This & That

Spring2020-1Spring2020-9Spring2020-13Spring2020-17Spring2020-19Spring2020-20Spring2020-22Spring2020-23Clearly, these pictures are not from the past month, as we are having fun with people outside our household. But they are from a perfect rainy day hike on Roosevelt Island with friends early in March and I just came across them and wanted to share. Because someday we will play with friends again! This morning Henry (in a Shaun the Sheep costume- a suggestion btw, if you need a non-obnoxious kids show in your life) and Etta delivered some bags of Easter goodies to a couple friends (maintaining a safe distance, usually with a fence and yard between us and them) and they have been in the best mood every since, brimming with happiness that their friends still exist somewhere out there.

And now, a list of highly trivial and unimportant things.

This would be the perfect swimsuit coverup. Not that you need to coverup, but as we spend a lot of time in urban splash pads,  and my varicose this pregnancy are terrifying to all who glimpse them, so I have been searching for the right coverup.

I had to put this book aside to do a Book Club pick recently, but I’m really excited to pick it back up because what better time to read about a Russian count sentenced to life in a hotel than when we are all quarantined?

My friend Anna tossed us a bag of these after we left goodies at her house and they are the Hot Cross Buns of my dreams, which I have never successfully made.

I’ve been getting caught up on grading and some online lesson prep in the evenings these days and watching a couple things of note. Loving this, although it is pretty different than the book- anyone else think so? Mia on the show is kind of … mean? I also have turned to the comforting presence of British period dramas in these uncertain times. This was so good… only to DEEPLY UPSET ME when I found out that they wrote it intending to have a second season, but it was canceled. So the ending was VERY unsettling. I also rewatched this and have big plans to watch the movie soon, but I’m just not sure anything can top the miniseries.

Made this for dinner earlier this week and it was the recipe I didn’t know I needed in my life. Creamy tuscan chicken to use up some of the insane amounts of spinach we have! I served it with potatoes, but I wish I had just had it solo alongside some crusty bread to sop up sauce.

In love with this swimsuit for Etta, as it is a knockoff of the adorable but ungodly expensive ruffle swimsuits from here. Of course, I keep on putting off buying clothes for my kids because who do we need to impress these days??? We are looking pretty ratty and I don’t even care.

Favorite lipstick these days. You know, for those Zoom meetings you want to feel extra special.

Making this for Easter morning because I just never get tired of yelling “He is Risen and so is the monkey bread!”

Really sad to be missing our annual Easter extravaganza with friends (see here and here) tomorrow, as well as our Easter service at church. But also so thankful that our faith isn’t bound to ceremonies, traditions, or walls, just as our Christ was not bound to a tomb.

Happy (almost!) Easter!

 

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Family time.

Coming up on a month of being homebound and today marks a week of DC having an official shelter in place order in effect. Which to be fair, didn’t really change much for people who were already social distancing, but it heightens the feeling of claustrophobia just a tad. Luckily, the order still allows exercising in nature with members of your household and we have been LIVING for that. We do lots of walks around our neighborhood, but those are actually trickier, as everyone else is walking around too and it is much harder to keep our distance from friendly neighbors we know, not to mention their dogs and the sticks in their front yards- two things my children live to touch. Though many official nature centers, public parks, and green spaces are closed,  there are still a lot of lesser known ones open, and the kids and I have been hiking our way through every forgotten stretch of woods we can find, feeding any duck that crosses our path, and routinely coming home in various states of undress after playing in creeks. Everyone is different, and I know some people keep the anxiety of the whole global pandemic situation at bay by staying home, but I have to have spaces to explore to avoid the suffocation of the news these days.familytime2

While the first couple weeks passed with our children mostly so thrilled at more parent time that they didn’t question the changes, the last week has had Henry asking if other kids are like him, you know, “not allowed to see any of their friends.” It’s crushing to see him process missing his friends without the perspective that adults have. But at least we have our family. James and I were waxing poetic last night about what quarantine without young children would be like. Would we lounge about all day watching TV? Would we get caught up on sleep and exercise and look presentable for teleworking and do home projects and read good books? Would we be insanely productive? Because the same quarantine with young children means all the regular things that make life hard without the things that make it easy, ie, distractions, play dates, babysitters, etc.familytime

