Let There Be Light

Once we move into fall, I start thinking about all the household projects that I’ve put off as a result of spending so much time outside throughout the spring and summer.  I’ve been meaning to make some changes to my kitchen for awhile.  Sometime last spring, I took the doors off some of the cabinets in the kitchen because I wanted to see what it was like to have open shelves.  I love the idea of open shelves but I wasn’t sure about how I would feel about it in practice so I decided to just remove the doors before making a more permanent switch.

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The verdict?  I love, love having easy access to everything and being able to see everything is awesome.  The one thing that I didn’t consider is that having open shelves means that everything gets more dusty than it would otherwise so as much as I love the open shelves, I am reluctantly going to switch to a glass front door because it’s almost a happy medium and honestly, if I can avoid having to clean one more thing regularly, I am going to do it.

Oh, and see the pendants in the photo above.  I really, really despise them.  Not only are they ugly, but they are hung way too low and they give off a horrible, jarring to your system kind of light.  I’ve been looking for awhile for a suitable replaceable and today, I order two new ones.  My new pendants, pictured below, are 14″ in diameter.  The ones I have now are only 4.5″ wide so we are going to have a lot more light.  Yay!

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School Days and Summer Recap

I sent my 5 year old off to kindergarten yesterday.  To my surprise, it was harder for me than it was for her.  I was fully expecting her to kick and scream all the way to her classroom door.  Instead, she smiled and waved goodbye and happily marched in through the school doors without me.  I was the one standing outside, tearing up, trying not to show how emotional I was feeling.  How did this happen?  How do I have a 5 year old?? 5.  Not a baby  or a 2 or 3 year old, but 5.  5 whole years.

The first day of school seemed to go off without incident.  Last night, when I asked Ava what she wanted for lunch the next day, she exclaimed, “What??  I have to go back to kindergarten again!”  Ahhh, yes, we haven’t quite worked out how this school thing works yet.  I am fully expecting some resistance from her as we approach the end of this week and the next one but I’ll be pleasantly surprised if it doesn’t happen.  Ultimately, she will be fine, just like the millions and millions of kids who have gone before her.

I’m now the mom of an elementary school student.  So far, I’ve signed up to volunteer in her classroom, joined the PTA and noted all upcoming important dates (field trips, celebration days, days off) in the calendar.  Check, check and check.  Most of all, I feel lucky and blessed to be able to work and to still pick her up from school each day.

We spent our summer drinking lemonade, going to the movies, sleeping in later than we should, swimming, going to the beach and exploring new to us places and spaces around the DC Metro area.  Ava and Paul did a Daddy/Daughter trip to London and Devon in the Southwest of England and we all spent a few days in Lewes enjoying the beaches along the Eastern shore and touring the Dogfish Brewery (Paul’s idea).

Now that September is here, it feels like fall to me, even though there are technically a few more weeks of summer.  I love fall and all it has to offer.  So many of our favorite family events happen in the fall…apple picking, trips to the pumpkin patch, enjoying all things pumpkin (bread, donuts, muffins).  As much as I enjoy laziness of summer, I like the structure, organization and tradition of fall.  I’ll confess I’ve already sorted the kids’ Halloween costumes and now, I’m thinking about books I want to read and the return of some of my favorite tv shows (The Good Wife and Homeland).  I’m thinking about transplanting, weeding and planting some new spring bulbs.  I’m thinking about the return of MOPs and seeing friends again old and new.

Mostly, I just feel blessed to be living a seemingly ordinary, but beautiful life.  I have learned there is a season for everything.  A season to snuggle a newborn, a season to wipe running noses, a season to move house, a season to take on a new job, a season to hold little ones close, a season to travel and to plan adventures, a season to say goodbye to loved ones. Life changes. Life moves and shifts and I’m astonished by the beauty of it all because just when you think, this is it….it couldn’t get any better…or worse!!…the season changes and time has moved on.

What I Gave Up After (Almost) 5 years of Motherhood

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-Putting myself last

-Stressing over what my kids eat or don’t eat.  You eat or you don’t, it’s your choice.  I’ll provide healthy-enough meals, but I’m no longer micro-managing what you put in your mouth

-Worrying about what my kids wear, especially my 4 year old who happens to love dressing herself.

-Going to social events that don’t really matter to me

-Saying yes to birthday party invites when we are not close to the family

-Saying yes to volunteer opportunities that don’t really matter to me

-Worrying that my kids watch too much tv.  TV is useful when I’m making dinner, making phone calls or just want some time to myself.  My kids don’t earn screen time.  I give them screen time when I need it.

