My Vat of Frustration

My frustration vat is dangerously close to overflowing. What’s a frustration vat, you ask? It is that internal thing that holds all of the frustrating stuff that happens as it builds throughout the week until one day you just LOSE YOUR MIND AND IT ALL SPILLS OUT DROWNING ANY WHO DARE CROSS YOUR PATH! Or something like that.

My anxiety tends to make me fairly easily frustrated, but, on the flip side, I’m usually very good at keeping my vat under control. A little might splash out now and then – at home maybe where I let my crazy run free – but not enough to break my poise and grace (ha!) in public. I like to think someone comes to empty my vat on the weekends when I’m recharging. Maybe the same guy who brings the wine. The last two weekends however, that little guy has been MIA.

Weekend #1 – I spent in a state of constant background stress while I was trying to write an article for a magazine on a short deadline. The article itself didn’t take all that much time, but I worried about it incessantly. I also had to wake up at 4am on Saturday. That certainly didn’t help. [In the end, the article turned out great. That doesn’t negate my self-imposed stress though.]

Weekend #2 – We went out of town to see the Phantom of the Opera on Saturday (fun! – stay tuned for a review of the new stage show this Saturday) then my husband left on a work trip for an entire week on Sunday. I used to enjoy the husband’s trips; after our daughter went to bed, I had the entire – very clean – house to myself. Not so much anymore though. The little man is just almost too heavy for me and carting around a mostly immobile nearly-five-year-old all week is tiring.

Long-story-short, my frustration vat is full and sloshing back and forth like a community pool on the hottest day of the year. If there was a giant red warning light on my head, it would be flashing like crazy.

I used my massive paint skills to illustrate my point.
My regular frustration-relievers just aren’t helping this time around. I’ve listened to so much classical music I will probably dream about Bach for weeks. I’ve tried to read, but the kids need . . . attention and motherly stuff. I hate to nap. I despise yoga. I do love to drive, but getting the little man in and out of the car is a big cause of stress. I can’t take a trashy television and wine break in my bedroom (my last resort go-to, leave-me-alone relief). I’m exhausting my options. What to try next? Maybe chocolate or melted cheese.

In all seriousness though, I’m tired and anxious for my husband to return. I’m sure my daughter is too, as she has been tasked with watching her brother many times this week. The little man hasn’t been sleeping well – he appears to be uncomfortable at night, but I can’t tell if it is new teeth coming in, a growth spurt, or regular cerebral palsy muscle spasms. If he doesn’t get to sleep, I don’t get to sleep.

I’ve had to cook dinner, ya’ll. Pray for my daughter; she has to eat it.

On My Television

MV5BMTQ0Nzk4NzU2N15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMjQ2MzA2OQ@@._V1_SY317_CR1,0,214,317_AL_Hey Bartender (2013)

From IMDB: Two bartenders try to achieve their dreams through bartending. An injured Marine turns his goals to becoming a principal bartender at the best cocktail bar in the world. A young man leaves his white-collar job to buy the corner bar in his hometown years later he struggles to keep afloat. The bar is three deep and the bartenders are in the weeds at the greatest cocktail party since before Prohibition. Hey Bartender is the story of the rebirth of the bartender and the comeback of the cocktail. Featuring the world’s most renowned bartenders and access to the most exclusive bars in New York with commentary from Graydon Carter, Danny Meyer and Amy Sacco.

My thoughts: Fun. I enjoyed this one. It was great to see a little bit behind the scenes of these kind of rockstars bars as compared to your typical corner pub. A little pretentious at times, but still a fun watch.

MV5BMjA5NDg0MDQ0OF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwODU1MzA1MDE@._V1_SX640_SY720_I Am Divine (2013)

From I AM DIVINE is a definitive biographical portrait of Harris Glenn Milstead, a.k.a. Divine, and honors him in just the way he always craved — as a serious artist and immortal star. Divine’s entire story is told, from his early days as a misfit youth in Baltimore through his rise to infamy as a cult superstar. Like the characters he portrayed in numerous films, Divine was the ultimate outsider.
He transformed himself from a bullied schoolyard fat kid to a larger-than-life personality and underdog royalty as his alter-ego Divine. Divine stood up for millions of gay men and women, female impersonators, punk rockers, the ample figured, and countless other socially ostracized people. With a completely committed in-your-face style, he blurred the line between performer and personality and revolutionized pop culture.

