Best of Summer.

Kernfamily2019-106Kernfamily2019-108Kernfamily2019-111Kernfamily2019-112Kernfamily2019-113I am less and less ready for summer to come to an end every year, and we in the mid Atlantic aren’t close at all to bulky sweaters and tall boots. I’m pretty sure it is supposed to cross 90 on two different days this week and the mosquitos show no signs of dissipating without a fight.

But.

It was definitely “crisp” a few times in the past week and I have even worn long sleeves comfortably on a few occasions of late. Plus, I started teaching a few weeks back and I am  boycotting purchasing more swim diapers, so I can read the proto-fall writing on the wall.

This was a good summer. A hard one, an exhausting one in so many ways (ok, mostly one way: MOVING IS NOT A JOKE). But in spite of the stress and changes and all the subsequent Big Emotions from all members of our family, summer just gets better as my children age. Here are some standout highlights from this summer, all of them little things that had us smiling all summer long.Kernfamily2019-114Kernfamily2019-117Duck feeding. We read Make Way For Ducklings  in the beginning of the summer, and it made a big impact with Henry. All summer long we have kept stale bread in our bags and looked for ducks to feed. There are usually some near our favorite splash pad, but a couple times we have done picnic dinners near the Capitol so we could do some duck feeding at sunset. These simple summer evening picnics are some of my absolute favorite times as a family.

Philz from my phone. Ok, hear me out. I live for long splashpad mornings at Navy Yard, and a cup of Philz in hand is my special mom treat in the midst of treating my kids to idyllic summer days. But Philz takes a longgggg time to make drinks, and the number of times my stroller knocked over a display, or my children wreaked havoc on the shop were not… infrequent. But I finally thought to download the app, and now I order coffee as I park my car, and just reach in a side door and grab it from the counter as we walk by. No waiting, and no giving Henry a chance to lick random food items because, “now we have to buy it Mom!”

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Slow mornings, slower runs. Something magical happened in June: my children started sleeping forever. They consistently get up after 8, Etta usually snoozes till 8:30, and it is not infrequent that she goes till 9. I cannot emphasize enough how absolutely phenomenal this is. [Before all parents of small children send me death threats, JUST KNOW- we pay for it at the end of the day. My kids routinely stay up till 8:30/9, and I see you with your kids asleep by 7 and I wonder if my morning peace is worth it.] It has led to a summer of deliciously slow mornings, and a summer where I started running again. It is so much easier to do lots of things before my kids are up when they cooperate by getting up later. My runs are slow and short, but they are happening, and that is such a good feeling.

Family Service. Our church typically has kids in Sunday school, but the teachers get a break during the summer so they offered a shortened family service for young children. I cannot emphasize enough how much Henry LOVED Family Service. He was front and center every week, participating even when participation was not requested. It was one of the highlights of our whole summer, and has definitely led to him incorporating Biblical teaching into our daily lives, albeit not always correctly. Like when Etta falls and gets back up and Henry explains that she just “died and rose again for a second.”

Kernfamily2019-123Kernfamily2019-126Kernfamily2019-127The summer of the grill. A grill was one of our few big purchases after moving in and we have loved having a summer of tasty grilled dinners. It has also led to some amazing summer evenings in our backyard, the sorts of evenings where kids just entertain themselves and adults sit and talk way past when we should have put our kids to bed. I love those nights.

All the water. We lived in the water this summer. Splash pads! Pools! Sprinklers! Public Fountains! And when we went to KY in August, I finally convinced Henry to trust his puddle jumpers and really swim. He feels so confident now and I love hitting the pool with both kids.

I ignored my kids just enough to read a lot of good books. I mentioned it here in more detail, but this summer has been one of the books. I’m not sure if I feel more victorious about the 5 really good books I read, or the 3 bad books I gave myself permission to abandon.

Kernfamily2019-132Kernfamily2019-133We had some awesome trips this summer, and so many fun activities with friends and family. But as the summer is drawing to a close, I am also loving looking back on all the tiny things, the little rituals, that made this summer so good.

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Over coffee.

