The Easter Bunny has risen!

April 22, 2019

…and he left much chocolate.

Easter was a bit different this year. My two very grown-up childrens decided they were too old to color eggs. They were too old for Easter baskets. They were too old for staged photos (pffffft). And since I have to pick and choose my battles…and maybe because I didn’t want to crawl all through the attic looking for Easter baskets…I decided to let them have their way.

We were still doing Easter – just a more “grown up” Easter.

I decided it was time to start a new tradition: we would volunteer our time and help with service work. It is, after all, what Jesus would do. (That may or may not have been yelled at the girls when they were being whiny.)

So I found a service work through one of the missions nearby where we could help Sunday morning. I was picturing helping with a meal line of some sort, but it so happens that most of those places have a minimum age requirement. The one I finally found was willing to take our minor-aged teenagers and give us some work we could do: sorting through goods that had been donated.

So, Sunday morning we moan and groan at our waaaay too early get-up time, and keep pushing it back further and further. Finally it was so late that I had to call to warn them we’d be just a leeeetle bit late. I’m glad I did because the woman who was supposed to meet us had called in sick. Which is kind of a pain, but it turned into even more of a to-do because the woman who was called in to run the place in her stead had no idea we were coming, or what the lady was going to have us do. So our grand idea to give of ourselves ended in a big kerplunk. Not the Easter tradition I had in mind.

We tried to manage. The girls enjoyed their Easter “baskets” –

Bee-girl, my resistant reader, was the first one to find a book from the Easter Bunny this year – an American Sign Language book. She’s been pouring over it ever since! Gracie got the sequel to To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han. And I got….well, quite a few. Let’s see, my favorite is Tayari Jones’ An American Marriage. I also got Nina LaCour’s We Are Okay; Karen McManus’ One of Us Is Lying (Gracie has an eye on that, too); and Jeff Zentner’s Goodbye Days. Sooooo many good books! EB must have gotten a good deal at Half Price Books or something. Heh.

That afternoon, the girls and I got all dolled up to go to a nice restaurant as a treat. I picked Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse because it has steak so good it melts in your mouth, and enough seafood to keep Bee happy.

It was fun teaching the girls how to eat at a fancy restaurant, and the waitress we had was very cool with them (she told me later, during an aside, that she has a young daughter and has been thinking a lot about the teenage years, so that was why). It was just a fun time to eat food that was the best ever – we were all ready to pop! when we left!! The restaurant itself was gorgeous! And the service was impeccable. Gracie, especially, was crazily impressed by all the elegance. That’s her speed for sure! And me being me, I told her to keep doing well in school and that could be her everyday! (But I hope she remembers the service work, too.)

After our early dinner, we drove to Barnes & Noble to get a book Gracie needed. She and a friend went to see the movie After on Thursday night, and Gracie discovered it was not only based on a book, but that it was a series! And when we went into the bookstore…well…we sort of accidentally bought nine more books. Because it’s Easter! The book holiday!! We got The Librarian of Auschwitz (I picked it up, Gracie called second dibs); Interment by the brilliant Samira Ahmed; Gracie picked up Sadie (and I called second dibs); I picked up The Language of Kindness; Gracie picked up The Lost; anAt d I finally picked up The Woman in the Window. We couldn’t help ourselves!

It was a wonderful Easter, even if the morning didn’t go as planned. So many adventures at Casa de Katie don’t! But it’s okay. We take them as they come, because we are family!!

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Ready? Set? Storm.

April 17, 2019

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It just looks overcast now, but you can feel the ominous storms in the air. Everything feels muggy. Sticky. Heavy. It feels like storms are coming. And they might be.

I guess it’s the South’s version of blizzard crazies – Buy all the bread! Stock up on food! Get a banner headline ready for the news, and start screaming when the first! snowflake! hits! Only here, it’s tornadoes and hailstorms that get everyone all excited. They’ve been warning us every few minutes (!) since yesterday to keep an eye on the weather today.

Okay, so maybe they say that tornadoes in our location are more likely than local flooding (eesh), and that we’ll probs have winds in excess of 70 mph, and hail of considerable size. Something is on the way because Bee-girl is home with a migraine. Her headaches are better than a barometer in predicting weather changes.

I’m keeping an eye out. And maybe I filled up the car. And maybe I’m charging all our electronics.

