Suddenly Chaos: MacGyver vs. Mud

I’ve talked about the kids’ chore chart in the past. If you missed it, click here. One of their weekly chores is to take out resident mutt, Blackjack, on a walk. Each boy does this task once a week, which results in three long walks for the pup. The benefits are multitudinous. Blackjack is almost 9 years old so the exercise is good for him. As a bonus it wears him out so he’s less likely to dig in the trash and perform other acts of mischievousness during sleeping hours. Exercise is also good for my iPad addicted boys and gets them outdoors with the fresh air and sunshine and, you know, stuff. Rounding out the trifecta is the universal truth that a house with two children is always quieter than one with three, so it gives us a bit of a break.

So MacGuyver (who NEVER has to be reminded to do anything that involves exercise or being outside) takes the dog out for a walk. I was upstairs dutifully working on my grad school assignment (read: blogging and checking Facebook) when somewhere around 45 minutes later, in comes Blackjack and lays down on the opposite side of the bed from where I’m “working.” I can smell him, but that’s not unusual; he is a stinky dog and I have an annoyingly keen sense of smell. Up comes MacGyver, however with a look I’ve seen before. It’s the look a parent gets when they discover that a kid has done something wrong and seek them out. A sort of half-smile, half-I-will-set-you-ablaze-with-my-eyes look.

Through a gritted teeth, I hear MacGyver enunciate, “Blackjack, outside.”

Turns out, the reason the dog went to the opposite side of the bed was because he was COVERED IN MUD and didn’t want me to see him. Somewhere along the walk, MacGyver let him off the leash to run around in an open field. Of course, Blackjack immediately found a ditch full of mud and plowed in, head first. He got stuck, and MacGyver had to pull him out of the mire. Wet and muddy, they trudged home, where MacGyver brought them in through the back yard so that he could hose them both off. With the sliding door about 5 inches open, he kept the dog outside while he stripped out of his muddy pants and shoes.

Blackjack, sensing that this wasn’t going well for him, rammed the kid and knocked him to the ground, wrenched the door open, and ran for cover.

New problem: muddy carpet. From the back door to the bedside, a wet, muddy trail chronicled the journey. Fortunately, MacGyver sprung into action and pulled out the mini carpet cleaning vacuum, which is essentially magical.

The dog, however, had to stay outside for a while.

Never a dull moment…


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…

Put on some lipstick & pull yourself together

“I don’t want to do this, it’s too hard.”

“I’m triggered.”

“Why did you smack him?”
“I thought he took my pencil.”
“Where is the pencil?”
“I found it in my pocket…”

These are direct quotes from my students, middle schoolers who are hormonal and dramatic and lazy. They refuse to learn some days and, in an ironic twist, will go out of their way and work really hard to avoid working. This isn’t a post about “kids these days,” (though I could write a book.)


Change out the words a little and see if it hits closer to home.

“No one will contribute to my GoFundMe, it’s not fair.”

“I need a ‘safe space’.”

“Why are you rioting?”
“My candidate didn’t win.”
“Did you vote?”

Scary isn’t it?

I’ve thought long and hard about this topic and I think I have an answer, inasmuch as you can solve a problem with a broad generalization. So here’s my advice, take it for what it’s worth:

Grow up.

555f03953cbfdf521b85936cb33166ffThat’s it. Grow up. Get up, get over yourself, and go do something. If you don’t have the life you want, it’s probably because you aren’t making it happen, or you are and you need to be patient. The life of a Pinterest board, the life your parents have, the life you’ve always wanted comes after years of hard work, effort, humility, and perseverance. Don’t expect anyone to give you anything. Earn that nonsense.

Stop talking about how people don’t understand your mission or your meaning or your purpose. Borrowing from Picasso: Your meaning in life is to find your gift. Your purpose in life is to give it away. To act justly love mercy, and walk humbly with your God. Period. (That last part was from Micah.)

In the meantime – your purpose is to contribute, in a real way. Stop with the made up niche markets and feeling victimized when people just don’t get you. Stop acting like this broken and imperfect world owes you anything. ANYTHING.

If you find yourself in the same predicament over an over, maybe it’s because you’re doing something wrong. Everything happens for a reason, but often that reason is that you made a bad choice and are dealing with the consequences. These aren’t growing pains, you aren’t misunderstood.

