City kids.

SPring2018-32Back in May -which seems like an entirely different life- we spent a morning out at Frying Pan Farm with some friends. We love this (free!) farm and have met some of our VA friends out there a couple times. Animals to pet! Farm equipment to climb! Mud to stomp in! Fields to roam! A playground for picnics! I meant to share pictures… but then a certain baby girl showed up several weeks early and a whole lot of things didn’t get done. So here, better late than never, are some pictures of my city kid loving on the country.

SPring2018-33SPring2018-34SPring2018-35SPring2018-36See? Soooooo pregnant. And so happy to not be waddling around like that anymore. SPring2018-38SPring2018-39All summer I craved a yard. I love this city life we live, love the parks and museums and markets and activities. I love the community of urban motherhood that exists just by walking outside my door. But this past summer was really hard too, and so many times I thought how much easier life could be if I had a back door that opened into a yard, a yard where I could send Henry to run and play and explore when getting outside of the house with a newborn just felt like too much. I longed for space to store a stroller that wasn’t our car, and an entrance that didn’t involve flights of steps and lots of hauling. When we visited our families in Kentucky and Indiana at the end of the summer, Henry was in total bliss, his behavior and moods perfected by the endless space of country living and free play. It just compounded the conversations James and I have so frequently. Should we move out of the city? Is this life GOOD for our kids? Does it ask too much of them? Does it set them up for success, does it set us up for success as parents, or are we constantly “disciplining” things that would disappear in the face of more air and sun and space?SPring2018-40SPring2018-43I don’t have answers to those questions that scroll across our conversations on repeat. And they have woven themselves into so many blog posts and I know you are tired of hearing them. It’s because parenthood has made me acutely aware of how every decision reverberates through other human beings. But this blog post isn’t actually to wax poetic about the country and how much Henry needs freedom to run, or how the air and grass and space are what are missing from our life. It was going to be that, because those things are all true, and days like our day at the farm or our time with family remind me of that. And we do plan on someday getting that space, that grass, that life. But for now, we have city kids living a city. And lately, I have been treasuring the beauty of that. SPring2018-45SPring2018-46James often has really long days and intense weeks at work and lately there was an especially rough week where he left before the kids were up and got home long after they (and their mother) were in bed almost every day. Of course, that was the week Henry got a terrible case of HFM and Etta started childcare and my semester was gearing up and it was really, really, REALLY hard doing it on my own. Only in the city, the blessing can sometimes be that you aren’t alone, but rather stuffed in around so many people. Often, this feels like a restriction, but lately, I have been overwhelmed at the community. People like my upstairs neighbor, who will text me when she hears Henry start having a tantrum and say “I just put my cat in the stairwell for Henry to play with.” She always carries our packages up since she knows my hands are frequently full, and usually stops at 5:30 to invite Henry on a field trip to her apartment while I get to dash around and restore some pre-dinner order. People like my neighbor-turned-friend who lives in the building behind us and often shows up with paleo treats that she made extra because she knows we are lways on some sort of Whole30 kick. People like all the residents on our corner who showed up when we taped signs on the doors announcing a clean-out-your fridge potluck/block party. Henry’s godparents and so many good friends live within walking distance, but I also love how all the random members of city life that make up our community. Henry knows the dry cleaner and the baristas at coffee shops we frequent and the staff at The Pretzel Bakery and the old man who always sits on his porch in the evening and the nuns who walk by our house on their way to pray. I love that our kids are growing up shoved into a crowded and vibrant community full of so many different types of people. Obviously- that is possible anywhere. But the shear necessity of sharing space in the city brings it into sharp focus. I hope that living in this city is teaching him to love his neighbor, whoever they may be.

I also just love watching Henry navigate city life. I love that he knows how to ride the metro and LIVES to ride the bus. Sometimes I drive him to James’ office when after work just so he can ride the bus home. He is shockingly competent at directions and navigating Capitol Hill, often calling out which way we should go before I even get to an intersection. He is at home in a world so different than the one I grew up in and I am insanely proud of that.SPring2018-47SPring2018-49Because ultimately, whatever home we raise children in is the only place they know how to thrive. I’m remembering that as I long for more space and delighting in knowing my kids are learning to conquer the city.

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The moments we [don’t] plan.

Summer2018-250Summer2018-251Summer2018-252Summer2018-254Summer2018-255Summer2018-256Summer2018-257Summer2018-258Summer2018-259Summer2018-260Summer2018-262Summer2018-263Summer2018-264Children are a lesson in lowering your expectations.

