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Thursday
Mar262015

comfort in a good book.

hiiii! so, maybe you're like me and one of the constants in life has been the comfort a really good book can bring. one of the funny things about having kids is it makes you think about your own childhood A LOT -- and it's so fascinating to me what stands out the most. i have so many memories of going to the library, finding a new spot to read in our house, feeling myself grow with the stories i read.

into adulthood, much the same was true. i can tell you exactly where i was when i read most of my favorite books -- i think some books just come in your life right when you need them, whether you could have anticipated that or not. i'm not sure if it's been the long winter, or adjusting to two little girls underfoot, but i've been craving good books to get lost in and a few have really done just that. in two of these, the writing literally took my breath away, and in the other one i found a new way of thinking about something that was incredibly helpful to me.

redeployment -- this was my christmas present to ryan, and one night when he was flying, i picked it up just to read a few pages -- well, i literally couldn't put it down. i've spent a lot of time thinking about the wars in iraq and afghanistan, and especially the men and women who have been willing to serve there, and this book was so raw, so incredibly written, so painfully honest, it left me speechless. it is incredibly intense (as it should be) and the writing is simply stunning. the last two pages left me in tears and spellbound all at once.

this is the story of a happy marriage -- i have such a writer's crush on ann patchett and so this book, a curated selection of all her writings, was such a gift. it showed the breadth, and depth, of her work. she has a way of taking you to a place, a moment in time, an idea that is so vivid -- i found myself loving the dog she loved, sitting across the table from the nun at whole foods, nodding along with her observations on marriage, and then, when the book was all done, clutching it to my chest, sad it was over.

the life changing magic of tidying up -- i devoured this book in a single weekend, which is probably no surprise if you've been reading this blog for a while. i really read it on a lark, not sure if it would just be a reinforcement of all the things i hold to be true about taking care of your things, and making a home, but found myself rethinking, in really helpful ways, truths i had held dear. the simple idea that every single thing in your house should bring you joy, somehow clarified what i thought was a simple enough system (that everything should be useful or beautiful). it took some efforts i've been making in our home, and made them so much easier to actually finish. i loved that the book was written in a different culture (which for some reason made it easier to observe out own). i'll be honest, i've been doing some MAJOR purging since reading this, but i'm already seeing it bearing fruit -- i'm doing less schlepping of things from one room to the next, less searching for something we've lost, less laundry, less taking care of things we don't need or use. putting all the clothing i own in one room was alarming; going through books, one by one, holding them & looking at their cover was so much more effective than looking at their spine; letting go of the idea that something once brought me joy or might bring me joy made it easier to sort things honestly. 

i feel myself looking for some really good fiction, some stories well told, so if you have any favorites you'd like to share, i would LOVE them. also, i feel like i'm on the brink of being able to read some chapter books with ellie, we picked up a version of stuart little that looked wonderful at the used bookstore, but to all you parents out there, any recommendations for where we begin?

i know i'm not here much, but know i long to be, and so i'll leave you with some of my favorite words, by one of my favorite writers, "courage, dear heart." - c.s. lewis

Wednesday
Feb182015

around here.

two weeks ago, ryan was away for five days -- it was me and the girls flying solo. i went into it with what i thought was an appropriate amount of humility and low expectations -- we'd survive, it wouldn't be pretty, but we'd survive. i had exactly zero goals for the week and yet, somehow it still all went awry. the first night was absurd -- not only was anna up the most in her whole life, my 12 hour a night sleeper ellie was up twice for the first time in i don't know how long (and of course they alternated so i essentially didn't sleep); the spit up laundry piled up, the dishes quickly covered our counters, i couldn't seem to keep either girl from crying, it was too cold for us to go outside, ellie pushed every boundary under the sun, woe, woe, woe.

the day before ryan came home, i told him dramatically, but earnestly, that it had been my worst day of motherhood. i had failed miserably. how on earth was i ever going to do a deployment with these two girls when i couldn't even make it a week? he reminded me of this article; told me he was getting on a plane bound for home; that he was proud of me; that it would all be ok. then i took a long shower, literally praying anna wouldn't wake up - the baby monitor perched on the sink, ready to sound the siren at any moment.

bless her heart, she stayed asleep, and before i crawled into bed, i noticed my camera on top of our dresser. i totally forgot i'd taken some photos of the girls that morning. in our rock bottom expectations, which included never really needing to get out of our pjs, and a cloudy day that let brilliant light come in the windows, i thought i would try to capture life at this moment: anna becoming more a baby, and less a newborn each day, showing us bit of who she is and what makes her tick. i had to document ellie in her beloved "black dress with the robe" (it has a ribbon around the center) that was a hand me down from one of the five year old girls who hangs the moon for ellie and our bike pump, which somehow has become her most favorite toy. the bike pump alternates being anna and elsa and provides literally endless entertainment during quiet time. it wears her dresses, takes a nap in her bed, dances, oh how her mind works! and of course, "bear baby" the only stuffed animal ellie has ever really loved, who i can only assume was having a time out in the corner?! and then that first photograph, where ellie asked me take their picture sleeping (anna didn't get the memo). as i scrolled through them, tears rolled down my cheek -- maybe all wasn't lost, maybe this would all turn out ok. they looked happy and content and well in these photographs, perhaps my day had become a heck of a lot more about me and how i was doing than them. i needed sleep, and the clean slate a new day brings.

