Third time around.

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

We’re learning.

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

We’re learning.

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

Third time around and it just keeps getting better.

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This & That.

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

Yep.

Here are some things I am loving this summer:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy weekend all!

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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One & Three.

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

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

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

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

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

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The window.

It was the window that decided it, approximately 30 seconds after we walked into the open house. This place just had to be home. The window promised a living space drenched in natural light, books read in the sill while the breeze blew curtains, and a giant Christmas tree twinkling merrily for all to see. We moved in the weekend of DC’s epic snowstorm and stood in the window watching snow swirl outside. A new home.Processed with VSCO with hb2 presetProcessed with VSCO with a6 presetI stood at the window a lot that spring. Watching the world change outside and imagining our world about to change inside those walls. We brought Henry home just as summer started, setting his bassinet as close to the window as we could get it so the sun would kiss his jaundice skin and the breeze would cool him when the AC broke. We would sit in the window and I would wave his chubby baby fist at James as he took the bus to work each day, excited about the day that tiny baby would wave back. Processed with VSCO with a6 presetwindow-1And Christmas came, and lights twinkled, and who has time to read books in window sills? And no breeze ruffled the curtains because of course we kept the window shut so the wild ginger baby who was crawling, pulling, walking, climbing, wouldn’t fall out of it in his enthusiasm to wave goodbye to James as he let for work. Instead we sat in the window together as Henry said his first words, exalting in his adamic task of naming everything in the world. BUS and CAR and TRUCK, yelled excitedly all day long from the a toddler who was teaching us how to be parents. Processed with VSCO with a6 presetProcessed with VSCO with a6 presetProcessed with VSCO with a6 presetThen one day, almost exactly 2 years after the first, another bassinet in the window with another baby sleeping inside. And all over again it began, the learning to be parents, to navigate siblings, to expand our hearts and minds when our sanity and energy and time seemed to shrink.  That little apartment was such a safe space for the learning, and a crucible for it too, all of us crammed together as we learned what togetherness meant.Processed with VSCO with a6 presetProcessed with VSCO with a6 presetProcessed with VSCO with a6 presetThe space in front of the window was coveted real estate in our home. It had the uncarpeted floors perfect for train tracks or cars, the flowing curtains that draped perfectly over chairs to form caves and forts, the right distance from parents working in the kitchen to offer independence and security. And always, a constant view of the city outside to entertain and delight. Processed with VSCO with a6 presetProcessed with VSCO with a6 presetProcessed with VSCO with f1 presetWhen we decided to leave the window, it was because we kept feeling like the lack of space, the lack of lawn, the lack of storage, the complicated exit, the limited bathrooms — all of these pressures were combining to make James and I feel like we were no longer setting our kids up for success in the space we loved. Kids can thrive anywhere, but parents- not always. So many times I found myself frustrated with my kids only to realize I was actually frustrated at the limitations of our physical space. We had purged all that could be purged, organized what could be saved, and still, we felt stuck. Processed with VSCO with a6 presetProcessed with VSCO with a6 presetWhen I think about our first apartment, I think about it as the space where James and I learned to be married, to extend grace and hospitality and become a solid unit. That second apartment? It’s where we learned how to be parents, and frankly, leaving it feels like stepping into a new style of parenting. We are still in DC, but further from a metro. We take the car lots of places instead of endlessly loading up the stroller and walking, riding public transport and strategizing to stay out as much as possible. We have a yard now, and a basement, and a home that we don’t have to leave as much to avoid losing our mind. This is absolutely wonderful. But also feels daunting, has me asking myself who I am as a parent when I don’t have to be a certain way.

Every morning that I wasn’t taking the kids to childcare on my own way to work, it was a mandatory thing: Henry, Etta, and I all gathered in the window to wave goodbye to James and stayed there until he got on his bus. We waved until the bus pulled out of site, a family united on either side of that window. Sometimes I would start to miss it, distracted by a million little tasks, brought back by Henry LOSING IT over our whole family not participating in the sacred farewell ritual. For him, at the very core of what it means to be us is that moment where we all gather and wave and start missing each other the very second we are apart.

