A Tale of Two Octobers

I usually try to keep it light here because I think it takes a special talent to write about serious and deeply personal things in a respectful, eloquent and helpful way.  I know I don’t have that talent.  I’ve been avoiding writing on the blog for a very long time because I couldn’t not acknowledge that I had a miscarriage in March. It’s so personal and delicate a topic to me, but it is also such a sadly common thing for women to experience.  I don’t think it’s right to feel like you have to keep such a heartbreaking thing to yourself out of an old fashioned sense of propriety, but at the same time, I hardly know how to talk about it because it’s left me rather raw. I also have so many friends and relatives who have dealt with pregnancy and infant loss and who, quite frankly, had much more traumatic experiences than I had. So I’ve kept my mouth shut.

Anyway, it’s Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness day today, and that seemed as good a time as any to break my (blog) silence.  For three weeks in February and the beginning of March, I thought we’d be having another baby just about now.  I looked forward to October as new baby month, albeit briefly.  I’m also sad to say that I looked forward to October with apprehension. That baby was a surprise.  Not unwelcome, of course! But a surprise that I needed a bit of time to wrap my head around.  And then when I had finally wrapped my head around it and started to feel excited, I went in for the first ultrasound and found out that there was no baby, that our baby probably didn’t make it much past conception but my body just continued on thinking it was pregnant and not feeling too hot.  It felt like such a sick joke.

Now that it’s October, I still have complicated feelings about it all.  Part of what makes it complicated,though, is that this October has brought me reasons to be joyful. In the past couple of weeks, I’ve felt the first jabs and flutters of a new little one.  At the end of the month is my 20 week ultrasound, at which we will hopefully receive some tie-breaking news.  (Although, to be completely honest, I can never look forward to ultrasounds in a 100% positive way anymore.)

I do think about the what-ifs, but I can’t think about them too much because then it erases the reality of right now.  But at the same time, the reality of right now feels very fragile.  I’m having a hard time being joyful and hopeful about this baby.  I struggle with not letting the negativity overtake me. Ultimately, I know that I have so much to be grateful for. There’s no neat, positive way to wrap this up.  I’m still in the middle of it a bit, as you can see.  I guess, despite my questions, sadness and anxiety, there are a few things I know for sure.  My baby(ies) came from Love and they are loved and that makes this all worth it.


Not coincidentally, we found out about our baby on Valentine’s Day. I’m so glad I thought to take a (upside-down) picture of the test.




First Baby’s 4th Birthday

I once knew someone who, when talking about her daughter’s birthdays and birthday parties, would proudly say it was “my day too.”  That always irritated me at the time, and I still think it’s a ridiculous thing to say, but now I understand why she would say such a thing.

The days that my children were born were monumental days in my life.  I understand why a mother would feel ownership over her children’s birthdays, especially their first child’s birthdays.  My own firstborn gave me such a hard time coming out that I’ll never forget the pain and the fear and the blessed relief when it was all over.  But even so, I can’t claim that it’s my day.  Isn’t that one of the ultimate lessons of parenthood? This is not about me.

VLUU L100, M100 / Samsung L100, M100

How embarrassing is this picture??? That was one of the most difficult days of my life and now, each year, it is the most joyful day of my life.

Today is Sara Kate’s 4th birthday.  It seems like such a big number, but I know I’ll blink and she’ll be 10.  I feel so grateful and humbled that she’s our little girl.  April 6th (and 5th) 4 years ago was one of the most difficult days of my life, but I’d do it again gladly.  She is so worth it.  IMG_5531

7 (or 9) QT: Spring & Summer Bucket List

Dave and I are extremely boring people.  This will not come as a surprise to anyone who knows us.  We are not the adventurous, fly-by-the-seat-of-our-pants types.  I guess we used to be more spontaneous before we had kids, but when SK joined our crew almost 4 years ago we very willingly hunkered down and embraced our true identities: homebodies with iron-clad naptimes and bedtimes.

Don’t feel sorry for us, people.  We are very happy being this way! But there’s something about the arrival of spring that makes me feel the itch to explore and do all the things.  And we live in a pretty awesome corner of the country with lots of things to see and do.  So we decided to compile a bucket list of things to do and see this around Boston in the spring and summer.  We committed it to paper and put it on the fridge which doesn’t make it official of course, but it does mean that it will taunt us as the sunny days full of promise roll in.  And since there are around 7 items on the list (okay, 9), I’m making it a Quick Takes and linking with Kelly. 🙂


