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.


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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Berries, blooms, & babes.

One of my absolute favorite summer days last year was when we headed out of the city one day to see the sunflower fields in Maryland. In spite of new babies and all the hardness that brings- we decided to do it again this summer. Only this time…Summer2018-103…all the sunflowers had died after some crazy intense storms. The effect was slightly less than stunning. Summer2018-104Summer2018-105The kids however, didn’t really seem to care, and happily ran around the field. Summer2018-106Summer2018-121Summer2018-124New baby Beckett! Summer2018-133Summer2018-135Summer2018-136Summer2018-137Summer2018-138After a very short visit to the flowers, we headed to Homestead Farm. Picking berries with our kids was one of my absolute favorite summer outings last year. The farm is exactly what I want out of a self-pick farm, with everyone just free to roam, lots to pick, and animals to feed. This was also the point where I preemptively changed Henry’s shirt into one that wouldn’t show berry stains- not my first rodeo. Summer2018-140Summer2018-142I sadly don’t have a picture of it, but Anna’s husband came with us and pulled the kids around in this wagon, which Henry still talks about at least every day.Summer2018-147In the time it took to pick up our bucket, Henry also managed to secure an unauthorized peach and tomato. But in all fairness, he did devour both. Summer2018-148Summer2018-149Summer2018-150Summer2018-152Summer2018-153Summer2018-155Summer2018-162Summer2018-165Summer2018-168Summer2018-169A perfect summer day with my kids and some of their favorite friends. But more than anything, these pictures make me think of all the good ways that things have and haven’t changed in the last year. If you click here and scroll to the final pictures, you will see three almost identical to the last three above. Henry and his pals Mollie and Liv, covered in berries. But this time, the kids actually picked a lot of these berries, instead of just eating what Anna and I picked almost as fast as we could pick it. They were focused on their task, competent, and confident in exploring the fields. Henry and Liv weren’t really talking much last year, and Henry still preferred stanky leg crawling over walking. Now they had a constant chatter as they climbed through holes between rows of bushes. Parenting is the joy of watching these little people become themselves and I see so much becoming in the past year. Becoming braver and bolder and more observant and able to express all they see around them. Beyond those three sticky kids, Anna and I both had new babies strapped to us for the adventure- little lives who have become such big parts of our families and didn’t exist at all on last year’s outing.

So here’s to berries and blooms that weren’t there and babies who have showed up since last year and summer, and all the becoming and flowering and blooming that’s happened over the past year.

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This & That

Summer2018-73Summer2018-74Summer2018-77Summer2018-78Summer2018-79Summer2018-80I didn’t get around to any sort of official post for July 4th, but rest assured- we turned out in obnoxiously coordinated patriotic apparel like everybody else.  We grilled out with friends and James was insanely proud of how Henry can polish off corn on the cob (those Indiana roots!) whereas I was just proud that Etta slept through most of the evening so I could sit back and relax. We skipped the fireworks on the Mall and opted instead for some small fireworks and sparklers. Honestly, Henry probably preferred these and don’t let the shade he’s throwing above tell you otherwise.

And now, some random things that I’ve been reading, wearing, pondering, eating, etc.

We went blackberry picking recently and don’t worry – you won’t be spared those photos (eventually). I subbed blackberries for blues in this cobbler and it was the stuff of summer dreams.

As you can see above, we love corn. This looks absolutely amazing (corn! gnocchi! cheese!) but also something that maybe doesn’t fit into my desire to start trying to actually lose those baby weight (corn. gnocchi. cheese.). Might have to do it anyways.

Henry was given this book when he moved up in nursery classes at church and we love it. It’s super simple, but he gets REALLY into the actions and has started stumbling his way through reciting some of the verses. Always looking for ways to make Scripture a part of our daily lives !

Can’t stop thinking about this article, particularly this quote: “When a man tries to mistreat a woman- I’m not talking about violence, but the instinct to convey to her that she isn’t worth very much – he is unlikely to get very far with a woman whose father has made her feel that she’s worth a whole lot…. If you want to protect girls, find them good parents, or become them.”

Emily has been posting all sorts of things I love this summer, especially this list of play-based outdoor activities to keep toddlers and preschoolers busy. Also, she just had her third baby and somehow still blogs regularly and I’m like TEACH ME YOUR WAYS, because as you can tell, I have not yet figured out how to do pretty much anything other than partially survive.

I also found this article through her, about what your Meyers Briggs says about your mothering and it was fascinating.

Since I am in that awful and weird post part period where nothing fits, I decided to I invest in some inexpensive but cute transitional clothes in bigger sizes than I (hopefully) will wear longterm. Luckily, Target has a dreamy Madewell-knockoff line this summer. These are the shorts you’ve been searching for.

Happy weekend all!

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Days and weeks.