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Remember when I was all about NO COFFEE and then discovered coffee and IT WAS THE BEST? I still feel like it is one of the most joyful additions to my life in recent years. It’s not the caffeine- it’s the ritual. We went to Kentucky for a week recently, and it was absolutely glorious, as it always is. My mom basically takes over parenting the second I walk through the door and I get a blissful week of watching my children fall in love with my home and be loved by my people and I basically just lie around and marinate in my own laziness. The best. My dad keeps a pot of coffee going and they have all the best mugs and even though I always pack a week of real clothes, I inevitably just trot downstairs in pjs every day I’m there. My sleepy little town boasts a fantastic new coffee shop, and I made sure to squeeze in a few visits on the rare occasions I was out of the aforementioned lounge wear. I also ventured further afield to this perfect coffeeshop in Lexington and this little hole in the wall in Versailles. Finding good places to have a perfect cup is one of my favorite travel joys.

Speaking of coffee – if we were sitting down to chat, here are the things I would want to discuss.

This article is one I can’t stop thinking about. I fear for the world we are forcing on our kids, and I have all sorts of thoughts about carving out a slow life in a fast world that will have to wait until another day.

Why you should absolutely let your kids read Harry Potter if you want them to believe in God.

While we were in Kentucky, we went up to Cincinnati one day to visit my SIL and her family- including my newest squishy baby niece. My SIL is a pro at kids’ books and introduced us to this author. We can’t get enough of this book! I also gave her one of these, because having a second kid made me pack away allllllll my complicated baby wraps. No time for that nonsense. But I love my ring sling and Etta has been almost exclusively carried in it, as I mentioned here.

Someone suggested this “heroine chicken” and I can’t wait to try it.

If you have been following the updates I have given on Instagram about Henry’s godmother Rachel, we are praying hard that they are able to renovate their house and bring her home.

I have been slogging through this book and I think I’m going to have to throw in the towel. The writing is exceptional, but the plot is so bad and I am deeply annoyed at all the characters. Conversely, this author’s writing is nothing special, but I am loving the story in this book.

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Beach reading.

 

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For the first time in way too long, we did a beach day. (Remember when we were young and had no kids and went to the beach like every five minutes?) I had heard that North Beach was great for kids, and it did not disappoint. Less than 45 minutes from our house! Shallow bay water with no current and few waves! Adorable boardwalk and adorable ice cream shops! Dreamy buildings and pretty flowers! It was a last minute trip, as I talked a couple coworkers into joining me and there were only a few other people on the beach on a random Tuesday. Henry showed very little interest in the water, and at first I wanted to drag him in and make him love it like I do. But he was so happy digging in the sand and making friends with anyone who had a bucket, and I let him do the beach his way. Etta, on the other hand, loves to be in any and all water and happily ate fistfuls of sand the entire day. We blew off naptimes and both kids passed out in the car home, sleeping just long enough to make any naps at home impossible. I transferred Etta to her crib at home, and though awake, she enjoyed some quiet time while Henry and I snuggled and watched some Thomas the Tank Engine. They passed out early tonight and I just keep running over in my mind the perfect images from a beach day with my babies.

Some light reading and little things from around the internet:

Really want to pamper my face with this stuff.

We used some of our freshly picked blackberries to riff on this recipe and it was so good!

Crappy dinner parties forever.

We’ve hit The Lawn exhibit at the National Building Museum twice this month and I think we will probably swing by a couple more times before our annual membership is up the end of August. Unlike some over the last couple years (like here and here), this one is less focused on Instagramable aesthetics, and more on fun. The kids love it!

I just finished this book and it was such an enjoyable read. I’m a sucker for French settings and I like to think it had inspiration from (or at least awareness of!) this French novel (which is also so good!).

We are nearing the end of another Whole30 and this has been my favorite new dish we’ve tried. And I’ll be honest- this Whole30 hasn’t been entirely pure… but even one with exceptions leaves me feeling so much better.

Speaking of exceptions, I made this for James’ birthday and it was delicious- perhaps making me question my cake-trumps-pie always stance.

