Monthly Archives: September 2015

Kid-Friendly Music That Won’t Make Me Scream (Mostly)

I believe the soundtrack in hell consists mostly of popular music hits sung by children. There are all kinds of really cool playspaces in the Chicago area and I pick where we spend a day based on which ones won’t play me that Kids Bop kind of stuff. It makes me want to scream. There is so much great music out there, there’s no reason we need to subject our kids to that crap, right??

As much as I am an advocate for just playing ANY music for kids, from The Beatles to Jason Mraz to Michael Buble, I have realized that my three-year-old does enjoy listening to songs that are about more than just unrequited love or adult-themes. Like, you know, songs about bubbles. She likes songs about bubbles.

So I created this playlist of music I found that my kids love and that I don’t mind listening to. I threw in some kid-friendly standards and classics, some current “kid musician” songs, to a little Queen. I’m not going to say that every song in here is curse-word free or void of adult references like drinking or kissing or whatnot. I’m not all that concerned about “protecting” my kids ears from things like that, unless it’s really blatant or, well, the Eff-word. So there’s your word of warning.

Some of my favorite tracks on this playlist:

“Yes, We Have No Bananas” from Louis Prima. This is a song from 1922 that first appeared in a Broadway musical revue and has been recorded by dozens of famous and not-so-famous artists throughout the years. Louis Prima is just fun and his version is also just fun. I love Big Band and Swing and pretty much all popular music from the 1920’s through the 1950’s and this is a wonderful example of some vintage music with interesting sounds and instruments for kids to hear and fun lyrics. I adore this one.

“Ho Hey” from The Nashville Cast/Lennon & Maisy. Millie goes through phases where she is obsessed with this particular recording and will not listen to anything else. The song is about two minutes long and we had thirty minute drive to an appointment and we listened to this 15 times in a row. I love The Lumineer’s original of this, but my kiddos like hearing little kids sing together, so this wins. Plus, I’m hoping that the sweet harmonies Lennon & Maisy have will sink into my kids brains so they too have a great sense of harmony.

“A–You’re Adorable” from John Lithgow. I was so excited to discover that John Lithgow recorded three children’s albums (one is a companion album to his children’s book The Remarkable Farkle McBride) that quickly added many of the tunes to this playlist. I love Great American Songbook songs and his does them well enough to please an adult music fan but also very accessible to little ears. This playlist is heavy on the Lithgow. Can you really have too much Lithgow, though?

“Bohemian Rhapsody” from both Queen and The Muppets. Okay, so here’s how two versions of this song ended up on this playlist. I love the Muppets. As you get to know me, you’ll find that my love for the Muppets runs deep and long. I showed the Muppet music video of this to Millie and she went nuts. It was all we watched for a week. I couldn’t not put this song on the list, however, part of me kept thinking that it would be a crime to also not have Queen’s version. THEY NEED TO KNOW ABOUT QUEEN! So there you go. Two versions. But we Wayne’s World Head Bang to both versions, ok?

WHY I LIKE THIS PLAYLIST: it’s light on Disney music (not that there’s anything wrong with Disney music…), it’s very light on actual kids singing, it has artists adults know and love singing kid-centric songs or kid-friendly songs.

spotify:user:1281555282:playlist:1KFWRPgybgkVbnGYw1auhC

Tagged , , ,

The Peculiar Feeling Of Going Viral

Back in May of 2015, I took a video of my then-eight-month-old baby laughing hysterically when the pages of the catalog we were looking at would rip. I posted it to youtube on a Monday evening and by Friday morning, I was watching that same video play back to me on the Today Show.

IMG_7777

By noon that Friday, I was seeing Poppy on The Huffington Post, Yahoo, MSN.com, The New Yorker, and so many more places. One that was particularly surreal was the full article written at The Daily Mail which also included photos from my Instagram feed to really flesh out the story.

It was a strange day… my husband and I were on cloud nine, seeing all these really great things written and said about our darling girl. But to our girls, life was exactly the same… Poppy had no idea that for a brief flash in time, her cute smile and laugh and face were all over the internet, making people smile. We went to the park that day and I wanted so badly to say to everyone I saw “yes… this is the baby you saw on the Today Show this morning.” Of course I didn’t actually say that, but ohmygod it took every ounce of restraint to not.