It just feels like one of those days. So I’ll take all the maybes – they’re better than the alternative from where I’m sitting.

Step forth, Worthy Opponent!

April 9, 2019

I have always loved board games. When we were little, Mum would play Mothers’ Helper, Chutes and Ladders, Hi Ho Cherry-o!, Trouble (though she never liked the noisy ones), Candyland – all the basic board games that teach little kids important lessons.

When we got a bit older, the lessons we learned from board games seemed to be more along the lines of how to sharpen our negotiating skills. Like, my sister would play Hotels, Price Is Right, and three rounds of Life if I’d play one game of Othello with her. (I haaaaated that game!)

Sometimes games were the main event that we gathered around: I remember massive rounds of Scat, Uno, or Spoons played with our entire extended family. One year there was very nearly a formal Ex-Communication that went down because Uncle Teddy snuck back into the camper to get another spoon, thwarting the “point” of the game. But who didn’t notice it was yellow instead of white?! Really.

Then games became something to do while we were watching tv and talking; something to keep our minds busy because who can just sit and watch TV by itself? My mind races and the rest of me gets fidgety. So when my sister Kim would visit, we’d play cards or Rummikub, or a massive marathon of Sorry (for which we may or may not have hash marks scored into the lid of the box). And sometimes we’d play Boggle.

Boggle was one of our favorites. So much so that we made up our own set of rules. Astonishingly (not really), our rules pretty much centered around one golden rule: If you can argue your case successfully, you get points for the word. Like “ho”, “ho-ho”, and “Ho Ho Ho!” are accepted, but “Hohohoho” is not. Thems the brakes, kiddo. Another rule: there are no timers. Timers are for silly out-of-the-box rules followers. Our way was once you stopped finding words and you gave up, the other player had a grace period, and then everyone compared lists.

I was trying to explain all of this to Gracie last night. She’s been asking to play games, more, as we sit and watch TV, and last night I sprang Boggle at her. She knew I played it with Kim (and therefore she felt grown-up) so she was game. [See what I did there?] Out came the box, the pens, and the pieces of paper, and off we went.

Gracie did really well! She found a lot of the smaller words I missed in my excitement at finding longer words and – of course – the dirty words. I thought she might win by serving me a death of a thousand paper cuts! But I pulled through. Gracie was sad – poor pitiful penguin! – but I’m hoping the addiction grabbed hold and she’ll feel the need to avenge her honor.

Your move, Gracie-guts! Your move.

Because Easter is chirping around the corner…

April 8, 2019

Ladies, gents, chicka-dees, chica-doodles, and every beautiful creature in between: WE HAVE EASTER DRESSES! I’m beaming ear-to-ear in that exhausted-but-delighted motherly way that we have. I haven’t made an announcement like that since my chickadees were little! At least, that’s how it feels.

And so, with much warmth, I present: our 2019 Easter Look!

Easter Dress

I can feeeel the girls cringing from school. They are not particularly keen on me fussing at them. Teenagers, right? But them’s the brakes as my mum would say. We have Easter plans this year for the first time in ages, and I am pretty excited about it!

I’m not quite sure what I’m wearing, but something in that color scheme. Once I figure that out, it’s on to the patio! We just need new cushions for the lounge chairs, as ours blew away in some storm this year. And the grill needs a good scouring. But then, we’ll be ready for grilled pineapple and peaches and everything delicious!

Dear Weather Gods, puleaaaaassseee go along with our plans! I can fit all of the Redheads in the house with the girlies, and Corrie and I can catch-up anywhere. But egg-hunting in 25 square feet? Yeah, no thank you! The girls will be actually climbing the curtains.

And those dresses will look SOOOO much cuter poppin’ against the green grass outside!

April Fools! Everyone step back now.

April 3, 2019

This past Monday was April Fool’s Day – I’m sure you’re all aware – and I have never been so happy to have to watch every word I said and heard, and every step I took. Unexpected pranks from the girls? YES PLEASE! Getting to prank them back? …Well, just wait.

First, I should confess that I didn’t have anything really prepared. I used to think of elaborate statements to trick people with. But I noticed over the years that whatever I said tended to bite me in my backside – most famously when I joked with my mom years ago that I was pregnant and she was going to be a grandmother! …And then two months later we were unexpectedly blessed with two pink lines on a pregnancy test. So. Yeah. I was afraid to bring any more curses down on my head just now. No job, a melted phone, lost contacts, and all other sorts of messes are quite enough, thank you.

