Vacation Re-Entry Status: Bumpy

We got back yesterday afternoon. The Seven Springs vacation was wonderful; we had better weather than we’ve had in a long time up there, every day was sunny, hot, and dry. We spent most of the time at the pool.

I didn’t take many pictures.

Baby Shower table.
Baby Shower table.

Dr. Sis’s baby shower went off wonderfully. Her mother-in-law did a wonderful job with the centerpieces. She also added a game (guess the number of jellybeans in the baby bottle), and we had tons of favors to give away. Food was good, company was better, and Baby Girl G is well set for those first few months!

Baby shoes!
Baby shoes!

She even got an entire box of baby shoes and baby sunglasses!

Poolside Uke.
Poolside Uke.

We spent a lot of time poolside. The children swam for hours each day.

Arcade prizes.
Arcade prizes.

We did spend a couple of hours up at the arcade in the lodge. The children played games and got their requisite pile of junk.

All-in-all, we had a nice time. I was supposed to head into the office today instead of taking my usual Thursday WFH day, but — due, no doubt, to all the swimming — I have a Katie with very painful swimmers ear, and I spent some time this morning getting her to the doctor and filling her prescription. The nanny has the other two out and about, and Kate is resting. And waiting to feel better. I am working via email — which, hey, at least I have that option!

Random Thoughts: The Brain Freeze Edition

I’m having one of those weeks. I have a lot on my mind, and a lot of different stuff to do, and I’m getting what Dan and I refer to as DITH: Deer in the Headlights. I’m just kind of frozen.

brain freeze face

The job search has been unsuccessful so far. To say the least.

The current job — well, I’m still looking. That’s all you need to know.

Although I am very busy, and the projects are marginally more interesting. I have to move a lot of content by tomorrow because…

We are out of town (the annual Seven Springs excursion) from Saturday to Wednesday.

We were supposed to go to Kennywood on Saturday, but do you know how expensive Kennywood is on a Saturday? Unless you have season passes, and/or go on a weekday, Kennywood is hella expensive for a family of five. If I had managed to get the $23 tickets, and/or they had just general admission tickets (i.e. no rides — Kate claims she won’t go on anything), it’s out of our current budget. Which is a real disappointment.

Also, while we are in Seven Springs, we are having a not-shower for Dr. Sis (have I shared here that Dr. Sis is expecting a baby? Well, she is. Due in September. PRAYERS FOR HEALTHY MOM AND BABY WELCOMED.)

And I gotta print out some games and get some prizes for the not-shower.

Best Wishes
This seems like a nice thing to provide for guests at the shower. What do you think?

And drop off the girls’ registration paperwork for school. And pack. And two more days of work, right.

My thoughts are a little ranty, too, re: Donald Trump running for President, the Ashley Madison hack, and Nicky Minaj on the VMAs. I mean, I can’t even.

So: I’m out for the time being! Have a great weekend! I gotta go make some lists and check shit off.

In the meantime, my children are with their cousins, doing this:

Happy almost weekend!

What do you do when you’re like a deer in the headlights?

Project: Food Budget, Week 8

Project: Food Budget

Costco = $211
Farmers Market = $65
Aldi = $5

I know, I know. It looks like I blew the budget out of the water this week.

However, what I did was shop for two weeks.

We will be busy and out of town this weekend (through next Tuesday), so I effectively shopped for this week and next. That’s why I made another Costco trip so close to the Week 5 one. I hate coming home to an empty larder, so I am aiming to prevent that this time around.

I did splurge at the Farmers Market a little bit, buying a trio of cheeses for $22 to bring to a party I was going to Saturday. It was well worth it. I also bought another bottle of 6 Mile wine, just because I felt like it.

I bought tomatoes, which I turned into sauce, and peaches, which I peeled, sliced, and froze for later use. I can’t eat raw peaches. They smell heavenly, but that fuzz gets to my lips, and I can’t deal with the texture. My other farmers market purchases included coffee and a scone (what? I go first thing Saturday morning!), and arugula, which Dan keeps requesting.

It may seem silly to count $5 at Aldi, but I couldn’t find a reasonable amount of rice at Costco, and it is a staple, so I had to make the stop. I also picked up apple juice to make a beer cocktail — three amazing recipes here. Totally worth the extra stop.

I did go off list at Costco (plus bought ziploc bags and paper towels). I bought chicken, and I discovered a four-pack of tofu for $5.29. Plus, I bought three kinds of coffee: whole bean, to grind for the French press; already-ground for the drip coffee maker, which is what I use during the week; and VIA instant, which I keep at my desk.