  1. Roger William’s Zoo.  We’ve already been there, but it was when Gus was an infant.  Now he’s an almost 2 year old who becomes absolutely giddy when he encounters any animal, so another zoo visit is in store.  There is a zoo that is closer but we’ve never been there because everyone tells us its not that great.  So we’ll stick with what we know.  Do-ability level: medium-high.
  2. Castle Island.  Our neighbor is always telling us to go here because it’s a great place to watch the airplanes take off and land.  Apparently, there’s more to it than that.  Personally, I’m always romantically drawn to islands, so I’m game no matter what.  🙂 Do-ability level: medium
  3. Wellesley Park & Houghton Pond.  Okay, these are two things but the same idea.  A friend of ours works for Wellesley parks and rec and is always telling us to come to Morses Pond so we’re going to check it out.  Houghton Pond is really close by to us and part of the Blue Hills Reservation and it’s free, so we always love going there to swim and picnic in the summer. Do-ability level: high
  4. Crane Beach on a weekday.  Dave and I went to Crane Beach way back before we had kids, and while it’s a really nice beach for  New England, it was crazy packed.  He doesn’t remember it fondly.  I think we need to give it another shot though on a weekday.  To be completely honest, there are tons of beaches within an hour and a half of us, and we just need to explore a little more.  Hence, the bucket list.  Do-ability level: medium
  5. Esplanade Concert.  Egads! This one intimidates me.  Which is ridiculous because it’s one of the classic Boston things to do in the summer.  I think Dave and I might try this for a date night, because I’m still (forever?) a big bedtime stickler.  Do-ability level: low/intimidating.
  6. Storyland.  This is a little kids’ amusement park in New Hampshire.  I’ve been holding out on a trip there because the kids are so young, but I think with Sara turning 4 she’s the perfect age.  Except, she and Gus are prone to motion sickness so between the car ride and the ride-rides, this might be a fail.  Do-ability level: low-medium.
  7. Strawberry and/or blueberry picking.  I have no place in mind, I just think this would be fun. 🙂 Do-ability level: medium (should probably research farms).
  8. Stony Brook & Blue Hills Hikes.  There are tons of places around us to hike.  Stony Brook Reservation is literally less than 5 minutes from our house and we’ve never checked it out and I want that to change, dang it! Do-ability level: high-very high.
  9. Arnold Arboretum picnics: We don’t live very far from the Arboretum and we usually end up there sometime in May for a Mother’s Day picnic because it’s gorgeous.  I’d like to go to the Arboretum more often though, maybe on a weekday with friends.  Again, it’s not far away at all so it’s ridiculous that we don’t get there more often.  Do-ability level: high.


    At the Arboretum last year. Look at that baby! Sob!

So there’s what we have so far.  Any other suggestions for us from my fellow New Englanders?  I mean, we need help, we’re super lame.

And make sure you check out the other quick takes!  

Obligatory Update

Well, it’s been a few weeks since the last post so you know what that means: some sort of vague update is in store!  This time it’s a daybook of sorts.

Reading: Too many things, I’m a little over my head in the book department to be honest!  I’m working on The Importance of Being Little which I am enjoying, but it’s also rather damning in regards to some of my beloved preschool routines and activities.  I’m attempting to keep an open mind.  I also have Acedia and Me, which I am a little scared of starting because I know that acedia is my number one vice.  Hence, why I ordered the book!  I also have The Nesting Place waiting for me at the library, so yeah, lots of things to read!  I’m also dying to reread an old favorite, Coming Home by Rosamund Pilcher. Does anyone else experience this, like a craving for a favorite food, but it’s a book?

Watching:  Downton.  Duh!  (Spoilers ahead) So, I’ve been very “meh” about Downton for the past few years because it was just getting so ridiculous, but this last season has been ah-maz-ing!  But!  Why oh why did Lady Mary get her happy ending before Edith?  I mean, Edith called it like it is.  Mary is a B.

Thinking: Stewing is more like it.  Has anyone else read this article?  I feel so lucky that I’ve been able to nurse my two, but I also know so many women who greatly struggle for various reasons and eventually need to switch to formula.  I hate these types of articles that impose moral guilt on mothers! [Update: Simcha Fisher responds! Thank goodness!  “Women are more than the milk they can make.” Love her.]

Praying:  For sick relatives, for one pregnant sister and her upcoming move and the other formerly pregnant sister and her new baby girl!  Maura Rose was born on February 8th! I can’t wait to hold her little self!

Eating:  (I feel like the following is a bit misleading because I’m not really a crunchy health nut, but it is Lent and I’m trying to stay away from sweets, so I’ve been focusing more on eating healthfully… believe me, I’d rather be baking chocolate chip cookies…and eating the dough…)  I made these homemade apple pie lara bars to snack on and today I made a big batch of quinoa and roasted veggies so I could have veggie bowls for lunch this week.  Oh!  And I made this spinach bacon chicken risotto for dinner last week like a boss! It was so good and so easy, you have to try it!

Playing: Outside!  This weekend was very mild, which was nuts because last weekend it was in the subzero temps!  It’s such a blessing to have these mild days in the middle of winter.  We also went to the indoor trampoline park this morning.  The kids didn’t like it at all.  😉IMG_5534IMG_5541

Wearing:  Too many stripes, probably.  I’m afraid we’re all going to look back on ourselves 10 years from now and shake our heads at all the horizontal stripes.  But I can’t help myself!  And I feel like it must be classy, right?