Late Sunday night, the night before April Fools, I snuck out to the kitchen late to get a drink. As I stepped toward the sink, I heard loud crunching. I had made pasta for dinner and thought an uncooked macaroni or two (they were loud crunches!) had fallen under the mat somehow. It was only as I stepped off the mat that it hit me that they were pops more than crunches. Someone had found an entire mat’s length of bubble wrap and fitted it under there. Goofy kids!

The next morning I made sure to walk over the mat again so they could enjoy their joke, and then piled Gracie into the car for school (Bee was sick and stayed home).

I thought that was it. It seemed to be it! Nothing much happened, Bee didn’t say anything all day, just kinda laid on the couch. It wasn’t until late afternoon when I decided to forage some lunch that I found this:

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Those little foam stickers with the peel-able backs that my kids loved as toddlers? They  were e-v-e-r-y-w-h-e-r-e. In drawers, in containers, on the door. I found one on an egg! It was insane!!

But you know what? Dear Readers, I was delighted! My heart grew three sizes as I laughed and Bee jumped up and shouted “I didn’t think you were EVER going to look in there!” It was funny and lovely and the April Fools-iest!…and it meant that things really were back to us. The real us. The us we used to have. My girls not only cared enough to include me, but they went all in! Gracie later told me that she, the girl who has a whole hour’s worth of snoozes because she can’t get out of bed, got up at 5 a.m.! An entire hour earlier than usual! Just to sticker up the fridge to make sure they tricked me good.

The fun didn’t stop there! I had to get back at my Not-So-Littles!

Sooooo, I took the massive set of cards that we had combined to play a MASSIVE game of War – I’m talking about 9 or 10 decks of cards here – and absolutely filled the bottom of Gracie’s bed, so when she climbed into bed later, she would sink her feet into a horde of cards. Hee hee hee! Bee’s bed got four bananas that were past ripe (but not leaking – I checked). I stuck those in her bed, too.

Only that didn’t go as planned, because after I had set my traps, I opened the door when it was time to get Gracie, and found this:

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That stinker had stealth bombed me while I was working on my laptop! I can’t believe I didn’t hear a thing!

After I finished laughing and wiped away the tears that hysteria brought on, I told Bee to pick up the bananas. Well, and the pens. She asked if she could put the bananas is Gracie’s bed. What the heck, I figured. It’s a day of pranks. And pretty harmless.

Lord, child, GUESS who was an absolute crabby-gus when she got home after the UIL concert that was right after school? She sort of had a point – it was 9pm and she had just finished eating and it had been a 16-hour day. So I kind of got throwing 09384530984 cards out into the living room. But maybe not the scathing words and histrionics as she flung the bananas into her sister’s room. (Maybe saying she chucked them at her sister’s head would be more accurate.) I reminded Gracie what day it was and that no one else had reacted that way. And just because she was tired, she didn’t get to act the way she did, especially since she had pranked us too.

It wasn’t a fun end to the day, but Gracie ended up making fun of herself the next morning on the way to school and re-enacted how she had reacted. At least my girl knows how to apologize, and there was laughter at the very end of everything.

Teenagery stuff aside, it really was an awesome day. I love being a tribe again with my girls. We’ll always be the best Casa de Katie family there ever was!

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The Stitch with the Wrong Timing.

March 19, 2019

Morning, everyone! What a day to be alive! I always get jazzed when my StitchFix comes in – especially when it’s a good one! Let’s dig in…

Lil backstory: I didn’t have any requests for this Fix. Spring is coming, it’s time to freshen our wardrobes if we can. I’d love to not have to figure in the expense, but I picked up a few pounds while I was away, so I need a few staple pieces at least, so I have something to wear while I’m working on losing the weight! My only ask was more of a suggestions – it helps me out when sometimes the Fixes match, and the pieces all fit together. That way I have at least one go-to outfit.

Now, the unveil…

It’s a GOOD Fix! My stylist gets my body type – I don’t know how she figured it out so quickly, but she did.

