IRL mama kat's writers workshop


Truthfully, I find the whole “word of the year” thing a little hokey. New Years Resolutions are made to be broken – a whole year is too long to commit to in normal times, nevermind in the middle of a never-ending pandemic. I’m going to change 800 times between now and next December, as will my priorities.

But sometimes I like to do things even when they are hokey and I love contradicting myself. Also I love words. I like that a word that can be reinterpreted and encompass several goals, ideas, and values.

This year the word BLOOM really jumped out at me. I read through a list of word suggestions and thought about what I wanted from this year and what I thought would be worth focusing on. After the doozy that was 2020, I wanted to think small and focus on myself and my family.

  1. I want to continue learning to be patient in the present, to bloom where I’m planted instead of my tendency to only think about the future and consider new changes that might fix everything or just distract me from now.
  2. Like most years, I want to eat healthier and move more. To nurture my body and make the best choices I can in a given moment.
  3. I also want to be tender with myself, to be forgiving and give myself downtime when I need it and indulgence when necessary.
  4. I want to find beauty when the world feels ugly. To focus on the bright little moments, the dandelions in the pavement.
  5. To celebrate everything and everyone. I want to lift others up, and lift myself up, too.
  6. I want to continue eliminating the unnecessary and focusing on what brings me and my family joy. I’ve really enjoyed how simple a lot of aspects of our life have become after being forced to scale our routines back. I want more of that weeding out process.
  7. I want to grow mentally, too. To continue learning alongside my daughter, to try new things, and be creative whenever possible. I want to literally paint flowers and to learn everything.

I could go on, but you get the idea. All these ideas and goals all feel like the word BLOOM to me, so I’m running with it. Even if it’s cliché, if it helps me to focus on these things that feel important, then it’s worthwhile.

The past year has made decision making incredibly tiring and difficult – the pros and cons of simple things like buying milk today and sad choices like cancelling vacations or not seeing grandparents. So this year I’m walking into January knowing that things aren’t going to get better right away but that I’ve proven I can handle what’s thrown at me and that I can thrive and bloom where I am planted.

Do you have a word of the year or a new years resolution? Tell me all about it in the comments section!

You know I’m linking up (late) with Mama Kat’s Writers Workshop. Today I answered the prompt: Write a list of 7 ideas to make this your best year yet. Head to her blog for more prompts and participants.

family fun IRL

counting my blessings in 2020

It’s pretty easy to wallop on this year and list the myriad of things that have gone wrong or changed or thrown us for a loop. All you have to say is 2020 and I think we all collectively groan and grumble about quarantine, politics, social media, curves that need flattening, and the isolation and closeness and sheer Groundhog Day-quality that this year has been.

But it hasn’t all been bad. 2020 has scattered a few blessings in between the chaos, at least for us.

I was inspired by this video by Homeschool on the Hill to look back on some of the ways that this year was good for my family.

The first obvious one is that even though it was under duress, homeschooling my sixth grader has honestly been a joy. That’s not to say it’s been easy or that I haven’t been exhausted or stressed out in the planning and day to day of it all. But I can see how much she’s learning and how much we enjoy sharing this together. We’re loving our Bookshark curriculum and I’m already starting to plan for seventh grade because even when this whole quarantine situation is over, we’re not planning to switch back (at least for middle school).

I would be remiss not to express my gratitude for getting to replace my car this year. We actually replaced both of our aging vehicles and although both happened rather unexpectedly, I’m grateful that we were able to replace them quickly and with little issue. Not paying for private school tuition this year certainly made this situation easier. And I freaking love my new ride.

We have been blessed with so much family time. From camping trips to late night stargazing walks to movie marathons and just the day to day minutes. I’ve not so secretly loved having my brood around so much. Distance learning hasn’t been easy for everyone but my teenager makes it look easy and working from home has been relatively easy for my husband as well.

Although we get antsy with the close quarters every now and then, for the most part we’re all getting along and making the most of these stolen days. If anything, I feel like I am finally learning how to simply be at home. I’m baking more and finding time for hobbies and learning to keep myself entertained without leaving the house as much.

We’ve done some home renovations that we’ve talked about for years like clearing out our office so it can double as a den and gaming room – or replacing our stove (under duress) and putting up a little backsplash. We cleaned out the garage so that my new gorgeous car can park inside (yay!!) and put some chairs on our front step so that the hubby and I can escape outside for a morning cup of coffee and “get away” from the kids for a bit. We’ve also finally gotten comfortable leaving the kids home alone for periods of time so we can go on exciting dates like “to the grocery store” or “what if we got ice cream by ourselves for no reason?”

