I’d take a self-cleaning toilet over a self-cleaning oven any day

The person that designed my toilets must have been a very privileged individual, and therefore never had to personally clean a toilet. There are way too many unnecessary nooks and crevices in these stupid toilets! It’s bad enough dealing with these fancy schmancy curvy toilets on a daily cleaning basis, but when your seven year old unloads an entire digestive tract worth of vomit on top of one, the cleaning of it takes hours.

I blame Jesse.

She was puking on the tile floor just fine before he hollered for her to aim for the toilet. “Nooooooo!” I cried in slow motion, envisioning the mess a down-pouring of vomit would make on and around the toilet. But it was too late. Ever the obedient child, she turned toward the toilet just as another spasm gripped her stomach. The chunky liquid spewed forth from her mouth, arching dramatically as she was still in motion. It splashed over walls, counters and finally, alllll over that damn toilet. Very little vomit actually made it into the toilet.

She stood there in shock, hands and arms covered in slime, reminiscent of  fancy three quarter-length gloves. A few drops fell from her hair and pattered wetly to the floor, the only sound in the quiet after the storm. It looked like something you might find in the deleted scenes section of a Ghost Busters DVD, had Ghost Busters been made in a post VHS era.

“Don’t touch anything.” I said calmly. “Take off your clothes, and follow me, but don’t touch anything!”

I washed her hair and braided it, and got her all cleaned up, then I went downstairs and found the dog in the bathroom EATING THE VOMIT. I almost blew my own chunks at that point. Instead I shooed the dog away and began the very grueling task of cleaning up an ocean of nastiness. After the bathroom had been properly exorcized, I took a Silkwood shower, then finally, I came and got my very patiently waiting baby. It had taken me so long to clean everything up that she was actually hungry – possibly for the first time in her life. I almost laughed at the confused look on her face. It was as if she were saying, “What is this uncomfortable, empty feeling I’m experiencing in my belly?”

Now all my little ducklings are nestled snug in their beds, and I have a million and four things to do to get ready for our trip up north to visit my parents. It’s a shame, really. This was going to be a post about the fun adventure we went on with the kids this afternoon. I drew them a “map” with chalk arrows on the sidewalk, all the way to Jamba Juice. Maybe I’ll get around to that post tomorrow. As for tonight, I will stay busy cleaning and packing and trying to rid myself of the phantom stink of vomit that is haunting my nostrils.

Oh, and in case you were wondering, Jamba Juice does indeed use real, fresh fruit in their smoothies. So fresh it is still easily recognizable two hours after having been eaten, and then regurgitated.

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Tesla the Opportunist

Tesla is usually very nervous around the baby when I’m holding her, but when I put the baby on the ground she’ll take full advantage of the situation. Tesla has figured out that if she lay close enough to the baby’s feet, every time the baby kicks or dances, Tesla gets a massage.

WARNING: The following video contains massive amounts of cute.


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What the butt?

 photo karisisbutts_zps760395c0.jpg

I found this crumpled up on the ground beside my car minivan. It was penned by Brecken. His penmanship has improved a great deal this past year. He still throws the odd capital letter in the middle of a word here and there, but he did use the correct spelling of  the “butts” he intended, which is more than several adults I know are capable of doing. Also, he has a point; Karis is, in fact, butts on occasion.

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Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stomach Bug

Brecken has a super power. It is the power to vomit on the most difficult to clean surfaces. This morning, as we were shuffling him into the car for camp (very much against his will) he puked all over his car seat and my upholstery. So much for that new car smell. Had he vomited ten seconds sooner he would have hit the driveway. A simple hose job at most. But no, he christened the damn car.

I thought perhaps he had done it on purpose to get out of going to camp, but we decided to give him the benefit of the doubt and keep him home. I told him he couldn’t watch t.v. or play on the iPad. I took Karis to camp, then came home to begin cleaning the puke out of the car seat – no easy feat! That sucker is damn near impossible to take apart.