I mean.      Image

Thankful: As always, for my Dave.  I was able to get away for most of the day Saturday to view several of the Catholic Conference 4 Moms videos with some fellow Catholic moms at a nearby parish.  I came back so refreshed with my extrovert cup filled, and the kids had a great time with Dad of course.  Whenever Gus has too much alone time with Dave, he starts calling me Daddy.  Funny, he doesn’t call Dave Mommy despite me being home with him all the time.  Dad’s just a special guy. 🙂

Looking Forward:  Spring!  I can’t wait to see if the bulbs come up that I frantically planted in November. We also have a lot of house projects on the horizon.  A new roof, new paint job, maybe new paving, and hopefully a nice facelift to our living room too.  We bit the bullet and ordered a new slip cover for our couch because it’s really been looking shabby lately.  We ordered it in a dusky shade of blue instead of the parchment shade of off-white we have already and I’m so excited!  With a new couch (color) and fresh paint on the walls, it will be like a whole new room!

What’s Saving My Life This Winter

I love the discussion going on at Modern Mrs. Darcy about what’s saving us this winter.  It’s so true that it’s easy to be glum and to complain to each other about the drudgeries of winter, but isn’t it nice to think about the things that are helping us survive and even enjoy this season? I think so! I really wanted to link up with her last winter, but I chickened out because it seemed like all of my things were vapid little vanities.  But you know what? Pretty little things make me happy.  So! Here are my silly and more serious things that are saving me this winter.

  1.  Pretty nails:  I have a deep weakness for the Essie display at CVS.  I picked up their color  Stones n’ Roses yesterday and it’s just perfect.  It’s a soft peachy-pink that is just a whisper of spring.  Sara and I are both wearing it!IMG_5454
  2. Clinique Naturally Glossy Mascara This was the one and only mascara I would buy back when I first started wearing mascara, because it never clumps and never gave me spider eyes.  But somewhere along the line, I fell into that line of thinking that my eyelashes needed to be full! plump! look fake! and I bought all the trendy mascaras that we supposed to achieve those looks.  So, last month after I got pink eye, I needed to buy new mascara and I thought, “hmm, maybe I’ll go back to my old Clinique Naturally Glossy.” Best decision ever!  It’s just as good as I remember it, and it was a reminder to me that I don’t like clumpy, volumizing mascara, I just want something to emphasize my natural lashes.  
  3. Burts Bees Tinted Lip Balm in Sweet Violet Speaking of emphasizing my natural features, I finally found a lip gloss that does that!  I think there was a Small Things Blog post a long time ago that talked about finding a lip color that’s like your lips but better, and I’ve been obsessed with the idea ever since then.  I’m not a lip stick gal, at least not yet, so I was thrilled to stumble upon Burts Bees Tinted lip balm a little while ago.  Sweet Violet is that perfect purply-pink that plays up my lips’ natural color.
  4.  My birthday! Every year just when I think January is going to get the best of me, my birthday rolls around at the tail end.  It saves the month every time.  I feel bad for all of you who don’t have a winter birthday to break up the drudgery, I really do!
  5. Books: I’ve been eating up the non-fiction like whoa lately.  Earlier in January, I read the Rule of St. Benedict for my book club, which was a nice reminder for me of the need for structure, order and self-discipline in the home.  Then there was Secrets from the Eating Lab by Traci Mann, which I took some lessons from (more on that later) and now I’m finishing up These Beautiful Bones by Emily Stimpson of the awesome blog The Catholic Table.  I’m really loving this book.  I love her take on the broader lessons of Theology of the Body, and how it branches into hospitality, manners, how to dress and take care of one’s home and the sacredness of food.  I can’t recommend it enough!
  6. Lent is coming soon:  I know this sounds odd and maybe seems a little  masochistic, not to mention probably my most famous of last words, but I’m really pumped for Lent this year.  This is my first Lent in 5 years that I haven’t been pregnant or nursing, so I feel like I have no excuse not to really work on self-denial.  Plus, knowing that Lent is coming so soon means I’m relishing my birthday cheesecake and evening wine while I can! I still haven’t completely decided whether I’m going to do a Whole 30, but for sure, I’m going to give up sweets and alcohol and attempt a 40 Bags in 40 Days.  But, (reeling myself in) in this last week before Lent, I’m going to really be praying for Him to tell me what I need to work on this Lent. 


    I also relished these bacon wrapped, goat cheese filled dates on my birthday. All of them. By myself.

  7. Exercise: The beginning of January really stunk, (and then I got pink eye) but then when I was reading  Secrets from the Eating Lab, the chapter about the necessity of being physically active really jumped out at me.  I’d fallen off the bandwagon with exercise.  I was still getting a run or a DVD in once or twice a week, but not most days like I had been last summer.  No wonder I felt so blah!  Traci Mann writes in her book, the Department of Health and Human Services recommends that adults should get 150 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise a week, which boils down to about 30 minutes of exercise, 5 days a week.  Ugh, I make so many excuses! Sometimes I’ll have a good run on Saturday or Sunday and then do nothing the rest of the week.  That once a week run isn’t really doing anything for me the rest of the week, mood wise or health wise! No more excuses, I’m aiming on getting my 150 minutes in because it’s the bare minimum of what I should be doing to be healthy, and I know I’m much less grumpy and anxious when I’m exercising regularly.
  8. Dave:  Gosh.  I married up.  He’s just such a good, patient and fun Dad and such a self-sacrificing spouse.  I don’t know what I would do without him, no matter what time of year it is!

