The last few weeks/ the first few weeks.

Spoiler alert: We had a baby. And you can bet I will drag you through the whole thing in a blog post at some point, but for today, some images and thoughts from the last few weeks – the final weeks of pregnancy,  and the first few weeks as a family of five. summersquareI love labor. LOVE IT. To be fair, I have had pretty easy labors and embrace the epidural, so it’s not hard to love. But I think the real reason I love labor so much is because it means that pregnancy is OVER.  Those last weeks, even of an easy pregnancy, are brutal. And this one was far from easy. I spent the last couple weeks in constant discomfort, pain and exhaustion. Yet there were still some really wonderful moments in there. We had some amazing family outings, backyard bonfires, and special moments. The kids are really into building tents in the backyard and eating meals inside of them, which gives us some tranquil dining on the patio and I am all about that.

I also nested like an insane person in those final weeks. Days before giving birth, I was trying to teach myself how to watercolor so I could paint something to hang over a giant whole in the wall of the guest room. Clearly, this was of utmost importance in those last pre-baby days. I purged and sorted and rearranged and generally did all sorts of crazy things that very few people would ever notice, because we all know that bringing a newborn into a house where the rubber bands aren’t sorted in the kitchen drawer increases the odds of SIDS. Or something. summersquare2We squeezed in several final hikes and nature outings in those last couple weeks, including one that was accidentally much longer than anticipated, in the hot sun, without snacks or drinks. Was I a little miserable? Yes. Would stationary activity that might have prolonged pregnancy been more miserable? Abso-freaking-lutely. My mom came to town when I was 37 weeks and 3 days pregnant and I conveniently woke up the next morning with feet resembling manatee fins and even new levels of misery.

But never fear! Because at 37 weeks and 5 days, Madeleine Lois showed up and everything became instantly better. IMG_5868 copyI’ve said it before (like here and here and here), but the newborn stage is not where I thrive. This time around though, the first couple weeks were beautifully different. Now, I know that babies get harder before they get easier, and the first couple weeks for many newborns are easy, a blissful cocoon of sleepy babies. But I have used that easy time to bounce back into life. I get back to the park and playdates, the splashpads and to-do lists. This time – I didn’t. I have long mourned the cuddles and sleepy snuggles I missed out on with Henry and Etta, the former because I was trying to establish good sleep hygiene and a schedule, the latter because I was busy and trying to be productive. Those lost snuggles caused more emotional issues than I realized for a long time. With Madeleine, we decided to try something different.summersquare3I didn’t leave my room much those first couple weeks. I slept in, then spent much of the day holding Madeleine, nursing and snuggling, listening to audiobooks and bonding with my baby. I emerged periodically to see the rest of the family, but I really reveled in that special time with my newborn in a way that I didn’t get to, didn’t choose to, with the others.  This bubble of newborn tranquility was totally due to my mom, who kept the other two away and the house running, and James, who really encouraged me in making it happen.summersquare5This sort of rest does not come easy to me. I like activity, love outings and visitors and summer fun. But COVID has forced me to slow down, and with so many things just not a possibility, the decision was made easier.

Maddie Lo might be my fussiest baby. It’s hard to remember exactly what the others were like, since your brain erases so much in nature’s attempt to get you to do it again. But she is definitely going to need the reflux meds that brought relief to Etta, and we have a lot of tears in our evenings these days. And yet, they don’t grate on me as much as they did with the other two. I had two weeks of rest and bonding to refresh my body and prepare my soul.summersquare6Since my mom left, I’ve certainly had to leave my room. But then again, I was ready to. We’ve had some wonderful family outings this weeks, some hard learning moments about life with three, and some big things that we needed to get done (helloooooo minivan purchase!). But instead of feeling burnt out a couple weeks in, I feel empowered. Yes, last night when I had to put all three to bed by myself for the first time everyone got yelled at, Maddie just had to be put down to scream while I supervised bed prep, and Henry tearfully informed me that I was “using my bad voice.”

Because adding a person to your family is hard. But the hard doesn’t feel like it’s outweighing the good or suffocating this time, and I think so much of that is due to those first two weeks. summersquare4

How many of you did the cloister-away method with your newborns?