Those are just a few of the little blessings off the top of my head. It’s nothing earth shattering – but if you ignore the face masks and the toilet paper shortages and the lack of exciting vacations or big parties and the ability to go to Target to shop for nothing while drinking coffee (and yes some of the bigger things we are missing, too), this year almost kind of hasn’t been that bad…

I’m not making light of the struggles this year has provided. There have been plenty. I could write a completely different post listing all my grievances and it would be a long one. And I’m sure yours would be pretty intense, too. But sometimes we need to remember to focus on the rays of light where we find them shining.

Happy Holidays guys – I hope you find some glimmers in the darkness as we count down to the end of a very strange year.


The Proust Questionnaire

I was reading an old post on Cup of Jo about the Proust Questionnaire that Vanity Fair uses to interview celebrities like Tina Fey and Ina Garten. I thought I’d play along today because we’re over halfway through 2020 and I’ve literally run out of things to do (thank god the school year is starting up soon).

Feel free to play along in the comments section!

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

It’s about a sense of calm – not being worried about current events, weight issues, dietary issues, schedules, fears, money. Basically security and ease.

What is your greatest fear?

Definitely the death of a loved one. That’s the kind of stuff that keeps me up at night. Okay, to be fair, lots of things keep me up at night. But that’s the King Poppa.

Which living person do you most admire?

My grandmother. Always have. She’s kind, funny, patient, caring. She moved mountains during my childhood and always had a nice thing to say about everyone. She spends her energy building people up and has always made time for her hobbies and her family.

What is your favorite journey?

I love visiting new places and learning new things. Whether it’s a new to me coffee shop or traveling to a new city or state. I want to do the touristy stuff.

Which words or phrases do you most overuse?

I get stuck on new phrases frequently. You hear something funny or poignant and interesting and you try to find any excuse to fit it in. Lately it’s been things like “I feel seen” or “this is giving me life right now.” Or “I’m so tired of this year and I miss normal life and I want a donut.”

Who or what is the greatest love of your life?

My husband and kids – this one is easy.

Which talent would you most like to have?

I’d love to be able to draw things and have them look like the thing I am looking at. I tend to prefer photography or watercolor because the photograph will look the closest like what I’m looking at and the watercolor can be intentionally vague and make up for my drawing skills.

What is your current state of mind?

Like a ferret, hopping from one shiny place to the next. It sounds like this “ohhh home schooling idea! ugh politics… ohhh new recipe… oh no fears and stresses… oh homeschooling idea! hmmm what if I painted the… oh no, it’s almost dinner time… ugh politics – hey stop texting me everyone! omg so I’m so bored and miss people… why won’t my children leave me alone? I want a donut… aww my kids are so great… ugh politics…”

Where would you like to live?

I like a lot of things about where we live right now but I would love to be in a slightly smaller town. Less crowded stores and restaurants – but with a thriving bookstore or library and an excellent coffee shop and decent wifi. Also I want a room filled with built in bookcases and a kitchen with plenty of storage and counter space. And patio furniture because sitting outside reading is my new favorite hobby. Why, yes, I am old now.

What is your most marked characteristic?

Ummmm. anxiety?

Who is your favorite hero of fiction?

Elizabeth Bennett or Hermione Granger

What are your favorite names?

Emily, Katherine, Isabelle, Michael, Thomas, Daniel…

What is it that you most dislike?

being late, insincerity, a lack of control over my situation

What is your motto?

But first coffee.

family fun IRL

It’s August. | Life update 8.07.20

Is anyone else really struggling to hold onto what day / month / phase of the moon we’re in? Apparently it’s August now and life continues to look the same and wildly different in turns. We’re still grilling dinner more nights than not, staying up late reading books, playing a TON of video games, watching all of Netflix and occasionally braving the grocery store or Target but then gasping our way back to the car laden with groceries and anxiety.

And with August comes the looming reality that school really is starting soon and we’re going to have to commit to whatever that means. I actually ordered our home school curriculum (from these cool people if you are looking for one still) for my 6th grader and next week I officially enroll my teenager into high school which is starting virtually but then come November we have no earthly idea what’s going to happen. This McSweenys post pretty much sums up the landscape though.