The views of the video have tapered off now and life is back to normal (hell, it was back to normal on the following Monday morning). Occasionally, I will see a spike in shares and views of it for a few days, mostly now in other countries, which is also kind of surreal… but for a tiny, itty-bitty moment in time, it was fun to see your cute babe become a D-list internet celeb.

Tagged , , , , ,

The Pre-Schooler and the Curse Word

Ahh, that blessed moment when our potty-mouths catch up to us and we hear our own words said back to us with the tiny, innocent voices of our babes. It’s distressing, embarrassing but dare I say….. pride inducing??

damnittarget

My daughter Millie has cursed three times (that I’ve heard) and I am proud in that every single one has been contextually-appropriate. Surprisingly, none of those curse words have been the Eff-Word, since that is probably my word of choice in any situation. All of her first swears have been a form of “shit” or “damn.”

A few weeks ago, we were caught in a violent downpour of rain a mile from our house, the two girls in the double stroller. As the water literally poured down on us from the sky, little Millie sat in her side of the City Mini quietly repeating “Shit. Shit. Shit. Shit.” This makes sense. It’s exactly what I would say in that situation and how I would say it.

I have a hard time telling her that she can’t say these words. She’s not saying them to get a laugh from her audience or to rebel against me or “the establishment.” She’s saying it because she’s genuinely frustrated, along with me, at the rain or the lack of diapers or the fact that the pedestrian jumped out in front of my car and I had to slam on my brakes to not hit him. She’s an empathetic little girl and it even shows in her swearing. I’m kind of ok with that. But I’m pretty sure I have a future filled with notes home from her teachers. And probably the principal.

Tagged , , , ,

A Sonnet To My Crowbar

I’ve been working hard to get the third floor playroom/guest room ready, but I discovered something… I fell in love. Deep, mad love. With my crowbar.

I can say that I am deep into my Third Floor Checklist, which has been modified yet again (I’ll get to that tomorrow), but in the midst of ripping up the disgusting, not-my-pet urine soaked wall to wall carpet, I started to have feelings for this tool. I don’t even know where he came from. I never bought a crowbar. But he was in my basement workshop area, beckoning me just as I was standing there thinking “What the fuck do I use to get those old staples and tack strips off that fucking subfloor??” The needlenose pliers were effective at getting some of the staples up, but they were taking a long ass time to get even one, and they certainly weren’t going to do what I needed done on the tack strips.

But there he was. This guy. He came into my life serendipitously and I can promise you I will never look back.

And because my love is true, I wrote him a poem:

sonnetcrowbar

Crowbar, I did not know my love for you
Within your simple shape, magic exists
People say you’re the best, I’ve found it true
Times spent with you are my favorite trysts.

Just a wee move and you (de)nail my floor
I slip your smooth tool around pesky tacks
Pulling up nail strips is my least fave chore
It’s love, dear ‘bar, cue the sexy-time sax.

You do it all with a slide and a tug
Sometimes the pliers joined us just for fun
With you and the knife we sure cut a rug
Sweaty, spent, wasted, finally all done.

The wood is all gone, no more nails or pricks.
But I’ll come back soon when I need a fix.

Tagged , , , , , , , ,

Millie Can’t Say Fever

One of the best things about (almost) three-year-olds is that they can have conversations with you like they’re an adult, with their own fully formed ideas and thoughts and sentences. But then they go and mispronounce a word and the whole thing is ruined because they are just so damned cute you can’t even take it anymore.

That’s what Millie does to me all the time now. We will go on and on, discussing things (the girl has A LOT of thoughts on EVERYTHING), but then she just says the cutest damned thing. Like earlier this week when she was sick… after a trip to the doctor and several doses of Children’s Advil, she was on the road to recovery without a fever and feeling so much more like herself that she had been. And she wanted to tell me about it. I cannot get over how she says “fever.” OMG I JUST WANT TO SQUEEZE HER CUTENESS SO HARD.

Tagged , , ,

If Stephanie Paints A Wall, She’s Going To Want To Remodel

Three weeks ago, I complained here about wanting to do something with our third floor playroom and guest room. I didn’t quite know where to start. A good, old friend of mine text me something that got me motivated: JFDI. Just fucking do it. So I did.

I went out and bought a beautiful warm white paint (Benjamin Moore Atrium White, which some people hate due to its pinkish undertones but I happen to love because the three windows in the space face east, west, and south) and just started painting!

