5 Easy Steps to an “Old School” Summer

If you’re anything like me, you may be longing for the simplicity of a summer like the one you had as a child.  For me, it was the 80’s.  They were the kind of summers where the days were full of freedom and stretched forever into a golden sun and all you really needed to make you happy was a Slip ‘n’ Slide and a box of Fla.Vor. Ice pops.  However… if you’re anything like me today – well, the nostalgia may be a bit harder to grab if you’re the mom of little people.  You may be feeling overwhelmed and pressured to provide a summer full of All the Awesome Things to Make All the Memories – and I have totally been there – but I’m here to say a simple summer where you are truly present with your loved ones and relaxed will be so much better.  Go ahead and give a few of those Pinterest crafts and activities a try – but all those other days in between?  Well, here’s my idea of how to do it – in 5 steps – mom style.  You can relive your childhood summers while letting your kids in on the secrets to a really rad summer, too.  And even if you’re not a mom –  I’m pretty sure this list will work for you, too.

So, without further adieu:

5 Steps  to an “Old School” Summer

  • Step 1:  Turn on the radio to the local “oldies” station (or whichever station is playing the most 80’s music).  Pandora, Spotify, iTunes, and satellite radio don’t count.  You need to hear all the local ads.  It’s part of the charm.  Plus, you can do step #2 during commercial breaks.
  • Step 2:  Mix up a big pitcher of lemonade, iced tea, Kool Aid, or Tang.  Choose which childhood memory you want to relive and try not to think about the ingredients.
  • Step 3:  Go outside and stay there.  Your backyard, front porch, local park, beach… whatever.  Just get outside and even if you do nothing but sit and listen to the radio from step #1, it’s good for your soul.  If it’s raining?  Go to the mall.  Meet up with a friend for an Orange Julius.  You know you want to.  Bring the stroller and stay away from the Disney store and you’ll be fine.
  • Step 4:  Let the kids get wet and dirty.  It’s ok, really.  This is why you have towels and bathtubs and washing machines.  Don’t have kids?  Do a friend or family member a favor and offer to babysit – and get THEIR kids good and dirty.  Or, you could just let your own inhibitions down and run through the sprinkler yourself.
  • Step 5:  Put your phone, iPad, tablet, computer – whatever electronic device you are tethered to – away.  Turn it off, put it down, and go have an awesome summer!

Repeat steps 1-5 as often as possible from now through Labor Day, and in the meantime, you know what I’ll be doing.


Autumn Catch Up

You may wonder where I’ve been since February.  Or, maybe not.  Maybe you don’t know where you’ve been since February.

i wonder

Since my February 2014, I’ve packed up 11 years worth of personal belongings, moved said personal belongings to a new house (which is actually an old, historic house), unpacked and organized said belongings into a cohesive, functioning, household – all while still working, mothering, wife-ing, social-life-ing, and generally being alive.

This does not include the unforeseen, and oft aggravating, projects that a new/old house blindsides you with – because, you know, old houses.

Lots of cool things have happened, as well as some not-so-cool, but one thing that is literally cool is the fact that it is now Autumn in New Jersey and that means things like this:

She's growing so fast, we had to capture some prints before she gets too big.

She’s growing so fast, we had to capture some prints before she gets too big.

We celebrated our 10th Wedding Anniversary!

We celebrated our 10th Wedding Anniversary!

It's apple picking time!

It’s apple picking time!

So, it is also pie baking time!

So, it is also pie baking time!

I'm getting back to taking cool pictures again.

I’m getting back to taking cool pictures again.

And luckily, my backyard is a great place to get back to my photog hobby.

And luckily, my backyard is a great place to get back to my photog hobby.

Which is good, because I have several lovely trees that I just can't stop photographing.

Which is good, because I have several lovely trees that I just can’t stop photographing.


And MOPS started up again for the year!

And, most recently, we went pumpkin picking.  Which means that photos of pumpkins and other various gourds will be appearing soon.

And, most recently, we went pumpkin picking. Which means that photos of pumpkins and other various gourds will be appearing soon.

In addition to it being an awesome autumn, summer was full of all sorts of goodness, too.  Lots of trips to the beach, our annual family trip to New Hampshire, and the highlight of my summer:  my sweet little nephew, DJ, was born!  He looks just like my brother.  And my sister-in-law.  It’s funny how one person can look just like, well, two.

And I don’t know what it is about this time of year, but I get starting to feel all the feelings in Autumn and well – that gets me thinking – which then makes me want to blog.

