Thursday, December 14, 2017

Gifts

Good Morning December 14th! You are literally my exact favorite time of year.  Enough time until Christmas to not be panicking about anything or too preemtively depressed that it's almost over, but still Christmastime! Totally thick in the middle of all the fun this time of year brings.

Last night I cooked at church, a simple pasta bar meal (where I underestimated the amount of red sauce to pasta ratio, darn!) Afterwards I played with the kids who weren't cooking desserts for the homeless shelter memorial dinner next week.  We mostly made little festive garlands and played Christmas dictionary.  Time feels so easily and joyfully filled this time of year.

I especially love giving gifts.  I spend most of the year thinking about what to give people, what my kids need in particular.  I've taken to throwing clearance things in the carts whenever I'm shopping for other necessities.  Like buying them all new post season discounted swimwear from Lands End when I'm also buying that new winter coat I need at 40% off. It's a great system but means December rolls around and I have 80% of my shopping done.  I've learned to save this 20% for some fun last minute things.  I do still love just going out to a great toy shop or book store and perusing.  I've found some fun things this year.

Books:

Words With Wings a book written in poetic prose this looks perfect for Ainsley.  She prefers "quicker" reads and this one treads that fine line between quick enough but meaningful that she loves.

Finding Wonders another prose books written from the perspective of three young scientists.  I love the historical content.

Fanny in France a book I stumbled across written by one of my favorite chefs.  This book will be perfect to cuddle up with by the fire with the girls and read about the cooking adventures a young girl has in france with her Aunt.

Where the Sidewalk Ends for some reason we JUST got this from the library this fall and Louise in particular was entranced.  She laughed out loud over and over so of course I bought it for her from Costco so we can keep the laughs coming.

Berenstain Bears and the Big Car Race a new one to add to our collection, heard towards Felix but we all love them.

Carl Books My mom just helped me discover these and they are a new family favorite.  I bought the Christmas one in paperback and we've been getting others from the library.  Perfect for Felix's age where he wants to "read" everything.

Zoey and Sassafrass Books a new chapter book series I found that I think both girls (but Louise my ravenous reader in particular) will devour.  About a girl and her cat and their scientific adventures and mysteries.  Can't wait to read the first one.

Lakeshore Learning: my new favorite store.  I stock up on art supplies and small learning games/tools when I go.
     Microscope and Slides Ian is giving Ainsley an old REALLy cool microscope for her birthday but if we didn't have that one I'd definitely get this one for the kids.  How cool to carry it around and look at everything under it?
     The Ultimate Fort Builder I'm always searching for actives to keep the kids happily occupied inside in the winter.  Even with the hours of sledding and ice skating there's still lots of down time indoors.  I've been seeing these fort builders popping up all over the place and this one gets the best reviews.  I'm signed up for their coupons so when I used a 30% off to get this as a joint gift for the kids.

Legos
  We're not nearly as lego crazy as we could be around here but they all do love building their sets.  I struggle with how specific the sets are though so if you lose even one piece you can't put it back together.  I prefer just having a big bin of the basics around but when I saw these winter themed sets I got excited about the possibility of them building them and setting them up in our Christmas village to play with all winter long.

Ski Lift
Ice Rink

Games
   The games always come out in the winter and after cleaning out for the rummage sale this fall we were ready for some new ones.

Twister I found this at the thrift shop for $2! Can't believe we haven't owned it until now.

Ticket to Ride  My family loves the original and then I saw this juniors version at Target and think the kids will all love it (and honestly this is more at my level of gameplay too)

Battleship a classic that was one of my favorites.  Fun to have all three big enough to play it now!

Sometimes I score new craft kits at the thrift shop, Ainsley is getting two AG craft kits this year that I got for about $1 each.

Rebecca Rubin Fashion Kit
Sewing Kit

I of course can't share EVERYTHING, but always love seeing other's gift lists so thought I'd jump in.  I hope everyone is having a great December!



Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Good Enough

For some reason writing has become hard for me.  I have these children who are growing and it feels odd to write our stories here, suddenly.  We are two years into our Minnesota lives and it still doesn't feel quite settled.  I didn't expect that, but here we are.

