October 14, 2014

Details C10.01

after lunch free play fall dresser work and warm breezes groggy mornings dusty mantle sunday lunch at her perch working piles (his, her's, and mine) family fun daily collections

I've been thinking a lot about balance, an enviable state that I never seem to be any good at reaching. We've been pushing any semblance of balance in our household to its absolute limit. It seems there's much to say about being a stay-at-home parent, a work-at-home parent, a parent who chooses to identify as stay-at-home (for a whole variety of reasons; personal, practical, political), but does also do outside work. However seeing as we are passing by 2AM, and I will likely get my first wake-up call in a mere three hours, for now I will just say that I feel like I have the best, and the worst, of both worlds. 

James and I are scrambling equally to stay on top of everything, juggle the basic household chores, and take good care of the babes... and we do talk about balance.It sounds good, but I'm not even certain it's something we are striving for right now. Maybe not all phases of life are supposed to feel balanced. Maybe there are years, or decades, that swing to one extreme before ultimately correcting. 

I was feeling really low last week, and a colleague, who also has two small children, took me aside to ask how I was able to look and sound so pulled together when he was tearing his hair out. It was such a shock, and a much needed sprinkle of flattery. It's amazing how critical we can be of ourselves, and also how much impact a few generous words can have. 

We are working more deliberately in our own family these days, to be kind to ourselves and one another. Pushing our limits might be worthwhile, but it does also mean cutting a good bit of slack in all directions. 

Thanks so much to those of you who continue to visit me here, share in a few words and pictures, and offer so much encouragement, advice, and support in the comments here and via email. And with that, good night!

October 10, 2014

52 Pick-Up and Smiles

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When I'm sifting through pictures of my kids and selecting which ones to pull out, I often find that I pick ones where they aren't smiling. Does anyone else do this? I actually have to force myself to put smiling shots in this series so that we won't look back and think everyone was depressed all the time... so just for fun (and because I want to remember the way that Roo's snaggle tooth smile looks right now forever and ever), here's the 'B-side'.


Little Smith has really not been a fan of photos lately, so I take what I can get. Babies, on the other hand, are all too ready to play peek-a-boo with the camera...


I wonder if she would mind if I started making little wishes for that other front tooth to never grow in... I mean honestly, I've never seen a baby just with one front tooth missing and all the others filling in around it, and it's just the cutest thing in history. Little Smith was toothless until 15 months, so I guess some oddities with teething are just in the genes.

... and now for a little catch up...

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This is an iPhone picture, but I love that it reminds me so much of our summer. It's taken outside of the original Hasty Pudding building in Harvard Square. We've been having waves of lingering warm weather and spent a couple weekends in a row scooting and biking around Harvard and the Charles River, enjoying street musicians and eating outside. The kids have both just about outgrown their sandals, but I keep squeezing them on for yet another last hurrah, it's so hard to say goodbye. 

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(*full disclosure, that last picture of Smith on the 'wheely cow' is from months ago. as i said, he's not been much for pictures lately- and without his hair, you can't reeealy tell!)

Lately he: has been full of opinions and testing my boundaries. After a smooth start to school this year, he's been reconsidering and saying he doesn't want to go daily:

little smith: I'm not going to school anymore, I'm going to stay here with you and Woo-by.

me: You have to go to school, and all of your friends would miss you if you didn't show up.

little smith: I'm going to close school. All of my friends will stay home too. And my teachers will stay home too. No one will go to school ever again, because I am closing school.

me: That's silly, and you'd be bored just hanging around with Roo and I every day.

little smith: I wouldn't get bored. We'd take walks.

The kid makes a good argument! I definitely miss the summer days when it was just the three of us, fitting in adventures between errands. Sometimes it is so difficult as a parent to stick to your guns and do what you think is right in the big picture. 

Lately she: is such a tough little girl. It's funny because in some way the gender stereotypes have really held up so far with these kids; he is into trains and cars and rocket ships, she already rocks her baby dolls and tries to feed them bottles... but on the other hand, she is such a bruiser compared to her big brother. He was always very good a gauging his body in space and managing his risks. He never toddled into things and always stopped to evaluate edges or steps. She will bang right into a table and keep running off the end of a ledge... it's slightly terrifying.

Her favorite game right now is taking her head and slamming it into mine so hard that it actually hurts me and leaves her with a mark, then smiling and say, 'OWWW'. If she doesn't get her way, she hits. She will wack her brother with a block for no particular reason. We are working on 'gentle touches', but she is so little that it's sort of challenging to discipline. This babe is going to be quite a force, watch out!

October 6, 2014

Quiet


I've been caught in a holding pattern of falling short for the better part of a year. It's frustrating, confusing, exhausting... surely my plate is no fuller than most, but I just can't seem to empty it. I wonder how other people manage; if I am lazy, or terribly inefficient, or just unskilled. Ultimately I know that's all too harsh, more likely I'm just tired (and maybe that does make me a little more lazy, inefficient, and unskilled than I could be). 

I have learned that fretting over what I haven't accomplished does little to push me forward, so I'm just drawing deep breaths, constantly adjusting my lists and expectations, and taking it one sleepless night at a time. 

