family fun op ed

Battle Scars : Clogged Toilets and Holey Ceilings

my poor ceiling

Yesterday afternoon when my sweet children were supposed to be napping, the older child was creating a bit of harmless mischief in the kids’ bathroom upstairs. With toilet paper. But sometimes harmless mischief goes horribly wrong and yesterday was one of those times. He clogged the toilet. He flushed the toilet. He flushed again. And again.

By the time he came downstairs in defeat to ask for help, he was sopping wet. So was my bathroom. There was panicking. And yelling, And water everywhere. I quickly remembered to turn off the water stat. I may have dumbly flushed the toilet first, somehow thinking that if it didn’t work the first eleven times… twelve times might be the charm? Yeah. It wasn’t.

Then the water started pouring from the kitchen ceiling via an exposed light fixture thing. That was super cool. Like a water park in my kitchen that I never asked for and couldn’t return. I’d already turned the water off so all I could really do was wait and see how much water was going to flood my kitchen. And call my husband repeatedly and beg him to come home. And find towels. And buckets stock pots. Have you ever cleaned dry wall out of stock pots?

My husband, after the initial shock, was basically a home owning pro. He sopped up oceans of water, cut holes in the ceiling for reasons that still befuddle me a bit, but somehow managed to make the water pouring a bit less intense. He called his mother for advice while I cried in a corner and cleaned up the mess with me while I made morose comments about how we might go into debt and be ruined forever.

I don’t think we’re going to go into debt and be ruined forever. Knock on wood. It looks like the damage is miraculously minimal. Thanks to that exposed fixture, the water poured onto our floors instead of spreading around the ceiling and causing more damage. Thanks to our millions of towels and stock pots we were able to control the chaos before it took over too many carpeted areas. Thanks to fans we were able to dry carpets. Thanks to smart handsome husbands I didn’t end up in the looney bin. Thanks to Culvers I didn’t go hungry last night (I may have drowned my sorrows in a cheeseburger, strawberry milkshake, fried cheese curds and sweet potato fries… maybe…) and wasn’t forced to cook in a dry wall dusty messy watery covered kitchen. Thanks the the repeated reprimands from his parents, I don’t think MM will ever deliberately clog another toilet ever again.

And now we have our first battle scars. The first big home ownership panic and mayhem and OMG will we ever survive this but then we did moment. And we’re about to learn about drywall patches and stuff. Super fun.

So that was my Thursday night. How was yours?


family fun photography

Room Tour: MM's Blue Bedroom

star stickers

I am slowly taking pictures of the various rooms in our new house. Today I took some pictures in MM’s new blue bedroom. Wanna see?

come inside, it's fun inside!

This is his sanctuary and we’ve tried to make it a fun enjoyable place to spend time during “nap time” or bed time or any time during the day that he’d like to head upstairs and play by himself. We set up his train table again and he’s been having fun with that as well as a few other toys that he prefers to keep up there (and away from his sister).

dress up magnet doll by Melissa and Doug

Like this magnetic dress up doll by Melissa and Doug that we got him with a gift card from his aunt and uncle for his birthday. He can be a knight in shining armor, a superhero, a police officer, etc. Or you can mix and match to create your own super awesome costumes!

a place to lay his head

Here’s his bed. You can see the star stickers on the walls above his bed – another purchase with the gift card from A&U. The border on the wall was up when we bought the house and while we aren’t in love with it, we don’t hate it either so for now it stays but it may get taken down at some point.

sweet dreams big boy

Another thing to take note of us the awesome world map blanket that his meme made for him. My dad brought it with him when he came to visit this week and I am in love with it. So bright and colorful and it will be a lot of fun to teach him a bit of geography with it as he gets older. He’s all set to dream about traveling the world now!

More room tours coming soon!

books & reading nightstand

Nightstand : April

What's On Your Nightstand @ 5 Minutes For BooksIt’s time for another Nightstand post, a blogging carnival hosted monthly at 5 Minutes For Books – the premise is pretty simple: write about what you’re reading, read recently and / or plan to read in the future.