I worked really hard at our lives in Oak Park. It took so long for it to feel like home.  I assumed moving here it would feel like home instantly because it used to be! We live less than a half mile from my childhood home.  Sometimes I run by that big blue house just to catch a glimpse.  The treehouse that my dad built is still in the backyard, the swing set too.  The three crab apple trees that we used to climb line the driveway.  My big sister used to make up clim them and play "reading club" which was us reading until she told us to stop.  Haha Kelly!

Now, our house is literally perfect.  We've been here two years and have hardly changed anything.  I've painted the kids bathroom.  I've hung lots of pictures and art.  Ian got some old great maps at work that we want to wallpaper the front hall with.  I built a treehouse out back this summer.  The veggie garden is two years running now.  4 lilac trees bloom every summer.  4 maples wait to be tapped each spring.  The sauna runs hot when we need it to.  The fireplaces warm us in the winter.

Home is a concept I've always pondered.  For my senior art project in college I did pieces about home.  What makes a home, among other questions, are still with me today.

I am such a homebody that these thoughts matter greatly to me.  I know so many people who can drop their bags wherever they land and be perfectly happy (at least on the surface).  They can jump into friendships and new jobs easily.  None of that feels easy for me.

I'm working at being ok with that right now.  That being the part of me that is uneasy with change, who so needs my home and my family and right now that leaves little space for much else.  We can't do it all right?  Where we are at has to be Good Enough most times.  Why is that so hard?

Right now my good enough is mostly wife and mom.  I am not an amazing mom all the time, but I am good enough.  I am actually pretty bad at remembering all the things I need to in a day for my children.  I forget permission slips and to sign that dang assignment book every day and to log each minute of reading and math work and even Felix's preschool open house and to cut his ridiculously long toenails before he rips them off himself causing a giant ouch on his big toe.  Sigh.

But! I make them lunches, sometimes I even write them notes inside.  I make dinner.  I hug them.  I do their laundry and pick up a bit for them (sometimes!) I love them so much and genuinely enjoy finding new books for us to read together, playing games, making fires, doing crafts and art.  We spend a lot of time together.  That's good enough for me.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Summer Sunday

It's Sunday at 4:45 and I just sent all three kids up to their rooms. That's after I dragged Felix across the yard and scolded Louise for unhooking Bluebelle before she got to the house and telling Ainsley that NO! Right now is NOT a good time to make hair bows with hot glue!  And it's not even Monday.

I'm grappling a lot lately with why this all still feels so hard so often. It's also super not helpful when parents of older kids tell me that it never gets easier, just harder in different ways.  Not what anyone needs to hear even if I know it's true.

It's hitting me like a ton of bricks that a lot of what makes it hard is me.  I'm having a hard time letting them go.  Whenever they are out biking or at a friends house I'm worried.  I'm getting some babysitters for the first time ever this summer and I'm worried about leaving them in someone elses care.  I have a hard time relinquishing control but I feel so out of control anyways.  It's a hard place to be.

This summer I'm trying hard to just let things be.  We got some workbooks that the kids love which helps occupy some of those "what to do now" hours of the afternoon.  We're finding new beaches and parks and I'm utilizing audio books for the first time so we can just cruise around town with the puppy and get her used to the car for the trips up north coming soon.  I spent about 5 minutes on pinterest today and have some fun ideas for new crafts.  I'm desperately trying to figure out how to get the treehouse finished, but I'm able to get about 3 cuts and 4 screws in before I'm needed and that's been a bummer.  Plus Ian leaves for a week for a fishing trip soon and then I'm really in survival mode.  Thankfully the girls are also in camp all week next week so it's just Felix and I.  I know we'll all make it.  I just wish it felt like we were thriving more.

Today I'm excited for our first full week of summer without any camps or activities.  Tomorrow we have a new babysitter coming over so I'm excited to get groceries ALONE!  I'm excited for a beach morning or two, bike rides with the kids and runs with Bluebelle, making salads with all the lettuce that's in the garden, cousins, parks, playdates.  It's blissfully easy to fill a day, that doesn't mean they still don't feel long sometimes!

Hope everyone is having a great start to their summer!

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Books!

One way I pay homage to that half of a double major I got in English is to constantly be looking up and reading books.