p.s. if you're near the end of a pregnancy, this was an incredible comfort to me to read, i now keep it at the ready to send to friends. xo

Tuesday
Feb032015

life with two kids.

 

 

 

so, it's really important you know i didn't leave any words out of the title of this post -- i'm simply here to report on life with two kids, i have no tips, nothing figured out, it's unlikely i'll breech anything profound, but i promise to tell the truth, so if you're interested in that, keep on, keeping on.

to show my credentials for how little i have figured out, it's safe to say it takes me ages to simply get out the door with these two little girls -- the best part? i can't even tell you what's so hard about it. we will finally get in the car, and i'll think the same two things at once: what on earth was i just doing for 20 minutes? and did i really leave my water bottle on the kitchen counter AGAIN?! i dream, regularly, about when it's warm enough that the routine will be simplified. i won't have to get us all bundled up -- two jackets, three hats, a blanket. i won't have to tell ellie for the nine gazillionth time that yes, she must wear pants with her dress -- i'm hoping that will shave a few minutes off the routine, right?! don't tell me if it won't, i have sound of music-esque dreams about spring -- i'm going to be frolicking in the streets, frolicking! 

all that said, about what a mess things are right now, i want to tell you what it feels like, for me, right now, even in the hardest moments.

here's the only way i can think to explain it: the other night, ryan and i went on a date to this amazing new little restaurant in our neighborhood. there are only a handful of seats in the whole place and you can see the chefs at work from most of them. it has this feeling, like you're at somebody's house, with little white lights in the windows, having the best homemade meal of your life.

ryan and i got the best seats in the house, right by the stove, which kept us warm on the frigid january night, and gave us a bird's eye view of the chefs at work. i had this bizarre urge halfway through our time there to ask them if their moms had been to eat at their new restaurant and if not, could i please call them? here's why: after watching them for only an hour, never having met them before in my life, i was absolutely sure this was EXACTLY what those two guys were put on earth to do. they were meant to cook in a restaurant just like that -- it struck me they were living at the center of their purpose. it was clear, even to a total stranger.

i have an inability to turn off the mom thinking in me -- when i watch a movie, i constantly think about what it would be like to be that characters mom (how would you love them well? what would it look like to walk with them on that path?) i try, regularly, to think about parenting in terms of the big effort being to help anna and ellie figure out who they are and what their purpose is. to think about what will be beautiful about that, hard about that -- to know where i can be helpful to them, and where i need to get out of the way. and so, i get so moved when i see someone who clearly has found that center of their purpose. i'm very aware you can do that in spite of horrible parents, not just because of wonderful ones, but we're trying best we can to show up on the asset side of ellie and anna's stories, and so i try to keep paying attention.

i'm not saying that you ever truly arrive at the center of your purpose or that life is suddenly easy, or blissful when you're there -- in fact, it may be harder than ever, more raw than you could have anticipated. this is all to say -- the feeling i've had, especially since anna was born, is that this is one of the great endeavors of my life, this is part of the center of my purpose. these early years with our girls, when they need us for all their practical, tangible needs, but also to help them understand how to be brave and kind, process their own emotions, how fill up their tanks with rest, well it feels really worthy. i felt this when ellie was born, but there's this whole new level now, watching their bond as siblings, seeing them at totally different ages.

that said, i also feel a whole new sort of inner wrestling each day -- motherhood has always had me fighting with my need to get things done, feel productive, check things off my list, feel like i have it all "under control" -- the house, the cooking --- and at the same time to be really present, to hold that sweet baby, read that 34th book of the day, play post office one more time, go to the park, answer that 9000th question of the hour, dig in when our day has gone way off the rails (as it does most days). with two, the wrestling has intensified -- there is more work, more needs to be met, but not any more hours in the day, there are things to relearn to care for anna and always new terrain to meet with ellie. most of the time, i feel entirely inept, but in the right trench and that counts for something. it's humbling, and hard, and beautiful, and it should be.