I do hope to journal here more frequently (like the good old days!), but for now I am choosing sleep... Sleep, as I have mentioned countless times, does not come easily for me. Baby Roo seems to have inherited my wakefulness... and so while her older brother naps his afternoon away, I try to enforce a quiet time for her. 'Quiet time' for a 14 month old? Yeah, it's going about as smoothly as you might imagine ;)

September 27, 2014

Family of Four


For months after we brought home our second baby, I couldn't actually grasp the idea that we had kids. Not just one child, which somehow seemed like a single, manageable, and isolated leap of faith, but now a group, a unit, two whole human beings relying on us for their every need. If having our first kid before most of our friends joined the parent club felt bold, going for the second in a peer group of reticent procreators seemed outright nostalgic. I self consciously imagined that I was being judged in the way a new convert to some opposing political party, religion, or exercise regime might be... as though having multiple children was a lifestyle choice that now radically reframed the character of our family. 


The practical reality was that having another baby didn't change our day to day rhythm much. James and I were the same people (if maybe a bit more tired and irritable), Little Smith was the same character, and we were all lucky enough to have this new drooling baby ball of sunshine, along for the ride. 

And for the better part of her first year, that is exactly how our Roo rolled. She napped when and where she could, bounced on my knee through her brother's classes and marathon potty training sessions, eventually crawled around on the floor at his doctor's appointments and preschool drop-offs... she was just there, wherever we needed her to be, and asking little more than an interrupted sleep cycle in exchange for her good nature. 


Of course babies do grow. I had done this part before, and so I embraced each of the bittersweet milestones that marks a first year of life. And with each one came an adjustment; eating real food, crawling, walking, talking, demanding, discovering that she may be sweet, but she ain't no pushover... our little girl gracefully, yet forcefully, carved out more and more space in this family, until one day I looked around and realized how much our second child had truly changed everything. 


It turns out that parenting these kids is indeed a lifestyle choice, one that I realize is common and expected in many crowds, and hardly warrants this degree of reflection. However conventional, these changes in our family do feel profound, and the shift from single child to two has been both gradual and substantial. Our current reality includes far more teamwork, communication, compromise, often sacrifice, and always love. The shape and structure of our challenges and blessings will look completely different in another year, and again in another decade, but there is comfort in knowing that we're on this ride together. It's clear that we were somehow meant to test and learn from one another, and I imagine we all feel ridiculously lucky (and occasionally cursed!) to be part of this family of four.

*these pictures are all from apple picking last week-end. i'm convinced that it's impossible not to have a good time while picking tasty treats. note to myself that there's a couple additional shots from this day here, and if you'd like to see our family pick throughout the ages, check out this, this, this, oh and this... i haven't even shared blueberry picking from this year yet, as i'm waiting to test out our jam (get excited!). we are just a bunch of pickers ;) 

September 22, 2014

Cut and Dry


My mom recently surprised me with a food dehydrator. I've been wanting one for ages and have been so excited to get it humming and drying. Hey, we all have our own definition of a good time... this is a regular ol' party for me. 

After years of canning, I was ready for some way of preserving food from the garden that did not involve juggling two kids and a ginormous cauldron of boiling water for days on end. Of course we did do some canning (it wouldn't be summer without jam and pickles!), but I just can't deal with those marathon sauce fests in the same way I did before kids. So I am beside myself to have this option to turn all those extra tomatoes into sundried lovelies with almost no effort. All I had to do was cut, place on the rack, and let the machine whir away. My first batch did take a long time (something like ten hours), but it doesn't draw much electricity and is very low heat, so it wasn't a bother. 

Now that we have some tomatoes under our belt, I am searching for other ideas. I've seen a few recipes for fruit roll ups, heard that sweet potato chips are delicious, and even got an instagram recommendation for marinated tofu (sounds tasty!). If there are any dehydrator buffs out there, I'd love to benefit from your knowledge. 

Oh the possibilities!

September 21, 2014

36/52 + 37/52

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Last week he: started getting all excited for fall, especially for his new flannel shirt / impressed his speech teacher with how much he improved over the summer, so so proud of him / told me he wanted to comb his hair before school so that it was nice and fat (fat? yes, he assured me that's what he means. who knows!) / proclaimed that when he grows up he is going to be a train conductor, but sometimes he is going to be a pumpkin.

Last week she: started (mostly) napping in her crib in the same room with her brother. it's part of a sleep reform we are attempting... and she isn't happy about it, but she's doing pretty well / gave lots of snuggles and hugs, she leans in with her head and it just makes you want to melt / screamed like crazy whenever she didn't get her way. she just keeps getting more stubborn and feisty, I am holding my breath for when this toddlerhood really takes off. 

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This week he: got a clock that glows green when he is allowed to wake up (at 6AM). He anxiously awaits its glow each morning / learned to eat popcorn in this very elegant manner from his school friend, Henry. Cracks him up every time (although he has been showing me at home with cherry tomatoes in lieu of popcorn) / loved eating at Daedalus on the roof deck and calling all the sparrows / had some trouble listening, he's getting a little wild these days- well, wild for him at least / picked and ate a boatload of apples, totally worth the bellyache.