I find such comfort in turning to books.  Ian and I have been known to read a few parenting books when things get rough.  I so love searching for books for each stages of life for my chidren.  Now that my girls are growing and can both read on their own it's a whole new world of book searching.  I can search all I want but it's what they like that they are drawn to.  I'm still finding some winner, some new personal favorite too.  I thought I'd share because there is SO MUCH out there.

Adult Novels

The Woman in Cabin 10  - this caught my eye at the bookshop so I snagged it.  It's a great page turner, thrilling, an escape.  All the things I like in a good get me back into reading book.

The Baker's Secret - I love historical fiction about WWII and this one didn't disappoint. I like that it was from the perspective of a young incredibly resilient woman. The characters were memorable and the plot was original.

Delicious - I LOVED this book. If I could live another life it would be the main character's of this book.  Living in NYC, working for a food magazine.  BUT! There's a dark secret.  Wonderful characters, touching, picturesque.  Loved it.

The Kitchen House-I'm pretty sure I found this one at the thrift shop.  Another historical fiction that gripped me.  The characters drew me in and the story was so sad and profound.  It's rare I get through a book this long these days! It was worth it!

Cook/Craft Books

Keepers - I got this from the library and ended up buying it because I wanted to make everything in it.  It's geared towards people who cook for their families every night.  Bing! So good.

The Best Homemade Kids Lunches on the Planet- I bought this at the end of the year (of course!) but was so inspired by the simple ideas it has.  The kids were getting so bored of sandwiches (and I of making them).  This has some really fresh great ideas. (the biggest hit at the end of the year were the ham and cheese puff pastry wheels and make your own parfaits)

Knitbot Essentials - I got this book for my birthday and am SO excited to have a book of things to knit for me! I want to make everything!

Martha Stewarts Craft Book for Kids - Ainsley grabbed this from the library and it's fantastic.  Fresh hands on ideas that kids can make on their own.  Great easy things like popsicle stick villages and experiments.

Great Things To Do Outside - I mentioned this one on facebook.  I love that this kids can use it on their own easily and the ideas are so accessible and realistic for tired parents to execute in the summer.

The Who Was/Is Series - Louise is slowly working her way through all of these.  We started with Sacajawea, then Beatrix Potter and Julia Child and Helen Keller and Abraham Lincoln.  Now she has Andy Warhol and Anne Frank (which we may wait on!).  She gets 2 or 3 at the library each time.  Great informative age appropriate biographies.

The Magical Animal Adoption Agency - One of our favorite series.  The girls (and I) hope they write more!

Illustrated Harry Potters - I cheated and read them book 3 two even though they are coming out with the illustrated version this fall.  I LOVE them so much and since I don't have my own copies anymore this has been a nice way to rebuild my collection.

The Saturdays (Melendy Quartet Series) - We are only on book 1 but I know we'll be reading the lot.  An older series about a family of 4 children living in a Brownstone in New York right before WWII.  They realize they never have enough allowance money to do anything they want to do so they decide to combine their money each week and do one big awesome thing all together.  As a direct result of this book Ainsley and Louise did just that to buy a shared Kitty toy that you can feed and walk.  I can't wait to read the rest.

Half Magic - a classic I read to the girls a while ago.  They loved it!

Wellie Wishers Books - Another new favorite of Louise's.  These books are perfect for her age and the pictures and stories are cute.

Irene Haas - one of my FAVORITE authors and illustrators.  Her stories are so sweet and whimsical.  Too bad so many are out of print.  I'm glad our library has some.

10 Little Ninjas - The kids new favorite bedtime book.  A cute twist on 5 little monkey jumping on the bed.

5 Minute Stories - We started with the comic book superheroes and Star Wars and now have the Pixar and the Snuggle stories.  They are great before bed and to take on trips and the kids love them. Win win win.

You Read to Me, I'll Read To You- Ainsley still loves reading these with me.  Such a clever idea by the author to have a book meant to be read with someone else.  The girls have both loved these for reading aloud together.

The Barefoot Book of Faeries - Ainsley is still very much a believer of Fairies and this book is so perfect for her age.  It talks about the history of fairies in literature and gives some great background and sweet stories.

Patricia Polacco - I doubt the girls will every truly grow out of picture books (I never have!) thanks in large part to this author and illustrator.  Her longer beautifully illustrated books are so perfect for this middle elementary age.  Many are about tough topics, written about carefully and accessibly for children.