Yet even if this season is uniquely draining, there is some unique beauty to it. I feel a little squeamish typing that, just like I do when I see a constant stream of perky Instagram posts and pithy taglines about how good this time is for us all, how it makes us slow down, value people, reduce waste, count our blessings, etc. Those things are true, and they are wonderful things to find in life… if you have the luxury of getting to look for them. But for people out of work, sick with anxiety over still working on dangerous front lines, panicked over longterm financial implications of all that is happening, mourning the loss of things far greater than playdates and mom group- being told to count your blessings and enjoy this time is, frankly, tone deaf and cruel. I am fully aware of that. I’m not telling anyone in a situation less comfortable than mine to enjoy it. Grief and anger are emotions that are just as real as joy. But I am sharing some observations about this concentrated time with my family that have been  good for us, because we are each other’s world these days, or at least- we are the limits of it.

James still had to go into work the first two weeks, but the last two weeks he has been able to hole up in our study and work from home. It has been wonderful cutting his commute out of the day and having him “home” earlier in the evenings and able to sometimes duck out during the day and help wrangle a kid for a minute. But also like- he is here- in my space, my domain.  After I had some slightly less than adult emotional outbursts, James very diplomatically suggested that we have a summit meeting about expectations and schedules, how we wanted both of us working and parenting from home to look. We agreed that nothing said during said meeting could be taken as an insult, so after hashing out how the days should look, James then calmly suggested that we take a moment to share things the other person does that are easy to ignore during normal times, but may drive us to insanity during quarantine. That’s right, we got to throw down what drives us crazy about each other. And y’all- because we were doing this not in the middle of one of those pet peeves actually happening, but rather serenely in our kitchen (ok, semi serenely… I may have actually locked the kids in the backyard so they would stop interrupting, and Henry was literally hanging from the lattice over the kitchen window begging to come inside), it was a good and productive conversation that has led to really doable and good expectations for the logistics of this concentrated family time. Being together all of the time either breaks you, or teaches you to communicate even better than before, and I appreciate that. familytime3

This has also been a really unique time to focus on the training of my children. They are each other’s main entertainment, friend, and antagonist all wrapped up in one these days. It means that they have never played better or more together… and are constantly creating situations that are clearly “learning how we treat each other moments.” But since we aren’t running off to do a million things (which I love and PLAYDATES I MISS YOU), I have time to stop them, talk about behavior, playact other ways to handle a situation, and straight up practice the good. Obviously, they are still tiny trolls, being almost 2 and almost 4. But the good moments are stacking up, the thousand times where I see one of them stop and redirect themselves to respond in a way that we have been practicing. One morning Etta and Henry both climbed into bed with us and I turned on a Beatrix Potter audio book to keep them snuggly and silent so that James and I could continue procrastinating the moment when we would have to get up and start the great debate of cheerios or eggs or toast. Etta had brought all her favorite stuffed animals with her, and out of my half closed eyes I saw Henry reach to snatch one away for no reason. But then, he stopped, pulled his hand back and in the sweetest whisper asked if he could take a turn and she happily handed it over.

These are the moments that have peppered our weeks at home and they are sacred to me. We have been spending so much time practicing asking for things and to see it play out unprompted was the best gift. I am far from a perfect parent. But for this brief moment, I am a parent who is able to take the time to more perfectly parent and it is humbling how good that is for my kids. (Yes, you can appreciate the irony that I am saying that one paragraph after admitted that I locked my kids outside to finish an adult conversation).Processed with VSCO with a6 preset

True, there have been many moments where I am so over it all and have put my kids to bed and then helped myself to the stash of Easter Candy that is ostensibly for them. But when this is all over (and it will end sometime!) I will remember instead the lazy mornings, evening bonfires in the backyard, family walks, and nature adventures. I will remember how much family time demanded of us all and how much it gave back in return.