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Summer reading.

Summer2020-3Summer2020-6Summer2020-7Summer2020-9Summer2020-11Summer2020-14Summer2020-15Summer2020-17I’m going to go ahead and announce that I am squeezing one more blog post in before baby girl shows up, in hopes that this will prove true and she will actually show up. Yes, I am still a couple weeks from my due date. But since Henry came at 38 weeks and Etta at 37.5… I am officially Over Being Pregnant. I have an induction scheduled for 39 weeks, as I like my births highly medicated and scheduled if possible, but I have no intention of actually making it to that date. (Yes, I am real fun to live with right now).

This summer feels so strange in comparison to what I love about DC summers (read: socialization and splashpads), but I nevertheless can’t control my summer excitement. We have been dragging out the sprinkler frequently, swimming in every creek we can find, letting the kids stay up late for bonfires and popsicles, and generally reveling in these long days made even lazier than usual by things being shutdown. I’m still hopeful that some more normal summer pastimes will resume next month, but for the moment, I can’t complain too much. Both kids are currently obsessed with their “tent,” which is actually some sticks rubber banded together and covered in a picnic blanket. They set it up daily over all the outdoor furniture pillows and beg to eat every meal in there, and I usually let them. I am raising summer-loving babies and it makes me so pleased.

Here are some very important things that I absolutely had to let you know about before I check out with my newborn.

This table hammock made from a sheet was a big hit for my kids.

If you are a parent, you might cry laughing at this. If you aren’t, it will make absolutely no sense.

It can be really daunting to stay on top of the news, especially as we are all weary of virus-related happenings. My friend Liz is an amazing journalist covering COVID-19, and she has developed a daily email newsletter where she sends one expertly chosen article each day. They cover a wide range of virus related topics and opinions, but all are well-written and fact-checked. She also gives a summary if you don’t have time to read the whole thing. It has been such a helpful way to have constructive media exposure.

This has been our favorite podcast of quarantine, teaching really great (and often obscure!) Bible stories for kids. Like, my kids know about Naboth’s Vineyard. We also love this one, for nonspiritual entertainment. The train love had waned at our home, but both kids are hardcore back into it, and I am pumped, as train mess is my favorite mess and train play lasts for hours.

If you have summer strawberries sitting around, this cake is my favorite way to eat them up.

We made these grilled chicken sandwiches last week and they were phenomenal, even for someone hating meat in the third trimester like yours truly. I used some of my sacred Chick-Fil-A sauce stash on the kids’ and a million pickles on mine and skipped the relish.

We make pizza every Friday, and we used to always rely on Trader Joe’s crust. As going to the grocery is trickier now, I decided that I could master making homemade crust. I tried a bunch of sub-par recipes, before my cousin’s wife suggested this one and it is perfect. Bonus! It only rises 10 minutes and rolls out without any breakage or trouble.

So few positive things in the news, but someone finally found the treasure!

Finally finished this and it was so beautiful and deeply satisfying. I’m reading this book now and convicted by pretty much every word. How different would the world look if Christians actually loved their neighbor? Also reading (ok, listening to) this bookand it is so weird but really gripping.

The past couple weeks there have been so many deeply convicting and thus unsettling words to read around the internet in response to racial injustice in this country. It has prompted good and hard conversations with our own kids about race and equality. I am not going to pretend to be an expert on any aspect of this conversation, but I did want to share two articles that have stayed with me, one on a Biblical response and one on a conservative response to systemic racism. I think that phrase makes many people really defensive and I appreciate how this article explores what it actually means. I was really excited to get this book that I am adding to our collection to approach this discussion with our kids in a biblically centered way. There are a lot of things that have been discouraging surrounding the discussion of race in recent weeks, but one thing that is truly encouraging is how many parents I am seeing taking seriously their job of starting this process in the home with their kids.

And on that note… hopefully I will not blog for weeks and weeks because there will be a newborn to snuggle. But if not, I’ll probably show up annoyed and wordy at some point.



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To myself, the new mother.