Here’s what I’ve read in the past month:

  1. Shadow of the Wind (kindle) by Carlos Ruiz Zafon (March Book Club Pick) – Finished March 24, 2011 – This was one of the better written books that I’ve read in awhile – beautiful descriptions without feeling tedious, a fascinating story that gets more complex with each chapter, but brilliantly. I really enjoyed this book which seemed to offer a little bit of everything. – full review
  2. Heads You Lose by Lisa Lutz & David Hayward – Finished April 2, 2011 – I am a huge fan of Lisa Lutz so I was beyond eager to read this book which she wrote with her ex, David Hayward. This book was hysterical and a really cool peek into the writing process – I’d recommend it to any writers or mystery buffs. – full review
  3. Much Ado About Anne (Mother Daughter Book Club, Book Two) by Heather Vogel Frederick – finished April 10, 2011 I think these books send a really positive message to teens and tweens while still being fun and an enjoyable read. I loved reading about reading about Anne of Green Gables, one of my favorite classic books / series. Definitely looking forward to reading future books in this series.
  4. The Imperfectionists by Tom Rachman (April Book Club Pick) – finished April 24, 2011 – I found this book interesting but not necessarily enjoyable. It reads like a series of short stories about various employees of a small European newspaper. As you read, the stories begin to feel somewhat interconnected, but at the same time not really. I felt the format made it difficult to get attached to any of the “characters” and the depressing nature of the book didn’t help matters. I think this was exactly what the author was going for though.

Right now I’m reading Anne of Windy Poplars by L.M. Montgomery which I have to admit I am not really enjoying, though that seems to be the general consensus. I also basically know the entire plot since it was spoiled somewhat by the last Anne film that I watched which combined several books (poorly).

When I finish or bail on Windy Poplars I will likely read:

Or you know, any of the other books tempting me from my overflowing bookshelf. When we started unpacking the books in our bedroom a week ago, I said to my husband, “I think I’ll just put the books I haven’t read yet in the bookshelf upstairs and bring the rest to the office or basement just so we’re not overwhelmed with books up there. So I grabbed two small bookshelves – one for each of our To Be Read piles and put one on either side of our nightstands…

I clearly have problems

my “to be read” pile

Yeah…. I think that my book obsession is slowly taking over our home. I bet there are more boxes somewhere that I don’t even know about. Not to mention the embarrassingly large pile of books that I have read and love so much I feel compelled to keep them. Needless to say, I ended up grabbing a bigger bookshelf for my “to be read” pile because the little two-shelfer just wasn’t going to cut it.

So what are you reading right now?

family fun photography

Some stuff. and other things.

did you miss close ups of this sweet face?

dying Easter eggsFirst off, because I’m sure you are going into withdrawls for some close up shots of this stunning face. Your welcome. So this weekend was Easter which means egg decorating and pretty spring dresses and Easter egg hunting.

Even better, my dad is in town visiting which means the kids are over the moon having someone new to devote all their attention to them. It’s been really nice having family around.

We’ve been mostly just relaxing, enjoying our backyard now that the weather is finally starting to behave and enjoying spending time with my dad while he’s in town.

playing in the backyard

I picked up a cheap plastic lawn mower and wheel barrow for the kids to “help us out with yard work” and the kids of course love them. I love when inexpensive things make kids happy.

teaching them young

You know what else I love? I took this picture with my new phone. I swear, sometimes the camera on this phone is just as good as my Canon point and shoot. That’s CRAZY but I am so not complaining.

watering our invisible flowers

It’s one less thing to carry around while I’m chasing after these adorable children of mine.

Happy Easter!