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Distance and closeness.

Spring2020-31How are you doing, six feet from everyone other than the people that you live with?

For many reasons, I am so thankful that my kids are young right now. They aren’t in school yet, so we aren’t faced with fighting over homeschooling projects daily. They love their friends, but they are still young enough that nothing is exciting as mom being home all! the! time! And most importantly, they are too young to really grasp the unprecedented time we are living right now. We’ve explained the distance we are keeping, the park closures, the lack of playdates, the live streaming of church from home, the many changes to daily life, as simply as possible. Lots of people are sick, so we are all trying to keep our germs to ourselves. And they accept that, without question. Because again – mom is home more, so everything is awesome.  Spring2020-32But for me, it is much harder. I can freely admit that our busy social schedule of playdates and outings is as much for me as them, and I miss my mom posse, miss the daily support of our community. My extroverted self is so ready to be back with people and it has been a whopping 10 days of “social distancing.” I realize how insanely lucky I am that the state of the world now affects me far less than many others. I was already home with little kids a lot of the time. While I am now lecturing remotely online instead of teaching in person at a local university, a lot of the work is flexible. And we have a yard and basement keeping us from going totally stir crazy inside. (Oh ye longtime readers- please imagine us in our old apartment unable to get out much. IT WOULD BE SO BAD.) The break that comes from time with my friends while my kids play with theirs is so vital to my happiness and sanity as a mostly stay at home mom. Spring2020-34Spring2020-36On a harder note, there is a lot to be fearful about in the world. I read reports of Italy and other countries weeks ahead of us and feel real fear about the suffering coming our way. And if that suffering doesn’t come on the scale we are bracing for, then the real suffering of lost work, plunging markets, and disrupted lives is enough to be devastating on its own. That stress is the companion of everyone right now.

But it is also a stress that has no place in my children’s day. It would be different with older kids, but I am constantly aware that they are soaking in all around them and lately – that’s pretty much me. My moods, my anxieties, my fears. My almost 2 and almost 4 year olds don’t have the emotional processing skills to handle a unprecedented global pandemic. We don’t have to hide the truth from our children, but all the adult stress that comes with it? They can’t process that, and they shouldn’t have to. Spring2020-37So instead, I have been focusing on having good, but normal, days. We don’t have a colorful schedule, we don’t have special themes or activities, we aren’t doing anything exceptional. But we are leaning in to simple days of closeness as we put distance all around us. On our first day of distancing, we headed out to see if Rawlings Park was empty. It’s one of my favorite spots, lined with Japanese magnolias, and always fairly empty, even under normal circumstances. It was empty and I let the kids run wild in the trees and drained fountains. A morning of so much beauty in the midst of so much uncertainty.  But moreover, a really normal morning in a world that feels very abnormal.Spring2020-38This is not one of those blogs where you can download a list of 60 ways to use empty toilet paper roles for STEM related toddler activities. Sorry. But, here is a fast list of things that have and have not been filling our days.

Things we have not being doing:

Crafts/Educational games: We have done crafts twice in the past 10 days, and both times I have lost my calm and patience. Craft chaos drives me insane like little else and we just can’t handle much crafting beyond simple watercolors. As for educational games… nope. We read a lot of books and one time I dumped a bunch of scrabble tiles in a cookie sheet and wrote names of family members on a piece of paper for Henry to find and match. But that’s it. I find that most of the learning games involve a lot of prep and are discarded in about 5 minutes, which is simply not worth it for me. Admittedly- I am not trying to teach anything, given the age of my kids. But if the thought of having to build an elaborate structure out of colored poms and painters tape each evening is stressing you out- then this is me giving you permission to not do it.