My thoughts: A great film. If you are in any small bit a fan of Divine, I suggest watching it.

MV5BMTcyODM2ODEzOF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMTczODIxOQ@@._V1_SY317_CR2,0,214,317_AL_The Jeffrey Dahmer Files (2012)

From IMBD: An experimental documentary film that uses archival footage, interviews, and fictionalized scenarios to tell the story of the people around Jeffrey Dahmer during the summer of his arrest in 1991.

My thoughts: From what I’ve seen online, this was rated pretty run-of-the-mill. I really enjoyed it, however. It shows news footage from the arrest/discovery/trial mixed with interviews of those involved with the events (from detectives to the others living in the apartment building). All of this is juxtaposed with reenactments of the events leading up to Dahmer’s arrest. I found it quite interested that this film didn’t show or talk about any interactions with his many victims; it was strictly concentrated on the arrest and aftermath.

Tiny-a-story-about-living-small-poster.jpg.662x0_q100_crop-scaleTiny: A Story About Living Small (2013)

From IMDB: What is home? And how do we find it? TINY follows one couple’s attempt to build a Tiny House from scratch with no building experience, and profiles other families who have downsized their lives into houses smaller than the average parking space. Through homes stripped down to their essentials, the film raises questions about sustainability, good design, and the changing American Dream.

My thoughts: I’ve always been fascinated by tiny houses. I enjoyed this a fair bit, but it does talk a lot about finding a sense of place. If you’ve never lacked a sense of place, you might find it a bit annoying and stereotypically millennial.

Special Saturday Guest Review from Fighting Frazzled

Tacky’s friend here. A month or so ago she asked if anyone wanted to do a guest review of a product on her blog, and I jumped at the chance. Tacky and I have been friends for a long time….since high school…..and we both like to make lists and stay organized. I knew I had ordered a new planner so figured it would be a great opportunity to review it on her blog as well as mine. Since I am going back to school to get my doctorate as well as working full-time and being a mom to 2 young boys and a wife I decided to buy a planner. I did lots of searching for one, either paper or electronic, that met my needs and finally settled on a planner from Plum Paper Designs on Etsy. There are several different layouts you can choose from and I felt the family planner was the best for me. I also added additional notes pages, checklists, and sticker sheets to my planner.


Pros: Lots and Lots and Lots of options. There are over 40 different designs to choose from for the cover along with 7 different layouts. They even have specialty type planners for teachers, students, wedding, meals, and fitness. Another plus are all the add-ons. You can add notes and checklists pages either to the end or throughout the planner. You can add sticker pages, photos, and additional contact pages too. Whatever you need to make the planner work best for you. For me the biggest selling point for this planner over some other similar ones on the market is the fact that you can order it any time of year and to start any month that works best for you. I had mine made for September 2014-August 2015. You can also add 6 months to you planner if you need that as well. Also it feel like it will be durable. There is a plastic cover, heavy duty spiral binding, and heavy weight paper throughout the planner.


Neutral: Cost. Base price for this planner is significantly less that the base price for similar planners on the market. However for me once I made my customizations the cost was very comparable, but I did save $15 by choosing Plum Paper Designs over Erin Condren. Another neutral for me is the monogram on my planner. It isn’t right, however this is my fault. I gave them my initials thinking they would put them in appropriate order knowing my first and last name from my order. Umm nope. They did it just as I typed it. So that one is really on me and not them. Still a bummer though.


Cons: The only downside to this planner was production time. I ordered it in early August and it took about 5 weeks to ship. However this too was also all disclosed prior to ordering so it wasn’t a surprise, just a bummer, and not really unreasonable for a custom product. For me another con was I really wanted something electronic for use on my iPhone and macbook instead of adding something else to carry around. I couldn’t find anything that I felt would work like this planner would so I went for “old-school” paper.


Overall I am really pleased with my planner but I haven’t started using it yet since I’ve had it less than 24 hours. I will post an update on functionality and durability after I have used it awhile. If you are in the market for a planner or something to help keep you organized I highly recommend checking out Plum Paper Designs.


A big thanks to Angela for sharing her review on Go visit her at Fighting Frazzled. You won’t be disappointed! 

Things You Should Know About Eleanor Roosevelt

I w1898-ERphotoatched Ken Burns’s The Roosevelts: An Intimate History this week (thanks PBS for putting all fourteen hours online!). Eleanor Roosevelt is my ultimate hero. I’ve often thought it I could be 1/4 the woman she was, I can be proud. Watching her wonderful story (Teddy and Franklin included too, of course) inspired me to dedicate this month’s “Things You Should Know About . . .” to this amazing woman. This list could go on and on, but instead I will just pick five general things.


