Category Archives: marriage

Donating the Dress

5 years ago, I unsealed my wedding gown box so that I could try on my dress. I was thrilled it zipped, even if it didn’t quite fit like it had on my wedding day.

I mentioned in that post that I was thinking of getting rid of the dress, because I am just not terribly sentimental about things. Everyone in the comments (and there are a TON of them!) freaked out and insisted I keep the dress. Go read it…lots of great ideas about what I could do with it.

So I kept it.

And then we moved across town, and 5 more years went by, and during that time I lost 30+ pounds (I’m still so happy about this!). I got the gown out again in January to try it on while going through some things in the basement. Obviously, it’s way too big now.

And 5 years later, I’ve found that I am still not sentimental about keeping it. So really. Why is it still here?

The decision has officially been made: I am donating the dress…like it’s literally boxed up and going to the post office today. And I’m donating it while I still can: there is only one wedding gown charity that will take it because, you know, it’s ancient in terms of wedding fashion. (For the record: I still think it’s really pretty.)

I’m sending it to Adorned in Grace in Portland, where the proceeds will go towards eliminating sex trafficking in their city. I love that my dress will make another bride happy AND do good.

Here’s a list of several wedding gown charities, in case you might be ready to let your dress go do some good for someone else, too. If your dress is 5 years old or less, there are lots of different options for you to choose from!

I put it on one last time last week and had Matt take a picture…

um, once upon a time i, uh, filled out this dress a little better :/  it’s sad that we can’t choose WHICH part of our bodies to lose weight from.

Illini. Forever.

For Christmas, the boys all got new Illini pullovers and tickets to the basketball game against Northwestern. Saturday was finally the day we got to go to Champaign-Urbana!

We left early Saturday morning from STL, so that we could have several hours on campus for shopping and sightseeing before gametime, and also to ensure that we could eat two meals at our favorite Green Street locations. Priorities.

On our way out of town, my friend Kelli texted to see if we’d seen the latest forecast. I hadn’t, but it had changed from the 1″ of snow that I was expecting to 5-7″, on its way midday into the night. Great. But at this point…whatever. We were on the road, so not much we could do about it now.

We got to C-U, and I swear, I smiled all day long. I love being on campus so so much! We had lunch at Zorba’s, followed by shopping at the local bookstores for some new Illini gear.

zorba's entryway, full of 2004-5 newspaper clippings of final four team.

zorba’s entryway, full of 2004-5 newspaper clippings of final four team.

snowy quad + foellinger in the background. feels like yesterday that we were meeting up on the quad between classes :)

snowy quad + foellinger in the background. feels like yesterday that we were meeting up on the quad between classes :)

instilling a love for this beautiful campus early.

instilling a love for this beautiful campus early. #goodparenting #ftw

I posted this picture to Instagram/Facebook kind of early in the day.

me and alma. still annoyed that i didn't wait in line in my cap and gown for a pic here in '99.

me and alma. still annoyed that i didn’t wait in line in my cap and gown for a pic here in ’99.

My roommate Karen commented on that picture: “Um, not trying to be mean, but are you wearing orange? It looks like something cute and trendy, but it better be orange!”

Hilarious! Because every good Illini fan knows: YOU WEAR ORANGE TO ASSEMBLY HALL. I didn’t have anything to wear (my Illini gear was all old and too big), so part of the plan was for me to find a new tee while shopping and change clothes in the van in a parking garage. Which is exactly what I did (my kids: “Are you serious?” Me: “Totally. There is nothing weird about this.”).

We took the boys by all of our old res halls and apartments, which just made me grin even more…Wardall 6 and 502 w Green #205 were home to three of the greatest years of my life, and just getting to see them made me happy. (Matt did not feel the need to be photographed outside where he lived. Weird, right? ;) )

because you needed to know which rooms were mine.

because you needed to know which rooms were mine. and…there’s my orange!

oh hey, people who live here now. i almost knocked on the door so i could get a glimpse inside.

oh hey, people who live here now. i almost knocked on the door so i could get a glimpse inside.

And THEN, we got to spend some time with my other roommate, Kim, her husband Rich, and their daughter Zoe at our other favorite Green Street spot, Murphy’s Pub. Our boys love going there and scratching their names into the tables and benches, and, of course, the food is great. Loved catching up with our friends, and making big plans for a fall reunion!

kim and me. never enough time to get all of our words in on these visits :)

kim and me. never enough time to get all of our words in on these visits :)

yes, we take our kids to a pub every year.

yes, we take our kids to a pub every year.

