Friday, September 30, 2022

5 on a Friday: Smooth Sailing?

 1. We are SO CLOSE to feeling comfortable with our routine. SO CLOSE. Some hiccups re: turning in school work on time and catching up from missing class for vacation (we are the worst parents, for sure), but over all pretty terrific progress toward 

2. Minnie has decided on a Halloween costume, and she is currently wearing it every day. **yikes face**

3. My calendar is littered with coffee dates, and I couldn’t be happier about that.

4. I am still blogging at Madison Mom. Check out my swim lesson post here.

5. I reeeeaaaaally need fall clothes, but fashion is confusing right now. What are you wearing?

My pretty and her little dog, too.

Thursday, September 29, 2022

Phew! Making it!

 Minnie is approaching the toddler golden age, where she is still a little squishy baby, but she is also a fully functional (well, expect that she still wears diapers) person who walks and talks and has opinions that she is happy to share. THIS STAGE is why I have 5 kids— it’s just intoxicatingly perfect.

We are having a terrific time at The Little Gym, and it;s weird, but Minnie likes class much more now that she is maskless. She’s maskless because the big kids are maskless at school, so we just seem doomed to get sick this season. Gah. But seriously look how tensed she is to GET THOSE BUBBLES, pinafore and all:
Dorothy is loving dance so much— she just FLOATS right out of the studio. She is also still dressing up like a 90s Barbie, and I am here for it

Sleeping weather is on point right now, but I am going to miss sunny afternoons and going outside without our coats

On Wednesday, I surprised Dorothy and Cooper by picking them up early from school… SO WE COULD ALL GET FLU SHOTS. LOL LOL LOL They loved it.

Monday, September 26, 2022

Rethinking the Family Dinner

Our dinner routine is in need of an overhaul, and it's something I have been thinking about since I listened to this episode of Kelsey's audio-blog.  It wasn't until I saw The Lazy Genius Kitchen on the walk-in shelf at the library last week, though, that I was motivated to tackle my meal problem.

What matters most when I am thinking about meals?

The Lazy Genius Kitchen suggests this question as THE organizing principle when you’re thinking about how to be happier in your kitchen/feeding your family, and I think it’s pretty awesome. It's just such a quick way to get to the heart of the matter, identify priorities, and dismiss all the things that don't matter. She says to think about what could matter, what does matter, and then, finally, what matters most. I LOVE THIS SO MUCH.

For me, right now, in this incredibly busy season, lots of things could matter in all 6 areas of my kitchen (space, meals, plan, food, prep, and table)

Timing, convenience, ingredients, nutrition, harmony, cleanliness, ease, etc. And surely, there is plenty that drives me nuts about this season (even though I am trying to take the Lazy Genius advice to welcome it kindly and just LIVE in it): mainly not having enough time to clean up, kids who don’t eat the food we make, and not having the ingredients on hand that I need because I don’t have tome to get more!

Luckily for me, my kitchen issues are not about space and rhythm. We have the space. We are used to cooking and prepping and eating together. I think I am just feeling out of sorts in the kitchen, which means, according to TLG, I need a new perspective— which OF COURSE, is why I snagged the book in the first place. 

I sped through the whole book at Dorothy's swim team practice yesterday and came away feeling much better about our meal planning/ feeding the family life. We have a lot of things that really do work well. Our kitchen is big and functional. We have all of the tools we need, and even though our drawers need to be cleaned out (ooooooh do they), this doesn't really impact functionality (at least not in a way that prompts me to do anything about it right now because there are other, more pressing issues). In a perfect world, there would be placemats and cloth napkins and prettier table settings, but I just. It's too much to deal with at this moment. We like eating together. Meals are happy times, etc etc etc.


The thing I want to work on the very most (across all 6 areas of my kitchen life) is making sure the food we are eating and the way we are eating it is nourishing us, literally and figuratively. This means no junk food and also no junk attitude (from me too-- like, the busier and more out upon we act about the family dinner, the crappier it is, you know?).

I came right home from swim and made a chicken soup to last a few busy days and some taco meat because Cooper loves beef tacos, and Ben and the boys and I were having nachos for the last night of Big Brother. I realized, too, that doing heavy food prep on Sunday is something that really does make me happier and ups the nourishing aspect of our meals.

