The Holt Family + 1

We have an announcement!

J and I love our family. We have three wonderful boys and one lovely doggie. Our home is full of so much love that we felt we were bursting a little at the seams. What to do?!

Add one more to the mix, of course.

Meet our new addition:

Amos Obadiah Holt

Amos comes to us from the Humane Society. So far he likes belly rubs, his new bed, and only sort of knows his name. He does not enjoy sharing his bone and is still getting used to his big brother, Blackjack.

Another boy in my house. Great.


What’s in a name? | Adventures in Bureaucracy

This morning I finally decided to bite the bullet and face the music. I decided to change my name. 

Having been married only a smidge over 6 weeks, I felt pretty good. I’ve heard horror stories of people who put off the big change for a year or more. Ugh. I’m still technically a resident of Maryland, despite my VA address (military weirdness) so I needed to head that way to make the switch, which meant a really wanted to get everything switched in one day to avoid multiple trips.

I had two main objectives:
1. New driver’s license
2. Update HR docs and new badge for work

I went to the Social Security Administration last week and applied for the name change. My new ss card showed up on Friday (only 5 days, what?!) and I took it, my marriage license, birth certificate, lock of hair, blood of a virgin, and incantation crystals to the Motor Vehicle Administration of Maryland, hoping for the best. 

imagesThe drive there was grueling as torrential rain made it hard to see and traffic had my nerves on edge. I finally made it to MVA around 10:30, trudged through the downpour, and found a place in the VERY long line for the information desk thinking if rain is the worst thing that happens today, I’ll be set.


I explained what I needed and presented my documents and talismans for sacrifice. That’s when I found out that I had the wrong version of my marriage license. I needed to take the version I had to the clerk’s office and get a certified copy.

Never mind that this one was signed by the officiant and bore the official seal of the county clerk’s office. Never mind that this was the version that the Social Security Administration accepted for my FEDERALLY ISSUED SOCIAL SECURITY CARD. It wasn’t a certified copy, so I couldn’t use it.

To add insult to injury, I was at the MVA in Charles County. I got married in St. Mary’s County. Which means that the courthouse I have to run over to isn’t even in the same county. Torrential downpour. Everyone closes at 4:30. Clock is ticking. Hmm….

It becomes obvious that I’m going to have to drive the 45 miles to the distant courthouse. I managed a win by stopping by my HR department and switching all of my work documents. New badge: check!

I arrived at the courthouse just after 2 and got the certified copy WHICH HAS EXACTLY THE SAME INFORMATION ON IT. I took it to the MVA location near the courthouse where I waited in line…again. All’s well that ends well though and my new ID is on its way. Soon I’ll be wildly identifiable.

By the time I headed home, the rain finally let up. What even ever.

Suddenly Chaos: Flipflops vs. Fiber

  1. loveValentine’s Day was this week and J and I decided to steal away for a night of passion Chinese food and Costco shopping. With wedding planning and grad school and three kids and the hour-long commute between us that makes weekends the only time we get to see each other, the impromptu Tuesday night date was pure luxury. Especially considering he is working all weekend and I’m playing single mom to two of the boys and a very muddy dog (more on that later.)

I’ve had tummy troubles all of my life, and J is convinced that my fiber consumption is to blame. Thus, during our Costco run, he insisted that we pick up a jar of adult gummy fiber supplements. You take two a day and it keeps things moving. Fine, I say to myself. I’m sure I can use more fiber in my diet and if it makes my guy happy, let’s just go with it. I even took the first dose in the car to show I was on board.

We drop the groceries off at home and got the kids settled in with pizza before heading out on our Valentine’s Date. The plan was to have Mexican, but our usual place was packed. I could feel the first signs of hangry coming to the surface as my normally sunny demeanor shifted to she-who-must-be-fed. We settled on our favorite Chinese place and had a truly lovely dinner. We talked, we laughed, and for a small moment in time we were just a guy and his girl out on a date. No responsibilities, no kids, no stressful jobs. Just love.

There is a certain dread to going home from a date night. The probability that there will be some kind of mess waiting is pretty high and that means taking corrective action with the boys. It’s the part of parenting no one warned me about. The cynic in me walks in the house looking for the problem. The optimist in me prays that there is nothing to find. The exhausted pigeon in me tries to ignore it. The teacher in me knows that this is a teaching moment. The struggle is real.

