7 Quick Takes: The Emergency Plumber Story

1. One of my favorite things about walking Claire to school is watching the sun rise. Depending on the season sometimes it comes up while we’re walking and sometimes it is peeking up as we come out the door. But the way the sky opens up from black nothing to a box of brilliant crayons in six minutes is magical every single day.

2. Preston’s birthday is in a week and last year I was feelings many negative feelings about it but this year I’m not too bad. I have a lot of feeeeeelings about Preston these days but they are not about his birth. They are about his toddler destruction. He will be two, and he is getting a cake with a dog on it and a stack of board books about dogs. I kind of want to get an actual dog but until Preston stops flooding the kitchen we are going to hold off on that. (MORE TO THAT STORY LATER!) (SUSPENSE!)

3. Here are some trips I would like to take this year: Portland and the coast of Oregon (family trip, as tagalongs after a trip Chris is already taking up there for work), Disney World (at Christmas), New York (well, Long Island, something about a farm and wine part of it, for a wedding where my college roommate is my date, so GIRL’S TRIP!), Hill Country (there’s a crazy resort out there with slides and bikes and I want to spend a weekend with the kids after school is out).

But because I hate planning trips I will probably only do one of these. It is just too much to try and plan a trip with all the kids and then I start thinking about the packing and the unpacking and it suddenly gets REALLY not worth it. It’s UNPLEASANT to think about, actually.

Probably I will only do the wedding, because most of it is planned for me and I just have to buy a plane ticket and I only have to pack for myself. The wedding is in April so I should probably get on that.

4. I have been doing a really great job at getting the house more functional. I have donated ten plastic tubs of household goods to CCA. I have given away another three. We have been in this house for five years and I am looking at everything through a new lens. “Haven’t really used this in five years? GONE.”

I’ve been getting rid of toys nobody plays with and rounding up the last scraps of baby gear. I was feeling thrifty for adopting a new “I am not buying Any! New! Stuff!” attitude. I was on a NO BUY for January! I was feeling so great about the state of our home! I was doing incredible amounts of invisible work.

5. And then on Wednesday Claire got home from school and looked up in the kitchen and said, “Why is there water coming from that light?”

6. Preston enjoys going upstairs and climbing on top of the toilet and using that to shimmy onto the countertop and turn on the faucet in the bathroom. He often gets the entire room soaking wet in less than one minute and then he leaves the water running. I decided to just turn off the water to that faucet, because it was really looking like a situation with no upside.

WELL. Somehow, when I turned the water off I tweaked something in the 20 year old plumbing and it started leaking underneath the vanity. A few hours later it was seeping into the kitchen directly below. Had to call a plumber, keep the kids out of his way, wait forever to him to show up in the first place, set up a time for him to come BACK the next day (between 10 and 1) he showed up at 2, finished work at 3, and the whole thing was just the biggest pain. I was stressed to the absolute maximum for about two days because in all of that time life goes on and kids need lunches and Preston needs supervising and dinner keeps happening (I HATE DINNER SO MUCH).

7. So, in 2015 I am just trying to make things easier. I am trying to simplify. I am trying to remove obstacles and distractions and anything that creates more work. I am trying to avoid any more calls to emergency plumbers.

In Review: 2014


Most questions come from Linda Sharps (@sundry) but I have changed a few over the years.


1. What did you do in 2014 that you’d never done before?

I sent a child to public school! Yes! Off into the wilderness to be educated according to the standards of the masses! (She loves it.) (But seriously, what is up with SO MANY PAPERS coming home each day? So many trees.)

I left my children with a babysitter more times this year than any other year, but somehow I still don’t have a babysitter to call on the regular. Obviously doing this one wrong.

2. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

I want to get our digital files under control. I want to get the photos organized by year, backed up in many places online and offline, make some photo books, make some prints, and figure out the best and easiest and most low-touch way to keep this happening going forward.

If you are the kind of person who already has this problem under control I definitely want to hear how you handle it because copying one of you sounds a lot easier than researching it myself.

Pretty sure I didn’t make any for last year because I never really do.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?

My sister-in-law did! Baby Austen is such a darling little girl.

4. Did anyone close to you die?

No. I did not attend any funerals.

5. What countries did you visit?

For the third year in a row the answer is NONE COUNTRIES. I went to Las Vegas and New Orleans and you might think this means I like to gamble but really I just like food. (Didn’t gamble a dime in either town.)

I keep telling myself this was a transition year. Our days of caring for an infant are behind us and we spent all year with a walking, climbing, chandelier-hanging toddler. (Please see below photographic evidence.)


There are a lot of (potentially unpleasant at dinner parties) people out there who like to talk about how traveling with their kids is SO EASY because they are SUCH GREAT PARENTS and it must be really nice to live such a smug life but the Real Talk here is that traveling with my kids is a NIGHTMARE so nope, not gonna spend money on what will surely be a crap experience.

We have plans for a few getaways and a few bigger trips in 2015. We are hoping Preston at 2 is more manageable and receptive to the phrase “DO NOT RUN INTO THE STREET” than he was at 1.

