grout will look like the '80s threw up in your kitchen.

Expert 13: Look at this photo of black grout! It’s perfect!

Expert 3: It really boils down to what you want the tile to say about you.

Expert 14: It really boils down to resale value.

Expert 15: Did you decide how thick your grout lines will be?

Expert 4: You don’t decide how thick your grout lines will be. Expert 17 will decide how think the lines are.

Expert 8: You should DEMAND to know the thickness of your grout lines before you go any further!

Expert 3: Silver grout? Yesss! That color is so you!

Expert 2: Silver? It’s really the only way to go.

Expert 12: Silver? This was my favorite all along, I just didn’t want to sway your opinion.

Expert 8: Silver? It’s all over Houzz, but don’t worry you are still original.

Expert 16: Silver? Do you mean Silver or Titanium or Platinum or Pewter?

Expert 6: I know you want Expert 16 to make this final call, but Expert 16 is not going to live in your house with this grout color. You are going to live here and see it every day. I cannot stress the importance of this decision. You need to dig deep and rally. Cancel today’s plans, get back in the car, go to the showroom, and pick a color. You will not regret it.

Expert 16: Ok great. Silver it is! Now let’s talk about floor colors...

Expert 3: Why are you crying?

 

*     *     *

It's a blog hop! My friends have also done something wildly awesome or awful so you don't have to. Read about them here...

I Wrote Another Godforsaken Blogiversary Post So You Don't Have To - Ann Imig

I Toured Washington DC in a Night Bus So You Don’t Have To - Wendi Aarons

I Listened to KidzBop So You Don’t Have To – Midlife Mixtape

I Had Food Poisoning While Sitting On A Diaper Genie So You Don't Have To - Smacksy

I'm Surviving October So You Don't Have To - The Flying Chalupa

*     *     *

 

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Silver it is.

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Throwback Thursday: 5 years

Phew...I'm back! Life got crazy for a variety of reasons, and my blog got the short end of the deal, but I'm happy to be here now! Today, in honor of Throwback Thursday AND my 5-year blogiversary, I'm looking through my old posts with fresh eyes. I'm discovering and rediscovering all kinds of treasures...

I'm finding that of course some things change and others stay the exact same. Siblinghood continues to be equal parts harmony, chaos, discord and joy. That's why we call it Sibling Revelry, right?

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Screen Shot 2014-10-23 at 1.30.49 PM

I'm finding excellent and timely reminders about parenting and forgotten photos that need no caption.

I'm finding that I hardly recognize the faces in my early blog days.

And I'm finding that some things really never get old. No wonder these are my kids' favorite three posts: Next lesson: What is lame? See also: "Totally bogus" I mean, seriously

I'm finding that I STILL get traffic on this post and frequent requests for the bumper stickers. (I've still got them if you want. Long live Tami Taylor!)

But mostly I'm finding that I'm grateful to have this blog and people who cheer it on. I've always been happiest at the place where stories, family and art intersect. Thanks for sharing that space with me!

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First Days

Today my oldest child started middle school and my youngest started kindergarten. Go ahead and ask me how I’m doing. If you were here in person you wouldn’t have to ask because my red, blotchy eyes say it all. My middle child, however, is earning Golden Boy status because the only mama drama he has generated lately are tears of relief that his class is filled with his closest buddies. As if that weren’t enough, last night he hugged me and thanked me, unprompted, for a really awesome summer. I mean seriously.

At bedtime my 5-year-old explained how he did NOT want to go to kindergarten in the morning. He wanted to stay home with me and the dog and play Legos all day. Deep breath. I promised that he would have fun. That his teacher practically invented fun.

“Yeah, Ok,” he replied, “But what about the missing you part?”

Then I went to tuck in my almost 12-year-old, who had been holding it together and keeping herself busy all day. I crawled into bed with her, and her voice caught when she spoke. “I’m nervous. It’s a big day, Mom.”

“Yes, it is,” I said.  “It’s a big day, but it’s also just a day. There are lots of things that will be familiar....You have been to school before (you are great at school). You have had new teachers before and you’ve made new friends before. You have eaten in a cafeteria and carpooled and rode a bus and you’ve even spent an entire day last spring at this school. You know you can do this because you’ve done much of it before.”

That seemed to help. And after a few more curtain calls, all three of them were asleep.

And then the house got quiet and my own tears came. Big, fast ones that came bursting from that deep pool reserved for all things maternal.

“It’s too much,” I told Hubs. “I’m not ready for all this change.”

He rubbed my back and said, “It’s a big day, but it’s also just a day.”

“You’ve taken them to school before. You’ve said goodbyes. You’ve walked away. You’ve worked without a swirl of kids around you and you’ll remember how to do it again. You’ve had a quiet house before and you’ll remember how to enjoy it again. You might even remember how to have lunch with friends. You know you can do this because you’ve done much of this before. And...you’ve given them a really awesome summer.”

Yes. Yes. True.

But what about the missing them part?

*     *     *

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