Sunday, July 31, 2011

Knitting and Things

I'm on a major knitting kick. I recently discovered that one of my favorite DIY/craft writers has a BLOG (of course, duh right? it's if you're interested) and after reading her archives late into the night I vowed to make more time for my crafts of choice. It's been a while since I knit anything significant and my sewing has tapered off too.

After scouring for free patterns (such a great online knitting resource) I chose an item for each member of my family of 4 (myself included!), went to our local knit shop and went to work.

::Ainsley help me choose this jumper for her,
"I want a pink one mama because Ainsley May looks good in pink"::

::Louise's sweater, I chose a softer mulicolored yarn with fall colors::

::the sweater I chose for me!::

::the yarn for Ian's sweater::

I am knitting Ian a sweater for the first time. I've been vowing to do it since we got married (I've been told, and agree, that you should never knit a boy a sweater until you're married because it's as big a commitment as your vows) The yarn is a luscious wool cotton blend, the color is a mix between navy and teal. The pattern is a classic cardigan, out of a 60's pattern book with a roll neck and pockets. I am SO excited.

After I get his sweater well underway I plan to make one for myself. I've made two sweaters for myself in my life and the one that still fits is a bit scratchy and plain. I found a super cute pattern and am just setting on a color.

In other crafting news I've been sewing some projects for my sisters' showers this next weekend. I'll take photos once the gifts have been given!

Aside from new rekindled zeal for knitting and sewing life is good. As of two days ago Louise is walking, FAST, while holding onto our fingers. She refuses to use the walker but if you give her a hand to hold she grins, puts her head down, and GOES. She's also starting to stand without assistance.

She and Ainsley are becoming fast friends. It's very recently occurred to me that those two are going to turn into double trouble someday, SOON. They are starting to make mischeif on their own, emptying drawers full of neatly folded laundry and linens, shelves of books, and bins of toys, all the while squealing with devious laughter. "Come on YaWeez, do this with Ainsley May. You're so funny YaWeez. I like you. We're friends YaWeez. Hahahahha." And then Louise answers by sqealing and chucking a toy as far as she can. It's hilarious and a tidge terrifying all at the same time.

Today Ian and I celebrated our 4 year anniversary 10 days early. I'm going to be in Minnesota for the actual day so we decided to celebrate while we were together. Our tradition is to go to the Deer Path Inn in Lake Forest for brunch. It is AMAZING. Definitely the best brunch ever, with sushi, prime rib, champagne, a million billion pastries and desserts, salads and dips, smoked salmon and strawberries and cream. Yum full tummy.

I'm gearing up for four days full of fun and prepping for our big 2.5 week trip to MN for showers and the cabin and my sister's wedding. It's going to be great and busy!

Happy Weekend!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Ainsley's Tea Party

Today we had a tea party. Nothing new in the Vaagenes house. Ever since receiving a beautiful tea set from her Aunt Gail when she was a baby and a gorgeous vintage porcelain set from her Nana we have found many opportunities to party with tea.

Typically our parties are impromptu. Perhaps we'll throw on a scarf or a fancy skirt, lay down a soft quilt and sip away. Little preparaing and thought is put into the affair, and so far it's been just enough.

But today is rainy AGAIN. Faced with yet another day cooped up indoors my mind was searching for how to fill our day happily and fully. Ainsley and I had discussed having a tea party last night and this morning she woke up excited to follow through.

So we took a new approach to our tea parties. We made a list of things to do, food to make, guests to invite, invitations to create. We worked the morning away, focused and busy anticipating our fun party to come.

::Ainsley carefully cut paper for the invitations, chose the theme for her party (butterflies and grapes) and thoughtfully planned every detail::

We had such a blast.

One of my new personal mama goals is to focus more on the journey with my girls, on the process and the work than just the result. We spent an hour and a half while Louise napped just working in unison, creating a fun all our own. I had such fun watching my girl so focused and excited. Not to mention the teaching and learning that takes place in these moments. Sounding out words, choosing colors and themes, brainstorming and list making. I love a good lesson (or 2 or 3) disguised as fun.

::she delivered and read her invitations personally, Knuffle Bunny, Elmo, Baby Aida doll, and Angelina Ballerina were all invited::

::we resurrected the mosquito netting as the perfect setting for the party::

::Louise joined us after her nap and was very excited about the buffet (cream cheese and cucumber sandwiches, banana oatmeal chocolate chip cookies, and blueberries)::

::the guests, all dressed up as per Ainsley's request::

::Ainsley made sure her guests were well fed::

Our plan had been to hold out until lunchtime for the party, but after working so hard I hated having to make Ainsley wait a moment longer for her well planned event. So we had a mid morning party and ater gnoshing and sipping we had about an hour and a half until naptime...Now what?