The pants – I had asked for brown pants, because I don’t have any that fit me since I outgrew my fat pants in that color. These are a little baggy at the waist, but snug (good-snug) everywhere else. And the length is perfect. For a shorty that’s important!

The blouse is so pretty! Gracie even said when I took it out of the box that I needed to keep it. It looks great on me and it’s what I want – something I wouldn’t pick up in a store, but looks poppin’ when I tried it on.

The jacket – my stylist went through my old notes and saw that I had tried a jacket on way back in the day and it didn’t fit quite right. I don’t even remember that Fix! But this jacket does fit like a dream. I can even button it! Ha! Imagine being able to button a jacket over boobs!

The black shirt – I’m not diggin’ it. I’m not saying no to all asymmetrical shirts, but this one really isn’t doing it for me. It was very slimming on, but that price for a black jersey is a little insane.

And the necklace – I actually love bar necklaces! Unfortunately, I have one almost exactly like it.

 

So here’s the thing about the timing though – it might take me two months to find a new job, and hopefully I’m going to lose a few pounds while I’m sorting things out. If I was at a desk 8a-5p every day, I’d probably get the full box just to keep the pants, blouse, and jacket. But I’m afraid if I splurge again and get the box…they might be too big. So then I was thinking of keeping just the blouse, but I’m not sure what else I’d wear it with. I need a personal assistant to dress me every morning!

I hate that my life got jumbled right after I ordered my Fix. I feel bad that my stylist nailed the outfit and I still can’t keep it this time. But maybe this is how my luck works – if I send it back, watch an offer be accepted and then I’ll need grown-up clothes again.

And that’s how this month’s Fix missed by no fault of theirs, and still made me smile.

Sometimes I cook.

March 18, 2019

One of the joys of getting back into the swing of things is having regularly scheduled, sit-down family meals.

Last week was Spring Break, so it was chaos all over the house and schedule and…well, all over everything. Yes, I’m telling you I love being back inside of a healthy structured schedule and then I tell you that I broke it. Shoosh.

Chicken1Today, the girls are back to school, I’m back to doing my thing, and I’m also back to cooking. I realized this weekend when I was cooking for a friend that while I’m more of a baker than I am a chef, I still glory in being able to present a home-cooked meal. It’s a gift of intention; I took time to plan out a meal, gathered what I needed, prepared it, cooked the food, and…okay, then I shove a plate at you and start ordering everyone to help themselves. It’s true. But a little tough love at the beginning of a meal is how we show we care!

Today I settled on chicken. Yes, the girls are going to cringe. They’ve been off chicken lately. But that’s what happen when you let Mama loose in the store and chicken breasts are on sale. I figured I could throw the chicken into a crock pot, and then get all my stuff done that I needed to do. I picked up a 4-pack of New Belgium IPA because 1) it has a cool picture of a skeleton in beach gear and a trucker hat on the front, and 2Chicken2) it’s called Liquid Paradise. Paradise!!! That’s exactly what I need!!

So my chicken plans altered slightly. I put three breasts in the crockpot and covered them with two cans of IPA. I slathered the largest one with a hickory smoke barbecue sauce for the girls. One I covered with just kosher salt and ground black pepper. And the last I covered with Provencal herbs. We can shred the chicken and have them on Hawaiian rolls. The girls can have potato chips and pickles with them. I’ll make brown beans. And roast some green beans with garlic butter.

You guys – I am drooling! Is it time to eat yet?

A night out at the symphony.

March 4, 2019

No grumbling or groaning from this girl because today is a Monday. Nope! I had a lovely weekend! This Saturday night I got to play grown-up and go out for a night on the town at the Meyerson Symphony Center. It was so…breathtakingly beautiful that there may not be words.

Naturally, it took a village to get Katie ready for this thing. Seriously, dear readers – you very nearly got a poll-post asking which dress YOU thought I should wear! Gracie and her bestie convinced me to put on a fashion show with my dresses, Bee-girl rolled her eyes, and several other parties with varying levels of interest all weighed in. In the end, we arrived at the long-sleeve deep-purple dress with broach. This is not the best picture, but you’ll see what I mean:

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So that’s what we had to work with, Katie-land! I had gold peekaboo-toe strappy heels from StitchFix that would work, which meant I needed to run over to Charming Charlies to find a gold handback to match my shoes (how did I not own one?!!) and dangley gold earrings that were fancy enough. I had some earrings that were work-fancy, but not symphony-fancy!