here are a few practical things that have comforted us -- i realized pretty early on that when we really started to flounder as a family of four was when someone, or all of us, hadn't been fed. i was reminded of a friend who went through a seven month deployment with a 5 year old, 3 year old and baby -- she told me whenever her husband was checking in on them, he would ask how everyone's blood sugar was. i thought that was so brilliant! most of us aren't very pleasant to be around when we're hungry. my husband is one of the kindest, calmest people i know -- but if he hasn't eaten? bona fide grump! so, i haven't yet figured out how to cook dinner for us on a regular basis, but i really try to keep one or both of these staples on hand at all times: breakfast cookies and granola. they're packed with things that are great for us to eat (i'm sneaking flaxseed meal, whey protein and wheat germ in them these days); they pair so well with greek yogurt, our big go-to for protein and keep us from reaching for something else when hunger hits like a freight train. and even though it's freezing cold, we've also been doing lots of smoothies -- trader joes green juice, flaxseed meal, greek yogurt, frozen blueberries, honey -- just thrown together. they have the benefit of being purple which means ellie loves them. 

finally, if anyone is still out there, i'm going to tell you one new thing i've learned that has nothing to do with babies! italian parsley tastes amazing! i'm a mediocre, low knowledge cook -- so the fidelity by which i put herbs in recipes varies widely. if it's the two weeks out of the year they're growing in my garden successfully, absolutely! if i'm feeling fancy, sure! but most often, i skip them, which i know it terrible for the taste of whatever i'm trying to prepare. i sometimes splurge on mint, rosemary and cilantro, because they've always seemed like strong taste contributors. frankly, i maybe had bought parsley once in my life. then one of my dear friends brought us this AMAZING dinner after anna was born. we couldn't stop talking about it. the orzo salad was out of this world (it's this one, she just didn't include the shrimp -- which is BRILLIANT -- it makes it super easy to make!) back to parsley -- i realized that parsley was what made the dish (well, that and copious amounts of fresh squeezed lemon juice). so, i grabbed italian parsley (make sure it's italian!) and couldn't get over the taste when freshly chopped. game changer.

so, there we go from two kids to italian parsley, that pretty much sums up how messy and beautiful life is right now. come on spring!

Monday
Jan052015

the beginning of traditions.

happy new year, dear readers!

this christmas, i found myself thinking about two things the most -- the first, i wrote a bit about on instagram, was the line: "the weary world rejoices." how grateful i am that what christmas means most is that a weary world has reason to rejoice, no matter how weary we might be. when i focused on that, some of the hecticness, frenzy of the season faded away, allowing me to cling to what really mattered.

the second was about traditions -- how they begin, how they continue, why they matter. this christmas, we saw our families over the course of the month, but on christmas eve and christmas day, it was just our family of four, with two little girls watching us for what this time of year means. the season began, in so many ways with anna's birth, a few days before thanksgiving. it slowed life down in the beautiful way a newborn can -- she created space for us to sit, and hold her, and get to know her. more reasons to get out the blankets on the couch, read books, watch movies.

a few days after we brought her home, we decorated our christmas tree, getting out the decorations that now feel so familiar (it's amazing what five years of marriage, and six christmases will do). ellie was a christmas baby and i loved that, but i'm telling you, thanksgiving babies are incredible. i loved that the first month of anna's life, each time i needed to nurse her or hold her or was given some time to take a nap (thank you ryan, my parents & sweet friends who took ellie!) -- i found my way to that couch by tree, those simply white lights on a fraser fir that are just magical to me. i know she won't remember it, but my hope is i planted some seeds for her heart to love this time of year, when the weary world can rejoice.

christmas with a little girl on the brink of being three years old has its own kind of magic -- ellie was so, so present and enthusiastic about each part of the season -- from decorating the tree (one branch on our tree had to hold 7 ornaments i think!); to setting out the nativity (she was so worried we didn't have wise men we ended up adding them to our set this year to put her mind at ease); to reading some of our favorite books; singing (very off key, she gets it honestly) the twelve days of christmas; and then christmas morning (where she spent the first five minutes talking about how the reindeer ate the carrots, not that there were presents from santa under the tree, which was hilarious).

our girls are really little, which gives us grace to figure out our traditions, how our family will mark this season. at the heart of it, i go back to the idea of stillness, beautifully written about here. i want our girls to remember the time and space we created so the season doesn't fly by or end up a stressful march of things we "have to do," and in some ways, i know that's easiest when they are this little. i love the images above because they capture some quiet mornings we spent by the tree. these sisters were getting to know each other (including watching this lennon & maisy video hoping to do their own rendition one day...).

there were some other beginnings of traditions: a special date ellie & ryan went on (anna will get her own date with daddy when she's a bit older); croissants from our favorite bakery on christmas morning that ellie & i picked up together on christmas eve; watching white christmas many times (ellie squealed during the final scene saying, "all the daddies are home from deployment!!!!" which was enough to melt every parental heart in this house). and for ellie's birthday (the 26th) we began a tradition of decorating the birthday girl's bedroom door with streamers while she slept. all these traditions are meant to be simple and easy to do anywhere. as a military family, we know we will likely spend christmases lots of places, under lots of circumstances, and our hope is to have some traditions that can be constants, no matter where we are.