Chocolate chip cookies only with peanut butter M&Ms and chocolate chunks


The site of my food epiphany 

Friday, September 23, 2022

5 on a Friday

 1.  I had a weird realization about Harry today. He is SUPER SMART and aced his sophomore year AP history class-- the assignments, the exams, the AP exam itself, with almost no effort. BUT. These are the very same skills his English classes ask him to display (reading texts; understanding them; writing about them), and he just does ok in English (an A, but just barely, or a really high B) and is rarely motivated to actually read the material. Why is that? Just interest level? And does that mean he should really think about history and poli sci for a college major? Those of you with college or almost college kids: did they know what they wanted to major in before you started touring schools? My impulse as an educator is to say no, students should go in wide open and explore all possibilities. But as a parent footing the bill, I feel differently. Thoughts on this one?

2. I am ready to not breastfeed anymore. So ready, in fact, that I scheduled a mammogram for the first week in October even though my doctor told me around 12/21 that my breasts felt great and I could wait until I weaned. But I think she thought I would have weaned by now. I got a mammogram when I turned 40, and my doc said I should spend my 40s going every other year. But then the panny. And the baby. And it has been FOUR YEARS, and my anxiety has gotten the best of me. The radiology department called after I scheduled to dissuade me and said they may have to call me back for another mammogram and ultrasound since full milk ducts and interfere with results, but I kept the appointment anyway. SO. Maybe getting a mammogram will help me feel fine about still nursing because Minnie? IS NOT DONE.

3. Gratitude journaling is as good as everyone says it is, you guys.

4.  This second, busier week was ok. We played hooky on Monday to have dinner with an old friend, so we were not at full, full capacity. But it was … largely ok. Minnie is sick (not covid, flu, or rsv and no ear infection); Coop’s swim coach has covid, and the other kids don’t not have a cough. Dorothy freaking LOVES tumbling, and she is so happy with and proud of her dance team placements. Her hip hop group is (the only group on the whole team) not going to nationals, but she is nationals-bound for musical theater and a hip hop super group. She’s got a dance convention on the horizon next month that overlaps with one of Coop’s swim meets in a helpful way. She also adores her swim team class at Goldfish, and when her super group has rehearsal, she’s busy all 7 days a week. Jack is thrilled to be diving with his old coach and his summer friends once a week, and he has rehearsal for his fall play 4 days a week. Coop is swimming and playing hockey 5 nights each a week (same night sometimes— he’s a rockstar), and his baseball tournament team is gearing up for a couple more tournies before the season ends. He also dives one night a week on my campus, which creates headaches but is also really really cool. Harry is just taking tennis lessons 4 nights a week right now and is working on a speech before the season begins. He is also juggling a really challenging course load and starting to think more seriously about college. Minnie is enjoying swim and gym.

5. It’s FAAAAAAAAAAAALL!! The pumpkin spices! The sweater weather! The chill in the air. So exciting, you guys. (Remind me of this when it is freezing in April, ok)

Her sweet little legs. Back float is my favorite part of class. 

Peppa Pig wanted to ride a bike, so Minnie did, too. She says she is going to be a piggie for Halloween, by the way.

I mean, what do YOU wear on a rando Wednesday

Oh the pigtails

Oh the concentration when she’s choosing her germy communal crayons.

Halloween dresses and fall chill! I am here for it.

Wednesday, September 21, 2022

TFW you're like oh wow it's been a long week... ON WEDNESDAY

 Dorothy came home from  3 hours of dance team jazz, ballet, and musical theater to report that when she got to the studio (for the first time since auditions, after a 3+ week break), she only had one jazz shoe. This is so perfectly Dorothy that I cannot even. That girl loses EVERYTHING.

Since the shoes were BRAND NEW FOR AUDITIONS, Ben stopped by the studio on his way to get Cooper at swim team and dug through the lost and found for it. The whole thing was such an eye roll. But I did get this picture, so that's a win.

Actually, Ben was a total rockstar yesterday. He got home from work in time to take Coop to swim team practice at 6; got his COVID bivalent booster at 6:30; picked Dorothy up from dance at 7 and brought her home; went back to dance to find her shoe; and came home with Coop after 8. Tonight he gets a similar schedule minus the vaccine and hopefully minus the lost-and-found perusal but never say never, and plus one more activity for Coop. Yikes!