We dragged quilts and pillows into the living and snuggled down to watch a movie together. I rediscovered Milo and Otis in our basement and the girls LOVED watching all of the animals and the sweet funny story. It was a great way to round out the morning.

Today I am thankful for focused and elongated fun. For my sweet sleepy girls and the dark clouds outside to help facilitate some long naps (please! :o) This afternoon I hope that the clouds lift and the sun shines, and if not I hope for patience and inspiration to keep the fun going!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Rituals and Rythms

I've never really gotten into parenting books. When I was pregnant with Ainsley I was given the quintessential What to Expect... and bought a few more "natural" approach to pregnancy and birth options. I read here and there but never cover to cover. I have yet to buy a true parenting book.

I have definitely had my moments when I felt I needed advice, many in fact. In the rare moment when a talk with Ian, other moms or my own, didn't calm or confirm my struggles I scoured the internet for good book suggestions, always coming up short.

Part of my hesitation towards the literature out there is that I resist putting children in categories, and I feel like most books do. Labeling a child as spirited or mellow, slow or gifted just sets everyone up for failure, disappointment and frustration all around, in my humble opinion. Each child is unique, of course, with their own challenges and triumphs, as is each family and how they choose to parent.

I have also been resistant to choose a parenting "style". Before becoming a parent I thought I would be much more rigid than I am, at the same time I choose my battles and stick to them and feel that I don't fit into any one category, much like most parents out there I assume.

The one book I have gravitated towards again and again (and I believe I've mentioned a few times on the blog so far) is The Creative Family by Amanda Blake Soule. I bought this book when Ainsley was still a wee thing, hoping to find some inspiration and direction for how to incorporate creativity and making things into life with a baby. This book gave me that direction I so craved and much much more.

Soule focuses on creativity yes, how to make creating things a part of your daily life, how to set up an awesome art center for your children, how to make things with even very little hands. But what has really stuck with me are the parenting tips she sneaks in, ever so gently and cleverly.

Because really, making a choice to create with your children instead of watch TV, teach them to wonder and observe instead of simply exist, foster the natural joy and curiosity that they bring to everything rather than stifle it with rigidity and over-scheduled days, is a big parenting choice in itself.

It's a choice I've made, Ian and I have made together, and let me tell you it's not always easy.

Part of the struggle is when we live and where we live. We live in an age of DVRs, iPads and smartphones, Netflix and online games. It's so easy to entertain our children with electronics, without REAL human interaction. Plus we don't live next to a babbling brook or a quiet wood, mountains or even hills to hike and explore. We live on a semi-busy street corner on a city lot 1 mile away from the border of one of the largest cities in the United States. It's not fair I tell you.

But rather than wallow about where we are and what we have to work with, I've chosen (or try to choose, most days) to thrive. Truth be told I love that we can walk just about anywhere. That after a long rainy day indoors we do have the DVR full of age appropriate shows that captivate Ainsley (and Louise too now) when I'm at a loss. I love having Facetime to keep in close contact with family and friends that most days feel too far away. I feel thankful to live in a place where I feel we can have it all.

One thing I've found particularly helpful and fulfilling is to adopt Soule's notion of making family rituals. I so often find myself engrossed in a new blog, trying desperately to mimic an awesome mama's routine and rhythm for her family. But they live in Montana or Maine or somewhere else NOT here with resources that I don't have. What I do have is my own family, unique and special to ourselves. I'm slowly learning how to adapt rituals and traditions to fit our unique foursome.

For starters we've been having family dance parties since I can remember. Nearly every night between dinner and bedtime we turn up the ipod dock, sometimes mellow swaying tunes, others hopping jumping beats, and dance away. Ian and I so often find ourselves searching to fill those last minutes before bedtime and dancing is the perfect way for us to get those last jitters out and really enjoy each other, rather than just pass the time aimlessly.

Before dinner every night Ainsley sets the table with Ian. We've always used cloth napkins and now we've begun utilizing some beautiful wooden napkin rings that Ian's mom gave us. Ainsley loves to pick out each persons' animal and carefully place them at their spot.

Each morning we sip on coffee while the girls play in jammies. We all mill about, sleepily snuggling and playing, asking Ainsley what she'd like to do that day, asking daddy what's on the docket for work.