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Third time around.

Summer2019-44Summer2019-45Summer2019-46Summer2019-49Summer2019-50Summer2019-51Summer2019-52Summer2019-53Summer2019-54Summer2019-55Summer2019-56Summer2019-61Summer2019-63Summer2019-83Summer2019-67Summer2019-65Summer2019-70Summer2019-84Summer2019-74Summer2019-79Summer2019-80Summer2019-81It’s the third time around for our peak-of-summer blackberry picking adventure, and here’s what I have to say-

We’re learning.

The first year that we made the trek out of the city, the primary goal was to soak in some beautiful blooms, to snap pictures of our precious children surrounded by sunflowers and maybe pick a few berries on the way home. We dressed the kids well, intent on the aesthetics of the adventure. Last year, we still dragged them to the flowers, but we didn’t stay long before ditching the mostly-dead blooms and heading to the berry fields. This year I was thrilled when we postponed our adventure a week to avoid a heatwave and all the sunflowers died in the interim. It freed me from any need to visit them, and so we skipped that part entirely and spent hours roaming the farm, feeding animals, picking berries, and playing with the wheelbarrow. The kids wore old clothes sure to be ruined by the berries, and the babies smashed berries into the picnic blankets. Everyone got ice cream at the end, and all afternoon naps were ruined by kids falling asleep on the way home. Which is to say –

We’re learning.

That what is most fun for kids is the adventure itself, not the aesthetics of it. That accepting and facilitating what makes it more fun for kids (all the snacks, messy clothes, low expectations), is worth it. That schedules should give way for memories sometimes. That it is so valuable to revisit places year after year and chart my children’s growth – and my own as a mother – against familiar backdrops and anticipated and long-discussed experiences.

Third time around and it just keeps getting better.

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This & That.

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Is this blog going to just fangirl about summer the next 2 months?

Yep.

Here are some things I am loving this summer:

These mosquito repelling coils. We tried so many things that didn’t work and these have proved so effective.

These shoes. True, I don’t actually own them [yet]. But they seem a perfect combo of my beloved Chacos that have finally cracked after 14 years of use and these sandals that I have worn incessantly since Henry was born. (Love these too!)

This book was such a fun read. I started and abandoned a couple books before hitting on a win with this one.

This is going to the summer of the Enneagram for me. I picked up this book, and am going to add these number focused podcasts to my list for the morning runs that I have [slowlyyyy] been adding back into my routine.

We got a Costco membership after moving to a place that has a pantry (!!!), and I have loved exploring it. We are starting another Whole30 on Monday, so I have been excited about Costco paleo finds like this marinade, Nutpods at a fraction of the cost, and the Kirklands almond butter really is the best.

Of course, Whole30 prompted by a desire to be just a little less than a human meat suit. (If you are a parent, you definitely want to click on that link. It will BLESS YOU.)

These pictures are from a visit to Indiana at the beginning of June and they are the best of summer freedom to me. They also showed how little my city boy understands clotheslines, as he kept wanting to go “play in the blinds.” I kind of want to frame one and hang it in my living room so we have a little bit of summer year round.

Happy weekend all!

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Lately: Summer, Stories, Screens, and Settling in.

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July always comes like a rude shock to the system that summer is already about a third over. I start panicking about all that we haven’t done enough of, which is a little ironic, since all I want to do endlessly is have those sorts of lazy summer nights where you ignore bedtimes and eat outside and how can you panic about not having enough of such an unstructured thing? We have hit the splash pad lots, had picnics a plenty, splashed in creeks, and sought out AC in museums. Bedtime has become a rather fluid concept, which I’m sure will become a problem at some point, but for the moment is allowing us lots of summer evening fun and really long afternoon naps. And we have two months of it left… but it still doesn’t feel like enough. I want to squeeze in a quick beach trip, but when I started going through the calendar between now and September, there were only 2 free weekends (HOW?) and I hesitate to give them up.

