blog it old school style

Some people snort when they laugh and I’ve never been able to understand how they accomplish it. But yesterday I was on the phone registering with our new parish and the lady on the other line asked how old Craig is. 

It was like I was just minding my own beeswax when someone whacked me in the back of the head with a telephone book (what’s a telephone book anymore?) –I snorted, watching my own spit fly and hit the window in front of me, laughing before I knew it was coming. And then I laughed a second round in surprise at myself. Still on the phone here. 

I was suddenly struck with feeling old but knowing I was wrong.  I haven’t mentally visited my age all year, much less Craig’s age. Like when you’re 17 and you spend all year waiting to be 18. Yeah I haven’t even thought about it. 

I felt like saying “forty. My husband’s forty.” The things we’ve been through, the children we are raising, the house that we bought, the bills we are paying and the school that’s coming for our six year old is the work of people who are 40+.

At least fourty. 

But no. Craig is 29. 

So I snort-laughed because I’m doing stuff my responsible parents do.  I realized that inspite of myself, I’m doing responsible things I never thought I’d do. 

Like registering at a new parish. 

Maybe I’ve never even really laughed until that moment. 

And I’m 30.  




I just spent 5 minutes working out why forty isn’t spelled fourty. 

Because flour. :)

Our LEGO visit!

DJ be playin’ my jam all day. Property of Carolyn Svellinger

I am too excited LEGO asked me to write about their Americana Roadshow this summer.*
First of all, I didn’t know they did coolness like this, so I’m happy to pass the cool onward.
Second of all, I am the mother of 4 boys. Do I need to say anything else? No. I do not. But I will.

Third of all, give me a creative way to teach my people in a way they don’t suspect they are being taught to, and we are a happy people. I’m kidding, my boys love learning. But they have itty bitty attention spans and their eyes start darting when I get 5 words into a sentence, so. Yes.

LEGOs + art + architecture + American history = a great learning opportunity. A great experience.

Lucky for me and mine, LEGO Americana Roadshow came to the Kenwood Towne Centre this month (they’re still there!) and we went last weekend.
The photo evidence I promised you? You bet.

property of Carolyn Svellinger

Trot. Trot. Trot.

property of Carolyn Svellinger

property of Carolyn Svellinger

My boys –Yes, we conquered the Kenwood mall without a stroller(!)– delighted in their range-free hunt for each large scale replica made completely out of Lego blocks.  They were tickled to find extra creations scattered throughout the mall in display cases which depicted artistic scenes containing their favorite well-known characters.  We spotted The Simpsons (pictured below. Can you see Bart? How about Maggie?), Star Wars characters, Wyldstyle, The Hulk, Batman, Princess Unikitty, and even some micromanagers.

property of Carolyn Svellinger

Craig wondered whether the Masterbuilders who built the Liberty Bell used enough Kragle to keep it together from the excited fingers of my children, and we had great fun discovering how long it took them to build each replica.

property of Carolyn Svellinger


I’ve seen these monuments of America in person, multiple times in my life, but my boys have yet to do so. It was wonderful to witness their amazement at the diligence of the Masterbuilders, that these places really exist in America, and to learn what these places mean for Americans.

property of Carolyn Svellinger

property of Carolyn Svellinger

What’s exciting for me as a mother, and duly as an artist, is to see my oldest son looking in admiration at how someone used his favorite medium, and then to watch him when we got home go to work on his Legos with a mind more open and inspired.
I love that stuff. It’s what better artists and learners are made of.

property of Carolyn Svellinger

property of Carolyn Svellinger


Lexington’s faves were The Statue of Liberty and surprisingly, The Old North Church.


If you’re in the area, LEGO Americana Roadshow will be hanging around until the 19th of July (that’s this Sunday).  Highly recommended.  For further details, click on over to the Kenwood website right here.  And to see if LEGO’s coming to see you this year, visit their tour schedule page here.

Kenwood Towne Centre Mall Hours:

  • Monday-Saturday
  • Sunday

*This post is sponsored by LEGO Americana Roadshow.

Fun and fancy {mostly free!} things to try this summer.

Happy July! Here’s to the rest of the summer: grilling burgers, poolside relaxation, and backyard camping nights.  How dreamy. The only one of those things I’m about, however, is eating the burgers. Pooling it for me at this juncture in my life is an anxiety ridden chore. With a 6 year old and three children under the age of four, and the four year old has autism, and the youngest is an infant, it’s like taking your cats to the pool. No thank you. Garden hose for the Svells. And mama doesn’t camp. That’s what Dads are for.