I recently found this post that I wrote a year ago and forgot to ever publish because it was right around the time that we were moving and my brain was goo. As I am about to once again be walking that path of new motherhood, I decided that there was no time like now to publish an old post with dated pictures and timeless truths. These are the things I wish someone had told me when I was a new mother, the things that I repeat to myself still because you never really totally figure it out. Spring2019-122Spring2019-125

  1. Use the night nursery. When you get those two glorious nights in the hospital following birth- pass off your sweet baby to the friendly nurses and have them sleep in the nursery. Yes, you may be gasping and shocked because how could you possibly want that sweet baby taken so soon after birth. Here’s the deal: when you go home- YOU are the night nurse. Enjoy two nights of thinking everything is easy and go home rested. They won’t traumatize your baby or force bottles and will still bring them back to nurse, but that gentle ease into nights with a newborn is so wonderful.
  2. Take everything. If it is not bolted to the hospital walls- take it. Grab the diapers, the wipes, the ice pack panties and freezey spray. Take it all.
  3. Hold them while they sleep. Your baby will sleep independently at some point. If you are sleep training, that point is actually going to be very soon. But at first, in those first bleary-eyed months- just hold them. They are squishy and perfect and you will regret trying to make a schedule happen earlier than it needed to.
  4. Watch more TV. Your infant is not being scarred by endless TV while you nurse. And frankly, you can only do those TV-nursing sessions endlessly the first time around, because then you have other kids climbing all over you. So settle in, snuggle down, and watch TV.Spring2019-87Spring2019-90Spring2019-91
  5. They don’t remember anything. My life was littered with post-it notes in Henry’s first months, records of schedules that worked, only to have them be obsolete the next day. Because those first months, they remember so little. Every day is a wonderfully clean slate. Hear me: you can mess up daily and it is ok. 
  6. Sometimes babies just cry. It’s not because you ate dairy or nightshades, or because they are teething, or because they are undertired/overtired/going through a “leap, “etc. Sometimes they just cry. That’s all they have to communicate for a very long time. So if there’s a solution, great. But if not – don’t lose your mind trying to find one. And stop trying to eliminate everything from your diet. You will go insane.
  7. There are no bad babies, but there are hard ones. And if you have a hard one, that’s ok. You can still love them, but it’s also ok to enjoy them a little less. Remember- they don’t remember it. Your baby isn’t being bad when they don’t sleep, won’t nurse, scream forever- but they are being hard. It’s ok to not enjoy it all.
  8. You are basically an emotional mess now. And you should probably take meds. Because you are a chaotic blend of hormones and if you feel really miserable, you should get help. Medication is fantastic and can help you mother the way you need to. Don’t wait so long to ask your doctor for it, and know that once you do, so many other mothers are doing it too. Spring2019-96Spring2019-101Spring2019-105Spring2019-104
  9. By the time you potty train, you will have dealt with so many bodily functions of another person that you won’t even be phased.
  10. PBJ’s are so good. And stop trying to put them on wheat bread to make them healthier. Slap them on white bread, cut off those crusts, and pass them out. They are so delicious. It really isn’t a bad idea to make a tupperware full of a couple in the morning every day so that you can hurl lunch at your toddlers whenever they get hangry.
  11. You aren’t going to lose the weight. Some moms will, but you won’t. And it will be deeply frustrating and discouraging, but just know that each time you get pregnant again, you will look back at pictures of when you were desperately trying and failing to lose weight and realize that you looked fine.
  12. No one cares what you are doing. They really don’t. That doesn’t mean people won’t make snide comments, just that you probably will think they are more snide than they actually are. Everyone is muddling through this parenthood thing and wants to talk about it, which can look like judgement. Toughen up. No one actually cares what you are doing, so stop worrying about if they do or not. Spring2019-106Spring2019-114Spring2019-119
  13. An Ikea crib occupied by a 100th percentile in height almost three year old somehow has room for an almost 6 foot tall adult and is surprisingly comfortable. It is always worth it to climb in and snuggle.
  14. Taking steamed broccoli to the park instead of goldfish doesn’t make you a better mother. Neither does having your baby sleep through night earlier or poop on the potty earlier. Not liking every minute doesn’t make you a worse mother, neither does letting your kid eat ice cream before they turn 1 or forgetting to brush their teeth as much as you should or letting your kids play barefoot in gross puddles in back alleys. What makes you a good mother is acting on that desperate love that bubbles up inside you and letting it overflow. What makes you the best mother is being the one that your kids need- not the phantom kids of the mother on the internet or in books.
  15. You won’t regret it. You will have regrets, failings that you replay, moments where you emphatically are not having fun. But you won’t regret the decision to make your life harder by having kids. It will be fuller, and sometimes that makes it hard to breathe or think or process or sleep. But it is also so full of so much light and joy and goodness.Spring2019-124
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4 & 2.