Tenacious Pink Eye & Other Happenings

Don’t worry, you can’t catch pink eye from reading a blog post…

or can you???

As the title suggests, we have a particularly stubborn case of pink eye going through our family at the moment.  It all started last month when we stayed at Claire’s house over Christmas and Jackie came down with pink eye. Well, Gus brought it home and it’s been through almost every member of both of our families since then.  Claire texted me a goopy-eyed selfie this morning to alert me of it’s new victim, but I’m a nice sister so I won’t share that with you.  Dave is the last man standing in our house, and he is literally quaking in his boots with apprehension.


How to pink eye like a boss: wear shades everywhere. No, actually, just stay home.

But on a happier note, today is Rose’s birthday!  Happy birthday to our high-achiever of a sister who is an artist, dance master, wife and mother extraordinaire.  She’s currently putting the finishing touches on her fourth grand masterpiece, so please keep her in your prayers as she approaches her due date on Valentine’s Day!

And in related news, our oldest sister Jane is expecting her 5th this June, and we just found out she’s having a boy! Rose doesn’t know the gender of her little one yet, but if she has a boy the grandkid gender scale will be even at 7 boys and 7 girls!

This is from the last time Jane and Rose were pregnant at the same time, in 2009!

This is from the last time Jane and Rose were pregnant at the same time, in 2009! 

Last and least, I’m just finishing up Secrets From The Eating Lab by Traci Mann.  I ordered it from the library after reading Modern Mrs. Darcy’s take, and I breezed through it this weekend.  It’s very interesting! Before reading, I was gearing up to do a Whole 30 during Lent this year but now I’m on the fence.  I know I’m the last person in the world to try a Whole 30, so those of you who have done it, what are your thoughts?  I’d love to hear!

Gotta go while it’s still naptime!


7QT: Library Finds and Thanksgiving Pics

Linking up with Kelly today to share some randoms, like I do.  🙂

  1. This really needs to be quick because I should be working on Gus’ stocking.  I wish I could say it’s a labor of love…  It’s a doozy!
  2. It’s been really mild here, considering it’s the first week of December!  Ordinarily I would be a little sad about this, wishing for a white Christmas and all.  But no, this year I’m dreaming of a balmy Christmas and a mild winter, just like the one before Sara was born.  I’m totally suffering from ptsd after last winter!
  3. Apart from worries about our roof and gutters surviving another winter like last year’s, I’m worried about the winter because we’ve discovered that outside time is vital for Gus’ happiness. Gus is like a little puppy; his daily needs are cuddles and attention, chow time, and outside time.  He is the best version of himself when he’s outside throwing and kicking and hitting things with sticks.  But when he’s been stuck inside too much, watch out!

    Just going a liiiiitle crazy.

    Just going a liiiiitle crazy.

  4. Does anyone else find Trader Joe’s Holiday Fearless Flyer to be a near occasion of gluttony?  Just me?  I just need to give TJ’s all my money, that’s what this is coming to. My recent favorite purchases have been gingerbread coffee and their sea salt and turbinado sugar dark chocolate almonds.

    Yes, that is me holding the flyer over my garbage can.  It eventually went in after some drool inducing reading.

    Yes, that is me holding the flyer over my garbage can. It eventually went in after some drool inducing reading.

  5. I picked up some great Christmas books at the library yesterday!  One I ordered specially, Christmas in the Barn by Margaret Wise Brown, with illustrations by Barbara Cooney.  I LOVE Barbara Cooney’s illustrations, and sadly this version of the book with Cooney illustrations is out of print, so I was happy to find it in the library system!  I also picked up a sweet book about St. Nicholas, since St. Nicholas day is coming up.  It’s called The Gift of St. Nicholas by Dorothea Lachner.
  6. I’m planning on doing a little purging this weekend to make room for presents and such. (When am I not planning on purging? Sigh…)  Still, this Verily article hit a nerve.  I always feel a little guilty when I purge, especially my wardrobe.  I know it’s a luxury to be able to part with excess and/or replace something I don’t really like.  I need to be a better steward of the things I already have and think twice before buying frivolously.
  7. Oh! And Thanksgiving! It happened, and it was lovely! We went to my mom’s house as usual and it was lovely as usual.  She’s been hosting Thanksgiving for the extended family every year (with a break for the year Jim was born) since 1987? 88? One of those late 80s.  That’s a long time! She’s a pro! Of course I took almost no pictures, but here are some random pictures that kind of give you a taste of McFamily-ness.
    Carmela and Sara prancing down the road to Gigi's house.

    Carmela and Sara prancing down the road to Gigi’s house.

    Sara convinced a reluctant "Uncle Chim" to dance with her.

    Sara convinced a reluctant “Uncle Chim” to dance with her.

    Baba on tv telling us all why the $15 minimum wage is a terrible idea.

    Baba on tv telling us all why the $15 minimum wage is a terrible idea.

    Happy weekend, everyone!