Generally speaking, the house was okay. I noticed, however, that the bottle of fiber gummies from earlier looked a little emptier than it had when we left. Apparently, Flipflops (who is 13, remember) thought they were candy and didn’t read the bottle. Then this conversation happened:

Me: Who ate the gummies?
Flipflops: …um, me?
Me: How many did you eat?
Flipflops: I didn’t count.
Me: Ballpark it for me, kid.
Flipflops: I don’t know…like, 10?

There was a moment of silent disbelief before J and I burst out laughing. The kid consumed five days worth of fiber in one sitting. While not life-threatening, we knew he’d be in for some major clean-out. It took a couple of days for his system to right itself, and hopefully the natural consequences will encourage him to read the bottle from now on.


Ah, this is the life…

The Glories of Chores

I’m a firm believer that children who don’t do chores grow up to be adults who don’t know how to care for themselves. 

It’s all well and good to assign chores to your children, but without consistency, motivation, and/or consequences, chore time turns into a game of frustration and nagging.

Enter, the chore chart.

Seriously, guys. If you have more than one kid (or roommate for that matter) chore charts are the best. It may seem daunting at first, but setting it up is really no biggie.

Step 1: List your chores and frequency

20161206_155441.jpgNot every chore needs to be done everyday, but some desperately do (or multiple times per day). For us, emptying the dishwasher, feeding the dogs, and setting the table are daily chores. Other things like washing the windows, vacuuming, and cleaning the bathrooms are weekly tasks. Make a list and prioritize so that it’s easier to assign tasks later. 

Step 2: Consider your audience

Flipflops and MacGyver are 13 and 11 respectively and are responsible for their own laundry. Little one is 8 and Swiffers the front hall.

When doling out chores, consider the ages, abilities, and preferences of your brood. One kid may like to vacuum (or doesn’t mind) while another would rather scrub toilets than clean carpets. Older children can probably handle laundry, while little ones might turn all their whites pink. Continue reading

Holiday Home Tour | 2016

Welcome to my home


If you’ve been following along with the Christmas Home Tour from Untidy Grace Creative Co., a special welcome! I’m the last spot on the tour. I hope you’ve enjoyed your trip.

If you’ve missed any stops, check in with Moriah, Megan, and Rachel!

My childhood was full of long winter drives through suburban neighborhoods in search of the best Christmas display. Even now, there is something magical about Christmas decorations at night, glowing lights illuminating an otherwise inky darkness. It seemed only fitting to share a nighttime tour of my home with you….


The piano has always held a special place in my home, and it’s the perfect perch for the sweet creche (the french word for nativity) that’s been around since I was a kid.

This year is a bit of a bittersweet one. After twenty years of decorating my childhood home, this was the last year it would really be “home” for me. By next year I’ll be a new wife and decorating our home as we establish our own traditions.

I’ve taken singular pleasure in crafting the look of our home over time.  A few years ago, we remodeled the kitchen and added color to all of the walls of the main living areas. A soft teal green replaced the blank, off-white canvas. The change forced us to think of new ways to decorate and traditional red and green were out in the bluish space. On the mantle, I’ve grouped white, metallic, and teal accents, anchored on each end by tall, willowy branches of purple-teal eucalyptus. Rectangles of thin cardboard wrapped as gifts in silver paper and dressed with wire-edged ribbon bows give presence to the look.


We’ve never had a live tree. My pine-allergic mother invested in a beautiful artificial tree almost 20 years ago. Once decorated, most people have to get up close to call the bluff. The living room hosts the formal tree. Hand-painted ceramics, glass beauties, and a (nearly) complete collection of White House ornaments adorn the 9 1/2 foot giant.

The formal tree is only the first of many in the house. A thin, wiry specimen graces the corner of the dining room. In silver baubles and white snowflakes, with it’s pretty blue skirt, it seems to grow naturally from the corner of the blue, window filled room. Snowy pine cones dangle from yellow ribbons in the windows.


The home of many trees continues in the front hall with a vintage ceramic set that plays host to the sweetest family. MacGyver and Flip Flops had a wonderful time placing all the tiny plastic bulbs which was my first contribution years ago.


I hope you’ve enjoyed your tour. Maybe you’ve even seen something that inspires you. I also hope you come back to visit often. The season may come and go, but the door is always open, the coffee is always brewing, and friends are always welcome.

Just a Trim | Cutting out the dead ends

Last week I got a haircut.

This isn’t a major event, though, embarrassingly, I haven’t had my hair cut since last May. I told my stylist/friend Lindsey that I wanted to trim away the dead ends. Nothing drastic – a good, healthy shape up. As she washed, combed, snipped, and styled, we chatted away about our lives.