Earlier this week, this little man turned 4…Spring2020-110…and this tiny girl turned 2!Spring2020-113Should you ever have the chance to have babies with birthdays a mere day apart- I highly recommend it. Someday they will resent the shared spotlight, but that day is a long way off. For the moment, they just think it is incredibly exciting that they get to celebrate together and their parents think it is incredibly exciting that we get to consolidate parties. Spring2020-114Spring2020-115Spring2020-116Figuring out a way to celebrate these two in the middle of a pandemic that prohibits social interaction was tricky. While Etta would accept whatever, Henry knows about birthday parties and has been really excited about his for quite some time. He is my extroverted boy, and while he has mostly accepted the pandemic restrictions, he misses his friends and really wanted them at his birthday. Plus, I wanted them there. Birthday parties for young children are partially for the kids, but also for their parents, a chance for us to gather with our community and celebrate that we are all doing this crazy kid thing alongside each other. And I still want that, even if life is not going as planned right now, a visual reminder of which is below, with Henry playing the role of 2020 and Etta representing ALL OF US. Spring2020-117We spent the whole day on Memorial Day celebrating their birthday. I walked to the grocery to haul back those ridiculous balloons before they woke up and they were ecstatic. Late morning we had a drive-by birthday party with a bunch of his friends. We put a table with donuts and juice boxes on the sidewalk and a steady stream of cars came by with the friends and family that we miss so much right now. Our kids were in heaven. Henry spent the whole time running along the edge of the yard and yelling at all his crew… while Etta loved it from a distance and then opted to play in the car for awhile because she is our introverted soul. Their friends left signs, balloons, cards – so many little tokens that remind me that our community stays strong even when we can’t be together as frequently.

When the last car drove away, we packed the kids off to naps in a sugar haze. While they were sleeping,  cupcakes from my brother and his wife showed up…Spring2020-120… which was fantastic, as the cake I let the kids make was truly unappealing. Since we were trying to celebrate in a safe and sanitary way, we decided donuts that parents could serve to their kids were a better call than cake. Knowing that no one would really be partaking in this cake, I let the kids have full artistic control. They went crazy, using stale Christmas cookie decorating supplies and toy trains to create the pile of color and sugar that you see below. And they loved it. Spring2020-121When we were talking with the kids about how to celebrate, Henry was adamant that he wanted to “marshmallow hotdogs” over a fire. I fully support both the use of marshmallow as a verb, and roasted hotdogs, so we ended the day with a family bonfire in the backyard. Spring2020-123James’ brother rode up on his motorcycle that morning and gave Etta this stuffed animal and it has rarely left her side since. Spring2020-124Highly recommend a fire pit for those of you in quarantine. Since we have spent a lot of time in our yard the past couple months with more to come, it has been such a fun treat. Spring2020-126Spring2020-127Spring2020-129Spring2020-130Behold, my babies and their cake. Spring2020-132Spring2020-134Henry was very concerned about Etta grabbing the flaming candles (rightfully so!) and so even though it may appear like he is shoving her away from their joint cake, I promise that his motives were pure. Spring2020-137Spring2020-138There are so many things I could say about these two and the past four and two years of them in our lives. I said a few things here and here, but it is so hard to sum up these two little lives and all they mean to me. Instead, I will just say that watching them celebrate their day together made me impossibly happy that they have each other. This pregnancy has been really hard for a number of reasons, and emotionally and physically I wouldn’t say I am always doing so great. But during our whole day of celebrating Henry and Etta, I kept on thinking, I am so glad I get to give them another sibling close in age.  I am so glad that this duo will become a posse of three and that they are close enough in age to really enjoy each other. I am impossibly happy that our kids get to have each other.