Fighting off Advent Apprehension

Can I tell you something? This used to be my favorite time of year. Thanksgiving, Advent, Christmas, I looked forward to this time of year all year long. But now I kind of dread it.  And not because I’m a mom and I have more to do this time of year.  It’s because there seems to be so much pressure these days, especially on Catholic moms, to “get it right.”  To do Advent right and Christmas right.  The questions and blog posts have already started.

Do you do Santa?

When do you set up the tree?

Are you successful at keeping Advent sacred and unsullied by Christmas revelry until midnight of Christmas Eve?

Maybe it’s just my easy-going personality, but I think my McFamily did things pretty well.  We were always very aware of and into the Advent season. We had our Advent wreath and usually a paper Advent calendar and we could take turns opening the door for the day. Later in my childhood my mom found this Advent read-aloud called Jotham’s Journey that we all really enjoyed.  But, we also got our Christmas tree usually half way through the month and we decorated it right away, while listening to Christmas music. We believed in Santa Clause, but we would also get a present from Baby Jesus on Christmas morning. Some years we went to the Christmas Eve Mass and but later on we mostly went to Mass on Christmas morning, some years before opening presents if I remember correctly! My point is, I think my parents did a good job of teaching us about the true meaning of Christmas.  We knew Advent was a season of preparation, but we also were excited about Christmas coming and enjoyed the magic of the decorations, the music, the special movies and treats.

I understand the intent behind this “keep Advent sacred” movement.  We live in a world where the Halloween candy appears at stores in July and Santa shows up in September.  I get it, we all need to reel it in and recognize that Christmas is on December 25th and the season of Advent comes before so that we can prayerfully prepare our hearts and our homes.  But, maybe it’s because I’m not much a disciplined, austere person myself that I don’t see the harm in a decorated tree on December 12th and Christmas songs playing while making dinner in December.  As an adult, and especially since becoming a Mom, the darkness descending outside at 4:30pm makes the rest of life feel dark, but that month-6 weeks that we have the tree up and the other seasonal comforts really helps everyone’s moods.  Furthermore, it helps me keep my focus on Christ and embrace and share the joy of the season.

I’m not trying to poo-poo anyone who works really hard at not mixing Advent and Christmas, I’m just saying I don’t think it ruins Advent when we slowly add in merriment as we build towards the Christmas feast.

We’re all journeying to the same place, but we all have different paths.  I might change my mind, or gradually become more strict about Advent and Christmas.  Perhaps the Holy Spirit will move my husband and me to try new things as we build our family traditions and strive to grow in holiness.  It’s happened before! I just don’t like this idea that if you do certain things at Christmastime, participate in certain more secular activities and traditions, that you are doing it wrong, and you’re damaging your kids.  There’s so much real darkness and evil in the world, why are we giving our neighbors a hard time about how they celebrate Christmas and the holidays?  We are each responsible for our own families, for our children and their moral growth, and nobody else’s and we should have faith that the Lord is working in other people’s hearts and families, just like ours.

Anyway, I’m going to try not to let this apprehension about Advent take me over.  Sometime in the next few days, I need to make sure I pick up new Advent candles.  I’m going to try to finish up Christmas shopping so I have time to do Christmas cards and Gus’ stocking in December. I’m going to pull out our Christmas books and make sure we start reading about the Nativity so it’s all fresh in Sara’s mind.  I have it on good authority that St. Nicholas is bringing Sara and Gus their own Nativity scene on December 6th.  [Although, as an aside, I’m getting the feeling that some people think that the Fisher Price Little-People Nativity is not authentic or beautiful enough? No, it’s not Fontanini, but it is toddler proof. I love Melissa and Doug and all things classy and wood like any other middle class American mom, but I do get so weary of the war against plastic toys.]

I think our world is desperate for the peace and joy of Christ, don’t you? That’s what I’m going to try to focus on this Advent and Christmas.


7QT: Frivolous Minutiae

  1. Christy pulled on my heartstrings yesterday with her “I miss blogs” post.  I really miss them too. Needless to say, our little sisters blog here has never and will never be big.  My older sisters have always struggled to find time to blog with their growing families and I’ve been struggling with that too.  More than that, though, I’ve been struggling with what the point is.  I’m not click-baity, I don’t have a major theme or area of expertise, and  I’m also not terribly deep or inspirational. Honestly, I try to keep it light and even frivolous.  But is that okay? Is that allowed? It’s strange how the internet and blogs started out as this place where there were no rules and you could just do your thing, but now it seems like there are rules and you have to play the game right.  I’m not on board with that at all.  Anyway, I’m going to still plug away when I can with my bits and pieces of frivolity. And I hope, if you have a little corner of the internet, that you will keep at it too. 🙂
  2.  I shared on Instagram a while back that I’ve been making this certain dish for lunch for myself.
    Brussles sprouts and onions sauteed in butter with soft boiled eggs on top. Salt 'n peppa!

    Brussles sprouts and onions sauteed in butter with soft boiled eggs on top. Salt ‘n peppa

    I usually aim to eat my lunch after the kiddos are down for a nap (for obvious reasons) but today I made lunch while they were eating and sat down to eat when they were done and supposed to be playing.