Additional screen time: Ok- hear me out. This is not at all a judgement of the ample screen time that I know is a lifeline to many right now. If I had to be working a full time job with kids out of school, if my kids didn’t still nap for 2-3 hours every afternoon, or if we hadn’t moved to a place with a yard and basement — we would definitely be turning to the TV more than we are now. But for the moment, I am trying to stick to our general screen time limits because it is what helps our family work best, and we need to be at our best right now. TV does happen a couple times a week, but those times follow a couple key principles. It is a decision I make, not a result of whining for it. It also corresponds to something that needs doing, usually the kids cleaning up all their toys. To give myself the same sort of mental break that TV offers parents, we have been turning to a lot of audiobooks and free play.  Plus, with more and more schools announcing closures for the rest of the semester… August is a long way off for unbridled screen time.

Staying inside: We have been staying far from other people, but definitely not been staying inside. We try for an outdoor playtime or adventure before lunch and another after naps, sometimes as simple as a walk up and down our street or playing in the backyard. Henry has tied a rope to a train pull toy and insists on waking it up and down our street daily, as his “dog” needs a walk.

Spring2020-40Things we have been doing:

Hitting any and all lesser-known nature spots… and I use the term nature broadly. Any scrap of nature will do, and my kids don’t care if there are roads and houses just through the trees. We have been heading out, feeding ducks, getting as muddy as possible, and then coming home exhausted and content. (If you want a 4 year old to get REALLY EXCITED, I highly recommend you give them a Tupperware container and a patch of dirt and tell them to fill it with worms. )

Scavenger hunts. Don’t get any grand ideas. Little kids like repetition and they have low standards. I bring some toys outside, hide them quickly (mostly in plain sight, but I put some up high enough that Henry has to climb and use sticks to whack them out of trees), and then repeat it again 10 minutes later. They think it is awesome.

Morning walks by myself: This is the saving grace in my days. It is tempting to sleep in since we have nowhere to be, but I know better. Every morning I love my 30-40 minutes of walking around neighborhood alone while I listen to podcasts. It gives me the patience to spend the rest of the day distanced from adult community and (sometimes claustrophobically close) with my children. 

FaceTime: A notable exception to screen limits. My kids love reading books with their cousins, seeing new baby cousins in other countries, and doing farm chores or chatting with grandparents. They love periodically seeing their friends and I love seeing the other adults in my parenting posse.

Laundry: Is anyone else feeling on top of laundry for the first time ever? Due to all the mud tromping mentioned above, we have made more messy laundry since social distancing than ever before. But yet, no one is running out of clothes.

Audiobooks: Henry loves audiobooks and podcasts. We started listening to this a lot about a year ago. I think it was a good “starter” audiobook, as he already knows many of the stories and can duck in and out as he wants. We have been exploring the free kids audiobooks here, and have found some that we love. If you are starting your young kids on audiobooks, try this one over snack time. It’s short and simple, but my kids love it.

Popsicle baths: It’s exactly what it sounds like. I gave my kids popsicles in the bath and they couldn’t even contain their excitement.

Taking off all the couch cushions: I really don’t love my couch cushions getting played with. But I do really love how long and independently my kids play when they get to turn them into play materials. So I have been ignoring it, pouring another cup of coffee, and reading a book at the table.

Taking it slow: I hate how often I rush my children. We all do it. Toddlers and pre-schoolers can just be so infuriatingly slow and you find yourself telling them to hurry up a hundred times a day. I’m trying to squash that for the moment, to let us slow down and avoid the silly stress of rushing.

How have you been filling your days?

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Loving lately.

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Almost every day, I lie in bed to read books with Henry before naptime. And about a month ago, I started falling asleep daily after one book. At first, I felt bad. Now I lean in, bringing a blanket and settling in to sleep an hour snuggled up with my boy before getting up and being productive (at 3.5, Henry is still going strong with 2-3 hour naps daily and it is EVERYTHING). For this mama that never co-slept — this is an impossibly precious thing.

Over Christmas, I took my sad and neglected head of hair to my beloved stylist in Kentucky and begged her to make it healthy and manageable. She cut A LOT off, and all the sudden I have magic beach waves that need little to no grooming. I rub this stuff through it after showering at night, sleep on it, and just have to touch up a few in the morning. It’s a game changer.