Hope you guys had a great Easter! I also hope I’ll be able to post again before, you know, like – next week – as seems to be the new trend.

motherhood photography

MM's 5th Birthday Party: The Dinosaur Race Car Pizza Party

the birthday cake

On Sunday we celebrated MM’s 5th birthday with friends – in our new house. (I may never get tired of saying that) Many moons ago he requested a dinosaur racecar pizza party and I worked diligently to deliver. He picked out the cake, frosting, etc. and even helped me make the cake – such a big kid.

blowing out the candles

He chose a strawberry cake with chocolate frosting which initially made me raise an eyebrow, but you know what, that kid is onto something because his cake was both pretty and delicious. We topped with tiny plastic dinosaurs that look like they are climbing a mountain, or maybe even a dormant volcano. Just go with me on this one.

cake and ice cream

He also picked out the ice cream – flavor is : Blue Moon. It reminds me of bubble gum ice cream, which according to my husband is because it’s mostly just flavored with corn syrup. Ah childhood.

race car rug and cars from IKEA

I finally got to give him the rug and cars from IKEA – a gift I began plotting months and months before purchase and then even after purchasing had to wait a week or two before giving him – have you ever tried hiding a giant rug from your child? Yeah. Luckily, he loved it and I have to admit I’m pretty thrilled with it and the cars, too. Love IKEA.

playing in the backyard

It was chilly out, but the boys couldn’t resist running around in the backyard for awhile. I love our backyard and it was fun to watch them from the window.

watching from inside My friend snapped a ton of great pictures from inside of the boys playing and BB and her baby watching them play from inside. Eventually they went out and joined also. Of course silly mom got distracted by cleaning and also … shhh, the computer. See during the middle of the party I mentioned wanting a new email address and then suddenly I was actually creating the account and trying to migrate things. :sigh:: In retrospect that wasn’t the best time to do it. I hugely underestimated what an undertaking that was going to be.

But eventually I made it outside and met everyone at a little park down the block from our house – more things I love about this house. Sweet, small, pretty park in ridiculously close walking distance. Score! I was only out briefly because, dude, it was seriously cold out!

But I’m sure it won’t be long until the weather warms up and then we’ll all be outside playing together in that beautiful backyard or walking to the park to take advantage of their terrific playground. Flying kites, basking in the sun, taking long family walks. I’m looking forward to good times spent outdoors!

So, in short – things to remember:

  1. Don’t  decide to change your email address in the middle of a birthday party. You will regret it.
  2. Do let your kid pick out the cake and frosting and ice cream and let him help decorate. That’s fun.
  3. Do not worry if your child asks you for the most random hodge podge birthday party theme ever – with a little creativity, you’ll figure it out.
  4. This party even ended up being pretty frugal and easy going. It was perfect. I love frugal, easy parties. They are the best.


family fun photography

Honey, I'm Home!

moving into our new house

So last Friday (like April 8, aka forever and the heck ago) we finally closed on the purchase of our  first house and then promptly started moving the heck in. We rented a u-haul truck for the weekend, enlisted the help of one of Dan’s coworkers and little by little brought everything over. It took forever. It didn’t help that Dan was on call that whole weekend because one of his customers was doing a major upgrade and of course everything that could have gone wrong totally did. But eventually…

welcome home Mommablogsalot family, welcome home.

We finished. Not that night – that was just the first night – but the picture feels appropriate to the occasion, don’t you think? Also, can we take a moment and go, “Holy heck, that’s Jen’s house. That she owns. And lives in.” It actually happened, guys. I gotta be honest, I was skeptical that it would ever happen. But it did. ::happy dance::

The first week in our new home I was sans internet. There was a lot of internet provider shenanigans that I don’t feel like going into but basically – all internet providers are apparently evil. Just so’s you know. But we got there and today I am finally online on my desktop in my office which is surrounded by boxes and still has no light. But that’s okay. Because I was still able to upload all my pictures and finally get caught up ish feeling unless you count all the blog posts that I marked as read without reading and all the pictures I want to share but don’t feel like I could ever possibly share them all, but I’ll pick and choose a bit and eventually we’ll get there, right?

outside my window the other day

Here’s a view of part of my backyard. Actually this is way the heck out there and mostly neighbor yards, as our yard connects to several other nice big yards and nobody has really fenced in so there’s just this big beautiful grassy area to look at and enjoy and luckily it seems like our neighbors are friendly – yay! Just so you aren’t too jealous, this is what my backyard looks like today:

snow? seriously?