6. What would you like to have in 2015 that you didn’t have in 2014?

Here’s last year’s request:

Next year I would like everyone to sleep all night long for at least 50% of the nights. I want to gut the half bathroom as a practice for gutting the master bathroom.

And, yes! Everyone sleeps! Everyone sleeps every night, all night, and it’s GLORIOUS. I didn’t get close to gutting the half bathroom but I thought about it a lot and I have a Pinterest board which is really about 80% of the work. Seriously, the DECIDING and the CHOOSING takes all the time.

In 2015 I would like to get this house organized top to bottom and clean out some closets I really haven’t looked in much since we moved here four years ago. I would like a mild summer. I would like more matching children’s socks than not matching ones. I would like no ear infections for Preston.

7. What dates from 2014 will be etched upon your memory, and why?

The day Hugo was diagnosed with a very aggressive tumor and the day a few months later that same tumor was found to be dead. That little boy is such an incredible, miraculous fighter. #gohugo

Claire’s first day of school. I will never forget watching her go into that school and feeling a little bit like she wasn’t mine any more. (If that even makes sense. Which it kind of doesn’t. But that’s the phrase that popped into my head.)

8. What was your biggest achievement of this year?

Managing to get away to New Orleans without the kids and having an amazing vacation. It doesn’t sound like a lot of work, but it was. The schedule coordinating, the redeeming of points, the transporting of the children, the packing…it’s so much work. A lot of the time I can’t even get excited to plan a vacation because my gosh IT IS SO MUCH WORK. But I did it. And we went. And it was great.

9. What was your biggest failure?

I have let the garden just sit there for two years now. I haven’t even really ripped it all out, it’s just overgrown and dead and there are lots of sticks in there. It’s so ugly. But I have none efforts for that stupid garden. I mostly try not to look at it.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?

I had a clean year.

11. What was the best thing you bought?

Two more baby gates. It is so sad that they improved the quality of my life so much, but THEY DID.

Bunk beds for the girls. That has worked out SO MUCH BETTER than I thought it would. They just love it and it’s easy and it works and I’m so glad we did it.

The trampoline. We have gotten so many hours out of that sucker it’s incredible. It was an excellent buy.

Family photos with my parents, grandparents and brother’s family.

12. Whose behavior merited celebration?

Marianne, Hugo’s mother. I have so much respect for this woman it’s hard to put it in words. Her child was diagnosed with an awful form of pediatric cancer and she has kept everything rolling (a whole life! her family! her job! Hugo’s treatment! boring everyday things like laundry, which still must be done!) while treating so many people with grace and kindness. SO MANY PEOPLE. She’s had to be firm with some people, sure, but Marianne has been though so very much this year, more than anyone should ever have to, and she has SO MUCH compassion and generosity left in her heart for other people.

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?

I was quite unhappy with Tiny Prints for screwing up an order and then saying that they would not give me my money back. It’s a long story, and I have most of it typed up as a draft that I will probably post in January but…gosh they were crappy to me.

14. Where did most of your money go?

In this order: federal income tax, mortgage, food. This is the first year in many that we did not spend more on medical insurance than we did on food. A huge blessing for 2014 was having employer-sponsored health insurance.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?

Is it wrong to say that the new, larger, recycle bin was totally a big deal?

16. What song will always remind you of 2014?

Taylor Swift, Shake it Off

Ke$ha/Pit Bull, Timber

17. Compared to this time last year, are you: a) happier or sadder? b) thinner or fatter? c) richer or poorer?

I am happier. I am SO MUCH HAPPIER. I sleep every night and it’s amazing. SLEEPING IS SO GREAT!

I’m thinner. Not by much. But enough so that all my clothes fit.

I’m not richer. Did you know NICU stays are expensive? They are very expensive even almost two years later.

18. What do you wish you’d done more of?

Sleeping. Spa days. Bubble baths with the really good, expensive kind of bubbles that smell up the whole bathroom.

19. What do you wish you’d done less of?

“Preston, stop touching that. Preston. Preston. Stop. STOPIT. Stop. Touching. That.”

“Preston, stop throwing food. DO NOT THROW YOGURT. AH MAH GAH THIS MEAL IS OVER.”

“Preston, stop climbing on that. Stop. Climbing.”

“Preston, stop hitting that (object) on the (wall, door, floor, furniture, car, sister).”

20. How did you spend Christmas?

At my mom and dad’s house where there were eleven people and one large dog under one roof. I felt like we were living in that opening scene of Home Alone where everyone is running around the house all crazy and nobody knows where anyone is. It was craaaaazy.

21. What was your favorite TV program?

Walking Dead. Sonic Highways. We are just this week getting into The Wire (we are so on top of the trends) and I LIKE IT! But Chris is MEH on it so we all need to really talk it up so he keeps watching it with me.

22. What was the best thing you learned?

Learning about Amazon Prime Music was pretty fantastic.

23. What was the best book you read?

I really enjoyed Station 11.

25. What was your greatest food discovery?

If I boil potato cubes and put them in the ricer, the skins don’t go through the ricer! And now I am never peeling another potato ever again! Also I make mashed potatoes waaay more now that I have a ricer. Excellent purchase, even though it’s a huge pain to store.