Big summer plans aside, I put together a list of low-cost, low key things to do especially on rainy days, nights after the children go to bed, and on days when the heat is like walking through hot, ragged, mouth-breathing dragon breath, and not even the dog wants to be out.

1. Visit LEGO Americana Roadshow. 

I have 4 boys.

Property of Carolyn Svellinger
Flashback to when Lexington had a manageable collection.

We now have enough LEGOs to build a fifth child –and I’m not heading up that operation, so don’t even think about putting that idea into Lexington’s head because he. will. build. a new brother.
When LEGO Americana Roadshow contacted me to write about their event at the Kenwood Towne Center here in Cincinnati, I was like now that I will do. Why? Because it’s not only the LEGO Store at the Kenwood mall (sweaty adults, grubby kid’s hands everywhere.), but a traveling roadshow which sets up “replicas of iconic buildings and architectural structures” of American landmarks on large scale, throughout the mall.
You know what I’m thinking?
I know you do.
I’m thinking a cup of Auntie Anne’s soft pretzel bites in one hand, a fountain drink in the cup holder of the stroller, 2 of my children contained inside, while the youngest sleeps in a baby sling, and the oldest gawks and gasps because for once, EVERYTHING IS AWESOME at the place Mommy and Daddy like to shop. Makes for a good afternoon inside.
The bingo is that it’s an educational trip because SO LANDMARKS. MUCH AMERICAN.  In fact, I was just looking at the website and noticed a little box for teachers (and you better believe we are teachers too, parents!) and behold, a lesson plan you can download. Summer school? Done.  Since we’re starting homeschool this autumn, I’ll be printing that out for practice.
Guilt-free trip, right there.  And!  It’s free, of course. Happy day.
I’m going.
LEGO Americana Roadshow will be at The Kenwood Towne Centre during July, the 4th through the 19th.   For more info and pictures, HERE is the link to the event.

Stay tuned for my gram pics.  You know I’m good for it. Wink.

To see if LEGO AR is coming to you, click here for their schedule.

2. Make your own guacamole.

Property of Carolyn Svellinger

I was such a H8er for the guac until a few years ago -FINE. last year- and I discovered that’s because I’d never eaten fresh, homemade guacamole. First of all -and I’m aware of how brainless this is going to paint me- I didn’t know what made it green.  It’s smashed avocados! When you’re finished rolling your eyes, look at how simple this recipe is:

  • 2 ripe avocados
  • 2 tablespoons minced white onion
  • 3 tablespoons roughly chopped cilantro
  • 1 lime
  • Coarse sea salt

I think either my mom or my sister Kate shared this recipe with me and it changed my life.

Guac changed my life? If you don’t think it did, talk to me when I was between 3-9 months pregnant with Jude, because that’s all I wanted in life. It’s Gwyneth Paltrow’s recipe, and Rachel Ray’s got it on her website right here. She uses white onion. I use red.

Method: After removing the avocado from its shell, you smash it up in a bowl with a fork, stir in your chopped ingredients, squeeze some lime juice to taste, and sprinkle some salt. 5 minutes, done.

3. Drink this wine.

Property of Carolyn Svellinger


Now that I run my own restaurant, Chez Svellinger, I don’t get to sample wine, umm, at all. So when I buy a new bottle, IT HAD BETTER BE GOOD, or else I cry on the inside about the $10-15 I wasted. Nope, not paying anymore than that. Top dollar these days. Hm. Maybe I should start a blog about wine, because I just realized I want to recommend all the wines paired with all the foods. But I wont. You’re welcome.
So this one: Sofia.
I found her at Target. She called out to me like Tolkien’s ring, and I bought it on a whim because I thought the bottle looked pretty.
It’s a red blend by Francis Coppola, and it’s perfect. Sweet, but not nectar-y. Dryish but not choke-me dry. Good with about anything. Goldfish crackers included. Sofia ‘my gurl.


4. Watch an underrated movie.

Walter Mitty BR

I’m 30. I’ve reached a point in my life where I understand that much of the hype around movies released from Hollywood involves story lines wrought with sex, party crashing, drugs, obnoxious, crude language for the sake of “humor”, rapid fire, non-stop dialogue, action and drama as fast and as overwhelming as possible because viewers get bored too quickly these days. It’s repetitive to a point of insanity.  I’m over it.
But every so often, a movie like The Secret Life of Walter Mitty comes along and gives you hope that Hollywood still might use their superpowers for good. Such an artistic, satisfying, feel-good movie. I hope you like it, too.

