Friday, August 31, 2012

Project 52: Weeks 34 & 35

Project 52:34 
Parenting is... 

He clings to me when I return after stepping out of the room for a minute. He sobs when I leave him with his father or a sitter. He will literally wrap all of his limbs around my leg as I try to step around the kitchen while making dinner. He cannot bear not being up and in my arms. Even in the nights he wants me with him, crying out for "Mamamamamama." This very intense type of separation anxiety is new for me.

The bags under my eyes and the arms muscles I've developed with this little fellow in my life are epic. He needs so much. He is so big and so little. I cling to sanity some days because of it.

And I cling to the sweetness within the challenge, knowing he won't collapse his body so fully into mine for that many more months.

Project 52:35 
Parenting is...

Over an hour spent making a veggie lasagna, while letting the preschooler help, because she is interested and it's good for her, even though it makes it harder on me. Total dish tally involved? Six? Seven? The sink is chock full of dirty dishes, anyway. Total dollars in organic veggies and cheese? Ugh. Don't want to add it up. But I feel proud for getting it done and tucked away in the fridge to be heated up for dinner that night and then at least another night. Freezer meals for the win!

And then it all goes splat in one moment when the preschooler is lurking in front of the open fridge ("Hon? Can you close the refrigerator?" "Bella, close the fridge door!" "ARABELLA! SHUT THE DOOR!") and the super strong baby decides to yank the pan out. And what were you doing at the time? Why making lunch look like a pretty rainbow, at the preschooler's request...which she then doesn't really eat. I clean up while both kids are crying over their lunches - their RAINBOW lunches - demanding I give them my full attention. They are not interested in the fact that there are shards of glass everywhere.

Parenting. Is. Frustrating.

Wine and whining helps :)

Learn more about my Project 52 here and check out styleberry BLOG for links to more Project 52s. 

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Tour of My New House

[Still plenty of time to join in the Tour of Homes Blog Round-Up - you have until Saturday, September 8. More details here.]

For those that have been following along for a few years, you know that I was jumping out of my skin to move to a new home. Our last place, located right by downtown Minneapolis, had some great features, but it was a terrible fit for a family with children. 47 stairs, no access to grass, everything very open for little hands to get into, and minimal storage. Plus only two bedrooms meant we felt really crunched for space. I had never anticipated we would be there as long as we were, but perhaps the wait made this move all the more sweeter.

And, I will begrudgingly acknowledge to Husband that waiting until now did work in our favor. We could never have afforded this place if it wasn't such a good time to buy. Through the magic of interest rates, our monthly mortgage payment is only a bit higher here than it was in our townhome. In case you were wondering, we are renting the townhome and intend to sell it later when we would get a better return on our investment. We purchased it in 2006 so that might be a little while.

So the new place. I talked about how we just fell in love with it at first sight and how that took me by surprise. I didn't think it would happen so quickly. We were giddy about this place and thrilled that it was going to be ours. I made a video of the pictures I took during the home inspection which I put to the song Home by Phillip Phillips. We watched the video, our whole little family, at least twice a day, every day, until we moved. The song became our anthem of the summer. So for authenticity, click play and listen to the song while you look at the pictures :)

Our excitement about the house hasn't changed one bit since moving in. In fact, we are even happier than we could have imagined because not only did we luck into a great house, we have a great neighborhood. Weirdly great. Like, waiting-for-the-catch great. The previous owners of the house live two doors down (it was a flip-type project for them) and they held a get-together so we could meet the neighbors. (I know!) Everyone is so friendly and open and happy. More than one person dropped off zucchini bread as a welcoming gift. We even got a card in the mail from a high-school-aged neighbor girl, also two doors down, who offered her baby sitting services. A neighbor offered to loan us his canoe. Another offered her bike chariot. We are on first name basis with several neighbors and Bella is already hugging hello and goodbye to the ones we regularly encounter. Has anyone seen Funny Farm with Chevy Chase? Where the whole town is in on helping get the house sold so they are acting extra charming and sweet? It's been reminding me of that. Ha!