12522994_10103468522584801_2390564703336504702_nWhen she was done, I felt like a new woman. There was nothing significantly different about the style – a little shorter, but not much – but as I ran my fingers through my locks, I could all but feel the freedom of trimming away the dead portions. Plus she’s basically a hair wizard.

Oh, the metaphor.

I started thinking about other areas of my life where “dead ends” are lurking. Why, for example, do I still have the contact information and full text message transcripts of the last four guys I dated (including the jerk who broke my heart) saved in my phone? Delete. Why am I holding on to a Save The Date for a wedding I’m no longer invited to attend? Throw it away. Why do I allow the shame of past mistakes to make me fear the future? Confess it and move on.

Oh, friends, how freeing it is to let go of the things that are weighing you down. What are you holding onto? What are the dead ends in your life?

Maybe it’s time to cut them off.

Does the Universe Dare Disturb Me? Apparently.

A couple weeks ago I was leaving school at the end of an incredibly long day. It was dark and had been raining; the yellowish glow of sodium lights cast a vaguely mysterious haze over the glistening parking lot. At any moment I felt someone may step out from the shadows and begin reciting Prufrock.

Do I dare disturb the universe?

Anyway. I made my way to my car, enormous teacher tote, handbag, and coffee cup in tow. Just as I was about to grasp the door handle to unload my cargo, my leading foot slipped and I jolted forward in a decidedly unladylike fashion.

So far, nothing out of the ordinary had occurred. I’m notoriously clumsy. My greatest hits include Falling Up the StairsWhere Did That Bruise Come From, and the holiday classic Maybe You Should Live in a Bubble. I am the queen of random marks, cuts, and scrapes. On more than one occasion, this is completely true, I’ve had a quasi-intervention where coworkers or concerned friends tell me that it’s okay to seek help if I’m in an abusive relationship. It’s bad, friends.

healthy-food_0611131I looked down at my feet, expecting to see a puddle or some kind of oil left on the pavement. Instead, what I see stopped me in my tracks. In a classic move that I couldn’t make up if I tried, I slipped on a banana peel. A BANANA PEEL. The absurdity of the situation hit me like a ton of bricks and left me gasping for breath as my laughter bubbled to the surface. Somewhere between the classroom and my vehicle I had transformed from a respectable college instructor to a cartoon villain.

Do you ever have one of those days when  you think, this might as well be my life?

You win this round, universe.

Zen and the Art of Painting

I come from a family of people who are, by nature, procrastinators. It always starts so well, usually with some sort of list. We outline the very logical and manageable steps to meet our goal with plenty of time to spare. Then, life. Suddenly, the absolute deadline is upon us and it’s all hands on deck to pull through at the last minute.

c700x420Which is how I found myself painting the baseboards in my guest room Tuesday night. I had to get them done so that the carpet guys could come Wednesday morning. As they installed the new floor coverings, I made the three-hour round trip to pick up my grandmother who was coming to spend Thanksgiving in that room. No minute like the last minute, you know?

Far from my first foray into baseboard painting, I’m a regular seasoned pro at edges and trim. There is something calming about moving a paintbrush along in patient, measured strokes. It isn’t a task that can be rushed, despite the looming pressure of carpet installation. It demands to be taken seriously. This is the kind of work I like to do alone. No distractions, no conversation, just a girl and her paintbrush. In the background, music plays to protect me from delving too far into my thoughts.

In a recent episode of The Big Bang Theory, Raj remarks that there is something lovely about washing the dishes.

“You know, I read that washing dishes can be an excellent form of meditation? The key is that while washing the dishes, one should only be washing the dishes…it’s about be present in the moment.”

It is at once frightening and grounding to be so present in a simple endeavor. I’m struck with the thought that I rarely do only one thing at a time. Even in the most mundane aspects of my day I’m often mulling over some other, more complicated problem or replaying a conversation to parse for subtext.

We’ve now launched head first into the Christmas season. Soon, the pressure of gifts, holiday parties, and financial strain will be upon us. Instead of becoming overwhelmed by the merriment, I pray you will find time to be still and just wash the dishes.

Or paint the baseboards. Just don’t wait until the last minute.

Wildly Identifiable | Easy ID Lanyard DIY

I have to wear an ID badge at work. I must have it on at all times while I’m in the building or at a school function. It allows me to be identified as a “staff” member (sort of…I don’t get paid to be there) instead of a threat to National Security. In a constant effort to be adorable in everything I do, I wanted a cute lanyard on which to display my lovely ID.