5. Learn to weave.

Property of Carolyn Svellinger
Plenty of room for improvement, but actually, a quick project!


How boho-hipster of me.
The itch to try this has been scratching me since the winter, and now that we have our own house to decorate, the itch got bad.

This is a great project to take on with your children. Lexington has been really interested in watching me and even directed the design of this wall hanging. Fine motor skill development.
With tools you’re likely to have laying around the house, you can weave something as small as a coaster, or as large as a blanket.  A Beautiful Mess blog has a DIY tutorial which I followed. Here’s the link.  And here’s a second link.

ABM blog gives a list of materials needed, but honestly, all you need is a loom (which I made out of cardboard) and something to weave.
What I made is a wall-hanging, because it looked easy. Which it was. And now I want to go full scale tapestry. ABM also has a tutorial on making your own pillow/pillow covers and I am all on board that train this summer, especially because our throw pillows are hideous. Look out, house of weave.

I woke up to a sky of gray and lots of rain, so today is a great day for any of the above. Enjoy your Independence Day weekend, America! Hearts and stars.


A Svell Update in 7 quick(ish) Takes

Since Jude was born, time has grabbed me by the collar and dragged me around like a rag doll.  Here’s an (rambling) update! Linking up with Kelly :)

I. Jude was baptized on Mother’s Day and it was the best

Property of Carolyn Svellinger
Photo cred: my little bro, Philip. Jude’s Godparents, my Brother in law and my soon to be Sister in law are standing witness. I’m proud for Jude to have such strong examples of Christian faith. (this is the first time I got to hold one of our babies while he got baptized)


…even though I wore my first pair of spanx which did such a good job of holding postpartum me together that I didn’t feel my pants falling down underneath the shirtdress I was wearing. It wasn’t until we sat back down that I felt somewhat thug lyfe and realized my waistband had slouched to my thighs. hm. Shirtdress kept it a secret. But obviously I cannot. And unlike The Duchess of Cambridge, I did not look disturbingly fabulous, nevertheless my vanity has learned to shut up because how special is it to have your newborn baptized into the Catholic church on Mother’s Day? Most special. Best day.

Property of Carolyn Svellinger
One for the wall, folks. You. look. good.

My wish of a photograph of mama with her boys in one frame, granted.

Property of Carolyn Svellinger

Property of Carolyn Svellinger


II. Jude is either the best baby, or I’ve reached baby-whisperer status.

Property of Carolyn Svellinger

Aside from some breastfeeding frustrations which have mostly worked themselves out, he truly takes a sad song and makes it better. But that’s not why we chose that name.  FYI, there is the less musical but possibly more interesting Saint Jude, cousin of Jesus and patron saint of impossible cases. Just saying.
Other than that, he stops the ladies in their tracks at the grocery store, has started giggling, and his pretty dimples have turned me into the worst cheek pincher. worst.

III. Emmett has learned to burp at will.

Property of Carolyn Svellinger

Something we’ve learned from Emmett (4 yo with Autism, and recently discovered hyperlexia) is that when he wants to do something, he says “Hello, [insert action]”  e.g., “go to park!” and if there’s something he doesn’t want to do, he says, “GOODBYE, change your diaper*!”.
Craig and I use this way of speaking to get him to stop or start doing an action.  “Goodbye crying!” I’ll say, and he usually grows quiet.
So after sitting through Mass on Sunday listening to Emmett forcefully burp everything short of the ABC’s, we loaded into the car and asked Emmett to “Goodbye, burb”. His response:

*burps* “Hello, burp.” *burps again*

‘kay. Phase, pass soon, plz.
*[Yes, he’s still in diapers. needs larger ones asap. con’t find any. Another drama reserved for another day.]

IV. Lexington turned 6 this month and is facing the turmoil of balancing his inner dialogue with the outer.

Property of Carolyn Svellinger

When asked to count silently** in his own head, he became distraught that his head preferred to be singing “5 Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed.”

O, tumultuous year of 6.
**He often needs to know exactly how long a drive is going to take. So to help him understand the difference between minutes and seconds, we tell him to count to 60, fifteen times. Makes for a niiiice quiet drive. Never.

V. Collin says his favorite part of our new house is the snacks.


This year he’s picked up the torch of Accident Prone from Emmett. Which is fine. But I’m a wimp when it comes to dealing with blood– mainly, mouth injuries. I could lay down in overwhelm with the magnitude of empathy I absorb from Collin’s mouth trauma and sleep it off in PTSD land.
In January, he bashed one of his two front teeth inward.  Very slowly and painfully, it’s healed, but remained crooked and slightly wiggly.
Sunday (Father’s Day), he smacked his face into the tile floor and pretty much sealed the death deal with this same tooth.
I just want to swim in a pool of Margarita. But I can’t really, because it makes me sleepy and I’m not allowed to do THAT.