I may have a coffee problem.

Aside from coffee and other non-perishable foodstuffs, I restocked our coconut oil, which has become a staple. I haven’t started using it as a moisturizer yet, only because it will make me constantly hungry. And, possibly, my children will cannabilize me.

Weekly meal plan:

Sunday: Dinner at friends’ house
Monday: Bella fed me and the children, although I cooked Dan some chicken (in coconut oil), and made him an arugula salad and a caprese salad since he was going to be home late
Tuesday: Tacos!
Wednesday: Tortellini, salmon (for Dan), tofu (for me), and salad
Thursday: Dinner with SIL someplace
Friday: Beans and rice
Saturday: Kennywood picnic day (and Potato Patch fries)

It looks like we are eating out often this week, which is something we hardly ever do. I’ll have to track that for next week’s post.

Anyone else shopping a week ahead?

Emily Levenson
McGinnis and Bean
Erra Creations
Eryn Says…
Seeking White Space
Gardening in High Heels
Melissa Firman
Copy & Post
Shea Lennon
Warm as Pie
Two Eggs Over Easy

Project: Food Budget, Week 7

Project: Food Budget

Giant Eagle Market District = $167.79
Aldi = $63.36

We were in budget at Aldi, but we didn’t get to Target or the farmers market, instead deciding to shop at the Market District, which put us about $100 over budget.

Let this be a lesson to you, kiddies. In addition to planning, saving money takes TIME. We could’ve saved more money if we had had the time to go to four different places. But due to other obligations, we did the bulk of our shopping on Sunday, and needed another trip to Aldi that I didn’t make until Monday evening after work.

Dan went shopping with an incomplete list, although he did have a copy of the meal plan. But, remember, he shops from the list, not the meal plan. I just never had the time to match up the list with the plan. We helped a relative move some furniture, we had a pool party to attend, and we were down to one car for a bit of the weekend. So he was out Sunday with the girls and, in the interest of time, he decided to do all the shopping at the Market District, where they also stopped for lunch.

And then the trip got more expensive when the car wouldn’t start, and he needed to call AAA to bring out a new battery. That was another $118 we hadn’t budgeted for!


Sunday: Chicken (or tofu) and pesto pasta
MOnday: Raviolis in marinara, salad
Tuesday: Corn dogs and mac n cheese, green beans
Wednesday: Tortilla soup, salad, baby carrots
Thursday: Ramen, salmon, stir fry vegetables
Friday: Tacos, baby carrots
Saturday: Pizza and salad

I splurged a little this week on Oreos of all things, mostly because I wanted to give the children something to do. They and our nanny are going to make these yummy little things. And then I will have to hide them from my husband.

Check in with everyone and leave them some love!

Emily Levenson
McGinnis and Bean
Erra Creations
Eryn Says…
Seeking White Space
Gardening in High Heels
Melissa Firman
Copy & Post
Shea Lennon
Warm as Pie
Two Eggs Over Easy

An Unsolicited Review of Magic Mike XXL

I had the great joy to travel to the South Side to see Magic Mike XXL with my friend Dana (@toastismyjam on Twitter), and two friends of hers — who were utter delights. Before I get to my unsolicited review, I just want to tell you how lovely these women were.

First, they taught me a packing trip that may have changed my entire life. When packing for children, put an entire outfit in a ziploc bag for each day you are away OR roll up an entire outfit — pants, shirts, socks, underwear — and secure it with a rubber band. Harkening back to our Chicago trip, this would’ve made such a difference to daily organization.

Second, they thought I was much younger than I am, closer to their age (if my math is right, they are 11 years younger than I), and I could’ve kissed them both when I told them when I graduated from high school, and they were genuinely surprised. That is always a delight.

Okay, onto the show.


Magic Mike XXL was unadulterated joy. Unlike the first Magic Mike, XXL had no pretensions to art film. It was a buddy/road trip film full of buff bodies and tons of laughter. Although we get a Channing Tatum dance in the first 10 minutes, a very self-deprecating dance I might add, we don’t get nudity too quickly. Of course, the first ass we see is Joe Manganiello’s, so I can’t complain.


The story, such as it is, is told through little vignettes of the boys dancing their way at various locations up the coast on their way from Florida to Charleston, South Carolina. Dallas has absconded to China with The Kid; Brooke has decamped for other pastures; and while Mike has fulfilled his dream of starting his own business, he is struggling with the burdens of being his own boss. When Tarzan calls him out of the blue, Magic Mike XXL kicks into all its simplistic glory.