James doesn’t take the bus anymore, and we don’t have a portal into his commute. We aren’t entertained all day by a procession of cars, trucks, and busses. But the first morning that he left for work in the new house, Henry went running through the upstairs, hurled himself up on his [new big boy] bed and started screaming for me to come. I was in the process of putting Etta down for a nap, but I dragged myself back and crawled up next to him. We leaned over the bed and looked out into the street, frantically waving until James looked up before driving off and we could all start missing each other the very second we are apart.

Henry reminds me that you can always find another window.

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Easter Things.

Spring2019-58Spring2019-60Spring2019-61Spring2019-62Spring2019-63Spring2019-64Spring2019-65Spring2019-66Spring2019-72Spring2019-75Spring2019-76Spring2019-80Last week my mom was in town and it was the most magical time of having an adult to kid ratio skewed in our favor. The whole week was capped off with James and me escaping for a couple days while my mom watched the kids and eventually I will stop being in denial that that long awaited trip is over and blog about it. In a true Easter miracle, we were on time for church, a feat that never happens and always leaves me in tears over missing the best Easter hymns. It only took an entire year of planning and we basically hurled the kids into their finery straight from bed and then put them directly into the car- but it happened. We did Easter brunch with friends and had a repeat of last year’s festivities ending things right as all the tiny people started melting down under the influence of candy. He is risen INDEED. Or as Henry kept announcing, “HE IS A RAISIN!” (He has since changed his tune to announcing out of nowhere, “Jesus is dead and he is preparing a place for us,” which is biblically accurate except it is forgetting that key element of, say, the Resurrection, so maybe we still need to do some Easter theology clean up.)

Before you go –

This salad was on the table at our Easter brunch and I can’t stop thinking about it.

Obviously, this was too, because TRADITION.

I want to read every single essay on here which makes it both funnier, and so sad that they aren’t real.

H&M is forever and always my favorite place to get kids clothes and I can’t get enough of these impossible soft t-shirts for Etta. Whyyyyyy don’t they come in my size??

I finished Little Fires Everywhere last week and I have all the conflicted thoughts. Now it is onto this one, that I definitely had a friend request through her library system because I was too far down on the list in DC and COULD NOT WAIT.

Happy Eastertide.

 

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In bloom.

Spring2019-31Spring2019-32Spring2019-33Spring2019-34Spring2019-44Spring2019-45Spring2019-50Spring2019-51Spring2019-52Spring2019-53Spring2019-54Spring2019-55What’s this- not even one week into April and a second post already??? I know, CRAZY. Don’t get attached… we all know this hasn’t been the norm of late (as in, of the past year or more).

For all my eye rolling at the cherry blossom fervor that hits this city, and my feelings about their inferiority to yesterday’s featured flower, they are still quite pretty. I usually end up trekking to the Tidal Basin, even though I know it is a madhouse of parking nightmares, crowded walkways, and very few clear photo vistas. But last year following said visit, my friend Anna and I made a pact that this year we would not be seduced by the basin and would instead pay homage to the blooms in a way more chill Capitol Hill park with a playground. Such a better idea. We snapped a few pics and then let the kids run wild on the playground before trekking to a nearby place that has the best chocolate chip cookies in the city. While the basin can be impressive, this was so much easier, way more fun for the kids, and did I mention there were cookies? Sometimes there are isolated moments, individual decisions, where I see myself making decisions differently than when I first had kids, to the benefit of us all. This was one of those moments and we came home rosy from the sun and the flowers and perfectly happy, in spite of having missed out on a full photoshoot and blossoms reflected in the water.

Though of course, should you want to go down Blossom Memory Lane, remember sweet baby Henry, and pregnant-with-Henry Hannah?

Some other things!

This is now my restaurant life goal. Ok, so I really just want to decorate my home to match this aesthetic. (Thanks Megan for including it in your monthly newsletter!)