I got an InstantPot for Christmas. I’ll admit, I do not think I am the IP target audience. Nothing stresses me out more than having dinner unplanned a couple days before, so planning ahead for the crockpot is not a struggle. Butttttttt then I made this dish and it was so quick and tasty and I want to drown myself in the sauce, so I am getting converted.

A couple months ago, I started using one of these to put on makeup. I’m not sure how I am the last person on the planet to use one, but it has completely transformed how my skin looks. No more lines! No caking! Soft and natural coverage!

Reading this book and loving it (maybe the most delightful main character ever?), and starting this one next because it is my book club March book. Ok also- loving book club. Some friends put one together last fall and it is the most random and eclectic group of strangers-turned-friends ever. Such good community formed by sharing really good food and talking about books, life, family, and everything in between.

Pregnancy cravings are so weird. With Henry, all I wanted was cake, Easy-Mac, and McDonalds breakfast. With Etta, it was tacos and toast. This baby has me on a steady need for sandwiches. The specific type comes and goes. I had a month where all I wanted was thick cut meat (think, Honey Ham or pot roast) on bread with all the fixings, then Velveeta grilled cheese, and now I am in a devoted veggie wrap with hummus stage. Those veggies are key to offset my other random cravings… which maybe had me Uber-Eats-ing crab rangoon at 10pm one weeknight. Still vomiting at 18 weeks and really hoping that ends soon, but at least I am feeling excited that some of the concerns my doctors had at 12 weeks are dissipating.

Just finished watching this and loved it so much more than I anticipated. I would say I am a medium fan, but I was so fascinated by her brutally honest admission of wanting to be a star because she loves applause and struggling when that stops.

I would be remiss if I didn’t give a shoutout to the great love of my life at the moment- our robot vacuum. While yes, it doesn’t clean quite as well as a person, I don’t have to do it. Plus, my kids are so fascinated/scared by it that they eagerly pick up toys so we can run it. James has worked insane hours the past two weeks, so I have been on solo bedtime and cleanup duty almost every night. Or should I say- ALMOST solo duty, because the robot has my back, cleaning the floors while I wrangle toddlers into bed.

What are you loving these days?

 

 

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Since last we spoke.

It’s been a moment hasn’t it?

As the year ended and I thought back on 2019, I thought about how little this year has been documented. Little, at least, for me. I love documenting, processing, photographing, sharing, blogging — all the modern memory keeping mechanisms. But this year I just felt burnt out on recording and sharing. I sat down to write – both here and in personal journaling – and just felt weary at the thought of it. Getting out the camera felt cumbersome, and this is probably the least photographed year we have had in a long time.

This is not to say that 2019 wasn’t wonderful. It was. We bought a house, set up a new home, made new friends, took part in really meaningful community, and really enjoyed parenting our tiny crazy people. It was perhaps my most social year since college, as toddler parenting with part-time employment means that I spend a lot of time having coffee with my friends around the city under the guise of play dates “for our children.” Book clubs, Bible studies, community dinners- I have really enjoyed our social calendar. And as I have put far fewer of my own words down this year, it has been a year of soaking up other people’s writing. I read a lot in 2019, so many good and fun books. It was one of my best kept New Year’s resolutions and I have no regrets about the many times I had a spare moment and picked up a book instead of writing a blog post (I mean does anyone even still read blogs?). And yet, I miss it, the documenting. Not the process of it, but I miss the traces of life that I was able to capture.

So here are a few updates, and an avowed desire to document more in 2020.

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In the blog silence that was November, fall came and went, Thanksgiving happened, and my parents came to DC for what was the most chill Thanksgiving ever. My mom and I made a meal that was on the simpler side, but it included this stuffing that I absolutely love and everyone else tolerated.  We read the kids some historical books that mayyybbeeee overemphasized the dire straights and death of the Pilgrims that first year, causing Henry to answer the question “What are you thankful for?” with the sincere response of, “I want to say what makes me sad… I don’t want us to die.”  The 8th annual donut party occurred and as always, it was a seasonal highlight. We went the baked donut route this year and I have no regrets! I used this recipe but subbed apple butter for pumpkin. And because the donut party crowd is now about half children under the age of 7- the party started at 5, and a mass exodus happened at 7. I had a couple people bring pots of chili and I am now convinced that Buddy the Elf is right and we should add maple syrup to everything, including chili. Fall2019-91-11Fall2019-91-13Fall2019-91-14