Hello, Target dollar section.

I found a cute sparkly lanyard ($1!!!), but after wearing it for less than a week, it was already starting to fall apart. I guess you get what you pay for. So I did what I should have done the first time. I asked Pinterest.


Which is how I found this completely adorable fabric lanyard tutorial from Two Peas In a Pod. Even with my terrible novice sewing skills, I easily whipped out this baby in about 10 minutes. If you have a sewing machine and can sew a straight line, you can make this lanyard. Ridiculous. Since I used fabric scraps I already had lying around and repurposed the hardware from the now defunct Target lanyard, the project cost me a grand total of $0, which is my favorite amount to spend on things.

20150829_111653Mine is a wee bit wider than the original, because I started with 2.5″ scraps instead of 2″, but other than that, I followed the instructions pretty closely. You could use this same method, and wider fabric scraps to make key chains or luggage tags. The possibilities are endless!

Happy Crafting!

Debauchery, Light | 5 Things to do in Vegas if strippers aren’t your thing.

It started with a simple question. I asked my mom what she wanted to do to celebrate her 60th birthday. I thought maybe we’d get our nails done or take in a movie.

I was wrong. So, so wrong.

Instead, it was two single girls on a Sunday afternoon flight to Las Vegas. Because, why not?

Vegas has a rather sordid reputation so I was a little nervous as I packed my bags and headed off for three days of assorted licentiousness. As it turns out, there is plenty to do in Sin City that involved keeping our clothes on.

1. Breakfast at Crepe Expectations

Featured on the Food Network show Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives, Crepe Expectations is unobtrusively located in a shopping center about 10 miles off the Strip. The restaurant is open for breakfast and lunch and features an extensive menu of crepe options that are sure to please every palate. For our trip, we tried The Marco Polo, barely spicy Italian sausage, fluffy scrambled eggs and jack cheese with a spinach add-in, and added spicy chorizo to The Sunday Morning with eggs, potatoes, and cheese.

The food was divine, the weather was perfect, and the outdoor seating area was surprisingly tranquil. What really impressed me, though, was the service. Co-Owner Jenn Remillard took our order and made the suggestions for add-ons that really made our selections sing. She was so sweet and welcoming that I felt like we were old friends by the time we left.

2. Hoover Dam

A short drive out of Vegas proper takes you to the historic Hoover Dam, which straddles the state line from Nevada to Arizona. We parked and walked across the dam, which boasts scenic views and impressively enormous infrastructure. There is also a monument that depicts the exact star placements when the dam was built, exciting the science geek within. The monument features an explanation of how the cosmos was recorded and ends with these words:

When in the course of time the composition of our world and those other worlds in space be more fully known, record it here for future men to see and have seen to speculate, investigate, and carry on the search.

No joke, shivers up my spine.

3. Stand Up Comedy

There are constantly comedy shows going on around town, but we had a great time at The Improv at Harrah’s. Closed Monday nights, the Improv runs shows Tuesday through Saturday. A great tip for scoring tickets at a great deal is to find one of the Tix4Tonight kiosks scattered around the city. Show tickets, restaurant vouchers, and more, it definitely stretches your vacation budget a lot further. You can get tickets up to a day in advance, so it’s great if you have a relatively flexible schedule.

Once you make a purchase, you become a VIP so you can jump the line on successive visits.

4. Rock of Ages – The Musical

The show was fantastic, though not exactly kid-friendly. Currently on at the Venetian, Rock of Ages tells the story of a local hang out under threat of buy out, a couple starving artists with stars in their eyes, and a rock star who has forgotten where he came from. Peppered with sometimes touching, often hysterical covers of your favorite songs from the 80’s, it’s part romantic comedy, part coming of age, completely fun.

*Absolutely no photography allowed (they are watching!) so take your selfies outside before you find your seats.*

5. Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum

Mom getting close to her boyfriend…

It’s corny, but it’s still awesome. Wax figures of celebrities from music, film, sports, and television make you feel like you’re standing next to the real thing, without trying to make awkward conversation. Snuggle up to George Clooney or Channing Tatum, go head to head with Mike Tyson, or jump up and down on Oprah’s couch. The museum also features a Marvel 4D Experience which includes some of your favorite animated superheroes and involves 3D glasses and getting a little bit wet.

Sure, there are a lot of questionable activities in Sin City, but there is also a ton of fun things to do that have nothing to do with Chippendales.