I also want any and all of these kitchens in my life, please and thank you. Very into the dark cabinets these days….

…which is unfortunate since the house we just bought has white cabinets, and I will basically never be changing them because, um, house purchase equals no money left. But HOUSE. OURS. HOORAY. I mean, remember that time I wanted to buy a house? House hunting was basically as discouraging as I predicted… until our realtors worked dark magic and somehow we won the house lottery and are moving into something so much better than we ever could have hoped.

So now, while I should be grading, I just troll the internet for rugs, as it is one of the only purchases we can immediately justify. Got to protect the hardwood floors [in style]. I’m really into Persian rugs these days, and love the washability of these ones.

In other news, I have discovered the secret to keeping New Year’s Resolutions to read more: get better books. You will always find time to read good books, and no amount of mastering a bedtime routine will get me in bed in time to read bad ones. I just finished this one and I am desperately hoping the holds list speeds up at the library so I can get the sequel.

That’s all folks. Happy weekend!

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When you come to DC with kids in the springtime…

… I highly recommend that you go to the Mall, and then promptly skip all the museums. I mean, they are great, they get us through winter, and I love them forever- but go ahead and skip them all for this:Spring2019-5Spring2019-6Spring2019-7Spring2019-10Spring2019-11Let your kids spin till they are mildly pukey, but still enamored with the colorful horses, and then stumble on over to some of the prettiest forgotten gardens in DC in front of the Smithsonian Castle.Spring2019-15Spring2019-16Spring2019-23Spring2019-24Spring2019-25It’s not the first time I’ve waxed poetic about the superiority of the magnolia flowers over the cherry blossoms. and it is still true- they are perfect. Spring2019-27Spring2019-28Spring2019-29

Your kids will run around and almost fall in the fountains and try to climb into the flower beds and it will be all the joy you expected to get when they saw the Constitution but didn’t obtain.

(Hi Spring. Welcome.)

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Routines & Rituals.

Processed with VSCO with a6 presetSometime around the end of January, in the flurry of colds and snow days and potty training and the semester starting- nights got rough around our house. It happens with kids, seasons of little people needing cuddles or cough syrup or covers adjusted during those wee morning hours. Sometimes they fall back asleep, sometimes they don’t. Sometimes parents fall back asleep afterwards, sometimes they don’t. But whatever the case- I am tired, really tired. All those great January resolutions and fresh starts… there was some February fizzle in the midst of the disrupted nights and crabby moods. Some progress yes, but also some bad attitudes. Mostly mine. Kids are resilient. They wake up after a sleepless night and they are still eager to love the world and explore everything in it. I wake up after a sleepless night and feel like punishing everything in it that isn’t precisely to my specifications.

It is so natural and normal to be a grumpy, tired, frazzled, harsh mom in seasons like this. It is also unacceptable. Lately I have had to repeat to myself a lot the mantra that my kids are almost 3 and almost 1 and I am 31. They can’t control their actions and emotions all the time, but I can. I should, I must. Yes, moms are human and there is grace… but there must also be effort and work and intentional parenting development. I have found myself resenting my own inability to embark on all my plans of self-improvement and beautiful living lately, because the tiny people in my life have so many needs. SO MANY. I found myself feeling frustrated with the demands on our day.Processed with VSCO with f1 preset

The internet would tell me that the secret to my funk is more self care. But the internet is frequently wrong, or at least, lazy. Self-care is great, but it doesn’t always cultivate the selflessness that parenting demands. As always, the secret in parenting funks like this is to  lean in. To love harder, play more, give give give when you feel so empty. I decided that I needed to take stock of our days and weeks and find some routines that I could elevate to the level of ritual, giving a little more structure and a lot more beauty to our days. Here are some of the things in our week that were casual afterthoughts and are now cultivated moments that we all look forward to.Processed with VSCO with a6 preset