We all think we know what it will be like when we have kids, how they will act and more importantly, how we will act. We come into parenting with so many foolish expectations of how everything will go, all the beautiful moments we will share, and our children spend the rest of their lives dismantling that notion and building reality in its place. I know this, and yet I still routinely  fall prey to the trap of anticipating how a certain moment or experience will go, only to be disappointed when the reality of my very real toddler doesn’t line up with whatever fantasy I imagined. The gifts you thought would be received a certain way, the “firsts” you imagined framed in glorious celebration, the special experiences that would be shared with reverent awe- those don’t usually go as planned.

We are a baseball family and I love it, love going to  games together, watching them at home, and cheering on James’ favorite team. We hauled Henry to so many games his first summer, mostly because our extroverted-since-infancy baby would happily snooze or smile in the crowded and hot ballpark, versus cry and fuss at home. That kid has grown to love any and all sports, and we were so excited to take him to a baseball game this summer, now that he would really understand what it was. James couldn’t wait to share their first father-son ballgame together, to watch and bask and revel in the glory of the great American past-time.

Instead, Henry got super high on sugary food about an hour into the game, didn’t want to stay in his seat, and ended the evening by running in deranged circles and screaming. We had still had fun, but it was not at all the holy baseball moment we had imagined and honestly, that was disappointing.

But then a couple weeks ago, James was watching a baseball game on a Sunday afternoon during naptime. Henry woke up and I carried him still snuggly in his sleepsack and dropped him on James on the couch while I went to go get Etta. Instead of hopping up and running around like he always does, Henry burrowed in as close to James as he could and started asking questions about the game, about the players and the team and what everyone was doing. He cheered as James cheered, called out the phrases that James fed him, and for much longer than I could have anticipated, he snuggled in and shared some Sunday afternoon baseball with his Daddy.

He still talks about it all the time, that baseball game he saw. He wants to play it every day, loved when James and his brother played catch when we were in Indiana, and treats every stick as a baseball bat and every round object as a ball. The magical baseball moment we wanted didn’t come when we planned it, but rather on a quiet Sunday afternoon when we leaned in to Henry’s interest and made time for extra snuggles and explanations.

That’s the thing with toddlers, and I’m sure it will be true in some way at any age: they don’t just fit into the mold of Life With Children, and trying to squeeze them in there only ends in frustration. Instead, I’m learning to take the magic moments as they come, to love them as they come, and to make space in our days for them to happen. The moments we could never have possibly planned are the very best of all.

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Etta, etc.

Since it’s pretty much been the Henry show lately on this blog, here’s some smiley Etta-bird for you, carrying on the tradition lately of Etta pics+random links. Summer2018-344Summer2018-345This girl knows that diaper changes, nursing sessions, and having her reflux meds administered are some of the few moments she gets undivided attention, and they are her happiest and smiley moments. I usually stagger their afternoon naps just slightly so that I get about 20 minutes to snuggle this one uninterrupted and bask in her coos because I feel so sad that being a dreamy easy second baby means you get less attention. But Etta, we love you so! So does your brother, and I apologize for the many hazards his love causes you, like when he covered you in toy trucks earlier this week. I promise where he comes from it means he loves you.

Some things!

My neighbor made more of this detox salad than she could eat and I was happy to take the extra. It is pretty intense on the detoxing front and also really hearty and tasty.

I’ve seen lots of people sharing this article about rewards versus punishments, and so much of it resonated with things we have been trying with Henry lately. I have alllll the thoughts about discipline and its place in intentional family culture… and someday I will write them down. Maybe. Hopefully.

I made this Whole30 potato gratin recently and it might be my favorite Whole30 dish to date. Eager to try it again with a mixture of potatoes, zucchini, and squash, inspired by this dish.

Of course, if Deb says you should never cook at home, maybe you shouldn’t.

This article hit all the nerves: Mothers as Makers of Death.

“The private actions of the mother’s mind—her scholarship, perversions, miscellany, narcissism—are swamped by the bureaucracy of parenting. A ticker tape hurtles across the mother’s brain listing all of the things she must remember: spoon, bathing suit, milk, booster shot, sign-up, pickup, 3:15. These lists are a form of paying attention, which is a form of love. Love, a wise woman once told me, is how you make the other person feel. Love is how you make your child feel. You accomplish the list. And then the list, indomitable, grows anew.”

I love trying different cosmetics every time I need to replace something and I also love using combo moisturizer/color/sunscreen instead of foundation. Just got this one and I am LOVING it.