The male entertainers that are the former Kings of Tampa embark on a trip to a stripper convention, which if such a thing exists, I would like to attend someday. Minor drama ensues along the way — Ken and Mike need to work some things out (Matt Bomer is a revelation as an over-the-top spiritual dude); the boys talk about their futures after stripping; Tarzan waxes unexpectedly poignant in the living room of a Southern belle — Andie MacDowell in probably the only role I’ve liked her in since… ever. Aside: Andie MacDowell is kind of the Natalie Portman of her generation, IMO; the characters she plays don’t require much from her aside from looking pretty and pensive. She’s got surprisingly sharp bite in her little role here.

What Magic Mike XXL does best is show off the male physique to the hungry female gaze. It’s pretty fun. Tatum moves, as Dana says, “like water.” His fluid grace is matched in this film by Stephen Boss, who plays Malik. Magic Mike XXL shows every shade of skin and every female body type without comment. The “cameos” in the film are all great fun as well; Donald Glover is adorable, and Elizabeth Banks, as always, is a delight.

But, in my opinion, the movie belongs to Joe Manganiello as Big Dick Richie. His, er, great attribute is also his great burden. (I am saddened to report that we don’t even get a glimpse of Richie’s sidekick, unlike in Magic Mike.) Manganiello plays Richie like a big dummy with a surprisingly sweet and vulnerable side. The expression on his mobile face throughout XXL is baffled concentration to figure out what’s going on around him. His future is the most uncertain because he is, to his impressive core, a male entertainer. Tatum may move like water, but Manganiello muscles his way through his routines. Quite literally. His Christian Gray turn in his closing routine, set to Nine Inch Nails’ “Animal” is… wow.

*whew* I gotta take a minute.

Manganiello also has THE BEST scene in the movie, in the convenience store. I’m not sure how it plays out of context — context is important to this scene, actually — but it had me literally cheering for Richie. By the end of the movie, I wanted to start throwing dollar bills at the screen.

Magic Mike XXL is not the nuanced look at female desire that the original film was. It is much more straightforward, a full on romp.

Magic Mike XXL poster

And I may never look at cookies the same way again.

Image Source

Have you seen it? What did you think?

Listen to Your Mother: Mother of the Year

Header Image by Ashley Mikula Photography

It’s a common social media meme.

“Forgot it was picture day today. My child’s in his uniform with unwashed hair. Mother of the year!”

“Daughter on museum field trip clomping around in her winter boots. How do other parents know to pack a change of shoes? Mother of the Year.”

“Letting the 3yo run around our backyard in his gutchies. I’m either the best mom or the worst mom ever. #MOTY”

We all have these ‘mother of the year’ moments, times when we’re too tired to fight the fight, times when we feel we’re letting our children down — or scarring them for life.

Like that time my then 5-year-old called 9-1-1 on me for being a mean mommy.

Let me set the scene. It is a weekday evening. I work outside the home full-time, and I have three children at home, so weekday evenings are not my favorite. It’s all a big sprint toward bedtime as far as I’m concerned. At this time, my children are 7, 5, and 1.

Dinner that night is leftovers, my favorite dinner of the week. The 1-year-old is already strapped in his high chair. I keep asking the 5-year-old what she wants for dinner, and she keeps arguing with me about I don’t even remember what. (The 7-year-old is conspicuously absent from this story.)

My middle child continues to get increasingly agitated. I think it’s because I won’t cook her a grilled cheese sandwich. “Look, kiddo,” I say, “it’s leftover night. Pick something and I’ll warm it up.”

This is unacceptable.

“I’m going to call the police,” she informs me angrily.

“For what?” I scoff.

I’m going to call and tell them you are being a mean mommy.”

“Kate, I am not being mean to you. Just because I’m not cooking something new, that’s not being a mean mommy.”

Kate stomps out of the room, and stomps right back in brandishing the cordless phone.

“I’m calling!”

* exhale noisily * “Whatever.” I don’t want to deal with this nonsense.

“What’s the number again? 1-9-1? 1-1-9?”

She doesn’t even know the number!

“Kate, you can’t call the police on me.”

“I can! You’re a mean mommy!”

“Please, sit down! What do you want for dinner?”

“No! I don’t want to eat. I’m calling the police!”

“Kate, you can’t call 9-1-1!”

