Happy Father's Day to our hunter, our gatherer, our sunscreen slatherer. We love you!
Happy Father's Day to our hunter, our gatherer, our sunscreen slatherer. We love you!
I hope this time of year brings you many words of joy. Words like...
No assembly required Dishwasher safe Batteries included One size fits all
I love you Please Thank you Hooray I love it Yes No thank you See you soon It's perfect You're welcome Come over I remember I love you, too
Thank you for reading my words here this year. I hope to bring you even more in 2016! xoxo
Photo credit: Bonnie Berry Photography
1. Go swimming on a whim. At night. Without refereeing the rules of The Splash Game.
2. Empty the kids’ closets of annoying T-shirts, crappy toys the kids won at some arcade party, and half the artwork they brought home from school this spring.
3. Empty the office of annoying emails, crappy pencils the kids left when they stole the good pens, and half the paperwork they sent home from school this spring.
4. Finish every conversation with your spouse, even the one you started 8 months ago.
5. Eat every meal at a restaurant.
6. Run a dishwasher loaded only with coffee mugs. (See above.)
7. Think your own thoughts.
8. Make out in the middle of the afternoon.
9. Binge watch a full season of a kid-unfriendly show.
10. Linger everywhere you go. Or rush. Either way, it’s your decision.
11. Sleep late. Or wake up early. Again, your call.
12. FaceTime the kids. Pretend that y’all are totally bored without them.
13. Get 8 hours of work done in only 3.
14. FaceTime them again. Pretend you don’t miss them and that it’s no big deal one kid doesn’t want to talk to you.
15. Make their beds and tidy their rooms, even though 5 days ago you swore up and down that it was their job for now on, every day, for the rest of their lives.
16. Buy fresh milk and apples.
17. Check the clock. Again.
18. Squeeze their guts when they return.
19. Squeeze Grandma harder.
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
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!
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.
Monday 8:30pm. Already well past his bedtime and he's asking for 5 more minutes.
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.
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?
And then some AFTER photos that don't really have BEFORE shots...
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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?
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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.
The thing about building something up is that sometimes you first have to knock it down, to make space for all the growth. At least that's the mantra I keep repeating every time I drive by my house. Or more specifically, by the remains of my house. Because here's what it looked like 3 weeks ago...
And here's what it looked like a week later...
Neighbors and friends keep texting to say, "OMG, I knew you were remodeling but I didn't know you were doing THIS!" The truth is, neither did I. Sure, it's all in the architectural plans and there's even a page or two dedicated to something called "demolition" but my mind has not been on the dismantling part--it's been all about the end product. Eye on the prize! The after picture is so much prettier than the awkward, in-between phase. In construction and, of course, in life.
But change is all about the transition and our family is knee-deep in it right now. In our living conditions and elsewhere. Two kids are making obvious leaps...from elementary to middle school and from preschool to kindergarten, but it's also becoming a season of smaller, more subtle changes in all five of us. Shifts in maturity, in confidence, in perseverance, in patience.
In general I'm a nostalgic type, but I have no room for it right now. This season of transition is one of moving forward. The kids are ready for new adventures. I'm ready for more challenges. We are all ready for a little more space and some room to grow.
So instead of nostalgia, I'm mostly standing back in awe as the house gets taller and wider. I'm watching the upstairs comes alive and the downstairs transform. I'm hoping to hang on to this awe when it comes to all the changes happening right now.
After all, my family doesn't need me pining for the old when the new is so promising...
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Speaking of new stuff: I'm happy to share that my photo artwork is now featured on Great.ly. If you're a maker/tastemaker/shopper, please check it out and follow!
Somewhere lost in a box at my Dad’s house, or maybe at this point only burned into my mind, is a photo of my mom taken a few days after she became a mother. She’s standing at their front door in tiny Premont, Texas, holding a swaddled baby--my older brother. She has a gentle smile on her face. Her hair is cut short and it holds her waves perfectly. She wears a simple, lovely dress and maybe even pantyhose and pumps. After all, it was November 1969 and my mom was the kind of woman who wouldn’t show bare legs past Labor Day, even in sunny south Texas.
Beyond that, the details of the photo escape me. But the impression it made on me is unforgettable. Everything about the image said my mother was beginning a brand-new chapter of her life. Unchartered territory, right there on the doorstep.
When I brought home my own first born, I recall being a mess of emotions and exhaustion. My eyes were swollen and achy from 12 hours of squeezing them shut in pain followed by 24 hours of holding them open in awe. Omigod she’s really here, she’s really here. Cannot stop looking at this beautiful thing.
Once we pulled into our driveway, I should have been ready to collapse. Instead, I uncharacteristically set aside vanity and asked my husband to take a photo of me with our new daughter. I wanted to be standing at the front door, cradling my treasure...just like the photo of my mom, but minus the pantyhose.
We lived in that little house for almost four years. It was the first home we owned, the first time we felt like we might actually become grown-ups, even though we painted the outside a bright, playful purple. We spent more hours cultivating that yard and garden than we have spent at all our subsequent homes combined. We hosted outdoor movies in the backyard and dinner parties out of the one-person kitchen. We made sweet friends and great memories on that block.