Just three weeks ago, I thought it was going to be a simple paint job. The to-do list looked like this:

  1. Paint walls.
  2. Enjoy freshened up space.

But…. once I got the beautiful, clean, warm color up, the to-do list became this:

  1. Paint walls.
  2. Rip up disgusting 20 year old wall to wall carpet.
  3. Lay down Flor carpet tiles inspired by this picture that I keep seeing floating around on Pinterest but cannot for the life of me find the original source, even with a reverse google image search.
  4. Enjoy really cool fun new space.

Because I can’t do anything easily, it has morphed into even more projects and drywall, and a handyman and a lot of other crap. I cannot WAIT to show you the finished project!!

Tagged , , , , ,

An Open Letter to the Woman* Who Makes Her Own Homemade Sprinkles

Photography from

Photography from “A View From Great Island”

Dear Dreamy Lady Who Makes Her Own Homemade Sprinkles:

First, let me start of by saying that I am not judging you and your decision to make homemade sprinkles. I love crafty, homemaker-y, DIYish projects from making my own pasta from scratch to becoming a convert of the homemade laundry detergent, but it has never once occurred to me to make my own homemade sprinkles.

Until today.

I woke up bright and too early and turned on my phone to get my first Pinterest fix of the day. And there you were. Mocking me. “How to Make Homemade Sprinkles.” Out of morbid curiosity, I clicked. This was the ultimate click-bait. How the fuck could I not click? I had to see who you were, mysterious Homemaker of the Year.

The first paragraph is spot on:

“This is one of those projects you might just want to keep to yourself.  At the very least you’ll probably get a quite a few quizzical looks, and some of your friends will actually wonder if all your cylinders are firing.”

At least you have acknowledged that this is one of those things that is going to cause a line of questioning that may or may not end in “How much wine have you had today, ma’am?”

But as I read on, the mockery that was bubbling up in me started to melt away. Nay, transform. The mockery became curiosity. By the end of the post, I was overwhelmed with desire.

Desire to know what life is like once you make you own homemade sprinkles. What do you feel when you can walk into your kitchen and know that behind one of those cupboard doors, are the sprinkles you took hours to craft by hand in a pretty glass jar because after you spend a fraction of your life making fucking sprinkles, you sure as shit aren’t going to be storing them in a tomato-sauce stained disposable plastic container with a dishwasher-warped lid. That sprinkly shit is going to be placed delicately a perfectly sized mason jar, perhaps with a bow around it (burlap, probably)? How does that feel to know they sit there in the kitchen, just waiting for you to use them at the right moment… a tea party for new neighbors? A baby shower you throw for your college roommate? Cupcakes for the church bake sale?

What is the feeling like when your husband gets home at the end of the day and asks what you did today? I spent seven hours creating the perfect consistency and color of sprinkle batter and then painstakingly piped it onto waxed paper to harden overnight so I can chop it up tomorrow. “Oh, not much. Just knocked out some things around the house that I’ve been meaning to get to” you say instead. But in your heart, you know. You know exactly what you did today.

What is life like after you have made your own homemade sprinkles? Do you suddenly feel like you can conquer anything that comes your way? Because I sure as shit think you probably can. Train for a marathon after a ten-year brief hiatus from fitness? Sure! Potty-train twins while having a newborn? Bring it, bitches. Knit an ironic and adorable moose-head for your wall? Absofuckinglutely.

You made homemade fucking sprinkles. You can do anything.

Is this how it feels? A sense of empowerment? A secret you silently carry around because you’re smart enough to know how pretentious and sanctimonious it would come off if you happened to mention at your toddlers weekly playdate that you have started to make your own sprinkles? A knowledge that you seriously can do anything with the right amount of patience and counter-space?

I bet that’s how it feels. And, Woman who Makes Her Own Sprinkles, please, again know that I’m not judging. I am in fact envious. I want to feel that way too. I want to feel that all-powerful. You ARE super woman.

Love and Adoration,

Stephanie

*I’m sure there are men out there who have or will make their own sprinkles–sprinkles are obviously equal-opportunity. But in my minds eye, all I can see is a tall-ish, lean-ish, perfectly coiffed and Boden-bedecked woman, who doesn’t pee when she laughs and always finds time for a pedicure.

Tagged , , ,

Love is Love Reflected

One of my favorite things about having a video baby monitor is catching my kids doing things when they think nobody is watching. Today, my three year old Millie did something that just melted my heart.