As the various car seat parts lay drying, I came in and took Brecken’s temperature. No fever. I told him he still couldn’t watch t.v., then I went upstairs for a minute to talk with Jesse as he finished getting ready for work. We heard a piercing scream, and ran downstairs to find Brecken crying. This time he had managed to puke on the couch cushion, a Harry Potter book, and a heavy throw blanket. Four inches to the left and he would have thrown up on a tile floor. Tile! Easy to wipe up tile! But no.

Again, I was a little suspicious of the timing, because he had been pissed about the no t.v. thing. I hosed him off in the tub, covered his bed in puppy pads and towels, removed his comforter, and set him up with a throw up bowl. I explained to him that the next time he felt like throwing up he could do it into the bowl. Then I had him show me how he would do it. He giggled as he mimed throwing up. I kissed him, told him to try to rest, and promised I would bring him some water in a half hour.  He didn’t complain. He smiled sweetly and snuggled into bed.

I kissed Jesse goodbye, then scraped vomit off the couch cushion and gave it a preliminary washing. Harry Potter was wiped clean an put out in the sun to hopefully air out. The throw blanket is waiting its turn for the washing machine to be finished. My house stinks like stomach acid.

This is when I officially become the meanest mom in the world. I just went up to check on Brecken, and there is a little bit of vomit in the throw up bowl. He is sound asleep. I never heard a peep out of him! He didn’t cry or try to get my attention; he just quietly puked into the bowl and went to sleep. My poor boy. Does he think I’ll yell at him if he throws up? I’m so glad we gave him the benefit of the doubt and let him stay home. When he wakes up I will totally let him play on the iPad until every one of his brain cells is fried.

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Before and After – Dining room and living room

Today’s before and after is the most dramatic change I’ve made in this particular house. It should be noted that we are renting, and therefore I cannot choose paint colors for my walls or do other structural home improvements. I make do with rearranging furniture and harassing my landlord for upgrades.

When we moved into this house it had old, disgusting carpet in the formal living/dining area, and the entire upstairs area. It was almost a deal breaker. My landlord tried to convince me that the carpet was only a few years old. Bitch please, this carpet saw the Reagan administration. I tried my best to keep that awful carpet bearable. I shampooed it almost weekly. (A new carpet has stain deflecting properties, and does not require constant cleaning. I wasted HOURS of my life trying to make that carpet look as nice as possible.) Finally, after TWO YEARS of me complaining incessantly about the disgusting carpet, she agreed to put in hardwood floors! (But only in the downstairs. She is so cheap frugal that she had them cut out the carpet that had been under the couch and recarpet the stairs with it, so now our stairs have mildly less gross carpet. Seriously – it wasn’t worth the effort.)

Also around this time, Mugga needed to re-home her old dining set that came from the family vacation house in Maine. It was from the 1920′s and I was in love with it, so I insisted we ship it across the country.

Jesse: “For that price I could buy a brand new dining set from West Elm or Pottery Barn!”

Me: “Yeah. But then we’d have a boring dining set from West Elm or Pottery Barn and not a really cool family heirloom that your grandparents used to eat at with your mother.”

The conversation was much longer than that, but in the end I won. (Let’s be honest, there’s no surprise there. Cool family antiques trump boring new stuff every time.)


Here is the dining room before when it was a play room, and now:


 photo diningroombeforeandafter_zps19b50ea4.jpgclick on image for larger view

Before I show you the living room I want to mention that the living room got completely finished, then a pipe exploded in the wall and it looked like this:


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And because insurance companies suck and so does my landlord when it comes to spending money, we lived like that for A WHOLE FREAKING MONTH. (All the while with a new baby in the house, remember.)

Finally, the wall was replaced (but even now, I am STILL waiting for the bathroom to be painted and the toilet paper holder to be installed) and I am able to enjoy my new living room:


 photo livingroombeforeandafter_zpse3245810.jpg


Bonus before and after: If you look closely you can see the pillows on the couch have been changed. Our kids do disgusting, unspeakable things to our couch pillows. They basically use them as napkins and handkerchiefs. Yeah, I know, gross. It doesn’t matter how many times we yell at them not to defile the pillows. Instead of buying new pillows every month I made pillowcases out of upholstery fabric so now I can just throw them in the wash.