1. Eleanor wrote twenty-eight books, five newspaper and magazine column series, and an overwhelming number of articles. One of her columns, “My Day,” started in 1935 and continued, six days a week, until her death in 1962. She wrote about current events, her personal philosophies, and key issues such as race and women’s rights. [Can we consider her an early inspiration for blogging?]
2. Eleanor was the 1st first lady to hold a press conference. Only female reporters were allowed to attend. She eventually held 348 press conferences about her White House life, political issues, and breaking news. Interestingly, the regular President’s Press Office coordinated her press conferences. According to, there is some evidence to suggest they preferred to have her break news related to the president or administration.

3. President Truman appointed Eleanor to the United Nations General Assembly after FDR’s death and she chaired the Human Rights Commission. Eleanor was instrumental in drafting and pushing for adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (adopted December 10, 1948).10-large

4. Eleanor has one of the largest FBI files in history, mostly related to her often controversial – and ahead of her time – views on civil rights, women’s rights, and race relations. A formal investigation was never launched; I like to think Hoover was annoyed when he never got to make use of the file.

5. Eleanor’s father was Elliot Roosevelt, President Theodore Roosevelt’s younger brother. He died when Eleanor was only a teenager after struggling with illness and alcohol abuse and spending some time in an asylum. This was not the only sad and unfortunate part of her childhood.
I’ll finish with some memorable Eleanor quotes. Perhaps you will find one to inspire you.

“One thing I believe profoundly: We make our own history. The course of history is directed by the choices we make and our choices grow out of the ideas, the beliefs, the values, the dreams of the people. It is not so much the powerful leaders that determine our destiny as the much more powerful influence of the combined voices of the people themselves.” – from Tomorrow is Now, 1963

“No, I have never wanted to be a man. I have often wanted to be more effective as a woman, but I have never felt that trousers would do the trick!” – from If You Ask Me, 1940

“Do not stop thinking of life as an adventure. You have no security unless you can live bravely, excitingly, imaginatively; unless you can choose a challenge instead of competence.” – from The Autobiography of Eleanor Roosevelt, 1961


Like A Ninja

I have another BIG DEAL ALERT to share about the little man.

He has been in his new pre-k class for about a month now and – of course – loves playing with all the kids his own age. The kids in his class are all great to him and his teachers are wonderful. Last week, the little man made another big advance on the social front.

He pretended to be a ninja with a group of little boys. This is the first time he has ever played like that. If you remember, the last time the little man had a big advancement in the play world was with his move from the infant room to toddler classroom – in that case, he began to pretend he was talking on the phone.

Anyway, the little man wanted to play with his friends. When the teacher gave him his own ninja mask, he put his little tiny fists in the air like he was punching. They took a photo of it for us and I wish I could share it here. It is just awesome.

Until now, the little man really loved playing with other kids, but it usually amounted to them bringing him toys, or tossing a ball to him, or him simply being in their area and enjoying their company. This is a whole new level of play.

I am constantly amazed by his progress.

Watch out world!

Saturday Review: Hempz Original Herbal Body Moisturizer


Seriously, it reminds me of cotton candy, but somehow also fresh and natural. I didn’t even know that was possible.

It works well as a lotion too (but clearly that is just an afterthought).

Yes, that is the extent of my review.

Love this stuff. Go buy some. I’m almost out of my small bottle and I’m already eyeing a big bargain bottle at TJ Maxx.

Yay, It is Birchbox Time!

Birchbox was a little different this month. In celebration of their anniversary month, they featured some of their favorite products from over the years and even jazzed up the box. You also had the option of picking a special box, but I just rolled the dice this month and went for a surprise.
Liz Earle Cleanse & Polish Hot Cloth Cleanser Starter Kit – $9.50
I received this in an earlier box, but wasn’t too disappointed to see it again. It is a great product.

Davines OI / Shampoo – $8.30
I’m really glad I got this shampoo. I’ve tried the Davines Love shampoo in the past, but wasn’t thrilled by the sulfates. This is 100% natural and sulfate free, so I’ll give it a go.

Davines OI / Conditioner, foil packet – $0
Davines OI / All in One Milk, foil packet – $0

I don’t mind getting and keeping foil packets for use in a pinch, but they are absolutely useless if you are trying to get a feel for a product.