So I’m trying to get myself organized for the fall when things like what day it is will matter again. And then getting super impatient that I have to wait a whole month before actually doing any of that. And trying to keep busy by doing things like:

staining outdoor furniture because I’m a handy and capable lady with lots of time on her hands
Experimenting with hair curlers on my eleven year old because why not?
Trying to drink less coffee and more tea because did I mention anxiety and stuff?
Painting bamboo because someone did it on Instagram and I was like ooooooh and then had to try myself – who needs art lessons when you can just steal people’s ideas online and figure out how to do it yourself at home?

And looking at cute baby animals on Instagram for good measure. Obviously.

What are you guys up to this week?

What’s your plan for fall?

What weird new hobby have you picked up recently?

IRL motherhood op ed

Before and After. Thoughts on life before quarantine and “new normals”

People keep talking about the new normal we’re going to have to adjust to when things start to open back up. I have mixed feelings about this phrase because I have mixed feelings about what life in quarantine has been like. The things I will miss and the things I won’t miss if and when life starts to resemble before.

Before quarantine I would stop into a favorite coffee shop for a latte and a treat. Sometimes I’d meet friends. Sometimes I would simply be taking a moment for myself between errands.

Most of these coffee shops will let me pick up these goodies to go, but I haven’t taken advantage of this because it seems like it was never about the latte, it was about the place and the people.

These days my morning starts with making a big pot of coffee to share with my husband who is working from home (though it sounds like he’ll be going back to the office soon). In between meetings we meet in the kitchen and pour another cup and chat about our day so far and discuss dinner. Usually he makes us bacon and eggs for lunch. I’ll be honest, this new ritual is something I’ll miss when he goes back to work.

Right before the spring break that never really ended I chaperoned a field trip to the planetarium with my fifth grader. It’s a favorite field trip of mine and I’m glad it wasn’t one of the many that was cancelled.

I miss volunteering in the kid’s classes, serving lunch to their smiling faces, going on field trips and catching up with school moms. We chat on Facebook but it’s not the same.

That said, I don’t miss the early morning rush or the driving from activity to activity at all. I secretly love having the kids at home all day. Don’t get me wrong, my introvert frequently burns out from the chatter, but I don’t hate midday cuddles and late bedtimes.

Before quarantine I bought a travel watercolor set so that I could paint on the go. That entire sentence seems foreign to me now.

I also carried around a book to read in the car during school pick up because nighttime reading was often sacrificed because of exhaustion. These days I have all the time I need for hobbies. I’m reading three books at a time. I play video games every day, y’all. We watch family movies multiple times a week.

I don’t miss being tired from running errands and saying yes to too many things. I don’t miss the busy. I love a lot of things about this forced slow down. And yet…

I do miss going to Target to look at absolutely nothing. I miss shopping without a mask. I miss a trip to the grocery store not leaving me emotionally exhausted for at least an hour. I miss seeing friends and kissing babies and smiling at cashiers and not cringing about 6 feet of separation.

I know it feels petty to complain about little things like wanting to grab coffee at Starbucks or visit a friend. But we all know it’s not about that really. It’s about being able to breathe and stretch and exist in the world – to smile and laugh and hug each other. That’s all I want.

3 Good Things family fun IRL

3 Good Things for February 7th

A couple of years ago my kids and I started sharing three good things about our day before bed each night. It started as a way to help prevent negative dwelling on all the little things but has turned into a beloved bedtime tradition in our house.

Each kid shares with me (1) something they enjoyed, (2) something they are proud of, and (3) something they are looking forward to. Sometimes I help them out with ideas but these days they are getting pretty good at coming up with three things. They say that the more you focus on looking at the bright side, the easier it is to find. I have definitely found that to be true with this exercise. It’s easy to think of all the things that have gone wrong. Thinking about what’s gone right can sometimes take extra effort.

This week has really kicked my butt. Most of the family is currently fighting a headcold and trying to keep up with our packed schedule has been a challenge. I thought I’d take a minute to stop lamenting the week and share three good things of my own.

1. My hubby and I had an amazing date night recently. We had dinner at a Brazilian steakhouse where they walk around with platters of meat and you take what you like; along with a salad bar to rival all salad bars. We ate like royalty and then walked over to a great local art supply store where I spent a birthday gift card on copious amounts of watercolor paper and a travel watercolor kit.