It would be easy to think that I’m calling out the millennials, or the people who are paving a new road, working hard to affect change. But no. Entitlement isn’t generation specific but it is a rampant pandemic. So knock it off.

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.

Life moves pretty fast…

Remember me?

I do this all the time, I announce that I’ll be better a blogging, better at feeding the narcissistic urge I have force feed you the inane drivel of my conscious thought. In the same way that I announce that I’ll get healthy or get in shape or get more sleep or stop putting off laundry for an embarrassingly long time. I announce…and nothing changes.

What I really need to do is commit. Commit to a period of time, every day, to give to this little creative outlet I have. You wouldn’t think it would be hard; I’ve been making some pretty big commitments lately. Most recently, I did this…simonejustin-10I’m engaged!!!

J and I are happy to announce that we’ll be tying the knot in June. I get to be the happy wife to my best friend and the proud momma to Flipflops, MacGyver, and Little One.

We recently met up with Katrina Graham of Katrina Graham Photography who shot a gorgeous engagement session. Here are some of my favorites since I couldn’t possibly choose just one.

Can you even handle the cuteness?

Many thanks to Katrina for capturing our sweet and silly sides and making the whole process effortless!


Doing (almost) everything wrong: instant motherhood.

William Shakespeare once wrote:


Substitute greatness with “motherhood” and I fall into that third category. I wasn’t born a mom (because…that would be weird) and I didn’t achieve motherhood. Instead, I had motherhood thrust upon me. Not with an infant (or two) that I could bond with, nurture, and mold, my kids are fully grown little people with opinions and personalities and eternal souls that I’ve been given the amazing privilege of helping to raise.

And I’ve discovered the secret of motherhood. Seriously, I cracked the code.

None of us have any clue what we’re doing. 

Oh sure, there are books and blogs and recommendation. I’ve done research on blended families, on step-parenting. I’ve adjusted my expectations and made several (dozen) lists. I’ve learned so much along the way. An absurd and ridiculous amount. So much that I often forget the things I learned before and make the same mistakes 6 or 8 dozen times.

For example: did you know that you don’t actually have to engage with your child when they are being ridiculous? So when you send them to straighten up their room and they insist that nerf guns spread out across the entire floor is”good enough” because they need an arsenal, even though we’ve been over and over what counts as a clean room all summer. Apparently you don’t have to get into an unending “No it isn’t,” “Yes, it is!” battle of wills with an 8-year-old. You can just say, “you know the expectations,” and WALK AWAY. Magic!

Anyway, there are days when I feel like the absolute worst person, like I shouldn’t even be allowed around children. When they are mad at me, I feel like I’ve been punched in the gut and when they are hurting, you better step back.

But then there are these moments, beautiful and glorious. The moment when Little One didn’t throw a fit when he sat next to me instead of J at dinner, when Flipflops asks me for help with his summer reading. A random, unprovoked hug or a thank you or an I love you.

I’m pretty sure I’m doing almost everything wrong. Maybe, just maybe, though, I’m doing something right.

Get it together: Handling finances like a grownup

*Note: This is NOT a sponsored post. I’m receiving no compensation for the opinions expressed.*

So…raise your hand if you have a budget.

*moderately impressed*

Keep your hand up if you actually use your budget.


You’re not alone, my friends. A lot of us seem to be under the impression that we don’t really need a budget. Perhaps you have rough numbers so you make sure you end up in the black each month. But do we really have control of our finances? Or, if we have money to cover all of our bills, do we just call it good enough?

It can be intimidating and uncomfortable to start budgeting. Whether you’re single or have a large family, budgeting can make your life a lot easier and less stressful. I’m a huge fan of Dave Ramsey and have gone through Financial Peace University. One of his mantras is: If you don’t tell your money where to go, you’ll wonder where it went.

Dave advocates the envelope system in which you keep physical cash in envelopes so that you can cut frivolous spending. The idea is that you can’t physically spend money that isn’t in the envelope. I understand what he’s saying, but since I pretty much pay all of my bills online, the cash system is more of a hassle than anything else. Plus, it might just be me, but I spend cash so much faster than if I have to use my debit card. In my head cash is free money, because I’ve already “spent” it out of my checking account. Maybe a generational thing? Or another step on my ever-increasing psychosis…meh.