Oh, my gosh – Saturday night! SATURDAY NIGHT! Readers, I can’t EVEN with how nervous I was! I spent two hours trying to get my make-up just right (all the while cursing the fact that I never paid attention when my friends were learning how to do that girly shiiiii…stuff).  I drowned myself in enough YouTube tutorials to get some purple eye shadow on, fought with my curls (at least I know what I’m doing in that cage match), and shimmied into my dress.

All of the work, though, mmm let’s just say it was definitely worth it! My date was hotttt(!!) – seriously, it was like on tv when the backstory is you’ve been best friends forever and then there’s this event and the moment you see each other dressed up for the first time, and both of your hearts kind of skip a beat, and, well… I’m putting a lot of thought bubbles in someone else’s mind. I just know I lost the power to speak when I saw my date step out his front door…

Ahem.

So! Moving right along! When we walked into the Meyerson Symphony Center, everything was lit up gorgeously along the marble and glass. The space felt so opulent. In fact, my date and I turned to each other at the same time and laughed about how we felt like frauds almost, like we were playing at being “grown-ups” again, as we settle back into…real life? But is something as sparkly and fantastical as the Meyerson really everyday life?

If it is, I’m all in! We walked the space slowly, enjoying it. A couple offered to take our picture. The buffet was lavish. Staff were everywhere, so helpful and friendly, tripping over themselves to be deferential. The serving staff never once rushed us away from our table, even though we sat there by the window talking about so many different things. It was beyond perfect.

The gongs sounded to find our seats while I was freshening my lipstick and a chorus of: “That sounds straight up from Cinderella!” poured out of everyone’s mouths, making us all laugh as we scattered to find our seats.

We had wonderful seats! And yes, I stole some quick snaps while everyone was sitting down.

And then they orchestra began to play, and my words were stolen. Conductor Carlos Kalmar was animated genius, and watching him dance with his orchestra was a privilege.

The crown of perfection is reserved for the guest soloist, Karen Gomyo. It was if the stars themselves poured out of her violin! I am not very knowledgeable about classical music – I’ve picked up things here and there, but most of what I know comes from having watched Mozart in the Jungle – but even being the classical music simpleton that I am, I still felt that as long as Ms. Gomyo was playing, every single thing in this world was going to be okay. It just was.

It was an enchanting evening. I am beyond lucky to have been part of it!

Ravi

Book Reviews: The ones with suspects and prisoners, strippers and school shooting survivors.

February 28, 2019

Morning, peeps! (We should all be so lucky to be marshmalloy shapes covered in gobs of colored sugar…) Today I have quite a few books to choose from because: 1) I’ve been killin’ it with my reading pace lately, and 2) because I haven’t done my book reviews in awhile! So let’s get to it!

MarsRoomThe Mars Room, by Rachel Kushner (2018, Scribner, 338 pages, digital loan). I picked up The Mars Room because it’s a contestant in this year’s Tournament of Books, but I’ve read The Flamethrowers, which I remember hating the cover of, wanting desperately to love, and then putting down a thousand times because I just couldn’t quite enjoy the telling of. So you’d think once I remembered that, I wouldn’t have been so keen on Mars Room. I loved the cover, by the way, and fell just as hard for the pitch: unreliable narrator Romy Hall is in prison for two consecutive life terms, away from the city of San Francisco, which bound her in a way much different than her young son Jackson. The storytelling was smartly done: I loved watching Romy navigate life at women’s prison, broken and cursed. I kept thinking the fifth season of Orange Is the New Black meets Breaking Bad with the grittiness of a Leonardo DiCaprio or Jack Nicholson film. Only the difference here is that Romy got thrown in jail for being one of the other poorer characters, not Piper or Alex, but she navel-gazes like she was Piper. That could be a little distracting, I do have to admit. As much as I loved seeing the reality of prison laid bare before the readers, I loved even more – surprisingly – the way Kushner showed readers what a cursed dystopia San Francisco is to those who can’t keep swimming fast enough and are drowned by the tide. 3 1/2 of 5 stars.