By the time we left Murphy’s, snow had started falling on campus. Oh well. We got to the game about 30 minutes before tip-off, and the boys were so pumped. They just wholeheartedly love Illini basketball, even when the team isn’t that great.

assembly hall with these crazies.

assembly hall with these crazies.

Fortunately, it was an awesome game that saw the Illini hit 14 of 28 three-pointers and result in a 26-point victory. Less fortunately, it had really started snowing by the time the game was over, and our drive towards home got more treacherous the further south we got.

So, we made a decision about 15 miles outside of Effingham that we would take Matt’s parents up on their offer to let us stay there overnight instead of continuing on with horrible visibility and road conditions. They graciously took us in, and the boys crashed immediately.

We woke to a full foot of snow on the ground there, but were happy to hear that STL had only gotten about 4″. And by late morning when we headed out, roads were clear and the snow had nearly stopped, making travel much, much easier.

I think it’s safe to say that none of us will forget this trip soon.


Last weekend, my husband gave me the best gift.

I know that when I told him a few months ago that it was something I wanted, he thought I was a little crazy for making this request. However, over the last several months, I’ve sort of made a habit of telling him things that make him think I’m losing it, so what was one more?

{I am a joy to be married to. Bless.}

Anyway, my request was a one-night retreat, in a hotel right here in town, all alone. Just a little time to exhale, and sleep in a big bed all by myself. I emailed him 10 days ago with a link to a great deal on a nice hotel in Clayton, along with last Saturday night’s date, explaining that our calendar was clear.

And he told me to book it. I think this is an acceptable trade for the 4 days he spent in Colorado last month skiing with guys from work, no?

I think moms too often feel like they can’t or don’t deserve time to themselves of some sort, but I wholeheartedly disagree. Obviously, I got to do this in a big way, but breaks of any kind are important. My friend Karen sent me this post last week, and I couldn’t agree more. Find a way to get yourself a break.

So late on Saturday afternoon, after my friend Kelli and I spent some time together, I checked into the hotel. It was perfect…if I ever get to do this again, I’d go back.

So what did I do? Walked to Pastaria a block away and sat at the bar and had a drink while they made my dinner, which I brought back to my room and destroyed.


first of all, they sent me with a million containers. but, i feel like you need to know that i can EAT. and since i’d skipped lunch, i did.


I did a little reading and writing, and crashed into that big bed with ALL FOUR PILLOWS TO MYSELF :) with the laptop and one of my favorite old movies I hadn’t seen for a while, When Harry Met Sally. I’d say I slept like a baby, but we all know babies don’t sleep well, soooo…just know, I slept so, so well. I love hotels*.

this was pretty much my setup. complete with u of i sweatshirt from 1995 that i will literally never, ever for my whole life get rid of.  i'm leaving it in my will to someone.

this was pretty much my setup. complete with u of i sweatshirt from 1995 that i will literally never, ever for my whole life get rid of. i’m leaving it in my will to someone.

Sunday morning was more of the same, except that I went out for breakfast at Half & Half. So yes, more food pictures.

you guys. these pancakes are tied with wildberry's in chicago for the best ever. go eat these.

you guys. these pancakes are tied with wildberry’s in chicago for the best ever. go eat these.

Not so long ago, going out to eat by myself would have been something that felt awkward, but not anymore. I sort of loved it. And I have a fun story from breakfast that I’ll save for another post.

I finished up my alone time by running by the mall to find a pair of black dress pants. I left with some dark magenta skinny jeans, so that went exactly as planned.

I met up with the fam at Bennett’s basketball game, totally refreshed and ready to dive into this week, which has already included pulling a tooth, hosting small group, and getting everyone out the door this morning with no yelling.


*Let’s be clear: all 5 of us smashed into a regular-sized hotel room is not what I’m talking about here. For the record.


A couple of months ago, I was looking at Instagram, and a popular blogger that I follow on IG had posted a picture of her sweet family…they’d been travelling in an RV for a number of weeks together. She seems like a fun mom, and I love watching what she does with her kids through pictures. However, what caught my attention was the couple of comments that were visible under the picture.

I’m paraphrasing, but the gist was this, from 2 different moms: “We do EVERYTHING with our kids. We have never ever gotten a babysitter, even to go out for dinner, because we never want to be without them. Why would we want to go on an adventure and not include them?”

I almost choked on my tea.