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Before and After – coffee table and desk chair

Alrighty then! Let’s start enjoying some before and after shots, shall we?

This first one is a twofer. Our current coffee table started life as a tall dining table that lived in our NY apartment:


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If you ever find yourself thinking a tall dining table is a good idea, you know, to mix things up a bit in furniture land, don’t. It’s not. It’s annoying more than anything. You will feel as if you live at a bar. Sure, it was great when the kids were small, because they couldn’t reach whatever I had atop the table, but that was the only pro.

When we moved to our current house we needed a coffee table, and we didn’t need a dining table, because I planned to use the dining room as a playroom. So I cut the legs down to coffee table height, and donated the tall bar chairs.

This particular set was a Kmart cheapy, so it was covered in that weird veneer discount stores are so fond of. It chips and looks dumpy. I hated it! So I refinished it. I love how it turned out!


 photo coffeetablebeforeafter_zpsb9036563.jpg


Next up: The desk and chair.

I don’t have a “before” of the desk, but it was a six dollar treasure I found at a thrift store. It had ugly paint and no drawers. I painted it and added shelves where the missing drawers once lived. I special ordered a glass top for ease of cleaning. The chair is a family heirloom from Mugga. I loved the original paint on it, but it was lead (sad trombone) so I painted it to match the desk. The back just happens to look similar to the scroll type back of the desk. Very cute.


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All three of these projects were messy and I was miserable while doing them, but so pleased when they were finished. That feeling of accomplishment is like crack. It keeps me jumping into these damn projects. I just can’t quit them.

Tomorrow I will show you my dining room and living room transformations. They are dramatic!

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No foolin’

Hi Internet. It’s April Fool’s day, but I’m not going to be clever or try to pull a fast one on ya. I’m too tired. Everyone is sick (again!) over here at Casa de Merrill. I succumbed first, and Jesse turned into Prince Charming, doing car pool and cooking dinners… It was almost worth the pounding sinuses to watch that man in action. He can’t make a bed or fold laundry to save his life, but he does a fine job of most everything else. (The one caveat is his insistence on making snide remarks  about everything.) *shrug* We are all works in progress.

Non sequitur

I am very good at taking before and after pictures of things, and then never posting them. My goal over the next week is to weed through all my old before and afters and share them. They aren’t organized, so it will be quite challenging to find them. The kids are on break for the next three weeks, so the odds of me accomplishing this goal are very much not in my favor.

In closing, here is my cute baby.

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They do’d


 photo wedding10_zps6c8632a6.jpgMrs. & Mr.


Danielle and Apple Josh got married last weekend! We are a little bit fond of them, so we decided to attend the wedding, even though it meant flying 3000 miles with three kids. That right there? That’s love and dedication.

Seren was an angel – as usual. She cried a little bit during take off and landing, but otherwise she was a dream. If you ever want to discourage anyone from having kids, keep them far away from this baby. She is smiley and serene. My husband will probably yell at me when he reads this, and say I jinxed it. I will now be blamed if she suddenly turns into a fussy tyrant. I’ll take that risk. She is a sweet, loving little doll, and I want to sing her praises from my rooftop.

The kids are in school, so we couldn’t make it a very long visit, but we made what time we had count. The kids got to play with their cousin, Nathan, who loved Seren and wanted nothing more than to give her toys and pet her in fascination. It was good practice for him, because he’s going to be a big brother in June! (He’s two. I laughed and teased his parents that they would go gray trying to keep their new baby safe from Nathan’s curious hands. I honestly can’t remember how I managed to keep my sanity when I had a two year old and a newborn.)

The wedding was beautiful. At least the parts I saw were beautiful. I spent a good chunk of time up in the hotel room with the baby because the babysitter we hired had her hands full with other kids. It was like a cornucopia of crying kids. I didn’t want to add to her burden, and also I didn’t want to leave Seren with her when she was so distracted. (It worked out in the end – Seren was down at the party during the speeches, and let out a squawk just as Mugga was talking about giving birth to Danielle. She has perfect comedic timing – like her mother!)