She looks me triumphantly in the face. *beep – beep beep*


Mother of the Year awards actually do exist. For example, the Albany Tulip Festival is giving out its 16th annual award this year. They are “looking for moms who have proven a commitment to their family and their community.” Unless they consider Twitter and Facebook communities, I am not eligible for this award. American Mothers gives out a national Mother of the Year award, plus an award for each state. Maybe I should ask to be nominated.

I would like to think that my children would nominate me for Mother of the Year. I’m their only mother, so I have that going for me. And some days, they think I’m a great mom. I bake cookies, I play board games, I read with them. When I get to say yes to my now 4-year-old son, he throws his little arms around my neck and declares, “You are the best mommy in the world.”

And in that moment, I am. I am the best mother EVER.


Although I had promptly grabbed the phone away from Kate and hung it up, a police officer did come to the house. 9-1-1 protocol is to respond to every 9-1-1 call. A very surprised Kate assured him that everything was fine. “She called you,” I explained to the amused cop, “because I was being a mean mommy.” The officer regarded my daughter with a twinkle in his eye. “I don’t know,” he said. “Santa may need to hear about this.”

Later, as I was trying to explain the gravity of the situation, Kate became very distraught. “But I didn’t even talk to anyone!” she said.

“That number is for serious emergencies,” I explained. “The people on the other end of the phone didn’t know why the call was cut off.

“A bad person could’ve grabbed it and hung it up. Or if there was a fire, it could’ve been cut off. They had to send someone to make sure we were safe.” Poor Kate broke into sobs. As far as I was concerned, her punishment was those tears.


If, by some wild chance, I did win a Mother of the Year award, I would stand at that podium in my off-the-rack Target dress, and I would start by thanking God. Then I would thank my husband Dan, without whom none of this would be possible. And I would thank Gabriel, Flora, Kate, and Michael, all of whom made me the mother I am today: The Mother of the Year.


LTYM cake

ETA: I want to emphatically and enthusiastically encourage you all to view ALL the Pittsburgh videos, starting with the first. Watch the show all the way through. Heck, watch other cities’ shows!

Each story stands on its own. But together, they are amplified. You will go on a journey through motherhood, highs and lows, tears and laughter. Participating was an honor and a joy. Getting to see it again, and read the recaps, has been so much fun.

If you do take the time to watch them all, and/or another city, tell me your favorite!

Going Public

Dan and I decided to send the girls to public school next year, and possibly the year after. It’s part of the attempt to get our financial house in order, a task that is proving more challenging than I thought it would.

I’ve been filling out the paperwork for about the past week now — so much paperwork! — and I should be turning it in next Monday. I’m hoping to get things squared away in time to get Flora on the soccer team, and see what activity Kate wants to pursue. We’ve told the girls the plan. They seem apprehensive, but not overly anxious.

Based purely on finances, sending the children to public school is a no brainer. Aside from tuition, costs associated with private school are not inconsequential. Costs of time as well as money, and while I happily give as many hours as I can, it can be wearing. I am hoping there will be opportunities to participate as a parent at the schools my children will be attending next fall, but I won’t have to stress out about getting my volunteer hours or meeting my fundraising obligation. Plus, they will be busing to and from school, and thus we will be saving money on extended day care, which was a huge expense for us.

But based on other things, choosing to send our girls to public school is fraught for me and Dan. We feel terrible that we can’t afford it right now. We work so hard, and we feel like we just can’t get ahead. We will have to work harder to continue to pursue their religious education. I’d like to get them will rooted in a faith tradition.

Additionally, I worry about the social upheaval for the girls.

Flora said to me recently, “Do you think I’m good at making friends?” I answered honestly that I did think she was good at making friends. I think Kate is good at it too. They are easily social, comfortable with themselves, and not overly shy. I also think that at the ages they are now, making friends for children like them is a natural, organic process. They aren’t yet crippled by the self-consciousness that comes with teenage-hood and the social pressures of that age.

Kate vacillates. “I’m nervous. What will I say?” or “I’m going to be fine at my new school. It’ll be good.” She wants to work on a script for when she introduces herself in her classroom.

They don’t start for six weeks. This child.

Kate and Jester.

Anyway, my biggest challenge at this time is trying not to show the children how anxious I am for them. Because I am anxious — probably overly so. I wish I didn’t have to make this change for them. What if their current friends forget them? What if no one talks to them their first day? Who will they have lunch with? What if classes are harder or easier than they were at their old school? What if children make fun of them for being Catholic?