then there were some traditions from our families we continued with our girls: ryan's mom has given him a nutcracker each christmas, he and ellie set them up together. my family has eaten chinese food on christmas eve for over 65 years, an incredible story from a friendship my grandfather had. after our church's beautiful christmas eve service, we drove to pick up chinese carry out. after putting the girls to bed, ryan & i continued the tradition.

when i was uploading these photos, i was giving myself a hard time -- i meant to take more photographs, i left my camera out to do just that. then, i started thinking about this season of life and that part of the reason we didn't reach for the camera more often, was that our hands were literally full. taking care of a newborn and three year old means holding them, reading to them, doing puzzles with them, painting with them, changing diapers, feeding them. it means when they're sleeping we're often folding laundry, cleaning dishes, sweeping the floor or collapsed on the couch completely exhausted (when anyone asked how i was during december i would say, "tired, but so happy"). it reminded me that the photographs above are enough, and that these traditions will carry us back to this time soon enough.

Monday
Dec292014

gift guide for the guys.

so, i missed getting this done before christmas, but figuring out what to get ryan has been one of the steepest learning curves for me -- i hope he would say i'm getting a bit better each year! in case you're in the same place, here are some things i looked at for ryan -- many of which wound up under our tree! (this is especially geared to military guys ;)

read:

flash boys -- we love michael lewis & this looked especially compelling!

redeployment -- being heralded as the best book by this generation of veterans.

want:

the perfect coozie

this awesome speaker

what guy doesn't want a bean bag chair?! (and i wouldn't even mind having this one in my house!)

wear:

i love he loves to wear my college's gear!

everlane has the best basics!

need:

the coolest soap i've ever seen (thank you fort lance for introducing us to it!)

this dopp kit for the next time we get to getaway the two of us!

Tuesday
Dec232014

ellie's christmas wish list - 2014.

so, it's more than a tad late for a gift guide, but a sweet little newborn & enthusiastic almost three year old have been keeping me busy, so better late than never! my hope is down the road these ideas might be helpful to you!

our family tradition is to do four gifts at christmas: something you want, something you need, something to wear, something to read (i found free, beautiful downloadable gift tags here!). we love the simplicity and intention behind this -- it works really well for us. some of the items above we have and love, others are ones i marked for ellie and just may wind up under our tree!

want:

this scooter -- we haven't bought a double stroller, mostly because ellie wakes up every morning with more energy than the other three of us combined, so the idea of pushing her anywhere is almost funny to me. that said, as it warms up and we're venturing to the park or friends houses, my hope is something like this will be her mode of transportation & i'll have anna in the stroller (a mom can dream, right?!) lots of moms i trust love this brand!

mangatiles -- the most played with toy in our house; i was introduced to them by some friends of ours and a preschool teacher reader who mentioned them in the comments section of t&f, we invested in some over the summer and i honestly can't say enough good things about them. we build rocket ships, wedding cakes, skyscrapers!

i am so impressed with MOMA's store, especially for kids -- these NYC blocks are just so neat -- especially because her dad was born there and we love eloise, i think she'd have a lot of fun imagining with them!

need:

this one can be hard -- what does a three year old really need? but we try to do practical things -- a coat, pjs, new shoes or something they need for school or an activity all come to mind as possibilities -- here are some specific ideas:

we LOVE honest company -- i first learned about them when i switched ellie to their diapers when she was 6 months old, then we slowly started using more of their cleaning supplies (their laundry detergent is awesome! the wooden dishbrush has become one of my favorite things in our kitchen!) this winter, the things we're using daily with ellie are their body oil (this after bath time works so, so well on her dry skin!). and we put a little of their breathe easy cream on the soles of her feet with socks before bed. those two little routines have become her favorite part of bedtime!

we bought this winter coat in a 4T for her this year and it's so great -- we'll get two winters for ellie and hopefully a few for anna out of it -- it's well made and warm!

our wood floors are freezing -- given ellie wears dresses morning, noon and night, the girl needs some slippers to keep her toes warm!

this little lunch kit would be perfect for her snack for school!

wear:

it's dresses ALL the time at our house (any advice for me?!) so this one and this one caught my eye!

read:

christmas magic is my new favorite book for this time of year -- the stunning illustrations, beautiful story and pace of it just capture me. ellie has most pages memorized. it was a gift from dear friends who seem to find the best books!

julia, child is one i just added to my wish list, seems so appropriate with two little girls in our house!

this version of little drummer boy has such great illustrations, it has been a favorite of ellie's for two years running, she calls it "rumpumpum!"

for ellie's gift guides of past check here and here; if you need ideas for a baby look here and tons of book recommendations right here and here!