This week she: loved listening to live music in Harvard Square and started dancing / found herself a box of black licorice (prized in this house) and stuffed as much as possible in her mouth before she was found out / ate everything she could get her hands on in the garden; green tomatoes, leaves, sunflower seeds... I couldn't keep up / loved playing dress up with her big brother's boots or her mama's sweater, she is just delighted with herself and it's crazy sweet.

September 17, 2014

Camping With Kids: Tips From Our Season


With overnight temperatures threatening a frost, I think it's safe to call our camping season finished for 2014. We worked to fit in a good number of camping trips this summer, and I can't say enough about how great these excursions have been for our family. I don't know another way that our troupe of four could have traveled, explored the outdoors, filled our bellies with good food fireside, and just relaxed together on an incredibly tight budget. James and I have both always loved sleeping under the stars, and it brings me such  joy to hear our son now get excited whenever we start to assemble our gear. He's caught the bug, and we're crossing our fingers that baby Roo follows suit. 


I hope that we will continue to push ourselves to be more adventurous in the coming years, but for now, we stick with the ease and convenience of car camping (meaning we can drive pretty close to our campsite rather than hiking in).  We aren't experts, but after a bunch of camping with babies/ toddlers/ kids, I wanted to share some tips on what has worked well for us so far. I'd love to hear what has worked for you too, we're always eager to improve!

  • Invest In Good Equipment: You are going to end up saving money by choosing to camp in the long run, so when it comes to buying key items (like a tent!) do not scrimp. Those ginormous tents that are under a hundred dollars are seductive, but they won't last for years, probably won't keep you all dry in a rain storm, and are a huge pain to set up and take down. You can't put a price on staying dry and warm, so we splurged on the tent, sleeping bags, rain gear, thermals, etc. for our whole family. A few of our favorites are listed here
  • Let Go: You're outside, so it just makes sense to let a whole lot slide. Sticks and leaves are going to get eaten, bumps and bruises might happen, and there will be mud. Mud on everything. Even that pricey gear that you just splurged on... but that is the whole point- right?
  • Plan and Prep: Yes it is important to 'let go' and improvise, but at least for us, being prepared makes for a much less stressful trip. It's just so easy to forget something critical. Have a master list of what you want to bring, and leave your gear organized and packed between trips. We have a crate full of lanterns and safety items, a crate full of cooking supplies, etc. all ready to load in the car without much thought. This means you won't be roaming around, hitting up the camping neighbors for matches or a can opener at 6AM.
  • High Chair: All I can say is, if you have a baby or toddler, bring a high chair! This might seem like an unnecessary extravagance, but having a spot where you can keep a wild crawler or toddler safe and secure while you set up camp, prepare meals, etc... it is the key to success. This year we brought this inexpensive Ikea chair and is was a-mazing. Previously we used this model, also good but you pretty much have to keep it anchored to the picnic table, so no fireside meals for baby. 
  • Fire Safety: The biggest hazard on the campsite for a toddler is probably the firepit. We found that drawing a few rings or 'warning lines' in the dirt around the fire helped communicate the idea of the boundary. Little Smith really understood that he couldn't cross those lines at about 18 months, you can see it in practice here.
  • Projects and Snacks: When a chaotic moment arises, it's helpful to have a few projects planned for the kids. We like to bring a box for collecting leaves and bugs for Little Smith, along with some guide books that include pictures of animals. Chores are also a great project for children; filling water bottles, drying and packing away dishes, and collecting kindling are some of our favorite three-year-old jobs. For the baby or toddler, snacks seem to be key, so have them at the ready. Nothing will buy you time to get a few things done like a bowl of berries or a box of raisins. 
  • Strategize: Who is going to set up the tent? Who will organize all the sleeping pads and bags and pillows, who is going to cook dinner and who will tend the fire and occupy the kids? All these questions can obviously be handled on the fly, but we found that we settled into a rhythm after a few trips this season. Once we established our own 'jobs' on the campsite, everything went waaay more smoothly and we had more time for relaxation and fun (and just maybe a little less bickering... ahem).
    • Sleeping Comforts: This is where we run the risk of sounding like we are 'glamping'... it's a little indulgent, but a battery operated sound machine has done wonders for our shared tent slumber. It just creates enough noise for us adults to chill by the fire and zip and unzip the tent without waking the kids... plus you feel like you are sleeping next to a babbling brook (really weird when you actually are sleeping next to a quieter real-life babbling brook... sorry to our neighboring campers!). I also like to bring lavender oil along with favorite stuffed animals to encourage as much sleep as we can get.
    • Camp Near the Fun: Getting in the car is such a hassle, it makes a huge difference to have activities that are walkable from your campsite; a beach, a hike, a waterfall... the more you can fill your day without buckling up, the better.

    There is no doubt that camping with children is a lot of work. I do remember one moment this summer when James just looked at me through heavy eyes and said, 'It's a lot'... and I couldn't disagree. But it can also be incredibly relaxing, letting the kids wear themselves out exploring nature,  then tucking them into bed, and enjoying a beer by the fire... these are my favorite memories from our summer. I can't wait to make more in 2015!