26. What did you want and get?

The aforementioned dead tumor. #gohugo

A new pizza wheel.

New light fixtures in the hallway and dining room.

27. What did you want and not get?

A new bathroom. A mellow toddler. Gobs of personal time.

28. What was your favorite film of 2014?

Mockingjay was pretty great. I also liked Live, Die, Repeat but I think nobody else did.

29. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?

I turned 35. I don’t remember what I did. Probably dinner out. I have a terrible memory for my own birthday.

30. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?

I would love it if my children could put their clothes IN the laundry basket and not directly NEXT to the laundry basket on the floor.

31. How would you describe your personal fashion concept of 2011?

Can I do a whole bunch of chores in it and also sweat a lot because it’s a million degrees outside? Is it comfortable enough to bend over in and pick up children and shove grocery carts across the parking lot? Are there leggings involved? Okay, I’ll wear it.

32. What kept you sane?

My espresso machine. Highly recommend there Nespresso Citiz.

33. What political issue stirred you the most?

I basically did not watch the news this year. I kind of stopped watching the news a few years ago, actually. Now that I’m sleeping at night and I have more brain cells to think about things other than, “OMG when can I go to sleep?” I might start to date Brian Williams every night at 530p again.

34. Who did you miss?

Um…myself? I missed ME. I did not have a lot of time for personal interests outside of continuous critical thinking about the most efficient way to load the dishwasher.

35. Who was the best new person you met?

I am not sure I actually met a new person this year.

36. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2014.

This house is actively in use as a home for five people. We are living here, right now, and it will always look that way. You know, IT WILL LOOK LIKE PEOPLE LIVE HERE. Sometimes, it will even appear that we have JUST RECENTLY FINISHED A MEAL!

This is not a museum or a magazine or diorama. It’s our home and having fun isn’t nice and neat and that’s just how it is. A sinkful of dirty dishes happens three times a day, yo.

37. Show us one of your favorite photos from the year. 


Christmas Gifting for the Small Fries

I am almost finished shopping and I think this is the earliest I’ve ever said that. I’ll tell you what the kids are getting because I think that sort of thing is helpful sometimes (and so many of you have given me these ideas, thank you!) and also because if I lose this one scrap of paper that it’s all written on (extremely likely) I AM TOTALLY SCREWED.


A blue gummi bear nightlight and a two pound sack of Haribo gummi bears.

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Hair Chalk

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A random Jake and the Neverland Pirates fishing game I found at a discount shop and it will probably fall apart before lunch but it looks like fun for those three hours where it’s all still working.

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A Batman robe from Costco.

crazy nail kit that I found at my favorite discount shop.

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A pink gummi bear nightlight and a two pound sack of Haribo gummi bears

A pink robe from Costco

A Rainbow Dash hoodie

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A small cheapie metal princess bank (because her sister is getting a bank from Grammie and I am all about getting them SIMILAR but DIFFERENT gifts to keep the bickering to a minimum).

A purple princess dress.

A My Little Pony Nail kit

They are both getting:

A cardboard castle that I got at a discount shop for $15 and new markers (from us).

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Santa is bringing:

A super neat game table that I got on ridiculous sale last summer from Land of Nod. They don’t sell it any more but it has several tabletops on it and you can play air hockey, ping pong, foosball and something else I’ve forgotten. This is the BIG gift for both of them.

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Frozen fiber optic lights

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Texas A&M rubber stamps

Books that I got at the book fair this fall

Candy, and lots of it.

A crazy big My Little Pony pillow I found at Walmart that is super cheap-o (it was $9) and it will fall apart but it’s FUN.

Ridiculous plastic bracelets with characters

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A bunch of random stuff I got at Target in the stocking stuffer section that I took to my mom’s house a few weeks ago and I have already kind of forgotten what exactly I bought so here is my personal reminder DO NOT BUY ANY MORE STOCKING STUFF, YOU ALREADY BOUGHT IT.


A tricycle that I have not yet purchased.

Disney World Little People (it was only $20 earlier this week and now it’s back up to $45 so I am feeling QUITE SMUG about this one).

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A plush barn with five horses (I wanted to get the one with dogs but they want $40 for it and the ponies were $15 so….ponies it is.)

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A board book about dogs, if I can find one I like.


I bought A LOT of this stuff at Tuesday Morning, which is totally my new favorite place to shop because they have tons of toys for cheap and they open at 9 am. It’s sort of like TJ Maxx with no clothes and it’s very edited about 1/6 the size. Lots of dishes, towels, pillows, decor, kitchen stuff. Super easy to pop into, see what’s new, and get the heck out. My location is super organized but they can be…difficult to shop in depending on which one you go to.

I scan everything I buy in that place with my Amazon app and a lot of the time it’s the same price but a lot of the time it’s way less.

My kids are totally spoiled but I’m pleased with what’s on this list. They also have grandparents and aunts and uncles buying for them so if anyone in my house is upset on Christmas morning, well, they’re probably on the naughty list because there’s nothing to be sad about here.

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