This morning, after neither of us slept well, I was huddled on the couch under my new Hilton Head sweatshirt blanket (LOVE IT-- everyone needs a sweatshirt blanket) with a cup of chamomile and lavender tea (warm but like drinking body wash) working. Minnie woke up right at 6 am, so Ben stumbled out of bed to go get her. He stopped in the hallway and asked me (the person literally WORKING) to get her a bottle. Then he stood there, staring into the middle distance, using both hands to reach under his t- shirt and scratch his belly. It was so hilarious I couldn't even be annoyed. I laughed the whole way to the kitchen to pour some whole milk into a bottle my toddler is way too old for. I made fun of him of course, and he couldn't even be annoyed about that because seriously, scratching his tummy like a slow-mo ape was more important than my literal WORK?

Speaking of: No matter how badly I sleep, I really just HAVE to get 90 minutes of work in before 7am if I am going to even sort of meet any goals. This is stressing me out because I know sleep is really important, and I know I am not getting enough, but I have no good solutions. I have to work. I have to hang out with my teenagers at night. I have to deal with my baby in the wee hours. ::shrug:: My days are so much smoother when I have done the most crucial things on my list, used my gratitude journal, and exercised before I have to start dealing with house and family things.

Minnie is her very crabbiest self. I think maybe her ear hurts? I asked her what was wrong and she said "My ear hurts," which seems like it might be reliable information, but she napped and slept fine yesterday (after being awake for like 35 minutes at 3 am which EFF THAT), and when I asked her which one, she kept changing her mind. So maybe they both hurt? Her appetite is coming back, which bodes very well for her adorable little legs.

I am NOT the kind of mom who buys the Peppa Pig Halloween collection on Prime Video so she can grade papers, and I don't even know why you would say that about me.

Monday, September 19, 2022

Sick Minnie

 Minnie got siiiiiick this weekend. I *think* it was Justavirus, something we have not experienced since pre-panny. She had a fever on Saturday and a disgusting runny nose that she has no ability to blow. She’s COVID negative on 2 different brands of tests, and both Ben and I felt crappy earlier in the week— so we might have given it to her? And I probably got it from my students. And she felt worse than we did because SHE HAS ONLY BEEN SICK ONCE IN HER WHOLE LIFE. Well, twice now.

Anyway, she is sleeping WORSE THAN USUAL and usual was preeeetty bad. At 4 am, I told Ben, “I just don’t think I can be happy if I can’t sleep,” which has to be the biggest DUH statement EVAR. Then I realized that getting up with a 5:30 alarm was dumb and slept until almost 7, as did Ben (on Minnie’s floor) and Minnie slept in her crib until 7:30 after fitfully sleeping with me from 2-4:45. I have felt more refreshed, is what I am saying.

She has barely eaten for the last few days, and I am going to be so sad if this cold has robbed us of thick Minnie.

Ben stayed home with the sickie on Saturday morning, and Dorothy and I took Coop to swim and got coffee— she’s a fun date these days.
Cheers to a Saturday night at home:

I got my hair done on Tuesday last week and did not wash it until SUNDAY NIGHT which was kind of gross but also really addicting. HOW LONG CAN I GO?? Stay tuned. Here’s the progression:






The boys had a Bears/Packers watch party in our front yard last night, which I am sure the neighbors loved.

We are just over here girding our loins for an even busier week this week than last, since Dorothy started dance, and Jack has started fall play rehearsals. WISH US LUCK. (And I hope you all have fun despite the September rush as well).

What can I say? He’s a helper.

Friday, September 16, 2022


 1. I don’t really need help— and certainly not HALP. We chose this busy semester, and we jumped in with out eyes wide open. I know that when we find our groove (next week I hope because I promised myself we’d be grooving by the end of the month, damnit), we will be able to handle all of this and more. But dang!

(This tiny hack is so so so so so helpful with the general overwhelm)

2. We had an unbelievably full week, but we are still waiting for dance to start— so we will have somewhere else to be 5 nights a week. WHAT.
(Can’t take dance until she’s 3 but would like to right now, for the costumes mostly.)

3. Speaking of Minnie! She has 2 activities a week already— baby gym and swim. You can’t raise over-scheduled kids without raising over-scheduled  toddlers, is what I always say. But she’s not over-scheduled because have you ever spent a day with a toddler? IT LASTS FOREVR.

4. Harry and Jack get themselves to school and get themselves home and take themselves through the Starbucks line. I miss them! Last year, we drove them both to 2 different schools and spent over an hour a day carting them around, and I don’t think I appreciated how great that was. (But I did appreciate how much time it took out of our already stretched thin days, let me tell you).

5. Cooper has a hockey tape ball. It’s pretty big, so it’s pretty weird that I saw it for the first time this week. Also, it’s pretty weird.