  3. Gus is an Oliver type of kid, minus the starving orphan part.  Just the “Please sir, I want some more”, minus the please part.  He most certainly won’t eat my brussles sprouts and eggs, though.  I give him a bite to show him.  But he still won’t stop bothering me and climbing all over the table.


    I don’t know that that is, but I want it, Mommy.

  4. Then Sara walks by and says “I fink Gussie has a poopy.” Sure enough, it was a 6 alarm situation in his diaper.  And meanwhile, my beautiful, delicious lunch grew cold on the table.  Lesson learned: no deviating from naptime lunches!
  5. Childbearing ladies of the interwebs, I had to share this recent purchase of mine with you: 

Loft Mosaic Pintucked Shirtdress

I’m super stoked about this dress because not only is it flattering on me now (not pregnant), but it also has room for a first-second trimester bump and it buttons in the front so it’s perfect for nursing.  I consider that a sound investment! Loft is having a 40% sale right now (like always), but maybe if you hold off they’ll have one of their flash sales and it’ll be even cheaper.

6.  I’ve been planning on trying out Bare Minerals Complexion Rescue because it’s name alone sounds like it would help my adolescent skin issues, and also Fran recommends it and she is my fashion and beauty guru.  However, after doing a little research (*cough* googling good BB cream for oily skin *cough*) I stumbled upon Dr. Jart Dis-A-Pore beauty balm and this stuff sounds like magic! Plus it has Dr. in the name, so it will cure my acne, right? Right? Anybody else tried it/heard about it?  I’m waiting to get some Amazon points before I pull the trigger.

7. And, just to make sure this a completely random post, you all really need to make this crockpot soup ASAP.  It’s been a favorite of ours all this fall.

Alrighty, that’s quite enough of my random ramblings.  Check out the other quick takes at This Ain’t the Lyceum!

How To: Sara’s Light-Up Play Kitchen

Dave typed this up for me a loooong time ago and I’ve dragged my feet about posting it.  Why?  I have no idea!  Maybe because he totally shows me up in the awesome, DIY post department!  Haha! No, really, he AMAZES me.  Anyway, in case any of you out there are handy and itching to undertake a project for your kiddos for Christmas, this post is for you! 

Sara’s 3rd birthday was [6 months ago]. Time sure flies! Last year I built Sara a light-up play kitchen for her 2nd birthday. At the time, I promised Ellen I would write up a post detailing how I put it together. Well, it only took me a year to finish writing it up, but here it is! For those of you that missed it, here’s the final product:


The Inspiration

It was Ellen’s idea to build a kitchen for Sara in the first place. There are countless blog posts on the Internet about repurposing old cabinets into a play kitchen, but we didn’t have any old cabinets lying around, and I really wanted to build something from scratch.

So we started looking around online for inspiration. Ellen was really taken with this one by Nikole, which is where a lot of the design idea came from. I also drew from this post for construction ideas and appropriate dimensions.

But being a huge nerd, I wanted a kitchen that would light up! Again, I looked around online for what people had done already for light-up kitchens. This one using rope LEDs was pretty cool. So was this one that used Christmas lights. And this one, as the title correctly states, is a masterpiece. The woodwork is stunning, but I didn’t like how the LED neon looks. I ended up figuring out a much better solution using orange side-emitting LED bars I found here.

The Plan

Now that I had figured out what I wanted the kitchen to look like, I set about making plans. I originally sketched this up on paper, but I made a nifty diagram for this post.

colors with

(Here’s the source SVG in case you want to modify it.)

Most of the plan is dictated by the dimensions of lumber I was able to find at our nearby Lowe’s and the approximate size of a 2-year-old. I used four dimensions of lumber, as indicated by the different colors. (A detailed list of materials and tools are at the end of the post.) Since I don’t own a table saw, I tried to minimize the number of cuts to simplify the work.

The primary material is 21/32” x 16” x 8′ furniture boards. It comes is two grades: paint-grade and stain-grade. The paint-grade, as the name implies, is composed of a bunch of small pieces of wood glued together in a way that really makes it only suitable for painting. The stain-grade is made of much larger boards so you can stain it, but it’s more expensive. I opted for the cheaper paint-grade wood, but I regret the decision. It’s fine now that it’s put together, but the boards were just really poor quality. They took a lot of wood filler to fix flaws and the glued joints even came apart a couple times. Nothing a little wood glue couldn’t fix, but it was annoying.

The 21/32” thickness of the furniture boards is a goofy dimension that makes some of the other dimensions seem a little strange. I wouldn’t actually recommend that you try to cut everything to the precise dimensions listed ahead of time. I waited to cut the boards until I needed to and cut multiple boards at once (clamped together) to guarantee they were the right fit.

I also put together a wiring diragram. (SVG here.)

The orange lines are 2 LED bars (one is cut in half for each burner). The brown lines are 18/2 thermostat wire I found at Lowes. The boxes are 3 LED dimmers I found on Amazon. Make sure you connect the red and black wires exactly as shown in the diagram! The voltage is low so it’s not really dangerous, but you could break the electrical components.