2. I am really proud of some of my recent paintings. It feels very unnatural to brag about myself. I’m much better at bragging about my kids and I would love to tell you about all the great things they are accomplishing but we moms accomplish a lot too and we deserve praise also. I’ve tackled a few paintings that felt out of my depth this month and I’m proud of myself for seeing them through to a finished product.

3. You guys, I started a book club! I had this hair brained idea to start a super low pressure book club that puts an emphasis on fun and avoids rules or pressure. We’re reading along with Reese Witherspoon’s Hello Sunshine book club but starting at the beginning because we’re moms and we’re late to the party. We’re discussing the first book, Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman at the end of the month and I’m so excited about how many of my friends joined and invited their friends and the vibe has been exactly what I hoped for – A bunch of amazing, fun women excited about getting together to talk about books. I can’t wait for the first meeting!

What 3 things would be on your list right now?

arts & crafts IRL

Learning Something New.

Earlier last month I got the urge to pull out my watercolor brush markers again. I started playing with various watercolor markers and pencils, etc. this year and mostly found myself annoyed with it not looking how I saw the pictures in my head. Either there was too much water or not enough – the paper pilled (especially when I wasn’t using watercolor paper) or the colors wandered. Or it just sort of looked like an eight year old was playing with markers. I lost interest. I’m not an artist.

Then I got bored enough one day to try again and somehow luck and timing resulted in something I actually liked. What??


Finally finding success with the medium, I had to see if lighting could strike twice. It took a few tries, but eventually I did make another one that was good enough to please my inner artist.

Of course in between these two pretty flowers were a couple of other pictures I didn’t like as much, but now I was intrigued enough to keep going. I started painting something every day – sometimes a couple of pictures a day. Especially if I didn’t love the first one. I tried to end with something I liked, at least a little. Eventually I filled a notebook and had to buy more paper. At this point I think we can safely say I have a new hobby.

There are still things I don’t love about basically all of these pictures. There still seems to be a fair amount of dumb luck when they come out good enough to post to social media. There are still so many happy accidents, or less happy. But look at me discovering a new hobby and suddenly becoming less likely to say, “Whatever, I’m not an artist.”

Side story:

Two days ago I went to one of those Paint Night events with a friend – you know the ones where you order a glass of wine (or a glass of cherry coke if you are a light weight like me who has to drive herself home later) and an instructor walks you through painting some gorgeous and totally intimidating looking painting. I’ve gone to several of these now and I freaking love them. Even though up until a minute ago I would never call myself an artist and possibly five minutes from now I might do it again because imposter syndrome is strong in this one – I still always manage to bring home a painting that I am proud of.

Anyway, after a month of playing with watercolor, it was weird going back to acrylic paint. I was a total newbie all over again, following the instructor step by step and step by step going “What?” or “What direction should I hold my brush?” or “Wow that wasn’t what I meant to do,” or “So that just happened,” or “I think my brush is like wrong and broken,” or “Am I doing this right?” I’m a real whiny painter. My friends must love my company.

And to be honest, when I finished painting and took my picture up to be photographed with my painting partner and crime / gal pal (People still say Gal Pal right?), I wasn’t really thrilled with it. I was still looking at all the things that didn’t go according to plan and they weren’t happy accidents yet – they were just normal, boring mistakes. I was telling myself what an amateur I am and look at all those other painters who “did it right.”

Still I went home that night and shared the pictures on social media because pics or it didn’t happen and I’m owning my own process and all that. I went to sleep and woke up the next morning to several nice comments and hearts and likes and I thought awww my friends are so sweet. Then I looked back up at the painting and did a super humble double take because somehow overnight my mistakes had turned into happy accidents… you know, like they always do, and I realized I actually like my painting!

And the moral of my story is, own your progress. Keep trying the things. And remember, as the great Bob Ross would tell us over and over and over, we don’t make mistakes. We make happy accidents.



family fun IRL mama kat's writers workshop memes & carnivals

5 Recent Instagram Posts, Now With Full Stories.

I really didn’t mean to go so long without posting anything other than the occasional tag. It seems like life is determined to keep me busy – not with anything necessarily bad or strange, just life stuff.

Before I get sucked into the Time Vortex again, here are some thing I forgot to tell you about when I was busy being busy.