And beyond the immediate neighborhood, I love the mix of suburban space with city convenience. I can still walk to parks, the grocery store, a coffee shop, the library and even some beaches.

So, in conclusion. We love it, we love it, we love it.

Now, come in, come in!

This is the view from the front door.

We have yet to purchase furniture because we want to buy things that will work and make sense. I find that I really like this place as a sitting area. But maybe that's just because there is nowhere to sit in the living room! Anyway, thinking either an oversized chair here or maybe two chairs, though I'm concerned that might overwhelm the space.

And now let's look at one of my favorite features of the house...ta da! The mudroom!
The neighbor who remodeled this house did an excellent job when it came to functionality and storage.

To the kitchen!
A few delights for me in here are the glass hutch cupboards (makes my mismatched wine glasses look pretty and somehow coordinated), the gas stove, and the breakfast bar. I can put my laptop on the counter and watch Netflix while doing dishes, which is awesome.

Here is the view into the dining area.
We need stools. The ones we have are the very uncomfortable ones that came with my last house. Maybe I should just do that this weekend since it's been on the to-do list for, oh, seven years now. Ooh - and see the bonus cabinets under the breakfast bar?

Now the great room. Right now it's pretty much used as a place for open gym and expressive dancing and karaoke singing and we are enjoying that. It's long and will be a little tricky to furnish, but I am trying to convince Husband that a used baby grand piano would be a great investment to help fill it out. I miss having a piano.

Now let's go downstairs.

The playroom. The wonderful, wonderful playroom. Between the playroom & having a yard, I'm not so scared for winter this year. And I just remembered I won't have to do the buckle one kid, back the car out of the garage, and then buckle the second kid thing this winter. HOORAY HOORAY!

This is the storage room that is a catch-all. I don't like that it's full of boxes and bins - mostly things that a certain someone has been hanging onto - but it's FAN-FREAKING-TASTIC to put it all in one space that is accessible and organizable. For now this is Bella's play area for all her things that have little pieces that Oliver shouldn't be getting into.

Now to the upstairs!

The master bedroom. I'm not wild about our bedroom furniture in here since it blocks the window and seems a bit dark and heavy for the space, but it's okay. We are going to get a couple big green plants to put in the corners and some artwork and possibly a change in duvet color and that should brighten it up.

Ahhhhhh...a master bathroom. Of course, my big plans to keep my makeup & things in my drawers have been foiled by the toddler :) Also, it's kind of funny that most baths in that tub have taken place with the kids.

There is a bathroom upstairs (forgot to take a photo) and then another feature about this place that is heavenly...the laundry room.

It is pretty much a cloth diapering mama's dream. 

Guest room/Craft Room/Future Baby Room (?!?!?!?!)

Bella's Bedroom

Oliver's Bedroom
The light is a bit funny in here because I put some blackout shades on the window and I wasn't about to mess with that just to make the room look prettier!

I have some plans for both kids rooms that include painting furniture and some simple DIY crafting, such as french bulletin boards. I'm excited to finally nest!

And the backyard. This is what makes this place so special to me.

Can you see the fire pit? Should be fun this fall. Another someday dream is to build a gazebo out in the wooded area.

And the lake...

So that's the new place!

Monday, August 27, 2012

Trying Something New: Cash Budget for Groceries

I have talked recently about feeling slightly spazzy and frazzled and just flustrated.

Did anyone catch that? The use of the word flustrated? WHICH IS NOT A WORD, I REPEAT, IT IS NOT A WORD.

Flustered. Or frustrated. Not both.

Pet peeve, yo!

Anyway, I'm feeling a little calmer now that Husband's crazy time at work is done for the quarter. And I realized that I actually am getting organized because I cleaned up my recipe binder, which had not been touched in a full year, as in, not since Oliver was born. So things aren't anywhere near as chaotic as I was imagining. I guess being the sole person in charge of two kids for days on end can alter one's view of reality just a bit. (Moooooom, move here already! Heh.)

One of the areas I have been wanting to give more attention to is our budget, but MAN is that a drag. Not for Husband. He would delight in giving a ton of focus to the budget, perhaps even doing some spreadsheet fun. But I'm the main shopper so I'm the main spender. And I have been completely averse to tracking it all carefully.