Happy birthday Henry and Etta. You are each other’s best gift and the greatest gift to our family.

(Other birthdays here, here, and here.)

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Taking Stock [during a pandemic].

TakingstockMaking : Lesson plans for my French courses in the fall. I taught high school French I online this past year and loved it and I am adding French II in the fall. I want to get alllllllll my lessons plans for the semester done before baby girl shows up, as I expect/ absolutely know that my mind will be frazzled late summer. I’m also starting a new job in the fall and want to save bandwidth for that. And now back to short(er) answers after that brief professional update that none of you asked for but hey – if you have a high schooler who wants to learn French and recently found out they won’t have their regular school in the fall… hit me up.
Cooking : I’m back to hating cooking this pregnancy. Unfortunately, it still has to happen, though we have been grilling a lot lately to lessen my cooking load. I recently thought of how many meals I will have to prepare and plan the rest of my life… and promptly wanted to die. James and I did the math and it’s like making a meal for everyone at the Super Bowl. BUT, we have had some winning meals lately, like this favorite InstantPot dish, this easy chicken and tomato dish, and everything we can throw on the grill (brats! burgers! this parm-butter steak!)
Drinking : Iced lattes from my Mother’s Day gift of an espresso machine and these when I want to pretend like I’m enjoying a glass of rosé.takingstock2
Reading: Still reading this book and loving it, but finding it hard to find time to read lately… a sad change from last year’s renewed focus on books!
Wanting: Some splash pad days this summer. I’m feeling it’s unlikely but I can’t give up the hope of those hot summer days around this city. In the meantime, we are wearing swimsuits when we hike and treating creeks like pools.
Playing: Trains, as Etta has just gotten into them, and a game Henry calls “Tent” which is basically where we haul stuff around the basement and prepare meals in the woods and discuss how to avoid getting eaten by bears.
Watching: We just finished all the seasons of The Walking Dead on Netflix and Y’ALL I love me some zombie apocalypses. But I learned that Rick Grimes is not returning and I’m so devastated that I’m not sure we will make it to season 10.takingstock3
Wasting: Baby wipes. We potty trained Etta early during quarantine so we haven’t needed as many, and Etta lives to wipe down her baby dolls… and every other surface in our home/car. It’s totally worth it.
Wishing: That someone would find an amazing way to open schools as usual in the fall. There are so many things I miss, and my kids aren’t even in school, but the effects of school closures are just so hard for our communities.
Enjoying: All the AMAZING local and regional parks and nature reserves in the area. We have been hitting a couple a week, hiking, splashing in streams, chasing animals, and generally loving being outdoors. Pretty sure my children think the real danger at the moment is poison ivy instead of coronavirus, and in our day to day life – they aren’t wrong.
Waiting: For this baby to come. And I shouldn’t say waiting  very patiently either. In spite of having a lot to do before she gets here… I’d be fine if she showed up tomorrow because I am done.  My kids are pretty awesome sports about continuing to play when mom falls asleep on the floor in the middle of the playroom or has to suddenly lie down with ice packs on her head mid-play to avoid a fainting spell… but I would really love to be functioning better. And yes, newborns are hard and exhausting, but both times around it has been physically a relief to have the exhaustion of a newborn compared to the difficulty of the final stretch of pregnancy. takingstock4
Liking: This pillow. It’s the only thing that has resulted in any quality sleep since early on in this pregnancy.
Wondering: What this summer will look like with a newborn. I only have one template for surviving those early months, and it is being out as much as possible, letting the heat lull my baby to sleep in the stroller, and surviving through the constant presence and support of our community. Not sure how much of that is possible this time, and I am grieving that in my own way as I wait for her to come.
Loving: Our backyard. Tomorrow marks one year since we moved into this house, and the backyard and covered patio has been such a haven and joy to our family. It’s usually cluttered with toys (and dishes- do your kids steal all your kitchen stuff too???), but we have put in some plants and mulch and hanging flowers and nothing makes me happier than time spent in that little space.
Hoping: That we get a new dishwasher this week. Ours died right before Easter and I’m ready to regain the time I spend washing dishes.takingstock5
Marveling: At how my kids play. Yes, there are days when I want to pull my hair out over the bickering, whining, tattling, etc. But since quarantine started, we have had more time to concentrate on the skills of play and our treatment of each other, and I see the fruits of it in the relationship my kids have and the play they enjoy. As Henry proudly announced recently, “Etta is working on her imaginary!” Henry’s imagination and world shifting moves so fast that James and I can barely keep up, but Etta is learning to plunge in and join him.
Needing: To pick a name for this baby. It’s so hard! I am still shocked that we are having another girl because that never entered my mind and I have nothing.
Wearing: Gap maternity leggings all day, erry day.
Noticing: How I am no longer capable of getting out the door on time. Quarantine has given us wonderfully slow mornings… and I’m not really sure we remember how to hustle out the door anymore.
Knowing: That this time will pass, and I am so eager for it to go because I miss so much of normal life, but also knowing that I will think fondly on so many parts of this strange time – especially how much more we get to see James.
Thinking: About my babies turning 4 and 2 this week and how that makes me feel (weepy, giggly, terrified, excited… all the emotions for them growing and developing).
Feeling: Like everyone, the restless feeling of being ready for what’s next, even if we don’t quite know what that is. takingstock6