26 Fairmont Avenue - This is an autobiographical series by Tomie DePaola about his childhood.  It's one of the girls favorites and we've read almost all of them.  We can read one in one sitting if we give ourselves the time and they love anything by Mr. DePaola.

I'll add more or make another post when I have enough new books.  I'm sure I'm missing lots but this feels like a good start.  Yay books!



Thursday, June 8, 2017

Not Thinking, Not Planning, Just Doing.

This is the longest break I've ever taken from posting.  Notice how I didn't say writing?!  I still write a lot, in un posted posts, in numerous small adorable notebooks, on the backs of receipts or discarded childrens' art.  I write! But share? not as much.

So much has happened since March.  We went to Florida for two whole weeks.  I planted an epic veggie garden.  Felix learned to swim.  The girls learned two piano recital pieces each.  We adopted a puppy.  I'm building a tree house!

If I think back to life even two years ago, it feels like miles and miles from here.  A new-ish mom to three, wondering if our dreams of settling down in Minnesota weren't to be, deep in a free fall of love with the village we'd found, in so much need of help, not knowing how to ask.

We're here! Where I always wanted, and it's still strange and hard and weird and at the same time so perfect and beautiful.  I'm still not used to our perfect house and plot.  I pinch myself when I take Bluebelle for running walks with Felix on his bike after walking the girls to the bus.  How is this all real?

Then my kids pull me back.  I'm in the final moments of them wanting me all the time and I know that so acutely.  Ainsley would go to college tomorrow if it were an option.  She pushes at every boundary we set, always has.  To think of her going to middle school, getting her drivers license, going away to school, it's closer than I think, but I know it's there, and I'm holding onto now with her with both hands.

We had our 10 year college reunion last weekend and it was nothing short of perfection.  I hope my children all find a place that they love as much as Ian and I love St Olaf.   For people who didn't go to a crazy small rural school, well, I just can't help them see it, but it was unique and special and exactly where we were meant to be.  I'll never forget meeting Ian.  His slightly gangly gait walking down to town for the Jesse James days festival.  My nervous boisterous too much too fast talking.  I just knew.  So early on I knew.  It'll be 10 years married with the man I never knew was in my dreams all along this August.  Almost 14 years together.  It's not always been easy, but it's pretty damn easy to love that man.  He just gets better (though I'm pretty sure I get harder). But he still loves me.  Do you see what I mean??!!!

I started this post with the title which is not typical for me.  It's my new motto.  Remember all that writing I said I do? It's lots of lists too.  Lists of things I want to do and make and ways I want to be.  This summer I just want to DO.  I want to look outside and see what the sky says.  Is it a beach day?  Is it a bike riding to the library morning?  Is it a decorate the inside of the treehouse day? (because there WILL be an inside of the treehouse asap, hence all the doing).  I know myself better than I ever have.  When I get in a doing mode I can do so much.  When I'm paralyzed with the plans I can sink for a bit in the possibilities.  Just do.  Look in your children's eyes and let the day unfold.

I am sad to see the school year end for Louise and Felix, happy for Ainsley.  Happy for all of us that we get to be together and for three months I get to relive the best days of my life; being at home with my kids, being their teacher, caretaker, activities director, always mom.  I feel so lucky to have us 5 that most days are all that each other needs.  In a world that moves so fast and requires so much, it's nice to remember that.  These (more than) four walls, my gardens, my hands, my people, they are all I really need.

To a beautiful, not too planned, DOING summer.  Here here!


Saturday, March 18, 2017

Changes

One of my favorite bloggers recently wrote this...