Seriously? Someone needs to tell Mother Nature to knock it off already. Will somebody please send me some pretty spring flowers and warm sunshine? Please?

my kitchen

Here’s a picture of my kitchen. Ignore all the ridiculous stuff on the counters, we’re still very much in the unpacking and figuring out where everything belongs phase.

our living room

Here’s a shot of living room – our living room furniture looks a bit sparse and dingy in this big, pretty living room but I love it anyway. It’s very open and sunny and comfortable with big windows to enjoy.

plenty of room to run around and play too

Plenty of room to run around and play and grow in, too. 🙂

Think I’ll go do that now. 🙂 More later, I promise!

family fun

i'm still here, I swear…

i’m still here, I swear…

If you didn’t guess or figure it out or didn’t really care at first but you’re curious now, we got the house. Let me repeat that: WE GOT THE HOUSE. It is ours. We moved in. We’re drowning in boxes and broken stuff that needs fixing but it’s OUR broken stuff that needs fixing so we don’t mind as much. I literally just today got wifi access so I could check in, but I still don’t have my desk set up so I’m confined to my laptop for the moment. So you’ll have to wait for pretty pictures. And more rambling. And the return to life as normal.

Tonight I clean the apartment and let our landlord know it’s ready to be rented out. Sunday is MM’s birthday party! Woohoo! This weekend will be loads and loads of unpacking when we’re not partying. Cross your fingers that next week I can just *live* in my new house for awhile and not be crazy busy and swamped and also just crazy. And I promise, pictures soon!



Today my little baby, my tiny little bundle of joy, is turning five years old. Those five years? Went kind of like this…

fast, fantastic, fabulous - in the blink of an eye

Sweet little moments. Silly silliness. Loveable cuddles. Amazing milestones. Major ch-ch-ch-changes. His five years on this earth have been a rollercoaster ride of constant change, constant growth, constantly amazing his proud, proud momma.

And to think it all started like this

born april 7, 2006
little MM - one week old

With a teensy little newborn baby. He took his dear sweet time leaving the safe confines of his momma’s belly and even those first few blissful weeks and months of his life were a little crazy. We didn’t have an easy go of it, but it helped that we were so madly in love with him.

first birthday

And before we knew it, we were celebrating his first birthday. We actually celebrated it several times – so many people wanted in on that celebration that we had to split it up into manageable parties. And lots of cake. No complaints there!

on the move!

Seconds after he turned one, this kid was on the move – cruising everything in sight – mommy never sat down again.

his 2nd birthday

By his second birthday we had moved for the third time, finally into our first apartment. Mommy was so tired she broke down and bought a store bought cake. It was still delicious.

turtle hunting on vacation in NH

We have taken a lot of great vacations together in his short little life – and we try to make it a tradition to look for turtles to pose with.  This is one of my favorites.

his 3rd birthday

When we celebrated his 3rd birthday MM was infatuated with all things Madagascar so we threw him a Madagascar birthday party where I made one of my favorite birthday cakes to date.

MM and grandpa at Niagara Falls

Seconds later (two months actually) we moved to Wisconsin. It was crazy and happened in the blink of an eye. We made the most of our move by driving halfway across the country to our new home with the help of my wonderful dad – taking stops along the way at places like Niagara Falls, pretending it was a vacation. Longest vacation ever?

welcome to the world little BB

Minutes later (another two months) MM became a big brother. He transitioned into this new role pretty well – it hasn’t always been easy, but he’s an amazing brother – a wonderful, sweet, clever little boy. ::sniff sniff::

ringing in 2010

He has really blossomed into a full fledged kid these past couple years – with a fantastic sense of humor, a big huge brain and an even bigger heart.

last year we had a meeska mooska mickey mouse birthday party!

By the time his 4th birthday rolled around, we had assembled enough little friends for a really fun Meeksa Mooska Mickey Mouse Birthday Party. It was a small, but awesome party and I had a little bit too much fun perhaps getting the shin dig together.

riding a bicycle feeling so free!