  • 2 – 21/32” x 16” x 8′ furniture boards – Lowe’s
  • 1/2” x 4′ x 4′ sanded plywood – Lowe’s
  • 1/2” x 4” x 3′ pine board (for shelf) – Lowe’s
  • 1 1/8” x 8” pine board (at least 16” long) – Lowe’s
  • 1” x 3” pine board (at least 4′ long) – Lowe’s
  • 10” x 8” x 0.093” clear plexiglass (for oven window) – Lowe’s
  • Wirenuts (for joining wires) – Lowe’s
  • Magnetic cabinet catch – Lowe’s
  • Painters’ tape – Lowe’s
  • 18/2 thermostat wire – Lowe’s
  • #8 0.625” Black screws (for fixing plexiglass to bottom of oven) – Lowe’s
  • Quart of light green semigloss paint (for back panel) – Lowe’s
  • Quart of dark, dark grey semigloss paint (for inside of oven) – Lowe’s
  • Quart of white semigloss paint (for shelf and outside of cabinet) – Lowe’s
  • Assorted hooks – Lowe’s
  • 12V 4W LED spotlight (for oven light) – Amazon
  • 12V 30W LED power supply – Amazon
  • Gas range knobs – Amazon
  • Rocker switch – Amazon
  • 3 – 12V LED dimmers – Amazon
  • Kreg 1 1/4” fine pocket screws – Amazon
  • 12” continuous hinge – Amazon
  • Bar sink – Amazon
  • 4 qt stainless steel bowl – Amazon
  • 16 1/2” x 12 3/4” baking rack – Amazon
  • 16” tension rod – Amazon
  • 2 – Orange LED light bars – Super Bright LEDs
  • 2 – 1/8″ x 15.875″ x 15.875″ smoked tinted plexiglass (12% transmittance) – eBay. This guy sells lots of sizes. Just browse to find a matching auction. Make sure to request one be cut to 15” x 15.875” and the other to 12” x 14”.
    12 5/8” bar pull (for oven door) – MyKnobs.com
  • Wood glue – Lowe’s
  • 5 minute epoxy – Lowe’s
  • Wood filler – Lowe’s


  • Drill with 1/4”, 3/4”, 1”, 1 3/4” drill bits and a countersink bit
  • Saw (I used a handheld circular saw)
  • Jigsaw
  • Router with 1/4” straight bit, 1/2” straight bit, and 3/8” corner round bit
  • Electric sander
  • Soldering iron (or electrical tape)
  • Saw horses
  • Kreg mini pocket screw jig kit – Amazon
  • Clamps for jig
  • Measuring tape
  • Pencil
  • Printer (to print templates)
  • Razor blade
  • Carpenter’s square

The Burners

The first thing I built was the top burners. I cut one LED bar in half to use one half for each burner. The LED bar has special cut lines marked where you are able to cut. You can also cut exactly in the middle where you see a soldered spot. The LED bars come with wire leads on each end so you can light them up independently. Be really careful and use a sharp pair of scissors. If you get too close to one of the LEDs on either side, you might break it.

I made a spiral template in Inkscape and printed it out. (Here’s the SVG.) I then cut a 16” length of the 1 1/8” x 1” board. I marked a spot 5” from each end of the board, directly in the middle where each spiral burner will be centered. I poked holes along the pattern and placed it centered on the first spot. I pushed a pencil in the template holes to transfer the pattern. Then I removed the template, connected the dots, and repeated for the other burner. Finally, I laid the LED bar along to pattern and marked the spot where it ended.


I drilled a 1/4” hole in the very center of each spiral. Then I put a 1/4” straight bit in a fixed base router. (Actually a slightly larger bit would’ve worked better since the LED bar is a bit wider than 1/4” but that’s what I had.) I adjusted the router depth to about 2/3” and followed the spiral from the center carving a channel in the wood. The channel is what will be lit up by the LEDs. I went back along the channel to widen enough for the LED bar, then sanded and blew out dust.


I threaded the LED bar’s wire leads through the center hole and pressed the LED bar into the channel, starting at the center. Be very careful! The LED connections are very fragile. (I actually broke one bar by being too rough, but Sara really liked the stickers that SuperBrightLEDs sends with each package.)


Now if you were to just place the black plexiglass on top, it would still just look like a string of LEDs. The trick is to put in a layer of tissue paper to diffuse the light. I used gift bag tissue paper we had lying around.


The Top

To make the top, I placed one whole furniture board up on saw horses. I marked where the vertical furniture boards would sit underneath. Then I marked the openings for the cooktop and sink.

In the left 16” bay, we’ll put the cook top. Trace a square 13 1/4” wide and 11 1/4” deep, 2” from the front of the board, centered in the 16” bay. At each corner, mark 1/2” in from both sides. Then I drilled a 1” whole at these marks leaving a hole that touches the edge at each corner.

Then I cut out the rest of the rectangle with a jigsaw. (This rectangle is saved for use by the bottom oven element.) I first made a rough cut by cutting from one hole to the next. Then I clamped a board along each line with room for the jigsaw and cut along it. This will give you nice sharp lines.


I used the router with a 3/8” corner round bit to round the cut edge and give it a nice curve. While I was at it, I rounded the front of the board as well.