Of course there are bedtime rituals unique to both girls. I look forward to them getting just a bit older so that they can go to bed in sync, snuggling down into covers and devouring books with us all together. For now their rituals are separate and unique to them. Ainsley getting 3 books, 2 songs and a whole lot of negotiating, and Louise a few short books, a song and lots and lots of snuggles.

We've begun praying with Ainsley, a ritual I was excited to start. She has been so fascinated with bible stories, the nativity at Christmas and the beautiful angel adorning out mantel. It's fun to have her at an age where she kind of gets things, can ask questions, and start to have a belief all her own. Her prayers are the cutest. We sing a short prayer song, hands folded, and Ainsley interjects her own thanks. Usually it's for pancakes or some other food item, and always for daddy and Louise (I'm sure I'm left out because I'm there with her right?) I so believe in the importance of faith and a higher power, whatever that may be for you. I hope to instill that sense in Ainsley and Louise and love this new ritual.

We're starting to form rituals with holidays and seasons within this rhythm of our own family. While I will always take inspiration from my wonderful childhood, Ian's too, others that I admire and lives I secretly pine after, I am loving learning how to make our own traditions and rituals, and make this life as good as it can be. I'm quite pleased so far, and always excited for each new day.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The Diaper Post

A friend asked me to give some information about cloth diapers, and I've had a lot of questions from people about our usage of cloth lately so here it the full story...

I have frequently been asked "why cloth, how cloth...but mostly WHY cloth". I laugh every time I see the camoflauged horror on someone's face when I tell them we use cloth. I promise it's not as scary as it seems.

It all started when I was little. My parents used cloth, as did yours probably. It used to be too expensive for most people to use disposables (it is still WAY more expensive to use disposables) and diaper services were prevalent, so cloth it was.

I grew up using our old soft cloth diapers as dusting and cleaning rags. I remember marveling at how soft they were even after years of use. They were a part of my life from the get go.

But in this world of disposable diapers it was a conscious decision we made to use cloth. It's a choice that I feel I have to defend sometimes, but mostly people are really intrigued.

Let me tell you, I have NEVER regretted using cloth. The only times my girls have had diaper rash is when we use disposables on vacation. The diapers are so soft on their little bums and so cute that in the summer I pop a t-shirt on them and let them romp around pantsless. In short, I highly recommend cloth, in whatever form you choose to use them. Once you get in a routine they are easy as pie to use, simple to wash and care for and best of all, you'll be saving the earth from tons of waste and your pocketbook from dropping thousands of dollars on disposables (they say you spend $2000 PER child diapering them in disposables, we've spent about $400 on cloth for BOTH girls)

There are SO many choices when it comes to cloth. I'll tell you what's worked for us and give you the info I have about the other options.

Prefolds and Covers:
This is the "old school" option if you will. Chinese cotton prefolds are the soft thick rectangles of fabric that you fold in thirds like a letter, place inside a cover and put on your baby. This is definitely the most economical way to go as you would only need about 6-8 nice covers...I recommend the Thirsties Duo Wraps (photo below)...and 18-24 prefolds, which are relatively inexpensive. If you're scared of dealing with dirty diapers, these prefolds are the diapers that most diaper services use. Look into a service in your area to see what they use. The downside to these diapers is that they are a bit more "hands on" in that you have two layers to deal with when changing your dumpling AND as there is no layer between your baby's bum and the cloth they are going to feel wet right away.

Fitteds and covers:
These diapers only differ from the above in that the cloth part is a fitted diaper with snaps. This way you don't have to use pins to secure the diaper. You still have two layers to work with, but these diapers work really well and help with leakage a bit better than the prefolds. The downfall here is you have to keep buying new sizes as your little one grows. It's still cheaper than disposables, but ends up being pricier than the one size. We bought some Kissaluv fitteds (and LOVED them) in a newborn size for the girls when they were newborns and a bit too small for the one size diapers.

Pocket Diapers:
This is our diapering method of choice. I've used the Bum Genious 4.0 one size all in ones for both girls and they are amazing. These diapers have a soft waterproof cover combined with a wick away moisture barrier that you slip an insert into, fold it up and whalla! You put them on and take them off just like disposables, with nothing to pin or wrap. These are the best option for those reticent to try cloth as they are SO easy to use. The hitch is they are a bit more pricey but in my opinion well worth the investment. We have 18 of these diapers and it's just enough to make it three days in between washes. Probably my favorite feature of these dieapers is that they are one size, meaning they can take your baby all the way from birth to potty training without having to buy new, differently sized diapers! If you have a small baby they may be a bit bulky until they're a month old or so, but most people put their baby in disposables until their umbilical cord falls off anyways.