His 4th year has been it’s own little whirlwind of milestones. Learning to ride a tricycle…

did I ever mention that Dan is part Native American?

embracing his Native American heritage. Okay, this picture was actually just from an impromptu trip to daddy’s office, but Dan and the kids really are part Native American (Wampanoag)

learning to swim

learning to swim! MM is taking swim classes for the first time this year and loving it!


He has really fallen in love with books and “reading” and even has a couple of words that he can recognize and read.

future writer

And he’s writing, too! He can write his name, mommy and daddy without help and asks me all the time how to spell… well, everything!

How has it been five years? How has it been only five years? MM, it feels like you’ve been in my life forever and at the same time it feels like just yesterday. I am so proud of you – so madly, crazily in love with you. Your life has been one major event after the other. This year, literally one day after your birthday we’ll be buying our first house. Here’s hoping that by your 6th birthday there aren’t quite the same number of crazy ridiculous changes for you. Let’s slow down a little, sweetheart, and enjoy this amazing childhood of yours!

Happy 5th birthday MM!

Happy 5th Birthday MM!



books & reading reviews spring reading thing 2011

I Read: Heads You Lose by Lisa Lutz and David Hayward

Heads You Lose by Lisa Lutz and David HaywardDid you ever have a creative writing class in high school or college where the teacher wanted you to pair up with another classmate and you’d write one chapter and then they’d write the next chapter? Maybe even the whole class collectively tried to write a story together in this fashion and it inevitably ended up being some ridiculous zombie apocalypse love story treasure hunt set in the 1700’s?

That’s basically what this book is, minus the zombies, apocalypse, treasure hunt and time frame. And okay, even the “love story” is a bit of a stretch.

But – this book came about when Lutz, one of my favorite authors who writes the terrifically funny Spellman mysteries, decided to collaborate on a story idea with her ex boyfriend David Hayward. And, no, they weren’t really on speaking terms at the beginning of this arrangement.

Sounds like the recipe for disaster? Well brace yourselves, because somehow they pulled it off and the results are terrifically fun!

The ground rules for this collaboration were fairly simple:

  • Lisa wrote the odd numbered chapters, David wrote the even chapters.
  • Neither were allowed to edit or change plot points.
  • They tossed a coin to decide who would write the last chapter.

The premise of the story they wrote is pretty interesting on it’s own:

Meet Paul and Lacey Hansen: orphaned, pot-growing twentysomething siblings eking out a living in rural Northern California. When a headless corpse appears on their property, they can’t exactly dial 911, so they move the body and wait for the police to find it. Instead, the corpse reappears, a few days riper . . . and an amateur sleuth is born. Make that two.

From the beginning, each author seems to favor one character – David writes mostly from Paul’s POV and Lisa backs Lacey. Commentary from one author on another’s chapter took the form of footnotes. (1) They also included correspondence between Lisa and David at the end of each chapter, which kind of gives the book the feel of a story within a story as you get to learn more about their past relationship and why it didn’t work out.

Meanwhile, their cast of characters develop somewhat conflicting personalities – like a stripper with a Mensa IQ – and the body count seems to triple with each chapter as the authors take out their frustrations with each other on the characters in the story. With each chapter the stakes grow and change as the story evolves and then re-evolves to cope with their conflicting opinions on who dunnit and who’s gonna solve it!

I really loved this book – as a Lutz lover, it delivered a lot of the fun, quirky mystery novel goodness that she delivers with all of her books. As a would-be writer, this was just such a cool peek into the writing process. I honestly am amazed that they finished the book – and even more amazed that I loved it – because I can so vividly remember those silly writing classes in college and geez, I wasn’t even writing with ex boyfriends back then – how they heck did they pull this thing off? Seriously?

But I did. Like it. Love it. And I think you will, too. (2) This was one of those books that I devoured quickly and then handed to my husband so he could read it, too. And he’s snobbish in his book tastes, so the fact that he’s enjoying it, I’d say speaks pretty highly of the title.

  1. I do love Lisa Lutz’s way with footnotes.
  2. So go buy it, folks! Heads You Lose is available in hardcover or via Kindle as of TODAY, April 5th.