She just woke up and was still in bed, just chilling. I watched her get one of those stripey hospital baby blankets that everyone has and carefully spread the blanket across her bed. She then grabbed her baby doll, rested it on the blanket and proceeded to swaddle the doll with more care and tenderness than some adults. After the baby was swaddled, she picked it up and just sat on the bed, cradling the doll and rocking her side to side.

Sometimes, the care she shows to others–even dolls–just amazes me.

Trust me. This is her swaddling her baby and it's a-damn-dorable.

Trust me. This is her swaddling her baby and it’s a-damn-dorable.

Tagged ,

Third Floor Thoughts

One of the biggest features we loved about this house is the finished attic—one big room, with three separate zones and a bathroom with a shower. It has your typical “finished attic” features including sloping ceilings, only three windows (one on each gable at the front and back of the house, and one on the side dormer), no central air or heat, and “weekend warrior” workmanship… if you know what I mean.

I believe the previous owners used this entire floor as a master suite–the sconce lighting over where a bed might be and a small shelf sticking out of the wall with a cable jack directly opposite the sconces clue me in to that. We thought about using it the same, but with little babies in the house, I just wanted to be on the same floor as them. Plus we figured out a way to get a master walk-in closet into what we now use as the master, so that made that decision easy for us!

Currently, we use the space for two distinct functions. The smaller area near the front of the house, which is just big enough to comfortably fit a queen sized bed, serves as a guest room. The larger space near the back of the house is now our playroom. This has worked, really, really well for us. One big room=two rooms! Woot!

But the third floor has bothered me. When we first moved it, I used it as an office, but it was just not very inspiring and I hated every moment I spent up there during the day. I know it needs a redesign–not remodel so much as a few cans of paint and a little funkiness.

As you can see in these pictures, taken in August as high noon, the room doesn’t receive much light. The sun directly shines on all three windows, but something about the room just takes whatever sunlight comes in and sucks it up until it isn’t very sunny anymore. Perhaps it’s the current color of all the walls, which I affectionately refer to as “Creamy Nicotine.” I’m sure the dog-hair-laden, rippling puke-brown carpet doesn’t help the cause either.

So I’m on a mission. I’m FINALLY going to this. Change your space, change your attitude right?

A crappy iPhone photo of the guest space looking from the playroom area.

A crappy iPhone photo of the guest space looking from the playroom area.

Another crappy iPhone photo from the little hall that connects the guest room to the playroom. This is the sunlight that comes in during the day.

Another crappy iPhone photo from the little hall that connects the guest room to the playroom. This is the sunlight that comes in during the day.

Tagged , , , , ,

On Potty Training

Last Sunday, my almost-three-year-old Millie declared that she didn’t want to wear diapers anymore.

Yes, it has been time for potty training for awhile. I honestly think she was ready back in the summer of 2014 when she was about to be two, but we had a new baby set to come any minute and the doctor, my neighbor, everyone you meet says to not try potty training right before a huge life change like a new sibling. So diaper-wearing continued.

And… well, I wasn’t ready for potty training. As I do with many big changes in Millie’s life, I was overthinking the fuck out of it and how it would change our lives. No longer could we just go to a random park that didn’t have a potty and play for hours. Once we started the training, our lives would forever be beholden to her bladder and bowels. What about that wonderful pumpkin farm we love to go to every fall? They only have Portable potties and there is no way in HELL this public-bathroom-anxious-germaphobe was going to let her touch-everything toddler in a portable potty.

That’s why I love me some diapers.

But when Millie declared she was done with them, I had to embrace it, even though I hadn’t done any reading about how to do it and was not prepared with any information or gear or candy (for her) or wine (for me). We headed to Target to get cute new underpants (Elsa-themed, of course. Is there anywhere that isn’t covered in Elsa in our household right now? No.)

Monday morning she helped me throw away all the size 5 diapers (except for that giant unopened box I had… I told her I threw those away, but I put them in the Baby Gear Storage Closet for when Poppy chunks her way up to that size) and we never looked back.

I’m not going to go into the ins and outs of how we did it (I skimmed the Three Day Potty Training guide and loosely followed that), but there were some accidents, a whole lot of reward M&M’s, many minutes sitting in a bathroom singing songs and reading books and some nighttime pull-ups.

But what I will share with you is this surprising thing that nobody tells you about potty training your firstborn:

Untitled 4