No matter how little or long he sleeps, Henry has a rough naptime wake up. Those hours between naptime and dinner are unpredictable, long, and we can’t always do our normal solution for bad moods and go outside. What I really wanted in those late afternoon winter moments was a hot mug of tea and quiet to drink it, an image that doesn’t mesh well with my insanely active son, freshly cranky from the transition from nap to being awake. Then one day, inspired by a scene in this book where the characters drink tea as the snow falls, I asked Henry if we should make tea. It is his favorite moment now. He loves sitting groggily on the counter as I boil water and loves setting mugs and kettles on the tray and picking a special snack. We spread a picnic blanket on the ground or build a fort and crawl inside or enjoy it at the table while we color or read. The order of it, the quiet sounds of clinking cups and the rising steam calms us all. Cranky snack-time recast as tea time ritual.Processed with VSCO with a6 preset

Before having kids, I deep cleaned my house every single weekend. After having kids, my house definitely needs that treatment more and yet gets it less often. Laundry, cleaning, sheets to change, errands, ALL THE THINGS were piling up and stressing me out. So, after some inspiration in how to get some of these individual chores done from my favorite podcast of late, I decided that, of the three days each week where I am home, one is Home Day. I clean, do endless cycles of laundry, change sheets, etc. We still get out, but we try to only do chores or outings on Home Day that we can do on foot, and the focus is having a day dedicated to resetting our home. What before felt like chores in all the margins now feels like a day where I have space to really do them and the peace of a full reset. Henry helps me make a checklist after breakfast and I make him help too and the day feels satisfying beyond merely feeling productive.  Chores recast as ritual.Processed with VSCO with hb1 preset

Our Home Day almost always includes a walk to the library, and that too goes on the checklist. I’m not sure why I spent years not going to the library- maybe because Henry was rough on books or not yet interested in really reading? But now, he could read indefinitely, especially if it is a book featuring some form of public transportation. (We held onto this book until I feared we would destroy it.) There is such benefit in having a default outing, done so frequently that it loses the difficulty of Outings With Kids. The secret is in the details. We always get 6 books, because I’m not ready to keep up with more. Henry picks 2 Thomas the Tank Engine books and I pick 4 others. We have a devoted library tote bag. I have actually started reading again, after what seemed like an endless break for dissertation writing. I devoured the current two books in this series (totally silly, but made me think just a little of this book, one of my favorite reads), and just started this one. At home, we have a basket where only library books go and it sits next to the bed. Routine outings recast as ritual.Processed with VSCO with a6 preset

Sunday’s with kids- oh man. I have so many thoughts on this topic and will someday write more about it, but suffice to say that we have gone back and forth with so many schedule aspects since Henry was born to make Sunday’s happen. I have no doubt that the schedule we are enjoying now won’t last, as Etta will eventually change her nap schedule again. But for the moment, we have a really beautiful Sunday schedule that leaves us with a lengthy breakfast time. A couple months ago, we started making blueberry pancakes on Sunday’s, and only on Sunday’s. Henry asks for them often, but we always remind him that we do them on Sunday’s, before church, making happy family breakfast part of the greater matrix of positive associations that I want our children to have with the Sabbath. (When we are eating paleo, we use this mix, otherwise it is Bisquick with the special instructions followed because they are just better than any other homemade pancakes and I will FIGHT YOU ON THIS.) This de-facto Sunday breakfast also has the benefit of removing a decision from our lives. I do a lot of set weekend meals and they help us all take a deep breathe and think less for two days. Repetitive meals recast as ritual. Processed with VSCO with a6 preset

I know routines change, rituals lose some of their glamor. But taking a moment to consider the patterns in our life and the needs of my children and refashion them into something just a tad ceremonious has been so good for us all. Processed with VSCO with a6 preset

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January.