Because, you see, I love my kids. So much. My only serious childhood ambition was to be a mom someday (and a cashier and an Avon lady. Which hasn’t happened yet, really. Who knows what the future holds though, right?), and I am one. I love travelling with them and seeing new things for the first time with them.

But are you even kidding me? Never getting a babysitter? Never doing anything without them? I’m sorry, but to me, that’s just not healthy for you as an adult human, or for your marriage. I’ve blogged before about how I think couples have to be careful not to lose sight of each other while they’re in the messy throes of raising kids (12 in ’12 was all about this for us), because before you know it, those kids are on their own, and you’re married to a stranger. No one wants that, right?

So, all that to justify say: Matt and I ran away to the beach last week for 5 days to celebrate our 15th anniversary, and it was truly, truly one of the highlights of my life. And we have Matt’s parents to majorly thank for totally stepping in and taking over the household for us while we were gone…they even left me with a clean house and garage, and the laundry done. Doesn’t get much better than that!!

We joked that we didn’t even know if we would be good at going on a sit-your-butt-on-the-beach vacation, since we’re usually go-do-a-ton-of-stuff vacationers (Nashville, Nashville again, Boston – though one of my Boston highlights was our drive to the Cape Cod seashore…). However, as it turns out, we killed it at laying in beach chairs. Literally for 4 full days, our only responsibility was making sure that we reapplied sunscreen regularly. We read books (you guys, my non-reader husband read TWO WHOLE BOOKS while we were gone), listened to music and the ocean, walked the beach and collected shells, and made getting back to the beach (or, just staying there all day) for sunset our job. Oh, and plenty of eating, and drinking Lime-a-Ritas like they were nutritious.

I can’t go back to do-something vacations after this. I’m afraid it ruined me in the best way possible.

It’s not that I ever would’ve shunned a vacation at the beach. I mean, hello, parenting babies and toddlers is incredibly exhausting, too. But as we reflected on the trip, and the time of year that we took it, it made sense why this felt like perfect timing. For the past couple of years, and the foreseeable future, our March-September is c-r-a-z-y with baseball. And you all know we wouldn’t have it any other way! The rest of the year feels so much more regular-busy-family manageable.

October is the perfect time to go to the beach. I’m polishing up my persuasive speech skills to talk Matt into this again. :)

I didn’t even mention where we went, did I? Siesta Key, Florida, right outside Sarasota. We visited a few neighboring beaches, too, to compare, and none of them even came close. I’d choose Siesta Key again in a heartbeat.

Sigh. So that’s it. Here are a few pictures, to make you want to go, too.

Next week, if I’m brave enough, I’ll blog about body image and what living in a bikini for a few days taught me. We’ll see.

What 12 in ’12 Taught Us

2 years ago, in 2012, I pre-planned one date a month for Matt and me…it ended up being 11 dates in 2012 due to kid sickness, but oh well. All of the details and the dates were chronicled on the blog, and you can read about them here (also, in perfect me form, I did not blog the last date of the year, which was a fun overnight for New Year’s Eve, but whatever).

We LOVED it. It seemed weird to start 2013 without a plan in place for date nights. However, we realized that it refocused our attention to something we already knew, but had kind of shelved: we need to make time for each other.

Frankly, I didn’t think we were doing poorly at making time for dates pre-12 in ’12…and probably, compared to most American marriages, we weren’t. But that isn’t the standard we should be measuring ourselves by, really, is it?

Yes, it costs money. Just the babysitting, let alone the actual date, is expensive. I get it. But there are other things that get sacrificed to make this happen, and it’s worth it. And, a couple of times a year, we swap babysitting nights with my brother and his wife, which makes everyone happy: it’s free, there’s time with cousins, everyone wins. Also, we have some fantastic babysitters, and I love that the boys get excited to hear they’re coming over. It’s good for them, too.

We don’t get out monthly anymore, but we do get a sitter and go out for dinner, or meet friends out, when we can. Trying new restaurants is one of our favorites, so we do that whenever possible…which is slightly overwhelming in a city filled with amazing food where we already have so many favorite places to eat!

Several weeks ago, Matt took a half day on a Monday and let me sleep in while he got the boys ready and off to school (this is like winning the lottery to me). I slept late, he came with me to volunteer in Jack Henry’s classroom like I did every Monday (surprised JH, who loved it!), and we went out to brunch.

{Speaking of that: always a good idea to check if the place you’re wanting to have brunch is open on the day you’re going. Because for the record, Half and Half, the place I’d been dreaming of having breakfast since our cancelled Valentine’s breakfast date, is closed on Mondays. However, the cancelled V-Day date was to be on a Monday morning, too, so I would’ve been disappointed 2 months ago, too.