My birthday is next week and when James asked what I wanted, I said to see a movie… with my girlfriends while he handled the bedtime crazy. So a big posse of us are going to see a chick flick Sunday night. Crazy Rich Asians, or Mamma Mia 2?

Happy weekend!Summer2018-341

 

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Midwest late summer.

After spending a couple days in Kentucky, our road trip continued up through the Midwest to visit James’ side of the family. First stop- Cincinnati to visit James’ sister and her family! Behold- Henry and Etta’s cousins:Summer2018-228Summer2018-229Summer2018-230Summer2018-231Summer2018-232This kid was in heaven having cousins to play with and all their cool toys to explore. (Of course, for little kids playing together, having fun doesn’t look that much different from not having fun, as any excess of emotion leads to tears.) If Henry was in heaven, I was even more so getting to spend time with my SIL Laura. This girl is an amazing mother, and the older my kids get, the more I find myself reaching out to her for wisdom and support. Summer2018-234We tried to survive the endless driving of this trip by maximizing sleep driving. Thus, we drove from Kentucky to Cincinnati early morning (Etta slept) and then left to drive on to Indiana after dinner and baths so that both kids would sleep and we could drive without stopping and enjoy adult road trip joys. Podcasts! Conversation! Music that isn’t the Moana soundtrack! (Not that I’m tired of those tunes- nope.) It worked most of the time. There was one catastrophically awful nap where Henry screamed most of the time, but on the whole, it gave us lots of driving in peace and helped us only have to resort to Daniel Tiger on a tablet for about 2 hours out of the 30 total that we spent in the car. But I digress. Following Cincinnati, we headed to James’ parents’ house in northern Indiana. And again, I went back to sleeping in while other people woke up with my children and let them wander outside in stages of undress.Summer2018-237Summer2018-238My in-laws have an epic garden that puts my aspirations of someday keeping a single basil plant alive to shame. Remember last summer when Henry spent the whole visit eating green beans? This summer was the Visit Of The Cherry Tomatoes. He loved helping pick produce, and managed to not eat everything. We took a giant bag of fresh stuff home from the garden, and Henry spent the next week excitedly announcing that “I pick it wif grandma!!!” every time I made dinner. Summer2018-239Summer2018-241Summer2018-242Summer2018-243Summer2018-244Summer2018-246Summer2018-247What’s this? An Etta cameo! Summer2018-249We celebrated my brother-in-law’s birthday while there, and Laura and her family came up from Cincinnati for it. More cousin time!Summer2018-265Summer2018-268Summer2018-269Summer2018-271Happy birthday uncle Thomas! Summer2018-274Almost the whole family- just missing uncle Philip. Love this tribe that I married into!Summer2018-278Summer2018-287Summer2018-297We went to Charlottesville this past weekend to see my brother and his wife (back from Sweden!) which means that in a one month span, we got to spend time with every single family member scattered across the country. What a gift. You will be spared endless photos of that trip because I completely forgot to take any, but I’m sure you can imagine what they would be: Henry, pawned off on family members and loving it.

This summer didn’t have any trips beyond those solely devoted to time with family, and you know what? That’s just fine with me. These are my very favorite people.

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August in Kentucky.

Summer2018-177A couple weeks ago we embarked on an epic road trip to visit ALL THE FAMILY. The plan was to drive to Kentucky to see my parents, then drive to Cincinnati to spend a day with James’ sister and her family, head up to Indiana to spend a couple days with James’ parents and brother, then go up to Michigan for a wedding of a college friend at our alma mater. If that sounds like an insane amount of driving with a baby (hello longgggg nursing stops) and a toddler, it is. Henry has never been known for his tolerance of the carseat and I basically went into the trip with a combination of excitement to see family, and total dread at the hours in the car it would take us to do just that, not to mention the exhaustion that comes from tiny people not sleeping as well in new settings.

We were indeed totally exhausted by the end of the trip, but also strangely refreshed. There is nothing as satisfying as watching our families get to love on our kids. And whereas holiday visits require lots of time spent on various festivities, these lazier August days produced a totally different type of visit, one full of a whole lot more play for Henry, and relaxation for his parents. I basically feel like I got a week’s vacation from my toddler, and by that I mean “got to nurse while reading a book instead of trying to also entertain Henry.” Living la vida loca over here.

If you thought I wasn’t going to drag you through endless pictures of time with our families- think again. Some snapshots of a couple August days in Kentucky!