Speaking of Buddy, Christmas came, though Thanksgiving was so late and rudely stole a week of the best season. We hit all our favorite DC Christmas traditions and every year they just feel better as our kids get older. This year Christmas snuck up on me and I was frantically wrapping (ok, and ordering) gifts at the last minute. But Advent? We did Advent well this year. Henry (and me if we are being honest), loved having this podcast each day to help us remember the people who waited for Jesus to come and remind us we are waiting for him to come back. I can’t wait till they come back with a Lent one because it was some of the best treatment of complicated Biblical stories for kids that I have heard. I hit the library in late November and pulled every Christmas book that was about some aspect Christ’s birth and the kids found another one to unwrap under the tree each morning. Simple, repetitive, and so fun. In hindsight, it was also way too many books for toddlers who love reading the same things over and over, but it was fun.

We snapped a few quick Christmas card pics, and obviously I couldn’t totally forsake tradition, so here are a few of the outtakes and some favorites.Wegmanns-9Wegmanns-17Wegmanns-40Wegmanns-52Wegmanns-57Wegmanns-61

We visited both families over Christmas break, with Christmas first in Indiana, where Henry got to hit Pokagon for the first time. Both of our families are absolute experts at giving James and I exactly what we want most for Christmas: a break from parenting. I read books on the couch and napped, first in Indiana and then in Kentucky where we did second Christmas. I know it is a hassle to travel for the holidays, and I know we won’t do it forever, but every year James and I come home so filled by that time with our family.  Both of my brothers had their first child in the last couple months, with baby Charlie coming right before Thanksgiving  to my older brother in Montreal and baby Suzie arriving last week to my little brother in Hong Kong. I flew to Canada to meet Charlie and was able to follow my sister in law’s labor with Suzie on the other side of the globe in Hong Kong. Our family grows and I feel so rich.Processed with VSCO with a6 presetProcessed with VSCO with a6 presetProcessed with VSCO with a6 presetProcessed with VSCO with a6 presetProcessed with VSCO with a6 presetCharlie-7

And under all these adventures that filled the fall and the onset of winter, there was this:Processed with VSCO with a6 preset

Baby three coming late June! The surprise of 2019 for us, and man- this third pregnancy is rough. I’ve vomited more than the first two combined, find cooking to be a struggle of moral proportions, and shortly before Christmas I started having some of the concerning bleeding that I had with Etta. The fun of the fall was underscored and punctuated with me lying on the floor of the bathroom or trying to find new ways to play with the kids that allowed me to stay motionless on the couch.

The day that we thought we might be losing the baby, we decided to tell the kids. I was 12 weeks, and many would say it was too early to tell  toddlers. But we decided that we needed the kids to understand the ways I was struggling, needed their grace. What we got instead was their insane joy. Henry instantly started spouting off plans, everything from the new pumpkin bucket we would need to buy for trick-or-treating, to where the baby should sleep, to how he would include the baby in his activities, and how we needed to go to the grocery to buy some breast milk (hmm…) . He paused in the middle of his to-do list to yell “WE ARE GOING TO HAVE ANOTHER COSTCO MEMBER IN THE FAMILY!!!” and he hasn’t stopped being excited about this little life.

So that’s what happened since last we spoke. Deep community. Holidays and seasonal traditions. Shock and surprise and pain. And joy. So much joy.

Till next time. Wegmanns-71

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Bambi and the Lion.