After a high school Facebook friend happened to "like" a blog called 100 Days of Real Food last week, I used some of my spare time to check it out. It's absolutely right up my alley - organic, whole food-style of eating, but realistic. This author of the blog did a 100 day pledge to keep her food and household budget to $125/week, while still maintaining their usual diet of quality foods. It sparked something in me.

I decided that we are going to do same thing, but only for four weeks.  To make it easier for me to keep track of things, I'm going to do a cash budget. This will keep it all very much in my face and force me to really think about our purchases. At first Husband made a face about me not using the credit card and continuing to earn precious points, but when I pointed out that I might end up saving us potentially hundreds of dollars versus earning points, he quickly changed his tune.

Right now I am very aware of the cost of some things - like I only buy frozen organic blueberries at Trader Joe's or Organic Valley milk at Lund's or Muir Glen tomatoes at Super Target. I know where I can get the lowest price for each of my very specific grocery items. But I also buy pretty much whatever I want. I am firmly on Team Leftovers and stay on top of the produce so it doesn't go bad before I get to it, but I need to be way more careful about what is coming into the house. We spend a horrifying amount of money on groceries given my own personal bent on buying local & organic, but it can just be a scary amount instead of horrifying.

Also? There has to be way less random alcohol & dessert purchases. If we want those things, we need to make sure they fit into the budget. They have to be enjoyed and not just bought because we want something in that moment. Same with take-out. If we are getting take-out, it better be thoroughly enjoyed.

So the plan, man:

$140 per week on groceries, household stuff, and alcohol
$20 per week on whatever I want (probably a coffee treat and a lunch out with the kids)

All in cash. I recognize that $140 might sound insane in terms of being a ton of money (or maybe not?) but quality, nutritious food is a huge priority so it is what it is. So far I am already down $48 after a trip to the co-op. I bought two organic apples and a locally-sourced kernel of corn. ORGANIC FOR LIFE!

Okay, bought more than that. It was three kernels of corn and the two apples. Full report & what we ate in a week.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Feeling Squirrely

When I was 19 years old I lived in Dinkytown, which is the off-campus hipster part of the University of Minnesota. (Bob Dylan lived there in ancient times! This fact is exponentially less impressive to the college kids every year!) I worked at Veseuvio*'s, a somewhat suspect Italian restaurant just a couple blocks from my apartment. Oh, the stories I could tell about the employees and that restaurant. That job left me with a misguided but lingering attraction to softball-sized meatballs. My other job that summer, also in Dinkytown, was working the front desk at the campus-owned apartment building that housed many of the athletes. Again, I am laden with stories from my work there. That job left me with a misguided but lingering attraction to male gymnasts.

One warm summer day, I walked from Job B to Job A. I was feeling fancy in my so-not-work-appropriate-what-the-hell-was-I-thinking hot pink built-in bra Express tank (Awesome! No need to wear a bra!***) and white stretch Express capri pants and flip-flops. And then, suddenly I was stepping on something firm, yet squishy. Something that squeaked in a horrible way. I looked down and a bird head was under my foot. I stepped on a bird. In flip-flops. That did not leave me feeling fancy. Rather, it reminded me that I am the sort of person who steps on birds.

*Name changed to protect the suspect Italian restaurant. Also, to avoid lawsuit.

***There was a need to wear a bra. SO MUCH NEED.

When I was 32 years old, I lived in the Western burbs of the Twin Cities. My job was my children. There was a certain amount of overlap between my job as a stay-at-home mom and my jobs as a waitress/hostess and caterer-to-sometimes-simple-yet-highly-confident athletes. Lots of drink fetching, explaining of basic concepts, and cleaning of messes - both physically and interpersonally. Also: many tantrums in all three jobs.

One warm summer day, I was headed to the library with my children. I was feeling kind of fancy in my sporty-hip workout skirt & tank. And then, suddenly the wheels underneath Oliver's seat thumped over something. A rock? No, seemed to pliable for that. A piece of sod in the road? Oh, please be that. I rolled backwards to inspect, which meant another thump. The kids were delighted. Mommy is such fun!