This has been, is, and will be the summer of The New House. How long is it The New House, and not just Home? Henry still asks when we can go “back home” on a regular basis. Is it when I stop thinking of places where I forgot to change my address? When I know all the places where the floorboards creek? When the mailman accepts Henry’s aggressive attempts at friendship, or the house witnesses a milestone like Etta’s first steps? It took a month for the boxes to be unpacked, broken down, and given away, and now we have the long road of Settling In to walk. I agonized for weeks over a rug for the living room, one of the few big purchases we allowed ourselves after buying the house. I ordered and scrutinized and returned until I started to lose my mind and settled, feeling completely happy with the result. Nothing is decorated yet, but little by little it feels less like belongings from somewhere else just dropped in place.Untitled-2It’s hard to say what the best part of this home is. I love the basement, a wasteland of toys devoid of furniture or the burden of order. We let the basement stay in play mode, and I happily fold laundry on the floor beside blocks and books and toy food. I love the new ratio of toilets to potty trained residents. I love the gleaming kitchen and space around the dining table. But as it’s summer, I especially love the patio and yard. There is a garage with a freezer full of popsicles and I love how Henry offers them to his friends, hospitality at its finest. We have hosted a lot this summer, adults lounging on the patio while the kids eat on picnic blankets and catch fireflies. (RIP all ye fireflies).

This summer is also a literary flourish for me- one of the (few) New Years’ resolutions that has become a reality. I wanted pleasure reading to be a priority in 2019, and I am proud to say that I used a foolproof 2 step method to guarantee this success. Step 1: get better books. No amount of busyness will distract you from a truly good book. You will keep it in the car, carry it to meetings, take it into the bathroom, have it beside the stove, set an alarm to wake up early and finish it before the kids rise (me with the final book of the Winternight trilogy!). I started going to the library regularly in January and have devoured so many good books this year, as well as starting and abandoning three that didn’t hold my interest. Step 2: tell your kids you have to read. I read this article a while back and have thought about it so much. One day, I just started trying it. Sometimes I just announce that I have to read, the same way that I tell the kids to eat vegetables or say I have to apply sunscreen. Then I just sit and do it with an actual book, not a screen. And you know what? They respect it, mostly. Henry will usually read beside me for a few minutes and then wander off to destroy something quietly, creatively,  and most importantly – independently. It has been glorious, and I also feel that it communicates an important priority to my children: books matter, reading matters. Untitled-3And a note about screens. Right before Etta was born, I posted about how we use screens very sparingly. In the feedback I got, I was struck (disappointed?) by how many people across various platforms and in person communicated that this was a position that was doomed to fail when we had more kids. Many people seemed to want me to have to give up a standard that mattered to my family, even if it had no bearing on their own. (Ladies- why do we so often do that with all things parenting?) I have thought a lot about screens in our home the past year, and in case you were curious, or if you are a parent on the brink of having another kid and worried about trying to stick to your screen principles- here are some thoughts. Screens have been allowed in our house the past year under 2 circumstances: temporary designated time slot, and premeditated events. The first is a time slot destined to disappear in which the screen served a very real and very finite purpose. When we sleep trained Etta last summer, Henry was allowed to watch a show for the 15 minutes it took me to rock her to sleep for her last nap of the day- that was it. When that last nap disappeared, so did his TV time. Because her nap wasn’t happening, it didn’t occur to him to ask for the TV to happen. She still takes a morning nap, but that is such a long window, that I wasn’t going to make it a default an hour of TV every day for the past year. Instead, I allow myself one of her morning naps a week where he can watch a show. I tell him when it is going to be early in the week, and we discuss what behaviors could result in it being lost. This lets him know that incessantly asking for TV will not change things, and holds me accountable for not just using TV because I want a break from parenting (I use my book for that as discussed above ; ) ). When Etta stops her morning nap too, that TV moment will also disappear. We have also used TV for selected premeditated events, usually when we had families over and the adults want to play board games, or a family movie night. When we travel and in the craziness of moving, TV standards went out the window. It helped us survive finite craziness and trips, but you know what? The post-TV binge fallout is BAD. The whining and failure to creatively play independently just is not worth it on a regular basis. Henry has turned into a total boss at independent play. We are talking longgggg chunks where he plays and imagines and leaves me entirely alone all while playing entirely alone. I credit TV not being a regular option for some of that.