Juicy Couture Viva La Juicy Gold Couture – $0
I really don’t need any more samples of Juicy Couture. They seem to pop up in all sorts of different boxes.

Jouer + beautyblender® Perfectly Primed Collection, Tinted Sunscreen – $3.80
I don’t think this is something I would add to my everyday routine, but I do love Jouer products so I might give it a try. If not, it is a nice size sample to pass along to a friend.

Pixi by Petra Breath of Fresh Air Exclusive Lip Balm – $8
Cute color and great size. My lip balm collection is 100% maxed out, so I think I will add this to the Christmas stocking stash.

Total Value: $29.60
Total Spent: $10
Bonus: I have seven products to review this month giving me 70 bonus points for future spending.

Coupon Alert: Use coupon code BBKIWI100 when you sign up for a monthly Birchbox subscription and get 100 bonus points ($10) to spend in the Birchbox shop.

And as always, if you want to sign up for your own Birchbox please be a dear and use my referral link.

The System

I just got done staring at two large packets of government paperwork I need to fill out for services for the little man. I have a sneaking suspicion that these two packets are for the same service – one an initial application and one the follow-up. This is not the first time I’ve had this suspicion, but all of the paperwork is so similar it is really hard to tell.

Dealing with the Department of Human Services is a never-ending flow of paperwork and caseworkers. Every year or so we get a letter informing us that the little man has a new caseworker – I’m assuming this happens because of the massive loads the workers have. Only one has every shown any interest in the little man. Only one time in five years have we ever had a caseworker suggest something to us or even contact us after an initial phone call. [This has always been my #1 complaint with DHS – you have to know specifically what question to ask to get any help.] And of course, she wasn’t our caseworker for long enough to finish that particular application. There seems to be little carryover from one person to the next. Hence my sneaking suspicion that we have already filled out these forms.

Sometimes the paperwork arrives at the house without even a simple letter of explanation. Other times the letter is so full of convoluted government speak I have to read it multiple times to completely understand. Almost always I have to google the service I am filing the forms out for – it is usually something I have never heard of. The letter, of course, reads like it is something I have requested or discussed with the caseworker. Yeah, right. Other times, the paperwork is clearly meant to be completed by a DHS worker in the room observing and working with the little man. I don’t even know what all of these medical terms means, but the google and I will give it a go.

I try not to blame the individual caseworkers for the state of the system. I know they are overworked, underpaid, sometimes – sadly – very jaded. Our current caseworker isn’t even in our county, by the way. In fact, if I wanted to actually meet with her to discuss some of the complicated subjects and forms, I would have to plan for a three-hour drive.

Somewhere along the line we gave up. The only services the little man uses currently were facilitated by the social worker at his daycare. If we have questions, we call and ask her. I’d have to dig the form out just to tell you the name of our current DHS worker (something I will have to do to complete the section of the forms where they ask us, once again, if we have a DHS worker and, if not, do we want one).

He will be starting school next year though and it is time to jump back into the system. I really hate navigating the system. Sadly, I’ve found the best way to get any actual help is to take my [well-educated, white] self down to the office in person. I’d like to be able to do something to help. The people who so desperately need these services are being shut out of the very system set up to help them. I don’t even know where to start though.

On My Bookshelf

51cyBIEqvgL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Mrs. Woolf and the Servants: An Intimate History of Domestic Life in Bloomsbury by Allison Light (2008)

From “When Virginia Woolf wrote A Room of One’s Own in 1929, she established her reputation as a feminist, and an advocate for unheard voices. But like thousands of other upper-class British women, Woolf relied on live-in domestic servants for the most intimate of daily tasks. That room of Woolf’s own was kept clean by a series of cooks and maids throughout her life. In the much-praised Mrs. Woolf and the Servants, Alison Light probes the unspoken inequality of Bloomsbury homes with insight and grace, and provides an entirely new perspective on an essential modern artist.”

My thoughts: I decided to read this book strictly because the ebook was on sale and I was loading my Nook in preparation for my conference in DC. I enjoyed it. The contrast between the philosophical beliefs of Woolf and the everyday interactions with the servants working in her home was fascinating. In general, I’ve always been fascinated and perplexed by the contempt upperclassman often had for the people they were so dependent on. I read the book with what I think it a fairly standard image of Virginia Woolf from someone who is well-versed in classic literature, but hasn’t done her own research. I left with a more complex picture and something to think about.