I flipped the board over, centered the smaller black plexiglass over the cut out and traced around it with a pencil. Then I removed the plexiglass and carved out the wood at a depth slightly less than the depth of the plexiglass with a 1/2” straight bit.


Next I did the sink. I centered the bowl in the right bay, upside-down, 2” from the front and traced an outline with a pencil. Then I trace a line about 1/8-1/4” inside of the other line. This inner line is what I cut so the bowl can rest on its lip. Then I made two marks 4” apart, 2 1/4” from the back of the board and 6” from either side of the bay. I drill a 1” whole at each of these marks and another at some point inside sink line. Starting from the hole you I drilled inside the sink line, I used a jigsaw to cut along the entire inner sink line. Then I sanded smooth and tested the fit.


The Bottom

I placed the other furniture board on the saw horses and marked off where the center board will go (16” from the end of the board). I centered this template (SVG here), and transferred with pencil just like the burners. I place the 2nd light bar on the pencil line starting at the center and marked the ends. I drilled a 1/4” at one end and used the 1/4” router bit to carve out a channel. This time, however, the channel was carved all the way through the wood. After I made sure the LEDs fit easily, I glued and screwed the rectangle from the cook top underneath the channel. I drilled a 1/4” hole at one end for the wire to pass through, and I clipped the wires off the other end of the LED bar since they aren’t needed.


Front Knobs

The LED dimmers function as the knobs for the burners and the oven element. I used razor blade to cut off the white pointer on the top of the knob so the surface was flat. Then I glued the range knobs on top with epoxy. (My knobs had a metal ring with labels on top. I removed it. It also included a black spacer which I needed.)


I cut a 16” length of the 1” x 3” board and drilled 3 – 3/4” holes at 4” intervals where the burner knobs. I also drilled a 3/4” hole at 1 1/2” from the left side for the oven switch. Unfortunately, the board was too thick for the space between the dimmer and the knob. So I used a 1/2” straight bit in my router to thin the back of the board where the dimmers would sit by about 1/4”.

Cutting and Assembling

I laid the top and bottom furniture boards on top of each other, used two scraps of the furniture board to offset the edge of the bottom, clamped together, and cut. That guaranteed they will be a good fit. Out of the remainders, I cut the 2 side boards, the center board, the over door and the board that fits underneath the burners. In this last board I drilled a 1 3/4” hole in the center for the overhead light. Finally, I cut a 1” x 3” board to fit the bottom front of the cabinet.

To make the oven door, I cut a 7 3/8” x 9 3/8” rectangle out of the door piece using the same rounded corner trick from the stove top. I did not round the edges with my router, but I did smooth the edges with a sander. I centered the 8” x 10” clear plexiglass on the back side of the door and traced with a pencil. I used my router with a straight bit to carve out the traced line so the plexiglass would be recessed.

I used the Kreg pocket screw jig to drill holes underneath the bottom and top boards to join the wood. Then I screwed everything together (except the door), using a carpenter’s square.


After it was put together I used my router to carve a channel both sides of the oven for rack to slide in from the back. I didn’t go all the way to the front so the rack is not removable once the back is in place.

For the back panel, I wanted a curved top. I took a length of string from the center of the bottom to 34” on one side. Then keeping it at the same length, I used it to trace an arc from one side of the board to the other with a pencil. I cut along this line with a jigsaw and rounded it with my router. Since the plywood edges were rough, I filled them with wood filler and sanded smooth.

Next I made the shelf. I cut the 1/2” x 4” to an inch shorter than the back panel. I used the string again to trace a quarter circle on either side and cut with a jigsaw. I rounded the top outside edge with my router.

Now came painting. First I removed the bottom stove panel. Using painter’s tape, I painted the inside of the oven dark gray and the outside white. I painted the bottom stove panel and over door to match. I painted the shelf white. I painted the back panel green at the top, black behind the over and white behind the sink cabinet. I used two coats of paint on everything.



Once the paint dried, I flipped the cabinet over. I wired lengths of wire to each dimmer and screwed in place with some drywall screws that happened to be the right size. I drilled holes in the four corners of each piece of plexiglass just wider than the width of the screws then screwed in place with clear silicone caulk. The larger black piece is just wide enough to fit on top of the oven element and leaves enough room in the front for the door hinge. Then I screwed the burner board in place.

Next, I put everything together except the panel underneath the stove top. To attach the back panel I used wood screws buried with a countersink bit. I drilled a small hole in the back of the top cabinet to pass wire though to the underside of the cabinet and wired everything together with wire nuts. The power supply screwed to the bottom of cabinet. The overhead light I bought wasn’t really meant to be wired up this way. I used a soldering iron to attach wires to the leads. I pressed the bulb into the hole I cut, wired it in, and screwed the panel in place.


I installed the sink and screwed in a bunch of hooks under the shelf and on the side. I attached the oven door with a hinge, added the handle, and screwed in the magnetic catch.

As a finishing touch, Ellen sewed a curtain from some strawberry patterned fabric. I hung it with a tension rod in the space under the sink. And that’s that!