When my kids were babies, people liked to tell me that the intensity of nursing one baby while another sat on belly holding a stack of books would naturally ease up when the kids were older and more independent. And that school would crack open an expanse of time in which “I wouldn’t know what to do with myself.” I always cringed at that sentence.
Our daily routines feel more intense today than ever before. Everything is bigger: our children, our grocery bills, our laundry piles, our social calendars, our needs, our responsibilities, our worries, our joys. Sometimes I dream about having those baby days again. As a new mom, I found a content stride and purpose I hadn’t perviously known. Everything felt dreamy and safe with my kids dangling from my torso 24/7. I was good at it and I loved it. I wasn’t even sure I’d ever have kids and then I wanted to breastfeed forever and quit my career to pursue work that allowed me to wear babies all day. Time measured in carrot purées, walks around the block and writing for giant chunks of time during my daughters’ naps.
Oh, that rose-colored hindsight. I know those early days weren’t easy but they feel like they were now that we are navigating things like peer influence, increasingly full after-school sport schedules and pushback over earrings that I find *too* dangly. Also: the fact that my kids have outgrown my wingspan. They fly on their own, sometimes out of sight. But always on my radar, my chickens. Always.
      Nici Holt Cline (digthischick.net)

I couldn't have written somehting truer about life currently myself.
As we fast approach Felix's, my baby's!, FOURTH birthday I find I have so many emtions running through me.  We knew almost from the moment he was born that our family was complete.  I knew to savor those baby and toddler days even more knowing they were our last.  Growing is so bittersweet all the time.  I really had no idea what a ride we were getting on just over 8 years ago.  An unpredictable never ending ride of raising children and being parents.
I've realized that part of why I've stopped blogging so much is that it's stopped feeling ok to write about my kids and my struggles as a parent.  It's been really rough since we've moved, harder than it's ever been.  I knew if I came on here I'd gush and that didn't feel right.  Their stories are becoming their own.
Ainsley is 8 which seems so old.  If she had her way she'd spend all her home time biking around the neighborhood buidling fairy houses and making clubs with friends.  She believes so much in magic and is still so innocent in so many ways.  I love that so much and am glad she's been thus far pretty unaffected by peer influences.  For all our struggles with that girl she's one of the strongest people I know.  When I can step back and remember that I'm completely amazed by her.
Louise has really come into her own this past year.  Just this morning she said, "Mom?  What does a crush mean."  "It's means you like someone, usually in a different way than how you like your friends or your family." "I thought so.  Well, I have a crush on Evan,"  Then she blushed! and giggled! in such a sweet way that I knew it to be true.  My girl has her first real crush.  How sweet.  It makes sense for our Louise.  Her whole first grade class is one big gaggle of friends.  She's sobbed the few times she's had to miss school this year.  She LOVES it.  She is super into doing her work and is so on top of everything.  She still loves art so much and is most happy when coloring or writing or reading one of her new chapter books or playing with friends.
Felix is such a great little guy.  He's totally into super heroes and playing pretend, soccer and swinging.  Most recently he loves listening to jazz music with me and trying to pick out what instrument is playing.  He loves doing everything his big sisters do and takes really good care of himself.  He's so proud to be able to do so much for himself and third child, I am glad to let you.
I feel like I may always mourn those baby days.  They were so special.  It makes it even more magical that it was in Oak Park, this idyllic urban village, in so many ways. It's easy to over romanticize that time of life, still it's hard to let go.  Being home all day doesn't feel as good as it used to.  Home used to be where the action was! Now it's starting to feel lonely.  I really relish my alone time but find I'm this odd balance of introvert and extrovert.  I really miss my connections in Oak Park and seeing friends every day.

I'm still finding my rhythm here.  I'm trying to relax and enjoy Felix's last preschool years with him home and trusting that my new path will make itself clear to me soon.  

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Catch Up

Well hey there! It's been a while.  I finally got my act together and cleared off my computer and phone so I can take more/post more photos.  Yay!

So to catch up...

 
Christmas Fest at St Olaf with mom (Ian and Ruth too)

(the tiniest cousins, but not for long! notice that bump behind Rory?)

 The last 8th floor Macy's visit ever. I'm so sad, but so glad we got to go one more time!



 winter break bliss







winter days, school projects, walking errands, lots of time with my little man (who only wears shorts and t shirts and his cubs baseball hat!) life is good and fuller than ever

















Family Fun Day for Skijammer with Ainsley.  This girl can ski anything now.  It was so fun to spend the day with her and Pop (on his 61st birthday no less!) 




Now we are looking forward to Spring, though we just got a good few inches of fresh snow last night.  The kids are SO excited for Florida in 3 weeks, me too.  Just yesterday Felix and I found thrifted sandals for everyone.

Hopefully I'll be here more regularly now.  I miss it!