Thursday, September 15, 2022

Welcome to the (Fall Semester) Juggle

 It's only the second real week of our September routine, and I am already feeling frustrated.

  • I got up early this morning and wasted a bunch of time instead of writing because the task of getting back into writing was a lot.
  • Our dryer broke, and this was hugely stressful for me because we do SO MUCH laundry, and I hate being behind. Also, Ben had to work, so I had to deal with it, which I don't do well. TL;DR: Our favorite small business repairman came over before lunch and fixed it on the spot THANJK GOODNESS
  • W are just so unspeakably busy, you guys. It's not that each kid does too much (BESIDES COOPER); it's that we have too many kids. But! It's not their fault we're Duggars, so we can't not give them opportunities, you know?
  • I keep shooting myself in the work foot. Like, Ben had to work from home so I could get my hair done (LOVE IT-- was it worth the money and time? STILL ON THE FENCE), so I can't work from the office on one of my normal days this week, and then little stuff piles up, and I never get to the big stuff ever. YOU KNOW?
  • Dinner is a problem I can't solve. Tonight, I am cooking chicken while I do other things, and I chopped up a ton of veggies. We are doing quesadillas on a serve yourself/make your own basis  because once the activities start, they do not stop. AND DANCE HAS THIS WEEK OFF I CANNOT EVEN IMAGINE.


A few things we are doing to hopefully  make the semester go smoothly:

  • 1. Laminating things! I printed a weekly calendar grid and a weekly meal planning grid, and Jack laminated them. Harry ran to Target for skinny dry erase markers (and I really need washi tape for this to be great, but I used Scotch for now); and I slapped them on the fridge. Now we can all see what's happening after school and what we're having for dinner. Or not having-- a couple days are blanks because I have no clue how food is happening. Ben definitely fed everyone Little Caesar/'s in a banquet room at the hockey rink while Coop was on the ice and before Cooper went to swim, Harry went to tennis, and Jack went to dive. I was working late and came home in time to grab the girls from Ben's moving car, give them showers, and pick Jack up from the diving well. SO DREAMY
  • 2. PLANNING! Ben and I are meeting on the weekend in a really intentional way to update the Google calendar and plan the week's logistics. We are leaving ourselves really detailed notes about who is taking whom where and what the food plan is, and we made a pact to trust our planning selves and not call audibles the day-of. So far, so tolerable. This process is complicated by a few things that all have to do with Cooper. His 2 main sports, swimming and hockey, do not have consistent week-to-week schedules. At least hockey is always in the same place, but the days of the week and the times each day are completely random. Swim is always at one of 3 pools, but the times vary from day to day (differing just enough that I am certain we will drop him off at the wrong place in the dark and drive away at least once this season) and the "schedule" changes from its chaotic norm weekly (and sometimes day-of) due to lifeguard staffing issues and high school swim meets. It's a lot to keep track of. Sure, Dorothy dances 4 or 5 days a week, but her schedule is the same now through JUNE, so I can; hardly complain.. (Baseball is variable, too-- games and practices are never at the same time or even always the same place-- WHAT THE HELL?)
  • 3. Outsourcing to the kids! Dorothy and Cooper are packing their own lunches, finally, and they are getting themselves to and from school without us, as are Harry and Jack. Harry also takes himself to tennis (4 days a week!), ad he helps drive Jack around to his high school clubs. Jack is doing the fall play, a couple of after school clubs, and a weekly dive coaching session ahead of the winter dive season, so he's a pretty busy kid, too.
What are you doing to stay calm when life has no margins? I’d love to hear your tips and tricks!!

Minnie, constantly waving goodbye to her fam:

Dorothy, constantly wearing a full face of make up to school

Harry and Jack, back on their football bullshit
Cooper, proud 5th grader and SAFETY PATROLLER

Tuesday, September 13, 2022

Vacay: The TL; DR


We went to Hilton Head!!!!!!!! As you know because I posted our family beach pics. But I felt like I need to say it again with exclamation points. IT HAS BEEN A HOT SECOND since we have been there— or anywhere, really.

(Past HHI trips: 2019, 2018 (this is the middle of like 10 vacay posts), 2017 (again, the middle of a series is linked),  2015 (more posts surround this one), 2012 (with a BABY— this is post 4/6). What happened in 2013, 14, and 16? NO IDEA.)

What a great vacation! We only had 4 days in HH, and while our original trip was twice that long and we were all sad to leave, I almost think that less is more with a toddler and the freaking Atlantic Ocean, you know? We also lived each day to it’s absolute fullest and made sure we did everyone’s favorite things right away in the trip, so each day was just, like, a string of delights.