Anyway. Cash envelopes aren’t practical for me. Enter: GoodBudget.

An app with accompanying online interface, GoodBudget allows you to track expenses and create virtual envelopes so you can put all of your money to good use. It’s free to use, but does come with a premium upgrade option (still only $5 per month or $45 for a whole year.)


Set up takes a little time, as you have to create your budget and allocate your money into envelopes. There are tutorials that help you out, though. I recommend doing your setup online and then logging in with your mobile device. Once you get going, though, it’s super user-friendly and intuitive. You can even set up recurring expenses or income so you don’t have to reenter your regular paycheck or your mortgage every month. The app doesn’t connect to your bank account, so you don’t have to worry about security. It also is an easy way to reconcile your bank account as you go, since you can compare your balance on the app and in your account. I may or may not have been known to go hunting through my expenses to find the missing $0.07 so my balances matched. Just saying.

You fill your envelopes at the beginning of each month, even if you get paid sporadically, or bi-monthly (like I do). That way you can keep track of month’s expenses at a time. There is a reports feature to see your spending habits at a glance.


The app also provides support and advice for debt management. I’m staring down the barrel at a mountain of student loans, but having a plan of action for early payoff makes it a bit less stressful.

I’ve been using the app for about 4 months now and I can honestly say that I’ve been spending less, paying off more of my debt, and much less stressed out about money. Adulting means being responsible (bleh) and GoodBudget makes it a little easier to control your funds.

Chub Chub No Rub Rub

We need to talk about something serious.

Chub Rub.

If you’re a thigh-gapped freak who isn’t familiar with this phenomenon (sometimes called inner thigh chaffing) then Chub Rub is the unpleasant sensation of wearing a skirt or shorts in the summer only to have your thighs rub together in a way that convinces you that you are riding a bicycle on the surface of the sun.

It isn’t pretty.

1af251a911cb1919854f96c6cdad03aaIn my skinniest days, I have still never escaped the tyranny bestowed upon me by chub rub. I have great legs, don’t get me wrong, but I’m much closer to becoming a mermaid than a flamingo.

There are a number of home-grown solutions to this epidemic including baby powder to absorb moisture and lace, garter-like thigh protectors you can purchase. I’ve even been known to don Spanx in order to avoid the burn. Frightening commercials about the potentially cancerous ramifications of getting talcum powder anywhere near my lady bits have left me a little gun-shy of the white stuff and you can’t wear Spanx every day.

So I thought I was doomed to a life of painful rashes, bumps, and walking like a cowboy. But then I observed J getting ready for a half marathon. Before putting on his socks, he rubbed down the tops of his toes, his heels, and anywhere else on his body that might chaff with Glide.


Hold the freaking phone.

This stuff has changed my life. Runners and other athletes have apparently known about this stuff for years, but I think it’s basically awesome. No more chub rub, bra line chaffing, or heel blisters. Ladies! Wear your maxi skirts proudly and with confidence, the reign of terror is over!

PS: This isn’t a sponsored post. I just think this stuff is really cool. That’s why there are no links to a purchase site. Ask the almighty Google or check at your local drug store or sporting goods store.

My “perfect relationship” is ruining my life.


I am not a morning person. Seriously.

I’m under the impression that morning people are a bizarre race of quasi-human and shouldn’t be trusted.

I have a certain lifestyle to which I have become accustomed and it involves frantic mornings of oversleeping, hasty work preparations and speedy drives to school, while putting on mascara with one hand and trying not to spill my life-giving coffee. It might not be graceful, but it works for me.

And then came this guy.

J is staying at my house this week since the gremlins boys are with their mom for a month (!) and I’m still in school for a couple more days. It’s been a treat to have him around in the evenings, enjoying our snapshot of domesticity: making dinner, playing cards over coffee, etc. Since he’s sleeping in the guest room, I don’t notice when he wakes up until he comes into my room with a cup of coffee in hand and gently pulls me from slumber. Before I realize it, I’m caffeinated, dressed, and out the door to school on time. ON TIME!

How dare he?

I am not a morning person. I don’t do on time. I revel in the adrenaline rush of the last-minute. Nevermind the calm serenity of leaving on time! Where’s the excitement? Where’s the drama?!

Meh, I guess I could get used to this…