This wasn't a fresh-dead squirrel. This was rigor mortis squirrel. Is it better to run over a live squirrel or a dead one? A fresh-dead squirrel or a rigor mortis squirrel? These are the questions I asked myself after squealing and jogging to the other side of the street.

Surprisingly, I did not walk away from this moment feeling less fancy. No - I felt MORE fancy.

Because how many people step on a bird AND run over a squirrel with their stroller in their lifetime? Not many, I bet.

Photo Credit

Monday, August 20, 2012

Tour of Homes - Want to Participate?

Next week I'm planning to post of a tour of the new house.

At first, I wasn't sure if I wanted to share the house in detail because well, it felt kind of weird. But then I thought about it some more and I always really enjoy looking at pictures of other people's houses on their blogs. I'm always happy to watch House Hunters or House Hunters International. I like getting tours of friend's houses. So I'm going to go with it. Besides, some family members have been wanting a virtual tour and this will give them a chance to see it since they are spread out all over the country and in India.

But if I show you mine, will you show me yours? (Diiiiirty.) I want to put together a round-up post, kind of like the Day in the Life thing, that would allow us to click on each others house tour posts. Wouldn't that be kind of fun? To see houses and apartments all over the country & world? I did something somewhat similar a couple years ago, and I can link back to those posts if those original people are interested.

Anyway, to participate you need to:
  • Have a blog or a Flickr Account or a non-private Facebook account - somewhere you can put a linkable series of photos
  • Take pictures of your house and post it on your blog/Flickr/Facebook by SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 8
  • Email me the link at navigatingthemothership @ by SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 8
Sound like something you are interested in? To my people abroad: Oh, pleeeeeeeeease do this? House Hunters International is my favorite of all.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Project 52 - Weeks 32 & 33

Learn more about my Project 52 here and check out styleberry BLOG for links to more Project 52s. 
More often than not, being a parent involves noise. Talking noise, cooing noise, crying noise, screaming noise, laughing noise, singing noise, and shouting noise. When you add a second kid, it means suddenly you are listening to surround sound. And while sleeping? Well, then it's white noise. The noise is constant.
So the release I feel during the quiet moments is all the more sweet. I like the noise, I really do. But the quiet moments are savored given their rarity.
*       *       *       *       *

I cannot tell a lie: my energy for this project is flagging. I have yet to post a few missing weeks and this project is definitely not at the top of my to do list. I'm still working out how I want to put it all together and what I want it to look like, both on the blog and on paper. It frustrates me that I don't have my act fully together (see recent posts!) But I'm going to keep plodding forward, doing what I can, and I know I won't regret it.

And now, if you'll excuse me, I have some delivery pizza a-headed my way and some Grey's Anatomy to be watched. WOOHOO!

PS - Thank you to all the MN blogger people who joined Erin & I at Minnehaha Park today! It was really cool to see you all in person. It was also awesome that EVERYONE was late (including Erin & I) and that naptime pretty much shut that party down cold. Ha. Good times :)

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Valleyfair Adventure (Sponsored)

This story actually starts back in 1987, in a living room in Fargo, North Dakota (pronounced Fargoooooo, Nooooord Dah-koooooota). It was a hot summer day (yes, Fargo gets hot) and my little brother and I were beating the heat by watching some excellent television inside our air-conditioned living room. When I say we were watching excellent television, I am obviously talking about shows like Jem, Ducktales, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and the Brady Bunch. But the commercials held our attention, too. One commercial in particular. That commercial was for the Excalibur roller coaster at Valleyfair.

Does anyone else out there remember that? Where a voice whispered "Excalibur" and then you got to feel like you were riding on the roller coaster?

Man, we LOVED that commercial. So much so that we recorded it on our VCR and we would climb into a laundry basket together (pretending it was the roller coaster seat) and watch it again and again. We made sure to raise our arms at regular intervals while screaming, to make the experience authentic.

Can you picture it? Maybe this will help...

(My brother wasn't available so Tiger kindly filled in.)