My recommendation: A pretty good book. Very specialized and probably doesn’t have widespread appeal. Considering checking it out if you are interested in women’s history. Just because you are a Virginia Woolf fan doesn’t mean you will enjoy this one; in fact, you might not appreciate the words taken from her letters and diaries.

dispatchesDispatches by Michael Herr (1977)

From “Michael Herr, who wrote about the Vietnam War for Esquire magazine, gathered his years of notes from his front-line reporting and turned them into what many people consider the best account of the war to date, when published in 1977. He captured the feel of the war and how it differed from any theater of combat ever fought, as well as the flavor of the time and the essence of the people who were there. Since Dispatches was published, other excellent books have appeared on the war. . .but Herr’s book was the first to hit the target head-on and remains a classic.”

My thoughts: I’m reading up on the Vietnam War for a work project and this one stood out to me since it was written by a news correspondent. I was not disappointed – just like the review says, this book really “captured the feel of the war.” I loved how he wrote about his impressions of the soldiers and their impressions of him. He related the war to the changing culture flawlessly.

My recommendation: Excellent. It wasn’t an easy read – as you might imagine – but it was worthwhile. Read it.

51D8sZSu+lL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Dirty Daddy: The Chronicles of a Family Man Turned Filthy Comedian by Bob Saget (2014)

From “Millions of viewers know and love Bob Saget from his role as the sweetly neurotic father on the smash hit Full House, and as the charming wisecracking host of America’s Funniest Home Videos. And then there are the legions of fans who can’t get enough of his scatological, out-of-his-mind stand-up routines, comedy specials, and outrageously profane performances. . . .In his bold and wildly entertaining publishing debut, he continues to embrace his dark side and gives readers the book they have long been waiting for—hilarious and often dirty. . . . Saget opens up about some of his personal experiences with life and death, his career, and his reputation for sick humor—all with his highly original blend of silliness, vulgarity, humor and heart, and all framed by a man who loves being funny above all else.”

My thoughts:
I didn’t like it and only read 30 pages or so before abandoning it. Saget’s humor seemed nonsensical and forced. In general, his humor isn’t my favorite, but I usually enjoy it. I think, for me anyway, this book failed because it just didn’t work in print. I think my opinion would be much different if I was listening to an audiobook read by Saget.

My recommendation: Read it if you love his standup, maybe try an audiobook if you are on the fence, skip it if you think he is Danny Tanner.

The FALL Challenge

It is no secret that I love this time of year. Winter is my absolute favorite season, so when my birthday passes, the leaves start to change, and the temperature starts to dip, it only means we’ve begun the ultimate countdown to the time when I’m at my best.

In honor of this wonderful time of year, I’m issuing myself challenge. I’ve scoured the interwebs looking for the best, the most fun, the quintessential, and the stereotypical to create a list of all the activities that represent fall. I call it “Stephanie’s Freakin’ Awesome Legendary List” or FALL for short.

No complaints about what is or isn’t on my list. A few things got nixed right at the beginning because I really dislike them or they just don’t fit in with out still-pretty-warm climate.

I’m going to try to do all of these things on this list and report back here for your enjoyment. Time frame = today through Thanksgiving. If I do all of these things, you can live vicariously through me and just stay on the couch.

Some ground rules: 1) Completing this list cannot interfere with my actual obligations. 2) The husband and kids will not be forced to go along with any activity they don’t want to complete, but I reserve the right to coerce someone else into it. 3) The husband has the right to tell me to cool it if my activities get out of hand – not that I would ever do something like that. Oh no, not me. 4) Completing the list has to fit into the regular budget.

Stephanie’s Freakin’ Awesome Legendary List

1) Take a drive to look at the changing leaves
2) Drink a pumpkin latte
3) Eat something that really shouldn’t be pumpkin flavored
4) Carve a pumpkin
5) Create a centerpiece with gourds
6) Visit a pumpkin patch
7) Go trick-or-treating
8) Buy candy corn, but probably don’t eat it
9) Tell a ghost story
10) Smores!
11) Drink cider
12) Poke cloves into oranges for another centerpiece
13) Wear an adorable knitted hat
14) Roast pumpkin seeds
15) Create a fall-themed wreath
16) Make a turkey out of a handprint
17) Watch “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown!”
18) Make food that tastes delicious, but looks like something scary or disgusting
19) Go apple picking
20) Make an apple pie



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