But the single biggest memory I have of 29th St. is that it was there that I crossed the threshold and became a mother. Today when I look back at photos of our home, I always come back to the front porch. I stare at myself standing there, exhausted and awkward, by the door. And as I have done with so many photos of my own mom, I soak up the details to try to remember who that woman was.
Since then, there have been two more children and a few more front doors. But this one, this was the first, and it opened up a whole new world. A whole new me.
The thing about a home improvement project is that it completely, unapologetically messes with your head. Creating mental whiplash, if you will. Big picture, little picture, big picture, little picture. My mind is constantly telescoping in and out, changing focus from one second to the next.
What’s our family’s mission statement and how can we honor that within the confines of four walls and one budget?...to...Do I prefer the toilet paper holder on my left or right side when I’m enjoying stolen moments from said family?
To keep me steady during this long and tedious process, I’m latching on to a few critical Before and After images.
Before: Three kids in one bathroom, performing the nightly ritual where one kid showers, another does his business on the toilet, and the other brushes his teeth...all within inches of each other. I call this charming part of our day “Worlds Colliding.”
After: A boy bathroom, complete with bleachable tiles and, as requested, not much else. A separate girl bathroom with room for all the disappearing/reappearing hairbands and pre-teen angst.
Before: One living room for adults, kids, dogs, friends, guests, toys, music, art, homework, TV and video games.
After: One living space for kids, friends and the Wii rage that often accompanies them. Another space for thick books, wine and Nashville.
Before: A master bath that doubles as Hubs’ closet, which doubles (triples??) as his home office.
After: Not ever having to say, “Sweetheart, can you go work in the other room? I need to poop.”
Really, it’s the small things in life. That is, when it’s not the big things.
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Speaking of makeovers, I’m also redesigning my blog and online presence. Equally exciting, but (thankfully) requiring far less bathroom talk! I'm really excited about the new changes and will have more to share in the next few weeks. Stay tuned!
Meaning even though I'm an exceptional daughter, I'm doing this for extra money.
$5 an hour. Mostly filing, sorting, labeling, that sort of thing.
What about sick days and vacation?
You're a freelancer, sweetheart.
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So I cleaned up my phone this past weekend and downloaded a mere 2,257 photos to my computer. No big deal...the downloading and sorting and nonsense only required a few lifetimes during critical REM sleep time. But besides that, it was fun to scroll through the sheer randomness of so many everyday moments. Some of them have been shared here or on Instagram, but most were simply filed away in my Daily Life folder...the one that is bursting at its digital seams. As I scanned through the pack of images I realized I had not created a Rhetorical Questions post in quite a awhile. We are long overdue, right? Wait, don't answer that!
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Should I hate myself for loving you? Do we give love a bad name?
Final question… You want to check out previous volumes of my Rhetorical Questions, don’t you?
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So, my pals and I are doing another blog hop. Yay! You might remember the last one, where I bravely shared a photo of myself from 1992 wearing, as someone pointed out, "Mom jeans before I was even a Mom." This time we're discussing The worst meal I ever cooked and served to loved ones. I feel sure my funny friends will come up with compelling and hilarious stories, but I gotta be honest with you...this is a tough topic for me. Certainly not because I do or don't cook terrible meals. But because it's Thursday and hello I have hardly any remaining brain capacity to think about mealtime topics. I'm simply maxed out for the week. My weekly allotted Think About Food time was spent on panicked meal planning, high-speed grocery shopping, pre-dinner interrogations, dinnertime whining, and morning cajoling. There's precious little energy remaining to wonder how the meal ranked on my family's Yum Scale.
I am quite confident everyone has
stirred around eaten what was on their plates and that what they avoided ate was as healthy as possible. But beyond that, I couldn't possibly tell you how it falls on their radar.
Call me callous or lazy, but this is where things stand right now in our house. We are all about simplicity nowadays. In fact, I adopted a Family Mealtime Mantra just to keep us all on the same page. Thanks to inspiration from Michael Pollan's famous quote I've come up with these words to live by:
"Cook food. Not too much. Mostly edible."
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Read more about worst meals from my talented writer friends...
As if I needed any more reminding, our Christmas tree stands proudly in the living room bearing all the signs that kids live here. The gaudy seahorse, who apparently hit the Black Friday sales rack at Sam Moon and couldn't stop herself; the salt-dough gingerbread boy who is painted in nontraditional Christmas attire because its creator went through an extended blue period where no other color would suffice; and of course, the wise Yoda, who like the Magi comes cloaked in robes bearing peace and glad tidings. Happy the Holidays we hope you have!
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As always, thank you for reading and sharing this space with me. I'll be unplugging for the holidays, though I will likely sneak in some periodic Instagram and Facebook posts.
Join me there or enjoy some of my favorite posts from 2012.
After the Goodbyes Forget Me Not Sibling Revelry Look Again Learning to Exhale Get There Voices Singing the Blues
See you in 2013!