Summer2018-179Summer2018-183This kid lives for chores. He would rather be doing a task than just playing 100% of the time. My mom got Henry up before we ever heard him in the mornings, and by the time I woke up to Etta around 9/9:30 (because she’s an angel and loves those lazy mornings), Henry was already off somewhere on the farm, hauling sticks or washing horses or hiking in the woods. He is very passionate about brooms, so above you can see him THRILLED to sweep the driveway. Summer2018-184Summer2018-185Henry also spent a lot of time around my parents’ horses. Last time we visited, he was excited about the horses, but also pretty timid. This time he was so bold and excited to ride and my nerdy horse-loving self was thrilled. Summer2018-299Summer2018-300Those two photos above of Henry just tromping around the farm? My dad took them. BECAUSE I WAS ASLEEP OR OFF CHILAXING. At like 10am. Glory be. Henry lived his best life in Kentucky, and this mama lived hers. Summer2018-187My brother Lyman and his wife Ruth were also in Kentucky with us. After 4 years of living just minutes away from us in DC, they just moved to Hong Kong after a summer of travel around the country. We are so excited for them, but also crushed because Henry adores them and they have seemingly bottomless patience for babysitting. Date night just took a serious hit in our house. Henry has been sadly pointing at their former house every time we pass all summer and saying “Ruthie and Lyman.. all gone.. Hong Kong,” so we were excited that we could catch them for a few final days in Kentucky before they headed oversees. Summer2018-191Summer2018-192Summer2018-193GAH- this kid. It was his first time with puddle jumpers, and he alternated between loving them and swimming, and suddenly remembering that no one was holding him and freaking out a little. Summer2018-194Summer2018-196Summer2018-200Cameo by Etta, snoozing in the carseat in the distance. Bless you sweet second born and your willingness to be neglected in random places to nap. Summer2018-203Summer2018-206Summer2018-208Summer2018-304Summer2018-306One morning I woke up and Lyman and Ruth had left to take Henry on his first creeking adventure. What’s creeking you say? It’s the best. You hike… in a creek. Growing up, my mom would load us in the back of the pickup truck and haul us to a big creek to hike for a couple hours. I’m so thankful that Henry got to share his first creeking experience (pronounced “crickin’ “) with these two! It also checks off our “play in creek” summer goal. I only got to looking through the pics they took of their adventure today, and it was so fun to see my city kid rocking that Kentucky creek life.Summer2018-309Summer2018-310Summer2018-313Summer2018-315Summer2018-318Summer2018-320Summer2018-321Summer2018-322Summer2018-210Summer2018-211Some of my friends from France happened to be in Kentucky while we were passing through, which allowed us a quick visit, and the only cameo photo to show that James and I also came on this trip — it wasn’t just the “Henry Hanging With Family” show. Summer2018-213Summer2018-214Summer2018-215Henry refers to my dad as “Grandpa Music,” and loves getting to play along. For the longest time he referred to all instruments just as “the musics” and it was the best. Sadly, he has finally figured out that they each have their own names. Summer2018-216Summer2018-220After basically being a summer camp counselor for this wild child all day long, my mom still had energy to take over bath time and book reading every night. No surprise that Henry started telling me he wanted to go to Grandma’s house again about 2 minutes after we pulled out of the driveway. Summer2018-223Summer2018-224Summer2018-226Proof that Etta also made the trip! She basically napped, cuddled, and ate like an angel the whole time which doesn’t get her in a lot of photos, but does rank her very high in the affections of all those who know her. Summer2018-227

Kentucky- you’re a dream, and your people are the best. Counting down till Christmas already!

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Taking Stock.