There are so many kinds of diapers and brands of diapers within those kinds that it can be overwhelming to choose your method. I recommend giving it a go, knowing that you really can't go wrong with your choice. Buy enough diapers for 1 day (6-8 diapers) and just see. I highly recommend BumGenious and pocket diapers in general, but prefolds or fitteds with a good cover can work just as well. Give it time to get into a rhythym with the washing and I can almost guarantee you that you won't go back. I am so in love with the 6 new diapers that I got that I'm considering taking our diapers on vacation with us for the first time. I mean we have laundry where we're going so why not?!

Now to address some common questions and concerns:

How many do I need? How do I care for them/store them?

We had 24 pocket diapers with Ainsley and I loved having that many. By the time she was 1 we were washing diapers only twice a week if that. I would say 18 would be a good number to have. It's enough that if you have a crazy need lots of diapers day you should get through fine without running out and in a perfect world you'd have 3 days between washing...which brings me to...
WASHING! and storing. We store our diapers in a big pail lined with a waterproof bag. Our pail is a designated diaper pail with a little carbon disk on top to get ride of the smell. We keep the diapers in our downstairs bathroom and I have yet to smell anything in our downstairs. When I'm down to 3 or 4 diapers I wash them. First in cold, then in hot with a teeny tiny amount of the mildest detergent you can find (We use Mountain Green but Charlie's Soap is also a popular choice). I dry the inserts on low in the dryer and hang the covers to dry (I learned the hard way that machine drying the covers ravages the velcro and elastic much fast than air drying). When they're all dry I pop on a good show and put the inserts back into the diapers, fold them up all nice and Whalla! Clean cloth diapers.

What do you do if your diapers get stained or smell?
First, your diapers will get stained and will probably smell at some point. Our covers have remained immmaculate, but the inserts do get a bit dingy. I have been known to use a "mild" (if there is such a thing) bleach on the inserts, and while that definitely got rid of the stains it also compromised their absorbancy. Drying your diapers in the sun is the best way to get rid of staining. As for smell, stripping the diapers with a little dawn and then rinsing them about 5 times in super hot water can help (thanks for that advice other cloth diapering mama friends!) I've heard you can even soak them in boiling water over and over to kill anything that may have built up. For me a good dry in the sun seems to be the cure all for most diaper issues.

Don't they leak? I've heard cloth diapers don't work as well as disposables.
Actually mine have always worked better. The only real blow outs we've ever had were with disposables. Cloth diapers do need to be changed a bit more frequently than disposables, and we do use disposables at night because I have yet to find a solution for overnight wetting but in general I've have no issues with leakage. All that good elastic and absorbancy does wonders!

How do you deal
When they're little and still on a milk only diet those #2s are water soluable so unless there's a LOT just swish it in the toilet and pop it in the bin. Once they start eating solids other things get solid as well. For this they have sprayers you can attach to your toilet to spray out the solids, we've always used a spoon (classy I know, but it works just as well). If the diaper is particularly messy I just swish it in the toilet bowl, throw it in the bin and wash my hands REAL well. Let's face it poop is a big part of life with a baby whether you use cloth or not and truthfully it's never been an issue for either Ian or I.

But Disposables just seem so much EASIER to use, right?
As I said earlier, nope. Just as easy. Of course there is the washing and folding but when you have kids and are doing 10 loads of laundry a week, what's one or two more right?

Where can I buy cloth?
If you're new to cloth I highly recommend trying to find a store that has them so you can go and check out the options. In the twin cities I've loved PeaPods in St Anthony Park and in Oak Park they have cloth diapers at Gepettos the local toy store. I bought most of my cloth diapers from and have always been so happy with their customer service. They have EVERYTHING you could possibly need at that website and their shipping is free and super fast.

Plese write with any questions. I am no expert but have put one baby through cloth to potty training successfully (did I mention a HUGE perk to using cloth is that most babies potty train earlier and least in my experience and from what I've heard...those little ones don't like feeling all bulky and wet) and am 11 months in with Louise.

So there you have it. The whole she-bang. Clearly I am enthusiastic about cloth. That's more than I've written in a post in a LONG time. Happy cloth diapering!

Monday, July 25, 2011

I remember Monday's in college. Recovering from a weekend of early mornings working at the coffee shop and late nights with friends. A part of me always joined in with the "ugh...MONDAYS!" sentiment, but truthfully I've always loved them.