Ultimately, aside from religious education, I don’t think sending them to public school will be a problem in the long run. Our school district is a good one. Dan and I will be involved. I’m looking forward to the diversity at the new schools. That will be a refreshing change.

How do you feel about making big changes for someone else?

Last day of school outfits
True colors.

Project: Food Budget, Week 6

Project: Food Budget

Aldi = $52.51
Giant Eagle = $14.95
Cash Market = $10.43

No farmers market because it was 4th of July. All-in-all we didn’t spend much this week. I am busy using stuff in the freezer and making sure leftovers get incorporated into meals. I am going to try to stock up this coming weekend, so look for spend to increase to what the original budget was.

Saturday: I picked up some devil’s food cake mix and baked red, white, and blue cupcakes (added nearly two cups of berries, straw- and blue-, subtracted an egg), then frosted them with red, white, and blue buttercream. Dinner was burgers, vegetarian baked beans, green beans, and baked potatoes. Could we have been more American??

Sunday: The big meal Sunday was brunch. Dan did most of the cooking, because brunch is his thing. He made pancakes, eggs to order, sausage and bacon; I made vegetarian sausage and coffee. We had fruit as well: cherries, blueberries, and watermelon. Dan’s family was over: his parents, and his uncle, aunt, and cousin. It was really nice! The rest of the day was leftovers.

The girls acted as servers at brunch. They made sure everyone had drinks, took orders for eggs, delivered food to the table, and were generally sweet and entertaining. Flora gave me a bill for $5.50; Kate gave Dan’s uncle a bill for $100 million.

Monday: gnocchi and salad; chicken for my omnivores
Tuesday: Indian (rice, naan, chana masala)
Wednesday: ramen noodles and tofu
Thursday: brinner (French toast, sausage, eggs)
Friday: pizza

Next Saturday we have a birthday party to go to, and Sunday I am out for girls’ night — Magic Mike XXL, here I come! I guess I should feed my family Sunday before I bail on them to look at abs.

Go see how everyone else did.

Emily Levenson
McGinnis and Bean
Seeking White Space
Gardening in High Heels
Melissa Firman
Copy & Post
Rachel Olive Miller
Shea Lennon

Follow Up to #badCatholic

I’ve done some reading and research over this past week, trying to understand my own feelings regarding marriage equality and my Catholic faith. I am neither a theologian nor a lawyer, so in some ways, I simply cannot speak to the larger issues of these things.

The most important part of the Catholic message is the following (and I am quoting directly from Bishop David Zubik’s letter in this week’s Pittsburgh Catholic):

“The Church has taught and will continue to teach respect for the dignity of all women and men, regardless of sexual orientation. The Church is here for everyone, and Jesus extends his love and mercy to all of us.”

The most imporant thing to remember about America is that we have a firm basis of rights and liberties that are NOT built on religion. I don’t know when the idea of American being a Christian nation took root, but it is simply incorrect.

Are we a nation build on ethical and moral law? We sure are. One doesn’t need to be a religious person to be a good person. Treat others well, do not harm others, be kind, treat every person with respect and dignity. These aren’t necessarily precepts that need to be culled from a religious book in order to be codified into law.

The Catholic church is remarkably consistent in its teachings about sex and death. Sacramental marriage, that is marriage performed in a church by a priest, will remain between one man and one woman. Sex outside of that sacrament is viewed as a sin. Adultery, premarital sex, sex after divorce, and homosexual sex are all rated the same. Priests take a vow of celibacy, hence they cannot marry (hence they are not supposed to be sexually active). Nuns take a vow of chastity; they are viewed as married spiritually to Jesus.

The church is also anti-abortion, pro-gun control, anti-death penalty, and against suicide and euthanasia.

The church also teaches its adherents that we have a duty to care for our fellow humans. We should perform acts of mercy and charity, donate to those less fortunate, and work to see that people are protected from harm. As Catholics, as Christians, that is our part of our calling to love everyone.

Many people have written on this issue much more eloquently than I am able. This article from Dwight A. Moody is well articulated and there’s is this one by John Pavlovitz, about what Christians actually lost in the marriage equality ruling (hint: it’s not the freedom to practice our religion).

So. I’m feeling better. I can return to church in good conscience. I can continue to love and support all of my friends and family. I can pray and be heard. As my father said in a text to me (and I hope he doesn’t mind me quoting him): “Church is important to you for the right reasons.”

I can love. And that’s the most important thing.

Happy 4th of July, everyone. Peace be with you.

4th of July Fireworks