Karis and Brecken reprised their rolls as flower girl and ring bearer. Karis was a social butterfly, dancing, mingling, and partying her heart out. Brecken was a moody little punk who refused to participate in the festivities, opting instead to hang out in the babysitting room with the crying babies, watching episode after episode of Spongebob Squarepants. His personality has changed dramatically since he started kindergarten. I can’t tell if it’s just a natural thing, or a peer pressure thing. I miss my sweet boy that ruled the dance floor at Berkeley’s wedding. I hope he is quick to find self assurance and inner peace as he navigates his way through increasingly complicated peer relationships. We went to a spring recital for him this morning, and while he didn’t hide behind the kid next to him like Karis always used to do, he didn’t actively participate, and he made sure to make faces to let everyone know he was way too cool to be singing about Peter Cottontail.

Anyway, back to the wedding. Between handling the baby and the dark lighting I didn’t get many shots to share with you, Internet. Luckily, they had an Uh-mazing photographer, and I can’t wait to see the wedding album. They also had wonderful hair and make up people that made this tired mama look like a million bucks. I felt extra glam! Sadly, I don’t have any pictures of my awesome hair. I *did* get pictures of the kids though, which is the most important thing, right?


 photo wedding1_zps6e5d40e7.jpgA reflecting flower girl


 photo wedding2_zpsecfbd86c.jpgBrecken mustache you a question


 photo wedding4_zpsaa901755.jpgA rare moment of sweetness


 photo wedding5_zpsd8b6b56a.jpgBrecken and Nathan not being cute at all

I thoroughly enjoyed this wedding, Internet. I got to hang out with my sister-wife, Giiirrrrllll, and the next morning I got to spend time with a very special birthday girl that I am secretly wed to as recognized by the state of New Hampshire. Giiirrrllll and I even forced our husbands to dance with us and pretend to like it! It was a win! The only thing that could have made this trip even more perfect in the catching-up-with-my-favorite-girls category is if I had managed to squeeze in time to see my Twinsie. *sigh* That reunion will have to wait.

I would end this post by saying “Welcome to the family, Apple Josh.” but he’s already been a part of the family in my book for years. Instead I will leave you with one of my favorite candid moments. It was taken well past midnight. This is the bride’s dad and mom. Her step-mom is standing just out of frame. They were tired, and headed back to their rooms. Mugga had absconded with multiple table centerpieces. She is camera shy and impossible to get in pictures. I said something silly to distract her from the camera, and it started a bit of a giggle fit. I’m happy to have captured such a fun moment.


 photo wedding8_zps256d001a.jpg

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This beautiful film had me crying several different types of tears.



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Carpool Queen

Karis goes to gymnastics every Friday with three of her school friends. We mothers take turns carpooling, so I only have to take them once a month.

Well, each of the other moms usually do something fun with the girls after class, and I have been slowly cultivating the reputation of being the “boring mom”. I haven’t actually heard any of them call me that out loud, but seven-year-olds aren’t very subtle.

I decided to step up my game a bit.

Last Friday, I brought the girls home from gymnastics and had these waiting for them:


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Hidden inside each cupcake was a personalized game piece with their face on it. After they ate their cupcakes I lead them into the dining room and they each chose a poster page.


 photo carpool3_zps40b2f984.jpg


I had pre-drawn  a path that meandered through all four pages.


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I instructed the girls to personalize their page by drawing their game piece a house, and I gave them each two stickers to put on spaces on their page.


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After they had decorated their pages to their hearts’ content, I taped all the pieces together and explained the game. If they landed on a stickered space, they had to pick a card. The cards had instructions like “go to so-and-so’s house” or “lose a turn”


 photo carpool5_zpse5d265bc.jpg


They loved the project. They played one round of the game, then decided it would be more fun to just play with their game pieces on the board like a two dementional doll house.

Eventually everything evolved into a standard rambunctious free-for-all where the entire soundtrack to Frozen was sung many times over, and pizza was shoveled down throats. It took three adults to round them up and force them to go home. I’d say that’s a good sign of a successful, un-boring playdate.

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