So, I’m back!  Stay tuned… there’s over 800 photos on my phone right now, along with 22 different recipes I want to share, a zillion things to say about learning and education, and copious, gratuitous photos of my new digs that I’m pretty proud of.


Amazing things just keep happening.  And I’m not complaining.

So, here I sit with not much to do.  Actually, I have plenty to do – it just feels like I have very little to do.  Why, you ask?  Well, that is because I’m not doing this anymore:

this is not me... but it's a good indicator of my past 2 years

this is not me… but it’s a good indicator of my past 2 years

Well, at least not for now.

A week ago today was the final day of my graduate study.  I’m done!  I did it!  I earned my Masters of Education in Teacher Leadership! 

And did I mention that I did it as a new mom, with a needy baby, and managed to maintain a 4.0 GPA in the process?

Yeah, I just said that.

Because, you know, I don’t brag.  I really don’t.  I don’t like braggarts, and I try not to be one.  But, when you work so hard on something, and it challenges you and pushes you to your limits, and meanwhile you have a screaming child who desperately needs you and you’re trying to figure out motherhood and get a degree and you do MORE than just “the minimum required”  – you need to take a moment and say, I just did that.

And really, if I am to tell the truth, there was a whole lotta God up in here and prayers these past 2 years, too… because I can do all things through Him, and I really can’t do anything without Him, either.

So, the last feat of this advanced degree was to create and give a presentation on how I’ve grown because of the program, how the program has influenced my career, and how I’m planning to use what I’ve learned in the future.

I put together a lovely PowerPoint presentation and practiced.  And then I realized I needed to just speak from my heart and vamp a little.

Then the big day came and I gave the presentation.  But first, let me give you the drama…

On my way to Rowan to give said presentation, I got stuck in a major traffic jam.  I mean, major.  Like, tractor-trailer-turned-over-during-rush-hour-on-a-2-lane-highway-major.  Panic sets in.  Sheer, unadulterated panic.  I start texting very bad words to my husband – because someone has to know the personal hell I’ve just encountered.  Then I call my academic advisor.  She miraculously answers the phone.  It’s going to be ok.

So, I finally arrive at school and park illegally.  Well, it wasn’t really illegal – just the wrong parking lot for which I had no parking tag.  Oh well.  Bigger fish to fry.

Anyhow, I blaze into the Education building and find the presentation room.  I only missed one presentation so far.  Sigh of relief.

I watched a fellow student give her presentation and then it was my turn.  I gave my presentation in spite of being completely thrown off by the traffic jam, being a half hour late, and my jangled nerves.

I nail it.

At the end of the presentation (which, up to this point, I was still worried about) the head of the Teacher Leadership program says to me, and I quote, “Wow.  You really know your stuff!”

She goes on to say more very nice things to me and I turn a deeper shade of red with each compliment.

hyperbole and a half really

Have you ever had one of those experiences where you are outside of your head, but still thinking to yourself, “Holy cow, is this really happening right now?”  Yeah… that was my out-of-body-experience throughout the feedback on my presentation.  I couldn’t believe what I was hearing… but then again, I guess on some level, I could believe it.  I have worked very hard these past 2 years and my final presentation was no exception.

After the presentations were all completed, three of the six professors on the panel said more lovely and wonderful things to me about my presentation, my speaking skills, my ability to connect with a crowd, my knowledge of the program, and so on.

And then they made some suggestions about my career path and the next steps I should take.

And then I pooped myself a little.

Not really, but it was amazing and I probably should have.

Let’s just say that I would have been perfectly happy to have just given my presentation, collected my certificate, and moved on with my life.  But that night, I got so much more than I could have ever imagined.

For some very real personal and professional reasons, I’m not going to divulge the nitty-gritty details of everything that occurred later and the marvelous, lovely things that continued to be said, but I will give you a hint:

My career plans have changed.  BIG.  TIME.

I was set for one particular path, but now I’ve taken stock of where I am and what I’ve accomplished, along with the suggestions of the professors on the panel, and realize I belong on another course.

In time, those plans will be revealed, but for now – after all of the hard work, and wondering many, many times if it was all even worth it, and then finally hearing how valuable I really am:

joy sunset

Hello, Validation.  It’s nice to meet you.

*once again, my thanks to Allie Brosh at HyperboleAndAHalf for all her cartoon genius.