Fall2019-68Every year I worry that it might be the last year I can persuade my children into wearing adorable animal outfits on Halloween. At some point they are going to rebel and demand to be Disney princesses or superheroes or it will occur to Henry that he could actually dress like Thomas the Tank Engine or an astronaut and my years of tiny creatures will be over. Remember when Henry was the tiniest elephant? And then last year, when Etta was the Ettaphant and Henry was the least bad big bad wolf around ? Nothing delights me quite so much as my kids as animals. Fall2019-70Fall2019-72

This year, Etta was the sweetest fuzzy lion, and Henry – by his own volition – was Bambi. My mom showed him the movie this summer and it was both a little traumatizing (can we talk about how Bambi’s mother disappears and is NEVER DISCUSSED AGAIN???), but also an instant hit with Henry. Our new neighborhood is in a part of DC that has big stretches of land managed by the national park service and there are deer everywhere. This has furthered the Bambi fascination as we have many discussions about where Bambi is at (always the thicket) and what he is doing (usually sleeping or hanging out with his mother) daily.

His fascination led to this adorable little deer, who spent most of the day wearing his costume and ducking inside the bathroom to check and see if his antlers had grown yet.

Fall2019-75It also led to a secondary fascination, that of requesting that I dress like Bambi’s mom. This is problematic at best, morbid at worst, and I have tried to pinpoint what he thinks actually happened to Bambi’s mom, at which point he just vaguely stares off into the distance.

In other news, Etta the Lion was SLAYING ME with her fuzzy perfection. And how much does she look like Henry in the same costume 2 years ago???

Fall2019-76Fall2019-77Fall2019-78Fall2019-80Fall2019-81Fall2019-82The only person more excited than me about Etta as a lion was Henry, who kept trying to pull her tail and get her to roar. She did on occasion roar as requested and it was so cute that it led to more attempts to provoke a roar.Fall2019-83Fall2019-86Fall2019-88We were dressed and outside ready to go long before anyone was ready to start giving out candy. Henry has been talking about it since last year, and been practicing for at least a month. Etta spent the first couple houses trying to cram leaves in her bucket, and then promptly shifted gears and tried eating still-wrapped candy.

For our kids, candy was the goal. And James and I are not opposed to that, as we did Year 2 of The Great Candy Draft, in which we stayed up and NFL draft style divided Henry’s candy between us. But I really felt like this year our major goal was to experience Halloween as homeowners who are invested in our neighborhood. It’s the first year we have given out candy (though a huge storm and a SNAKE ON OUR PORCH) meant the crowds were smaller than anticipated, and we stayed to chat at every house on our block as we went around, talking with neighbors that we are getting to know ever so slowly. I missed the ease and grandeur of Capitol Hill trick-or-treating, where everything is close and impressive. But I love that we are knowing more and more faces around our neighborhood, love that we ended the evening at a party with new friends and kids jacked high on sugar, love that our kids are feeling more at home on the streets that we walk daily, love that this is home, indefinitely.Fall2019-89So these pictures feel extra special, of Bambi and a little lion, racing around not just a neighborhood we live in at the moment, but our neighborhood. Fall2019-90

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Falling.

Fall2019-10I know, the originality of this blog post title is practically overwhelming. But the past couple weeks have been so full of the wonder of this season, that I really couldn’t help it. Here are some highlights.

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Homeownership, especially when we have lived in apartments for so long, makes everything feel like a milestone. The First Birthday In The New House. The First Baby Shower. The First Time Grilling Out. The First Fire In The Fireplace (which hasn’t happened yet but I’m excited!). There have also been some rough milestones, as houses are so much work and expensive, but luckily the joyous ones offset it. James loves tending his yard, and the kids absolutely live to help him. They love raking, and though it would be much more effective without them, we want to cultivate helpers. I on the other hand, have been obsessing over my front porch mums and pumpkins.

I haven’t had my own stoop since the first year I lived in DC- 8 years ago. I was beyond thrilled to haul some massive pillowy mums and endearingly ugly pumpkins to adorn our stoop…. and then promptly started losing my mind when the squirrels ate them. I have tried vaseline and red pepper…. any tips to drive them away? Nevertheless, even if they look pretty bad (which Henry reminds me of daily), walking up to our cheery and colorful front steps makes my heart impossibly happy.