I don’t say this to tout our TV minimalism- there are many who watch even less than we do. I say it to encourage any of you who have something, anything, that really matters to your family culture: you can fight for it and make it a priority, even if the exact manifestations of it change as your family does. Don’t let people tell you otherwise.

Untitled-4But back to this summer- it is glorious. A new home, a toddler who has suddenly blossomed into an amazing independent play-er, a happy baby no longer nursing stickily against me in the DC humidity, a beautiful city to explore, and long sunny days to do it. Life lately has been full of the very best things.

 

 

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One & Three.

Summer2019-6Memorial Day weekend was a big one around here. We moved on Saturday morning, spent Saturday afternoon in pediatric urgent care  as Henry started having some breathing issues, and then Sunday was his 3rd birthday. Only as I mentioned here, we actually told him it was Monday, as the move and medical stuff had everyone too worn  down to celebrate. Monday was in fact Etta’s birthday, and yes, I do plan to continue forcing them to celebrate together indefinitely. I basically get more chill in the kid birthday department every year, with Henry’s first marked with decent pomp and circumstance, his second with donuts and all our friends in the park… and this 3rd/1st birthday was us eating grocery store cake with moving boxes as our key decoration. Those balloons? They were given free to Henry by a grocery store employee in our new neighborhood after Henry informed her that he wasn’t allowed to have a balloon for his birthday because he had been naughty. People- I had sent him to the grocery with James to buy a birthday balloon. THAT KID.

Birthdays in chaos- is there anything more fitting to commemorate the past year of these two souls?Summer2019-8Summer2019-9Summer2019-10Summer2019-11Summer2019-12Summer2019-14Henry loves flags of any type, especially American flags. When I took him to the store to pick out a cake, he was beside himself over the good fortune of his birthday falling on Memorial Day and the subsequent flag cake availability. Summer2019-15Summer2019-26Etta, not quite sure about the aggressively frosted cupcake her brother selected for her.Summer2019-27Summer2019-33…But she rallied and decided that cake was an excellent idea.Summer2019-34Summer2019-21The great and incessant tragedy of parenthood is how much gets lost. In the moment, it feels impossible that I will forget any precious moment or touching word, that I will lose the sound of their tiny voices or the quirks that reveal their personality. But so much will gets lost in the ebb and flow of life. I mourn every single detail that is forgotten, even when I can’t remember what they are, because all of them is so precious to me.

The way that Henry at 3 years old is utterly obsessed with suitcases, airports, and baggage claim, and the way his favorite game is for us to go on a trip to different parts of our house, discussing the minutia of security and packing en route. The way that he becomes absorbed in playing trains and only sits still if he is being read to, which he can do for hours. His utter delight in helping James work with tools and the way that he calls playgrounds “praygrounds.” His adjective choices that match my own so that everything is “phenomenal” or “so lovely” or “a little tricky” or “magical.” His preference for the Bible story where Jesus, freshly resurrected, eats fish for breakfast with the disciples. How he’s convinced that, in the same way that Etta’s name is Marietta but we call her Etta, his name is “Mari-Henry but we call me Henry.” The way he wants nothing more than “this whole family all together” and how much he adores “my Etta-girl.”

The way that Etta at 1 year old loves to quietly crawl into the “pantry of solitude” whenever she gets overwhelmed and surround herself with paper goods. The way that she sucks her thumb and just wants to groggily snuggle after naps. The growl that is still her favorite form of communication, rivaled only by her love of yelling her own name. Her complete and utter distaste for nature, best exhibited by her determination to hold both legs in the air when put in grass. The way that she trolls her brother every chance she gets, needling him and messing with his toys while assuming the most innocent of expressions. How much she and Henry adore each other and always seek each other out. Her love of spicy foods and total intolerance for fruit.

Happy birthday Henry WIlberforce and Marietta Elizabeth. You all are the other’s best gift and the greatest blessings in our family. Summer2019-18

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