Sadly, I never made it to Valleyfair as a kid, but I have gone a few times since moving to the Twin Cities back in 1998. But when an opportunity came up to go to Valleyfair with my little family of four, I got really excited. Bella is smitten with the concept of amusement parks right now and I knew Husband would be like a kid in the candy store there and Oliver, well that boy is happy as long as he is outside. I knew it would be a great little family adventure.

Right from the start both Bella and Husband were giddy with excitement, pointing and shouting about everything there was to do and see. Even little Oli got in on the pointing action, which was adorable.

We got to the park when it opened on Sunday, which was a great move since the park was not busy at all at that time. I had been telling Bella all week about the rides and when I asked her which one she wanted to do first, she picked the Carousel, which worked out perfectly since it was right at the front of the park. She decided she wanted to sit on a bench with me since the horses made her a little nervous. She loved every minute.

After that we ventured over to Camp Snoopy, which features kid-centric rides and attractions. B wasn't totally sure about Snoopy's Moon Bounce (a bounce house) but both kids loved boarding the train at Snoopy's Junction. And they also enjoyed meeting Snoopy himself.

The biggest highlight of the day for all of us was riding the Ferris Wheel. It was so much fun being high above the park and having the cool breeze blow around us.

And in between all the rides we managed to do quite a bit of eating and drinking: grilled burritos at Sidewinder Burritos, smoothies at Maui Wowi, lemonade, and a TON of water (it was a 90 degree day). We were having so much fun going on rides that I missed out on getting some good fair food like cheese curds & cotton candy. Oh well - next time!

We let Bella pick one last ride of the day and she wanted to go on the Flying Ace Balloon Ride at Planet Snoopy. Just at that moment, Husband got a call from the realtor of the house we were trying to buy with their final offer. So I quickly decided to go on the ride with Bella and leave Husband with Oliver so he could talk to the realtor. Here is where I should share that I get carsick in the passenger seat of the car very easily. So a ride that spins in a circle? Um...

Anyone else own The Berenstain Bears & the Thunderbolt and recall the part where Papa Bear gets a little sick on the roller coaster? Yeah. This Mama Bear felt a little nauseous as we walked out of the park and drove home in my car with it's malfunctioning air conditioning.

Haaaaa. Luckily Bella did not suffer the same fate.

But mild pukey feelings aside, it was so much fun to do this as a family. I told Husband that we should make this an annual thing - a little mini-vacation for all of us to spend some time having fun outdoors. We also talked about going on a date night back to Valleyfair so that we can tackle the rollercoasters together and have a throwback sort of date. It would be very Notebook of us.

For anyone else who might be making a trip to Valleyfair this summer, here are a few tips:
  • You can leave the park and come back - a great option for really maximizing your visit while still respecting naptime.
  • Check out the Valleyfair website ahead of time to figure out what attractions you want to see in order to make sure you get to do everything you want to. All rides are rated by thrill level from 1 to 5 to help better evaluate what rides might be appropriate for your children.
  • Cheapest tickets are found online! Check the Valleyfair website for more information.
  • While there is a lot of fun food to be had, you have the option of packing your own food in a cooler and leaving the park to eat in the picnic area (just get your hand stamped first).

Thank you for the fun day, Valleyfair!

While this trip was sponsored by Valleyfair, all opinions expressed are my own.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Reminder: Minnesota Blogger Get Together THIS SUNDAY!

Just a reminder - the blogger get-together is still on for Sunday at 10:30am at Minnehaha Park. The weather is looking like it'll be great!

If you are planning on stopping by, I would love to know!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012


Writing "Fumbling" as the title immediately made me think of Fumbling Towards Ecstasy, the Sarah McLachlin CD. And then I went down a well-worn spiral of thoughts that include how my freshman year roommate would listen to Sarah McLachlin or Dave Matthews obsessively when she was having a sad moment, usually related to some boy situation, and how that was always a nice warning signal to tread carefully. Satellite was a signal: woe is ahead!

But I digress.

So. I feel like I'm fumbling. Like I mostly have my shit together but there are so many balls that I keep dropping and GAH it's annoying. Husband and I were on a date last Friday to celebrate my 32nd b-day (woo hoo! book store, sushi, and leisure furniture shopping FTW!) and I was trying to explain it to him. "It's like I keep trying to grab onto a leash. Get a hold of things. But then it slips out of my hand again and I'm left scrambling."