I thrive with a schedule, when I have things to do and places to go. I so struggle with a balance of laze and activity. I need my Mondays to get my engine roaring.

Today was one of those great Mondays reminding me why they've always held a special place in my heart.

It started off with Louise sleeping past her 5:30 am wake up need a bottle routine time. I got up rested (what?!) at 6:45 to a happy dumpling and a quiet house. We snuggled and talked and giggled and snuggled some more until Ainsley and Ian joined us a bit later.

After a quick breakfast we jumped in the car to get some groceries, our normal Monday morning errand. I of course strayed from my very specific list as per usual, but only a bit, including some yummy dried mango and pita chips that I couldn't resist. I love coming home with bags full of delicious food just waiting to be cooked and eaten. This week the plan is to make some big salads, both potato and pasta, and grill. I'm also going to try my hand at heuvos rancheros tonight. I find that trying new things keeps cooking fun for me, but I've learned to be realistic too and plan at least two nights for leftovers or grilled cheese.

Ainsley was in rare form at the store. She threw her first tantrum while in the cart, absolutely BESIDE herself that I wouldn't let her hold ALL of the groceries in the seat with her. Oh goodness. When we got home the rage continued. She's been one fiesty little sister these past few days.

I decided that we all needed some good outdoor time. I pitched Ainsley's tent and filled the pool, I weeded and trimmed as she raked and splashed. Then she played in her car and I became the gas station bubble attendant (shooting bubbles into the gas "tank" of her car).

Then I decided to really go out of the box and suggest outloud that we try going to the pool. Just us three, no second adult in tow. I explained over and over to Ainsley how important it was that she listen to mama, that if she ran away even once or disobeyed we would leave immediately. I have been so reticent to try the pool alone with the girls mostly for their safety but also for my sanity. I didn't think it'd be any fun trying to keep the two of them happy and safe all by myself. But we had a blast. I had Ainsley in floaties so if she did decide to get away from me we were prepared. She listened so well and was really happy to just jump in the baby pool over and over and over. Louise of course splashed happily on my hip. Next time I'm going to bring her baby float to give her a bit more freedom.

An hour later we were on our way home, drenched and exhuasted. We ate a quick lunch and two hours later both of the girls are still down and out.

I used naptime to get some things done. Made dentists appointments for myself and Ainsley (her very first one!), signed her up for playschool this fall (two days a week! I can hardly believe it...), caught up on emails, made reservations for Ian's and my traditional anniversary brunch at the Deer Path Inn (4 years of marriage deserves a little champagne and sushi, right?) and inquired about musikgarten for the girls for the fall.

I love feeling productive and organized. After I get my car looked at tomorrow in preparation for our solo trip north I'll feel ready to go!

So see, I like Mondays, because if they're really good, like today, it makes the whole week shape up so nice and smooth.

Happy Monday!

Good Start

It's currently 7:20 am. Louise JUST woke up, not needing her usual 5:30am bottle to "sleep in". Coffee is brewing (notice how most good moments in our home revolve around coffee?) I just paid bills and folded clean diapers. Louise is crawling around with her lamby in hand saying "Mama, mama, HI mama" and talking to the lift the flap book. Even with a super duper long to do list this week I'm feeling relaxed. I got about HALF of our Christmas shopping done this weekend on online Christmas in July sales. I've always vowed to take advantage of them and this year I did. I am pretty excited for all of the fun things I found. Now Ainsley just woke up and when I asked her about the play dough I found in her room last night when I kissed her goodnight she responded "oh, yeah, I found that in my bag and I put it in my pants, wanna see?" I think it's going to be a good day!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Snippets of Late

I've been bad about taking photos lately, and writing blogs. Trying to up my game a little in the mom and wife department has apparently cut into my "leisure" time that I used to use to write. I guess I'll add that to the list of things to work on!

I am very much in a clean out and simplify mode. Nothing new right? We have bags upon bags of things to donate in the basement and I feel like I'm purging the girls' and my (and Ian's...don't tell him!) wardrobes every few days. Life is so much easier when you know that everything that you have works and looks's just SUCH a pain to organize with little ones under foot.

I think this new motivation to clean and organize is coming from our trip coming up. I'm heading to MN with the girls solo for a few weeks to celebrate my sister's wedding, go to the cabin, attend some showers. I am really looking forward to it, but I know that being away that long is going to make it that much harder to get back into things when we return. I hoping that coming home to an organized space will help!