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My sister-in-law and her family came to town this month and for one weekend, we had 6 kids ages 5 and under exploring DC with us. I cannot emphasize enough how crazy fun it was. Multiple the little people! It makes it so much better! Before they came I spent a day baking bread and cinnamon rolls. My granny used to do that before we came to town, pulling out bags of her perfect cinnamon rolls (unfrosted, not too sweet, with raisins) from the freezer every morning. It made me feel like I was extending the same welcoming and warm hospitality she always excelled at.

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We initially didn’t think we would make it to Homestead Farms to pick apples, which is ok. But then at the last minute, we realized we had a free Saturday morning and set out with friends to bring home way too many apples.

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Henry kept trying to bring home the bruised apples, excitedly explaining that we could “USE THEM TO MAKE BANANA BREAD!!!” which, to be fair, is what we do with other bruised fruit.

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This girl has just figured out how to eat apples, and LOVES THEM, but like her brother before her, she likes to just suck at the pieces for a bit and then spit them out. Henry eventually grew out of it, but it means that we are in the peak mess stage of apple eating.

Fall2019-43Fall2019-45Fall2019-47Trying to recreate this picture from last year…. with limited success.

Fall2019-49Fall2019-51These colors! I can’t get over it. DC still seems mostly green, but as soon as we started driving up River Road in Maryland, the colors were unbelievable.

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Fall with these people is my absolute favorite.

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The last of summer.

Summer2019-111I’m going to excuse this post showing up in October, a very summery post indeed, under the guise of how ridiculously long summer held on this year. We did our last splash pad outing and picnic in the first week of October, on a day the high’s passed the mid nineties. Now October has finally settled in, with blustery nights, chilly morning, changing leaves, and even some deliciously gray and dreary days.

But long before fall showed up- was Labor Day. Summer2019-113Summer2019-118Summer2019-121We decided at the last minute that we wanted to spend Labor Day at the beach with some friends. We didn’t care what beach, or how impressive the body of water, but we were absolutely committed to finding somewhere where you could step out the door and be on the sand. This is the key to enjoyable vacations with small children: ease. You want to minimize time in the car, constant trips schlepping things down, and facilitate easy nappng, cooking, playing etc. We found an Airbnb not too far from Cape Charles that was remote and very basic, but right on a private beach. Here are some pics from our perfect weekend on the water.Summer2019-122Summer2019-126Summer2019-129This girl really took off on the walking front while we were there. Probably because she has absolutely no fear of the water, and decided that walking/running straight into it was the best thing imaginable.

Processed with VSCO with a6 presetA grainy phone pic of my people! Time with them is the best part of time away. But also, time away with not *just* them. Guys- vacationing with friends who have kids the same age makes the trip so much more relaxing. We had some of our closes friends along who have kids the exact same ages as ours and it meant that all of us got to take a break from having to entertain our kids. They played, we relaxed, there were extra adults on hand so we could go to the beach in shifts during nap time- everybody wins. We split up meals so we all got breaks from cooking and I cannot emphasize this enough- more toddlers means easier toddlers. 

Summer2019-131Summer2019-147Summer2019-148Summer2019-156Summer2019-153Let’s discuss for a moment how perfect the Chesapeake Bay beaches are when you have little people. I love the ocean. But waves? Currents? Sharks? AND TODDLERS? It can be rough. But the Chesapeake has none of the above and stays shallow for a really long time. Again, vacations are better if they are easier, and the Chesapeake is just easier. Plus, it made me nostalgic for that summer when we went all the time.  And finally- we were on the side of the Chesapeake that had the sun setting over the water. Sunsets were also at low tide, and we made sure to swim in the sunset every night. It might be one of the most perfect experiences ever. It also made it easier for good pictures, as we didn’t have to worry about anyone cooperating by smiling or looking at the camera.Summer2019-154Processed with VSCO with a6 presetProcessed with VSCO with a6 presetProcessed with VSCO with f1 presetProcessed with VSCO with f1 presetSummer2019-155Labor Day, you were the perfect sweet and slow ending to a summer that went by all to fast.

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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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