After making fun of me for using the analogy-heavy blog-style way of speaking to him, he acknowledged that he knew what I was talking about.

I just feel funky and off. Not miserable and depressed, just unsettled.

I'm sure it's related to the fact that we moved a month ago, that Husband just got a new job (same company) and it's an extremely busy time at his work (as in he worked much of the weekend and is doing 12 hour days this week), and both kids are waking up most nights (Oliver in a more dramatic fashion, but waking up is still waking up.) So in spite of the life changes being positive, it's still been kind of stressful. Plus there is the old townhome to fix up and get rented and that takes up any free time Husband might have.

And how do I cope with stress? Attempt to organize everything. Also: read a ton, drink wine, eat cookies, bite the occasional nail. (Some of my coping skills are more advanced than others...)

I find myself making to-do lists and then leaving them around the house, where they are useless since I won't find it again for three days. I'm looking at organization blogs here and there, looking for a magical prescription for getting my life organized. I even went so far as to create a weird Venn diagram one day while I was in the playroom with the kids, trying to sort out just what it was that I needed to do to feel in control. But the circles drawn with brown magic marker and words like exercise, chores, writing, budget, meal planning just left me feeling like I had more stuff to get done and not enough time to do it. And I know that I need to cut out the dairy (and probably gluten) from my diet, but I just. don't. want. to. However, the bloated state of being isn't really doing much for putting pep in my step.

When I step back, I can see that I'm still keeping up on a decent amount of stuff. Laundry gets done, including cloth diapers. I'm making meals...sometimes. I exercise here and there, or at least walk a decent amount with the kids in the stroller. I blog and sort of keep up on my blog projects. So I'm still getting things done, touching on all those things that make me feel sane & calm, but it's not happening in a Type-A fashion. It's a fraction of what I want to get done. And Type-G is not my preference. Type-G means more is left unfinished and undone than completed and it's driving me bonkers.

Yes, yes. It's a season. The kids are young, it passes (right? hopefully?), things will get organized. There will not always be a baby throwing everything out of every drawer as I take five minutes to get food prepped.

But still. It feels so PESKY to not ever have a stretch of time to tackle things. How I would love to knock several things off my to-do list instead of one getting half completed on the weekend. When my parents eventually move here, I think they might take the kids off our hands for a night here and there. That sounds just dreamy. The kids do not do well with me hanging around the house while a babysitter is here (they are big Mama fans) so I only get a little pocket of an hour here or there with the house to myself when Husband or the babysitter takes them for a walk. And half the time I just want to sit on the deck with a book and a glass of wine when I get that moment for silence.

This is venturing down Whiny Road. I apologize. But this is my brain dump of the day and I don't want to take the time to comb through and polish up these posts like I used to. I think I just need to pick a few things to do and stick to it. Like meal planning, a chore check list, and getting my butt to do 30 minutes of exercise everyday. And then just do it. Put my Type-A tendencies to good use, even though it will only be accomplishing a fraction of what I want to get done.

Maybe I need to hire a high school babysitter more often since our current sitter is only coming every couple of weeks in mostly a date-night capacity? Maybe I need to get a house cleaner? (Insert budget grumbling from Husband here.) Either option makes me feel weird and not really what I want. What I want is to be better about my time and more disciplined and more on top of things. Somehow. But then I remind myself that I'm probably doing good enough...

Anyway. That's where I am. Caught in a brain loop of wanting to get things done and not being able to and haven't I written this post about five times already? :) Maybe - probably - this has everything to do with the fact I haven't slept through the night in weeks. I'm happy with my life, just plain delighted by it, but, man oh man, the lack-of-personal-time and lack-of-sleep part of young kids can be wearying some days.

Monday, August 13, 2012

These are the Days of our Lives - Summer 2012

Themes from this round: cats that meow way too freaking early and watching Big Brother the day after during naptime. Also? A lot of VERY cute kids. Enjoy!

My Life in Transition

North Carolina