I have so been enjoying life lately. Ainsley seems to be (dare I say it and jinx it?) exiting the terrible twos. She is mostly sweet and helpful, very good at occupying herself and verbalizing what she needs. It's made life so much easier. And Louise, on the verge of her first birthday is still the sweetest dumpling imaginable. She motors around on all fours, exploring and investigating only to scoot over and bury her face in my lap every once in a while for a good snuggle. She sill likes me around. I like that. I cannot belive that she will be one soon. I am so looking forward to seeing her smash that cake in her face (I'm taking bets that she'll finish it..she's a good eater that one) and have a little attention just on her.

With all that joy stated I will admit that the past few days have been trying. Nearly a full week of knock your socks off heat followed by three days of rain have made us all a bit on edge. Thankfully the last few evenings have been merely normal summer sweltering and dry so we've been able to get to the pool and outside a bit.

In trying to turn a new leaf for both the good of my family and myself I've really tried to let go. I still have my moments of hurry and scurry, lets-get-this-done-now-or-find-this-or-I-may-explode-moments but for the most part it's working. When things are getting chaotic I'm learning to go with it rather than fight it. This morning when Ainsley was beside herself over another rainy day cooped up and Ian was tired from an early morning and I was reeling over the state of our basement I stopped, put on rainboots and opened umbrellas with Ainsley and we went for a walk. It was great. We walked mere blocks, but she took it all in, took her shoes off and splashed. I took deep clear breaths and quieted my pounding agenda. I was thankful to be forced into calm. To once again be reminded of why we're here and what's important. I came home to a tidy house and a happy toddler.

Still I hope for sun and bearable temps this week!

I'll do my best to get some photos in soon. The girls are growing too fast not to capture as many moments as I can.

I hope you all had a great weekend!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Beat the Heat

I know it's going to be a good day when I get the dishwasher unloaded before breakfast. This indicates motivation, determination, and a plan brewing in the recesses of my pre-caffienated brain.

Since declaring a need to shake things up a bit in our day to day, mend the problem areas, life has been easier and good. After a lazy Saturday our Sunday was filled to the brim with adventure and fun. We berry picked out in the country, buffetted on Indian goodness, sipped hot coffee with college friends and watched their cute puppy romp around with the girls. We rounded out the activity with a pre dinner jaunt to the pool (when and if we ever move from this house I am SO going to miss having an amazing park and pool one block away). I didn't clean, cook, or launder at all that day. It was amazing.

Berry Picking

Yesterday was equally productive, but necessarily so. The return of Louise's long morning nap coupled with Ainsley's contentment to play with her dolls alone gave me enough time to scour and scrub and organize. Starting the week with a full fridge and pantry and a clean house puts a spring in my step.

Then the heat started to climb and the time outdoors dwindled. It's almost cruel to have the sun shining so bright, the birds chirping and the flowers blooming, only to be confined to an air conditioned space for most of the day.

::Ainsley entertaining herself with her dolly and new keen boots::

This morning I opted to try and beat the heat by getting the girls out early. We spooned our yogurt fast and put on our lightest duds to make it to the park before the sun scorched it. Sadly Ainsley fell from the big swing for the first time, knocking the wind out of her and biting hard on her tongue. She was quite shaken, a rarity for my little daredevil and we were forced home earlier than I had planned. Of course we revamped, a bonefied skill of mine now, and Ainsley helped me start the sewing projects I need to complete for upcoming showers. She loves the sewing machine, the fabric and scissors. She especially loves when the end product is a new outfit for her. No such luck today!

::escaping the heat in our cool basement with silly dress up time::

Then Ainsley requested fruit snacks, and as I had a coupon I indulged her. We went from air conditioned house, to air conditioned car, to air conditiond Costco and back again. The girls LOVE Costco, probably for the free samples, double seats in the carts and the fact that I always cave and buy them something for their wardrobes (today it was organic cotton PJ' can never have enough PJ's!).

After a yummy lunch and lots of books the girls have been down for a while. While I love a good rainy day nap, sticky hot outside cool in the a/c summer naps can be just as good.

::Louise's new carseat, she's pretty much in love::

Today I am thankful for motivation. For an out of the blue call from a mama friend who wants to give us lots of fun new toys (what perfect timing with us all stuck indoors for a while!) For central air in this creaky old house and a cool hose, pool, and sprinkler in the back yard. I am thankful for my adorable girls and their companionship and for lots of fun together time until this heat breaks.