BUT: that place being closed led to an amazing breakfast at another place down the street from Half and Half that I’d never been, City Coffeehouse and Creperie. I ate so much that it was my only meal of the day…by late evening, I was hungry and had a small snack, but it was that good. And that worth the calories.}

I digress. I could talk about good food all the livelong day, and this was a place we ate weeks ago.

We are in the thick of summer craziness right now…kid baseball nearly every night, and I’m not exaggerating. Getting a night at home is extremely rare, and when it happens, there’s SO much to do, and so many hours of sleep to catch up on, that a date night is not top priority. This isn’t a pity party; we signed up for this and for the most part, I love it. But that doesn’t mean we aren’t craving a quiet dinner with wine, at a table, with a server who isn’t in a t-shirt, since dinner recently is either some kind of sandwich I’ve made and brought with us or a pretzel with cheese at the ball diamonds.

So, we WILL celebrate Matt’s 39th birthday (which was yesterday) one of these days. It may be mid-July, but that’s okay, because then it can be my birthday celebration, too. :) And in the off-season, we’ll need some sitters. Regularly.

There is a Right and Wrong Way to Fold Towels.

AKA some things in your marriage are worth fighting for.

A long time ago in a land far away (er, 20 miles away in Maryland Heights), when I was just a child bride (seriously, the older I get, the more I realize just how young we were when we married) setting up a home with my new husband, we used to do the laundry together.

Awww. That’s cute, isn’t it?

Well, we did. We had to cart the baskets a couple of buildings over from ours to use the quarter machines that were always filled with someone else’s left-behind laundry (gag). We’d wash and dry and return to our cozy first-floor apartment to fold.

That’s where the trouble began.

Matt informed me that I was folding the towels wrong.

Ahem. What?

He showed me how he thought the towels should be folded. It became a lighthearted joke between the two of us, and just to be accommodating, I started folding towels his way. Start with the towel flat:

towel 1

Then you do these folds:

Towel 2

The way I always folded towels was like this:

towel 3

My way is one less step, and when you unfold it, it’s ready to put on the towel rack without having to refold it. However, his way folds up the towel more compactly, and it fits better on a bathroom shelf.

I just want to stop for a second and comment on how hilarious this is to me now, that he had an opinion about this. Read about his bachelor pad here for a bit of insight.

Anyway, over the years, Matt has helped less with the laundry. He still folds a load here and there, which I very much appreciate, but since I quit working, washing/drying/folding/sorting moved entirely into my jurisdiction, which seems fair. However, I was still folding towels “his” way.

Yesterday, as my hands were full of clean towels and I was trying one-handed to hang clean ones on the towel racks, they ended up like this:

towel 4

And it occurred to me: why in the world am I still folding towels his way? He rarely folds or puts away a towel; they just magically appear clean on his towel rack!

So now, nearly 15 years into our marriage, I’m taking it back. I can now one-handed put a towel on the rack like this, thanks to my revelation:


This is all kind of sad, but it’s real, and it makes me laugh a little.

“Remember That One Christmas Break When We Built a Closet?”

I can just hear us 20 years from now, reminiscing on The Great Closet Implosion of 2013 like it was a happy memory.

Truly, the result is amazing and I am beyond glad that we didn’t just buy the hardware needed to reattach the old shelving. Having your closet throw up on the night of December 23 isn’t pleasant, and living with all of your clothing on the floor of several rooms isn’t pleasant either. However, if that hadn’t happened, we likely would’ve spent the next several years cursing the horrible layout of our closet, wishing the space was better utilized than it is.

We spent some time pricing different units online and in a couple of stores, and decided to do it ourselves using the allen+roth closet system from Lowe’s…it’s not nearly as awesome as The Container Store, but at less than 1/3 of the price, it was what we wanted to do. It mostly went according to plan, minus a couple of hiccups with installation, and my wish that the shelving that came with the units was longer so that we could use them above the hanging clothes (I’m still formulating a plan for that).

So here it is! For an organizing freak like me, putting everything back was fun and slightly overwhelming, because there were so many possibilities, starting over like we were. But I love how it’s all come together. The only thing left to do is figure out where to hang my belts, and I’m done!

Oh…and for the record: today is snow day #4 in a row, following 16 days of Christmas break. Sanity intact, but barely, as the boys play yet another game of whatever it is they play downstairs that involves a ball hitting a lot of stuff and a lot of yelling. Clearly, I am very concerned.