Daring to be Joyous: Day 2

April 2nd’s Joy Dare asks me to find Three Gifts White.  It’s the second installment in my Joy Dare that I’m going to do this month (and hopefully beyond).  If you want to get caught up and learn about what this Joy Dare thing is and why I’m doing it, go see this: The Days are Long, but the Years are Short.

A literal gift: a perfect heirloom blanket for Nora.

A literal gift: a perfect heirloom blanket.

Coconut cake - simple, decadent.

Coconut cake – simple, decadent. Wonderful.

My favorite tulip tree blooms now.

My favorite tulip tree blooms now.

Three Gifts White has me thinking about clean, white bed sheets and spring cleaning.  These gifts have me thinking about the hope in springtime – the promise of birth, growth, warmth, and breathing out the stale air of being inside for too long – inhaling the reborn air of an earth waking from it’s winter nap.

What To Do When You Have Nowhere To Put Your Baby


This gallery contains 20 photos.

Like most first-time moms, when I discovered I was pregnant, one of the gazillion things that crossed my mind was one of the more superfluous and giddy:  “Ooh!  I get to set up and decorate a nursery!”  Except, there was … Continue reading

The Anniversary of a Small, but Powerful Choice.

On this day ten years ago, I did something that ultimately changed the course of my life forever:  I walked into a real estate office.

Not quite the actual office...

Not quite the actual office…

A couple of days before, I had spoken on the phone with a very nice sounding real estate agent named Chris.  He was friendly and easygoing, and even used the word “cool” at one point during our phone conversation.  He had a home listed for sale in a nearby town – Mount Holly – that I had found online.  I did the usual modern-homebuyer thing and filled out the online form and figured the Realtor wouldn’t call.  But he did.

I was on the edge of turning 23 years old and I was living at home with my parents.  I had been home from college for over a year at that point and was really psyched about getting my own place.  It wasn’t that I didn’t enjoy living with my parents, but rather that I had an ungodly obsession with HGTV and couldn’t contain my creative tendencies to just one room anymore.  It was time.

When I figured that I could buy a small home for about the same as I’d pay to rent a sizeable apartment, the decision was a no-brainer.  So, my search began both online and in my car after work.  I would drive around towns and neighborhoods that I liked and would write down the addresses of houses that were for sale and then I’d go home and look at them online.  Yet, I never “pulled the trigger” and called on any of the houses.  That is, until I saw Chris’ listing.  Remember:  everything happens for a reason.

So, I walked into the real estate office, having made sure to wear my glasses instead of contacts (I wanted this Chris guy to take me seriously, and what better way than to wear glasses, right?) and asked the much older gentleman in the front office for a “Chris Martin.”  I was hoping beyond hope that the old guy wasn’t Chris.

Just a couple of minutes later, I was pleased to see that  Chris was a young, good looking, well dressed, and friendly real estate agent.  He had no identifiable marks or indicators that he was a psycho, womanizer, or otherwise unsavory character, so I figured I’d be okay.  Afterall, I was riding in on the advice from my parents “not to sign anything” and my personal assumption that many real estate agents were shady and operated selfishly for the almighty dollar (this, in the future, we found to be hilarious when my dad and I both decided to become licensed real estate agents, too).  By the way, most real estate agents are not, in fact, “shady” and in most cases, operate quite UN-selfishly for the better interest of their clients.

But I digress.

Chris and I sat down together and he started asking me all the pertinent questions about my desire to buy a home – and giving me the answers I was seeking.  We were off to a good start.  We made plans to get together in a couple of days to start viewing homes.  I didn’t buy the house Chris had listed for sale and in fact, I viewed plenty of other homes with him.  But, it only took 10 days for me to finally find a cute house and I put in an offer.


Little did I know that I was not just looking for my first home, but also for the house in which he and I would spend the first 10 years of our relationship together.

Yep, that’s right.  Ten years ago today I met my husband.  He started as my real estate agent, and is now my soulmate.  We are still living in the house I bought.  We’ve renovated it together, hosted many parties and made many memories in between these very close walls, welcomed two crazy dachshunds to live with us, and are now welcoming our first child.  It’s a small little “love nest” (as Chris puts it) and it’s home.  We love our little home, and boy is it cozy – but I can feel the time is coming to make a move again.  While this may not happen for a little while longer, it’s definitely on the horizon.

But this blog entry isn’t about houses – rather it’s about the celebration of a simple choice, and how that choice (plus an open mind and an open heart) has made all the difference in changing the course of my life, Chris’ life, and the life of all of those people who know us.

Pretty great, right?