Happy Tuesday!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

These Are the Days

We're having a down week. Not in that dark depressing way, but in that we're-coming-off-of-3-weeks-with-family-and-friends-and-need-to-get-back-into-our-groove-way.

This week has been slow and graciously full. The scorching heat finally gave way to the most perfect and beautiful summer weather. We've been soaking it up. Our garden is thriving and thick, our new $5 sprinkler is being put to good use almost daily, and Ainsley's new confidence on her bike had led to many fun outdoor adventures. I'm loving summer.

::the new hosta row Ruth and Dan labored over amongst other sprucings up in our backyard::

::new and improved cloth diapers, drying in the sun::

I've been feeling very reflective lately, highly motivated to finally change those things about myself that are irking and really live life to it's fullest. It occurrs to me every day that these are the days with my girls that I'll look back on fondly all too soon. I don't want to have any regrets.

It is a constant battle to let go of the little things that don't really matter. Allow the house to get a bit trashed, the laundry to pile up and dishes to remain undone. The hardest hurdle for me as a parent is to be present with my girls in every moment. To stop my neurotic adult brain and remember what it's like to be a child, only filled with joy and exploration and wonder, and indulge them in every journey they wish to take.

A few months back a friend made a comment on a post of mine that stuck with me. "The universe always gives you what you need. It gave you Ainsley and Ainsley you. What a perfect pair!" It is true. I've been so focused on what I give Ainsley, how I parent her, love her, "deal" with her sometimes even, that I've neglected to see all that she's given me.

Aside from making me a parent, bringing out both a love and rage that I never knew I had in me, she's taught me so much. She forces me to get out of my comfort zone. While I'd almost always rather hang out in our house or backyard, relaxing, doing small art projects and calm acitivites, Ainsley wants to get OUT. She wants activity and adventure. She LOVES to go downtown, look at the trains, go for walks without holding my hand, test every physical boundary that she can ALL DAY LONG. That child needs to MOVE.

For an introvert like myself this has been beyond challenging at times. I admittedly have shed tears over how different Ainsley and I are. How I knew from birth that we butted heads, but also that I knew I loved her more than anything and gosh darnit we were going to work this out and thrive together.

Last night Ian and I went out to dinner ALONE. Auntie Sonya insisted on watching the girls and we indulged at a local gem. We sipped on wine and beer respectively, ate amazing food and talked. I mentioned these thoughts to Ian, admitting that I still struggle with giving up my own ideals for Ainsley's, for our girls', for our family's.

He knowingly smiled and nodded, grabbing my hand and letting me know that he knew. "You can say no to me, but you can't say no to Ainsley." He's so right. I want my girls to be strong and independent. To not be afriad or anxious of the mundane things that paralyze me. I can't ensure that unless I let go, put on my mama pants (yet again) and get over myself.

I know that Ainsley and Louise are going to LOVE having a new babysitter to play with some afternoons while we go to the pool. Ainsley is going to relish in the freedom at playschool this fall away from me and Louise. It's just me that will be holding back tears, perhaps gasping for breath as a surge of sadness and discomfort sweep through me that my girl is growing up, needs me less, needs me to back off sometimes and step up others.

I guess mainly I'm surprised that I still have so far to go, so much to learn about being her mom, their mom, heck A mom. Perhaps the first step is admitting that I don't have it down quite yet. That we still get frustrated with eachother, lose patience and misunderstand. I just hope that she knows that under it all I love her so much, that I'd truly do anything for her, and that secretly I'm really glad she's not so much like me.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Monday Sap

I wrote a whole long post last night and my silly CRAZY computer deleted it all before I could save it. So here I am with a glass of wine in hand trying to recap my original (amazing I tell you) thoughts from last night.

Summer is flying by, yes? Mid July is knocking at our doors and I feel totally ill-prepared for all that is coming up. Namely weddings and babies and all the grand plans that I had for meaningful homemade gifts for them all. Perhaps I should be knitting and sewing as opposed to typing? Oh well.

A fire has been lit under me.

A few times a year I get really nervous about our finances. Funny thing, because really we're always doing the same...pretty much status quo. But sometimes it feels a bit tight. Truthfully I'm thankful for these times in hindsight. They motivate me to let go of more, live with less, reorganize and get really creative. It's really quite thrilling to walk out of a grocery store with a weeks worth of groceries only about $65 poorer.

I've been scouring the web desperate to find a few ways to contribute to our bank. I've found a few, I'll let you know how they go.

Namely I'm excited about getting back into crafting for gifting. There is almost nothing more rewarding to me than giving somebody something that you know they might actually want and having made it yourself. I'm salivating already.