winter2019-64winter2019-66winter2019-67January is such a gift after the busyness of December. Everyone seems a little burnt out from the festivities, travel, and celebration and we all just hunker down and breathe a little. We have had lots of togetherness this month, lots of time as a family and that is my absolute favorite. Lots of train building by the fire, lots of weekend morning pancakes, lots of playing Henry’s favorite game, which is “load all sorts of random thing into suitcases and haul them around the house while pretending to ride every form of public and private transport en route to visit grandma.” Also lots of time cloistered in our home while we potty trained over a long weekend, which was less fun togetherness, but also had some really special moments. winter2019-68winter2019-69Family dynamics and routines with young children are constantly changing, but Etta is now old enough that it feels like we can take a deep breathe and settle into a routine for the next long stretch (until the drop to 1 nap which I am PUMPED ABOUT ALREADY and will probably try to force earlier than necessary). Most notably, January has been defined by calmer Sundays. After 7 months of going back and forth between service times, nap-plans, etc, we finally have a Sunday routine that doesn’t end in everyone crying on the way home for church. We also moved the Etta out of our room this month. I was so nervous about having the two of them in the same room. Would they wake each other up? Would Henry throw things in her crib? Would we never sleep again because we had to be nocturnal referees? But I cannot emphasize enough how awesome it has been. They don’t wake each other up during the night, Etta falls asleep with Henry loudly playing in his crib (sometimes yelling out updates on how Etta is positioned… very helpful), and I absolutely love slipping in before they fall asleep and seeing my two babes together. I try to actively cultivate closeness between them by getting out of their way, not automatically taking Etta’s side because she is the baby, and leaving space for their own relationship even as it kills me to not hover as she often gets knocked down in Henry’s zeal. They both started sleeping better and longer as soon as they were together, and while that might be coincidence or age or sound machine decibel or a lull in winter colds – I love it. I want us to always be better together. winter2019-71winter2019-9It also means that our room is *mostly* (she still naps in there) our own again which is nothing short of life-giving. James and I have resolved to wake up earlier and that is a whole lot easier when you can roll over and turn on a lamp, instead of tiptoeing out and trying not to wake a sleeping  baby.  We also resolved to restart healthy eating this month and have been loving another round of the Whole30 (as always, I’m all about the lazy version). I’ve been really into this sheet pan salmon, this method for sheet pan pork (I switch out a different marinade), these pulled Hawaiian chicken wraps, Crockpot Dijon chicken legs, and if you aren’t making Kendra’s Change Your Life Chicken at least once a week… what even are you doing with your kitchen? I also remembered that it has been years since I made this crazy easy/cheap/tasty collard green chicken situation and it was so tasty. And in case you were curious, I think I have made about every paleo chocolate chip cookie recipe on the internet (yes I know that isn’t Whole30 allowed… but remember how I potty trained a toddler? GIVE ME THIS.), and these are the definitive winner. I added a dash of coconut flour and a bunch of flax seeds because I am fun like that. winter2019-44winter2019-45We had our first snow recently, a solid 24 hours of falling white that left us with a thick blanket. Henry was ecstatic and he and James went out every couple hours to shovel while Etta and I stayed snuggled inside. I looked out and kept rolling the same thought over and over in my mind:

I am beyond blessed that these are my people, that this is my life.

January gives us that, the profound realization of the steady things in our lives that we wouldn’t change, even in the midst of all our self-actualization, goal-planning, and resolution-drawing. I’ve had moments to take stock on so many cramped, cabin-fever filled, dreary days and been able to say, yes, I would want to choose this if it was a choice. When we were locked up potty training, per this book’s approach, I had to actually engage with Henry for several straight days, rather than my normal MO of trying to get him engaged in independent play and then slipping off to Do All The Things. It was the most exhausting couple days of parenting… and yet, it also gave me such a quiet and special glimpse into how he plays, all day, every day.  When Etta woke early from a nap last week and I really wanted to just be off the clock, but I had to rock her instead, I found myself mesmerized anew by her tiny curled fists and plump cheeks, holding her for over an hour. When James and I have the coziest evenings tag-teaming bedtime and cleanup before being able to cozy up in front of the fire, I find myself thinking that maybe this apartment really is big enough, perfect enough, for longer. When we aren’t easily lured outside our home, the inside both drives me insane, and gives me such appreciation for all it holds.

So January- thank you for slowing us down, for holding us in, for making us seek warmth, together.

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