Summer2018-10Summer2018-54If our summer days are defined by chaos, they nevertheless have a sort of rhythm, a structure that provides at least a semblance of order in the midst of the unpredictability that comes with a newborn. Etta is still in that [WONDERFUL MAGICAL HEAVENLY] stage where she sleeps really late in the morning, and the goal is to be ready to leave as soon as she wakes around 9. I nurse her and then we try to get out as quickly as possible, trusting that the blissful combo of DC humidity and stroller motion will knock her out and keep her snoozing. We spend the mornings doing all of our favorite summer activities around Capitol Hill, visiting friends, hitting splash pads and parks, procuring treats, riding the metro, and coming home at the last possible minute before naps. I then devote myself to that special insanity that comes from trying to get two kids to nap (not on me) at the same time so I can have a few minutes “off duty,” to do really important things like watch the most boring season of The Bachelorette ever. (Pause to appreciate that I AM NOT WRITING A DISSERTATION DURING NAPTIME! I get excited about it every single day.) After naps, we usually head back outdoors until dinner, less from preference and more from necessity. From dinner until I finally slip into bed, there are various versions of chaos and trying to figure out the best way to get both kids ready for bed, trying to remember what worked the night before, and trying to have the house in some semblance of order at night. We have yet to find a truly successful method to accomplish this goal.Summer2018-25Summer2018-26

It’s crazy, and there are lots of really hard moments figuring out what I’m doing with two kids. But there are lots of really good moments too. I love summers in this city with Henry, love the sticky hands and sweaty faces and sun drenched days. I love watching Henry dote on his sister and eagerly want to help with her, even if his fervor for helping is not matched by restraint and I spend a lot of time issuing statements like “DO NOT pick her up!” or “She doesn’t want you to put her face in your armpit!” or “Henry, were teeth a part of that kiss you just gave?” or “She doesn’t understand that you are showing you love her by covering her face with toy cars!” or “Etta can’t digest that salami!” But yesterday there was a precious moment where they snuggled in his crib and he introduced her to his stuffed animals and then excitedly told her about what he had done with James over the weekend.

We are taking it day by day around here, and that is not my strength. I like to have a Plan, a long view of where we are going and how we are going to get there. This is especially true with baby schedules and sleep, and deviating from any sort of system rips apart at my sanity. When Etta wakes earlier than usual for a middle of the night feeding, I have been known to spiral into despair quickly, seeing our entire carefully mapped day unravel. I want the days to come with regularity, and frankly, they just can’t right now.Summer2018-64Summer2018-66

So we are taking it day by day. I have nursed her to get her to lengthen a nap while I chase Henry at the park or on the metro. Etta gets maybe one nap each day in the “correct” spot, and the majority of her sleeping happens in the stroller or the carseat or the stroller seat carried upstairs and propped in the kitchen sink because that’s the only secure place Henry can’t mess with it. It kills me a little, the way I can’t dig in and start establishing a schedule. But to do that I would just have to lock us inside and plop Henry in front of the TV all day and we aren’t willing to do that. So each day, each hour, each minute, I’m just doing What Works with a nod to What Is Needed in the longterm sleep and schedule goals department (and ironically- she is sleeping wayyyy better at night than Henry was at this age and naps are about the same, which is to say erratic and frustrating). I try to have her sleep at the right time, respect wake times, not nurse to sleep, etc, and for the most part- we succeed. But not always, and every time I need to “cave” on something to preserve the present peace of our day, I’m trying to see it is a victory, not a defeat. Day by day, I tell myself, let’s win today and figure out tomorrow later.

The days form patterns of wins and losses, steps forward and backwards, chaos and calm. It’s hard sometimes to zoom out and see the weeks. But that’s what I need to do, the doctor told me. I sat on the crinkly paper-covered table at my six-week postpartum appointment and couldn’t stop the tears from running down my face. Be honest, James had told me that morningPromise me that you’ll tell him how you are feeling. And I did. I told him about how much I was crying, about how I couldn’t control my emotions, about the darkness that sometimes swallowed up our sunny days. I told him that I felt sad and angry and unhinged, and I didn’t feel like this after Henry. He didn’t just tell me that it was normal, or that it was due to being tired- though obviously that is a part of it. He listened to me cry and talked with me about what we need to watch for and what we should do. Look at the weeks, he reminded me, Don’t be defined by the isolated days. Summer2018-36Summer2018-22And looking back at the past 8 weeks, I see lots of hard days, lots of bad moments, poor decisions, and failures. But those 8 weeks as a whole are so much more beautiful then all the amassed days. Each week moves closer to thriving, closer to regaining stability, even if naps are crappy and unpredictable and bedtime is a new variation of crazy every night. The past 8 weeks of being this new family unit have had so many fresh mercies and deep blessings, rising up beyond the dark days and hard moments. They show us learning to love, understand, and enjoy each other.

So we are taking it day by day and week by week and leaning in to trying to learn how to do this next stage of life in our family. Summer2018-68Summer2018-86

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