Aside from (or in addition to?) the fire in my britches life is good. Ainsley is desperately sweet and inquisitive. Today as I wrapped her up in her butterfly towel after her bath and pondered "where did this beautiful butterfly come from?" she replied "from the bath mama! Silly mama. I yuv you!" She melts my heart hourly and the moments of complete chaos and rage are much fewer and far between. I am loving watching her grow and learn. It's such a joy. Ooh! And I gave her her second haircut all

In other news, I am in complete denial that Louise is almost 1. She went from happily sedentary dumpling to crazy mobile almost toddler overnight. She crawls like the wind, stands and cruises while holding on to anything in her past. She claps and waves and signs all done and more. Her eyes speak volumes and it's rare that I don't know what she wants. I have been having such fun thinking up first birthday gifts for her. What were your favorites to your little dumplings? It's been a bit tricky seeing as we already have so much from Ainsley, but there are a few things I know she'd LOVE and I love that I'm at that point with her where I know her taste a bit. She's still as sweet and calm as ever, but she gives Ainsley a run for her money sometimes and definitely has her own voice. I love that at her 9 month check up she hadn't even started "real" crawling and a mere month later I'm looking for those fist solo steps any moment. She has a pace all her own and I'm so thankful that I've learned enough to let her take her time, do it on her own and at her own pace. I don't want to rush any of it because now I know that her sweet babyness will be gone all too soon.

I have been so emotional lately about the girls. I just so wish I could freeze time right here. Mostly because they are so sweet and perfect right now and don't want them getting any bigger. Louise still snuggles into my neck when she's sleeping or needing comfort and Ainsley FINALLY loves to cuddle just because. I think part of it is that I know it will be a while before we have another little one. We are very at capacity right now both financially and physically. I can't wait to have more someday though. Children are such a gift.

Well that's enough sap for one night. I'm a lucky happy girl. Happy Monday!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

My Lake

Our cabin is a magical place.

I remember being a little kid, coming up to the north woods with my dad and older sister to scope out a lake home all our own.

Up until then my cabin experiences had all been in northern wisconsin at my grandparents' cabin. Together with aunts, uncles, cousins, golden retrievers and grandparents we'd swim and eat and nap and romp and pick wild raspberries and ski and tube for a week over the fourth of July every summer. It was grand and traditional.

But then we had out own place. Our own home away from home. While some crave snow capped mountains or vast sandy beaches, I will always feel at home so long as there is a cool blue lake, lined with robust pines and birches, loud with loon calls and lapping waves close at hand.

What used to be a 4 hour jaunt from my childhood home is now a 10+ hour drive. We decided to do it in one fell swoop for the first time this year. While we're glad we did it, BOY it was long.

We broke up the drive with a sit down dinner of Norweigan faire and pie. Well worth the 1 hour pitspot both for our sanity and stomachs.

I always feel like a kid again when heading north. As we pass Grand Rapids I fondly remember looking for our names in the yellow brick road in front of the Judy Garland Museum with my sisters. I recall the care with which we all made out guesses for our arrival time at the lake. "10:47. I think 10:43. 10:54 if Jenny barfs like last time!"

The last 45 minutes of the drive is rightfully names the roller coaster road. If you have a penchant for car sickness watch out!

Even as you take deep breaths, stomach surging with each curve you can't help but be overwhelmed by the beauty of the north woods. Lakes at every curve, hilariously long road names, gravel roads and miles and miles of untouched wild woods and shoreline.

It gets me every time.

Now that I'm grown I'll always look back fondly on those carefree summer days as a family of 6; devouring books, s'mores and lake fun equally.

::Ian's new birthday boots::

Last summer my parents built a second cabin on their property to accommodate our every growing family. (4 sons in law and 5 grandchildren by this fall!)

I love that I am at this time of life when I can still vividly recall the magic of this place and at the same time watch my girls share in the joy of the freedom, growth and renewal that a lakeside cabin brings.

::Ainsley LOVED fishing::

::Louise wanted to crawl off the dock, over and over again::

::enjoying the new swing grammy and pop put up::

::walking the wooded path from the new cabin to the original cabin, one of my favorite places on the property::

::teeny tiny wild strawberries::

::sunporch at the original cabin::

:ingredients for my favorite dessert::

::Uncle Joey's big fish::

::canoeing with my girl::

::we even figured out how to kayak together::

::pontoon lunch::

I am so thankful for our cabin. For this place that I so love. I hope that it's magic speaks to my girls like it always has for me.