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Easter in isolation.

If you thought a global pandemic would spare you from an Easter photo onslaught- THINK AGAIN. See that fear on my children’s faces? It’s not because of COVID-19, but rather the crazed look in my eye when I informed them they had to pose for a picture before being allowed to hunt for eggs.Spring2020-49Or as James put it, “A global pandemic is no match for my wife’s iron-will to achieve family photos. ” Absolutely. Spring2020-51Slightly happier. I’ll take it.

When social distancing started, I was truly hopeful that we would be back at church by Easter Sunday. I love Easter at our church, love the celebrations and traditions we do around that day to help our family mark and cherish it. But the weeks leading up to Easter were such a good reminder that our circumstances to not change the fundamental truths that we celebrate on Easter and every Sunday. Even though it is chaotic and loud, I look forward to our Sunday mornings as a family, gathered on the couch streaming church. A lot of snacks are dolled out to keep the peace, and I can’t say that I have been able to fully focus on the sermon each week. But our children are seeing that we get to worship and rejoice from anywhere, in any circumstance.

In the week leading up to Easter, our church gave all the families packets of things to do with our kids to celebrate Holy Week. As a very not-crafty mom, I appreciated having packets with all the materials and idiot-proof instructions. We made palms and waved them on palm Sunday, with Henry yelling “Hosanna!” and Etta initially yelling “MOANA!” but eventually figuring it out. We did some crafts and lessons throughout the week and tried to impart the truth of the Resurrection in a way that our kids could understand. And on Easter morning we blasted hymns, let the kids yell Hallelujah and celebrated the greatest miracle. It was so different, but it was still special and good. Spring2020-52After church, I forced everyone into real clothes for an Easter egg hunt. Our kids pretty much ate candy as they found each egg and the sugar crash was REAL. But I loved watching them excitedly dash around looking for eggs. What candy they didn’t consume we confiscated and then have continued hiding eggs and letting them trade in what they find for the remaining candy. Spring2020-53Spring2020-56Spring2020-59Don’t let her grim face fool you- this girl was living her best life. Spring2020-61Spring2020-63Spring2020-64That person behind Henry? My mom. The best blessing of the past month. This pregnancy continues to get rougher, and managing my health along with home, working without childcare, etc, has been hard – as I know it is for everyone. Following weeks of appropriate measures on both our parts, my mom was able to come for a week around Easter and it was the relief we needed. Spring2020-65Spring2020-67Had to document one of the only times I have worn real clothes since early March, and maybe the only time I will be dressed up this whole pregnancy. Spring2020-71Spring2020-72Spring2020-76Spring2020-77Every Easter I look forward to forcing my boys into bowties. Spring2020-79Happy Easter!Spring2020-74

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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.


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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