What do you do during the day on Thanksgiving? We weren’t hosting this year and ended up with a blissfully open morning. In between finishing up some side dishes we spent the morning watching the parade on tv; the boys played video games; and we even had time to play a game of Stranger Things Monopoly. The last time we played, I won my  first game of Monopoly ever in my whole life which is why I even agreed to playing twice in a six month period. Lightning, sadly, did not strike twice. I went bankrupt relatively early and got to watch my husband and son battle it out to the bitter end. No big surprise that Dan the Man won in the end – he’s The Monopoly King in our house.

One of the dishes we brought to Thanksgiving dinner was my MIL’s famous rum cake recipe. BB was eager to help me make the cake this year and is very into the idea that it’s a family recipe to be passed down to her. The only reason I even have the recipe is because we moved halfway across the country and Grammy didn’t want her poor kid to go without a rum cake indefinitely. Now I get to bring it to parties with me and wow the socks off of everyone. BB was a great help of course.

I spotted this little dog toy at my local pet store the other day and was like “Where have you been all my life?” Or at least all of my dog owning life. The Hear Doggy toys claim that they contain an ultrasonic squeaker that only dogs can hear. I don’t know if that’s true or not but I can tell you that I don’t hear any squeaking and that’s good enough for me. Am I the only one that thinks squeaky toys are a cruel torture for pet parents (or parents of human children)? I’m looking forward to giving this to our four legged buddy on Christmas morning.

I don’t really remember how the conversation started but I suggested that MM try on his dad’s hat the other day at dinner so that we could see what he would look like “as an old man” and then I squealed with delight and insisted on taking a picture because I cannot handle this cuteness. His father looks equally handsome in the hat, but seriously? I cannot even stand it. Both of my kids are looking so grown up these days but in this picture he like transcends time. He’s about to sweep chimneys and sing in a musical and I cannot even.

Ok last thing – I found this and a million other intricately folded post-it notes that opened to reveal a Hogwarts acceptance letter and supply list for Taylor the Unihorn and someone named Dokaro Watachl. I’m incredibly jealous that they have been accepted (or excepted) to Hogwarts and I still haven’t received my letter. Also, I feel like this is proof that I’m doing something right.

I’m linking up with Mama Kat’s Writer’s Workshop. Check out her blog for more writing prompts, awesome vlogs, cocktail recipes,  and other awesome things. 

family fun IRL kids motherhood

A Snapshot of the School Year So Far

The kids’ school pictures came in the other day and I cannot stop staring at them. When I was a kid, I feel like most school pictures looked pretty terrible and awkward. Or maybe that was just me? This is not the case these days, at least at my kids’ school. The photographer s so freaking talented and  had the genius idea of taking the pictures outside in natural lighting. Life changing stuff.

Anyway, I thought I’d share their pictures and tell you a little bit about what they are doing in school because I know you guys are deeply invested in the lives of my children like that.

My daughter, BB, started fourth grade this year. In a lot of ways, she’s still my little girly who loves cuddles and thinks I’m basically the coolest person ever. She still loves it when I walk to class with her and is always hoping I’ll be volunteering in the class that day.

She is getting more and more grown up though also.  She loves extra credit reports for fun. Sometimes she asks me to take her to the library to check out a handful of books about seahorses or otters so that she can make a report for her teacher for fun. I can’t wrap my mind around this but I’m not going to tell her no.

Some highlights from the school year so far: This month her class read Caddie Woodlawn by Carol Ryrie Brink together. They took a field trip to a golf course where they learned how to play foot golf – a cross between soccer and golf. They did science experiments on paper towels to see which ones were the most absorbent. She’s continuing piano lessons this year and turning into a real piano Rockstar. Next month she will be joining the school’s Spirit Squad.

A letter from BB about her class’s paper towel experiments

MM started 7th grade this year which feels impossible basically. How are there only two years left until high school? Can someone check my math and confirm? Also how is my kid almost as tall as me now?

Seventh grade is very different from fourth. I basically never volunteer directly in his classroom and I think he’s probably good with that. Don’t get me wrong – we’re buddies at home. But he appreciates that separation between home life and class life. I’m mostly okay with this.

This month his class read Day of Tears by Julius Lester. They have been learning about the civil war and a bunch of other stuff that I don’t hear much about because he’s self sufficient in the homework department these days. He is participating in Forensics after school which has nothing to do with studying bones apparently and is more like public speaking. He’s working on reciting a passage from Gregor the Overlander by Suzanne Collins, which is basically his favorite book. Add to this karate classes three times a week and piano lessons on Tuesdays and my kid is one busy bee!

Want to take a serious walk down memory lane? Here are some school pictures from years past.