Property of Carolyn Svellinger

Since writing this post on Tuesday, we’ve had Collin’s tooth extracted.

The positives: I don’t have to LOSE MY MIND when I catch him trying to chew on an ice cube 5 minutes after busting his face. The pediatric dentist we went to was a child’s wonderland, painted and decorated to the nines in anything a child would think is amazing. The dentist and the assistants moved and talked slowly and in a way that a 2 year old can understand instead of scaring the crap out of him. (I have zero patience for adults who fast talk and use figurative language toward children anymore. It’s probably because we have Emmett.) All around, for a tooth extraction on a 2 year old, it was an excellent experience.

I said to him I said, “Collin, I’m so proud of you. You are my hero of the day. You did such a great job.  You had to do something very difficult today, but you did it!”
To which he replied, ” …doing a poopy?”
Resilient, my people are.

The Negatives: Collin will be wanting for the complete set of front teeth for the next 4-5 Christmases. My heart breaks for him.  My hair loses its pigment for him.
Growing up has become, for me, the understanding that I have to undergo the trauma of seeing my child in trauma, and then having to come home with them expending that tornadic toddler energy and having to cook dinner, and be up throughout the night tending a breastfeeder, never able to sleep it off. And repeat. FOREVER.
Boy, this is tough stuff.
And boy, this is how parents gain weight because the only consolation for me has been drinks of caffeine and sugar. And cookies. And the rare occasion of escapism…

VI. …which right now comes in the form of Netflix on my iPhone while I’m nursing Jude down for the night. 

Netflix is relatively new to me so I’ve lined up a bunch of shows to get me through nursing sessions and nightmares of bloody teeth.  I started with Once Upon a Time.  Aside from some painfully (o, the pain) bad acting, the story line is exciting and I lurrrrrve beating the fairytale backstory and afterstory horse to death. Who knew the worlds of Rumplestiltskin, Maleficent, Snow White, and Captain Hook and so many others could ever collide? I eat that stuff right up.  Plus, it’s super light on bad language and sex stuff.

VII. A new house, you say??? 

Whereabouts? The East side of Cincinnati.

Turns out, I’m a Westsider. And I miss it so-ho-ho ba-ha-haaad. 

On Instagram I bellyached about having to shop at an IGA where they manually enter each thing by item code and there are no touchscreens and they ask “paper or plastic?” But the whole truth of the matter is that there is a Target, and Kroger and Walmart and Starbucks and Chick-Fil-A and Chipotle and Jungle Jims and HOBBY LOBBY and Michaels and Joanns and The Sleep Number Store and hashtag somuchmore all within 20 minutes of me.  So be quiet, Carolyn.
Quiet, you.

But the house! The funny thing about it is that there are a few things absurdly reminiscent of BUMPY BRIDGE HOUSE.

The much loathed Bumpy Bridge House.
Surrounded by trees? Check.
Arbor Island smack dab in the middle of the back yard? Check.
Large spiders? Check.
Dark, dungeonous kitchen? NOPE.
Peeling laminate all over the counters and cabinets? NOPE.
Terrbile flooding septic system which backs up into the house? NOPE.
Roaches? NOPE.
Mice setting up living quarters in each of our vehicles? NOPE.
Floody basement? NOPE.
Big pond of death in the front yardNOPE.
Burgundy everywhere? HELL NO.

Property of Carolyn Svellinger

Surreal-ness. After being married and living in a different place nearly every year for 6 years, it feels weird to unpack into a place where we can say “Hmm, I don’t really care for it that way. Let’s change it, let’s build it, let’s fix it, let’s make it look beautiful.”
There’s something deeply satisfying about thinking of ways to organize and bring beauty to our home– and then doing it, which I’ve never felt I could while renting because my brain is small and I am limited by renter/ownership status of a thing. I know. I know there are books and blogs out there about that stuff, but it’s never been important enough to me. Until now. Here’s hoping that momentum sticks for the next 20+ years and I don’t keep the house stuck in a decorating era like so many poor, poor houses fall ill to. To? I don’t know how I’m supposed to finish that sentence.
It’s a great little house, and I’m a big fan of the kitchen and blue powder room. We are blessed and grateful.  Lexington’s still “imagination-ing” up a name for it. Stay tuned.


So that’s what’s up. Bye now.