takingstock

Making : Lesson plans for the first week of classes next week.
Cooking : Breakfast tacos, because it means that I can make Whole30 scrambled eggs loaded with veggies for me, and then just throw a scoop in a tortilla with cheese for Henry.
Drinking : All the coffee, especially as the start of the semester plus getting two kids out the door means that I am getting up much earlier than them for the first time ever.
Reading: Just finished Arcadia , and I’m on hold for Educated: a Memoir so I plan on starting The Art of Fielding in the meantime. Really trying to be reading more now that dissertation is done, but…
Wanting: To know how other moms I see on Instagram are reading so much with kids at home. I’m sure there are blocks of time I’m wasting and missing, so I need someone to tell me how to blaze through books in this age of tiny people with big needs.
Looking: Forward to Labor Day when we are headed to Charlottesville to visit my brother and sister-in-law.
Playing: Endless variations of “Daddy Leaving For Work,” which is Henry’s favorite game. It involves him packing a lunch in multiple layers of grocery bags, parroting back all the phrases James says as he leaves (“Where are my keys?” “I can’t forget my lunch!” “Oh no- about to miss the last bus!” “Smooches from my family!”) and going in the hallway to his “office.”
Watching: The Americans and of course, Bachelor in Paradise.
Wasting: Lots of old grocery bags because Henry loves to fill them with stuff and haul them around. Though I guess that’s not exactly wasting- more like Montessori play-receycling.
Wishing: For more space, always more space. Specifically a yard and third bedroom, both of which would make life (and sleep) with tiny people so much easier.
Enjoying: Conversations with Henry, who says the best things. Like the other day, when I picked him up from childcare and said we should go home and see his stuffed animals, to which he happily responded, “Yes- they love me!!!!”
Waiting: For Etta to start giggling more. We have lots of coos and quality smiles, and two confirmed giggles, but I can’t wait till we get to that stage of frequent laughter because it is the best
Liking: The way that Henry can say Etta just fine, but when asked her full name, he defaults to “Mary-ellellellelle-a.”.
Wondering: What sort of friends they will be when they’re older.
Loving: This Instagram account and its great advice about parenting and tough behavior.
Hoping: That Blake isn’t the next Bachelor  because he is just so, so, so boring.
Marveling: At how different Etta seems than Henry at that age, how much easier, and yet, how there are still moments where I feel like I have no clue what to do and have certainly never done this before.
Needing: To get serious about submitting academic articles for publication. I’m working very part-time this year, so publishing is the big professional goal now that I have finished school.
Wearing: About to trade out my endless summer rotation of shorts and tees for more respectable clothes to teach in.
Noticing: How Henry hears and understands everything all of the sudden, and how much pressure that puts on me to not just talk to him carefully and intentionally, but also to talk about him (to James, other moms, friends, family on the phone) in a way that encourages him to good behavior.
Knowing: That the hardest part of having kids might just be that – they are always watching and learning and we can’t ever be “off.”
Thinking: About how excited I am to go back to work and teaching, and also how sad I am to see summer slip away, and how I want more time at home and more time at work and how that balance is impossible.
Feeling: So excited about how much more fun it seems children get as they get older, and also feeling really sad about the way that some fun aging slowly moves them into less time for me to share in it .

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This & That.

I have approximately a zillion partially started posts in my drafts, but, like all my thoughts these days, they get half started and then… fade into oblivion. But life continues, kids age, kids age me, and Etta is significantly less documented than Henry. I think these were maybe her 2 month(and one week) photos.Summer2018-173Summer2018-174Summer2018-175We call her the Bird, Etta-Bird, baby bird, Birdie, because that hair is just so birdlike. She is such a dream. I still maintain that I prefer toddlers over babies… but if she had been my firstborn I might not have camped out in that opinion. This two kid thing is still really hard on a daily basis (I basically take a deep breath at 6:30 for bedtime and then charge through and hope we all come out alive a couple hours later), but her sweet spirit and easy-going nature have been such a gift.

Some things of late from around the web….

I loved this article, “Motherhood in the age of fear.” I want my kids to be bold and independent and most importantly, not so terrified of the world that they are rendered useless to love and change it. Parents need to be each others advocates and realize that our children really are safer now than ever before from random predators.

We just started a new Whole30 (after a summer of casseroles and frothy coffees and ALL THE INDULGING), and I will be bathing everything in this magic green sauce as soon as my avocados ripen. We have also been ordering  meals from this full service Whole30 meal delivery service (use code DTRZ for $50 off!) and they have been SO GOOD. The only way that I can do a Whole30 with all the craziness of life right now is having meals already made on hand for a couple nights a week.

We also made this greek chicken  (twice) last week and this pulled pork and both were excellent and took mere minutes of hands on prep, which is all I can handle.

Always on the lookout these days for easy activities to keep a wild toddler busy if we must stay inside due to weather, or some sleep training for a certain second born. This account is pure gold!

Best TV episodes of the 21st century, with special attention to Lost, a show that will always have my heart, even if it mistreated said heart and really didn’t give me anything back in the end.

I really want to see this exhibit at the National Portrait Gallery. I took Henry once to the National Gallery, and he loved it, as he quickly realized that the silent halls are perfect echo chambers. We did not stay long. But I might have to brave an art museum again with him to check it out.

When we were visiting family the week before last, I experienced the joy of nursing sessions that didn’t include a toddler climbing on my back and was finally able to blaze through the rest of this book. And now I REALLY NEED SOMEONE TO DISCUSS THE ENDING WITH ME.

Happy week all! May you all be as eager to go to work as Henry, who basically responds like this every day when James gets to go to the office and he has to stay home and play and stuff. The injustice. JamesHeadshot-6

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