ParklandSpeaksParkland Speaks: Survivors from Marjorie Stoneman Douglas Share Their Stories, by Sarah Lerner (editor) (2019, Crown Books for Young Readers, 192 pages, paperback)
and
Parkland: Birth of a Movement, by David Cullen (2019, Harper, 400 pages, hardcover). I bought these books on their publication dates (just a week apart) because, like many of us, I was so strongly drawn to the lessons of hope and of activism these high school students have fought so hard to teach us. Ridiculously, this is what feels like the thousandth school shooting in collective memory because there is no clear cut answer – at least that the country can agree on. That’s where the argument seems to stall. The survivors of Parkland say that’s not enough. Parkland Speaks is catharsis bound between a beautiful soft jacket cover. Essays, poems, cartoons, artwork – it is the collective hope of the students, teachers, and others impacted by the tragedy, edited by Ms. Sarah Lerner, an English teacher who watched events unfold from an uncomfortably close perspective. The collection is intimate and gorgeous; one that will help us not just pinpoint the moment the revolution was born, but also reflect on our own losses as well as love those still around us.
ParklandParkland: Birth of a Movement was written by the same journalist who penned the go-to book about the school shooting at Columbine, giving him a unique perspective for his newest project. Whereas Columbine ushered in a horrifically new era and kind of mass shooting, you can’t help but feel that Parkland might usher in the answer for the same. The reason you feel that way is because of the hope these students embody, as the world has borne witness, but also a mighty, present kind of activism MSD students have rolled out with a roaring battlecry: NEVER AGAIN. If you think 400 pages of politics and activism sounds a bit thick, you haven’t read anything by Cullen; he captures the day-to-day – sometimes moment-to-moment – activities of the students and their families so closely, intimately, powerfully that you feel the wind of the carousel as it whips you around. How many times after a school shooting have you thought Stop this ride, I want to get off? Parkland convinces you these kids are going to show us how. 5 out of 5 stars; highly recommend as paired reading.

TheSuspectThe Suspect, by Fiona Barton (2019, Berkley Books, 416 pages, hardcover). I purchased this book as a Christmas gift for myself. So many good books were published in the beginning of January by authors I’ve come to love and rely on. Fiona Barton was one. I stumbled upon her debut, The Widow, at the library. I had no idea it was her first book. It’s your basic psychological thriller: the story is set up, you get hooked, there are twists and turns, and then BAM! the surprise ending. There are bad ones, and then there are good ones. Barton wrote very good ones. Maybe not Gone Girl good, her books are a little formulaic, but good enough to keep me guessing. I love the way the point-of-view shifts, and the way that even I, after alllll these books I’ve read in my life, can’t guess the big reveal. Ooh, and also that while the books are all linked through the reporter, Kate Winters, each book is truly a stand-alone. (I’m not kidding; there was such a gap between when I read the first book and the second that I forgot Kate had been in both til halfway through!) At least, that’s how the first two were. The third one – The Suspect – was set up the same way. Only this time Kate’s son is the title character, unfortunately. The dynamic is shifted a bit, and that was a bit muddy. I found it a bit confusing, along with all of the pov shifts that I normally love. And there was something about the story just I just couldn’t hook into. Normally I race through Barton’s books – that’s why I finally just bought the third one. This time, of course because I bought the hardcover, it failed to catch me. I kept checking the page count and found I was reading fewer and fewer pages each time I sat down. I finished it in the end, but I was very disappointed. Even the big reveal was a bit dodgy and meh. So. Would I recommend? Maybe not this book. But I’m definitely still watching for the next in the series. Barton’s allowed the sophomore slump…even if it took a bit to catch her. I have hope. 2 1/2 of 5 stars.

So there you go – the books themselves are all over the place, from Cali, to Florida, to D.C. and across America, to London, and Thailand. But somehow we’ve all centered around crime. Crazy, huh? Reading is magical. And full of hope.

The kind of walls that don’t make me break out in hives.

February 26, 2019

Gracie has been busy trying to decide how to redecorate her bedroom walls. It’s something we discuss pretty frequently – and usually the word “wall” has me reacting rather violently these days, but not Gracie’s.

Gracie’s is pretty freaking awesome, is it not?

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Those are tiny, tiny Polaroid look-alikes. She printed about eight to a page, cut them all out by hand (now that’s dedication!), and stuck them in with wooden push pins that she got for Christmas.

Now that’s a wall I could get behind!