Speaking of delights! Minnie experienced her first hotels AND her first sub sandwich— big fans of both.

We stayed in suites when we stopped on the road so everyone could have their own bed and their own space and multiple bathrooms. Ben took the big kids, and I took the little kids, and we were all comfortable. We packed a pack and play for Minnie and used it on the road and at our condo.

We also got to see my brother and Caleb at Caleb’s dad and stepmom’s lovely house in Louisville because torrential rains made us call it quits early our first day on the road. Thanks to Doug and Karen for the dinner, the dip, and the hospitality— what a great beginning to our vacation!

As soon as we hit the island, we started junking up our gorgeous house with all of our stuff, got a little bit cleaned up from the road, and walked 90 seconds to the beach. 

Next up: Dinner and a trip to our favorite ice cream place and park at Harbour Town

We also ran by the grocery store to grab the pick up order we made on the road so we’d have snacks and breakfast at the house.

We crammed A LOT into the next day because there was rain in the forecast, and we didn’t want to miss a second. We were on the beach renting chairs for the trip by 8 am.

The boys were so excited to play paddle ball.
Cooper and Dorothy went out to sea.
Minnie thought she was Moana the whole time and LOVED the waves.
The shark plus the rain made us throw some clothes on our sandy bodies and head to Duck Donuts, the kids’ favorite stop.

Then I fed Minnie peanut butter toast and bananas with strawberries at the house (her fave), and Ben took the bigs out to lunch, leaving me to relax with an audiobook and some road laundry.
He brought me a delicious salad to go, and the big kids and I headed to the beach while Ben and Minnie napped.
(I told you it’s her fave)

My view:

Ben and Min joined us after nap for a round of drinks and some more beach and pool time

And then it was time to shower and dress for family pics

We ordered pizza for the kids and everyone took ANOTHER shower, and then the best thing happened. We left everyone with Harry and had a beach-front dinner BY OURSELVES at the beach club two minutes down the beach. AMAZING.

The next morning, Dorothy grabbed a donut to go, and we hit the beach to see the sun rise and take a walk. 10/10 will do again every morning of every vacation forever.

Ben took the girls to ride ponies (but Dorothy was too old to ride— but not too heavy, which makes no sense) while Harry and I walked behind Jack and Cooper, who biked down the beach— fun for all!

After that, we just lazed on the beach and in the pool until lunch/nap. Ben and Harry picked up our very favorite beach subs, and then Ben took a nap at the house, and I read an awesome book while everyone else played in the ocean. We saw sharks and sting rays ::yikes yikes yikes::

Minnie and Ben joined us in the late afternoon for more of the same— genius.

We decided to wait not one second longer for our very favorite HH restaurant— The Salty Dog— so we got dressed (more showers— so many showers) and had a fabulous time eating, shopping, and eating some more.
Minnie got SO SWEATY. 

Moments after we took this picture, a sweet old man offered to get one with us in it, and then Minnie fell down the stairs and got a face full of gravel, so we said thanks but no thanks.

We shopped for souvenirs instead

(I cannot overstate how sweaty eating in the sun makes Minnie)

Did I mention we had ice cream? Such good ice cream I felt like I was cheating on Wisconsin

We finished the evening with NIGHT BEACH and then more showers. Gah.

Our theme for the next day was LAST DAY, BEST DAY, and we definitely lived our very best vacation lives. We started with another perfect sunrise walk (and donut) for Dorothy and me and then a bike ride back to The Salty Dog for breakfast for Ben and Coop. (Harry and Jack drove(!!) to our favorite bakery for coffees and croissants for the house).

We beached so hard that Minnie had to change her swimsuit even after a dip in the pool because that’s how sandy she was— all before lunch! We ate Stu’s again. Harry watched the baby during nap, so Ben and I could both be at the beach together, and she joined us at the pool sans suit after that.

We spent our last night having dinner at Harbour Town at our favorite outdoor burger place. The boys ordered the same soda cocktails they’ve been ordering since 2012. We toasted a fun trip and bought all of the souvenir things. The kids insisted on popping back to the beach on the way to bed, so everyone took- you guessed it— another shower.

… And then we had to go home **sad trombone**. I will talk more about the mechanics (ha!) of our road trip next time, but it was fun, too, which hardly seems possible. So long! So many kids! Such a tight interior space in our car!