-Not making my marriage enough of a priority

-Thinking I need to be productive all of the time.  No, sometimes I need to sit and do nothing.

-Thinking we can’t have guests over unless our house is super clean.

-Taking my child’s behavior personally.  It’s not about me when my child hates my food, wants me to stop singing/talking or behaves inappropriately.  It’s not about me!  Gosh, that’s freeing!

Spring Container – The Return of Color

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First signs of spring and I’m eager for the return of color.  A quick trip to the garden center and all is right with the world.

Plant list for this container:

1 – Wallflower ‘Poem Lilac

1- English Daisy ‘Bellissima Red’

2 – Alyssum (2 plants out of a 6 – pack)

1- Creeping Jenny

2 – Pansy ‘Matrix Lemon’

 

A Taco Tuesday approach to Meal Planning

Meal planning and grocery shopping are two of my biggest household challenges.  I often start the day wondering and worrying about what we are going to eat for dinner at the end of the day. And despite a lot of wasted energy spent worrying, I still throw a lot of meals together at the last minute.

Like all moms I know, I want to prepare healthy meals for my kids, but I don’t want to be overwhelmed with complicated recipes or hard-to-find ingredients.  In Simplicity Parenting, Kim John Payne suggests doing a day of week meal plan.  For example, Monday night pasta, Tuesday night chicken and so on.

This is not a new concept to me, but I’ve been resistant to have this kind of structure before because it just sounds so boring.  I like trying new recipes and changing things up, but the problem is I’m not doing that. In fact, I’m really struggling with any kind of consistency when it comes to meal planning and to be honest, sometimes I just give up and give everyone cereal or frozen chicken nuggets for dinner.

Simplicity and predictability aside, I’m willing to give this practice a whirl because it is said to be “deeply grounding and affirming for kids”. Routines and rhythms go a long way toward making kids feel safe, secure and happy, which makes sense to me.  When it comes to food, who doesn’t recall getting really excited at school for Taco Tuesdays or Pizza on Fridays?

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I’m trying to put together a weekly calendar together and so far I have the following as an outline:

Sunday:  Roast or Soup/Stew/Chili

Monday:  Meatless or Slow Cooker

Tuesday: Chicken or Stir Fry

Wednesday: Pasta/Italian or Leftovers

Thursday: International (Mexican, Greek, Thai, Chinese, etc)

Friday: Pizza

Saturday: Grill or Fish

I’ve tried to consider our schedule and what we like to eat so that the plan is realistic and I don’t feel overwhelmed.  I’m typically not home until after bedtime on Monday and Wednesday evenings so it’s important those days are especially simple.  I’m going to spend the rest of this week getting organized and grocery shopping and I’ll start from Sunday.

If anyone has a similar approach to meal planning, I’d love to hear your tips.  I’m trying this approach for a month and I’ll see how I feel and most importantly, how the kids respond at the end. Wish me luck!

 

8 Books for Creating Family Traditions & Nurturing Connections

As a mom with 3 kids under 5, I feel like I’ve been in survival mode for so long. Just recently, within the last few months or so, life has started to feel a little bit easier.  It’s not easy by any means — I mean, 2 of my kids still get upset when I “leave” them to shower and cope with the trauma by pressing their faces up against the glass shower door, waiting for me to finish — but even still, somehow it feels like things have eased.  At first, I thought that it was because the kids were getting older and therefore, easier (Right? Because older = easier??!!) and as much as I’d like to give my kids credit for the change  truthfully, I think the major reason I’m feeling calmer, more relaxed and more joyful is because I have consciously been making the choice to show up, re-act and respond differently.

I did not want feeling rushed, exhausted or overwhelmed to be the norm.  I wanted more calm and less chaos or at least, more calm within the chaos. I wanted to slow down, laugh more and have more fun with the kids.  I have been craving simplicity and connection so I’ve been reading about rhythms, rituals, traditions and harmony in family life and although I haven’t overhauled our family life or implemented everything I’ve read, I’ve started to make some small, simple changes.  Baby steps, people.

I wanted to share some of my favorite finds for creating family traditions, nurturing connections and slowing down:

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1. The Joy of Family Traditions: A Season-by-Season Companion to Celebrations, Holidays, and Special Occasions –  This book is organized by seasons and is filled with ideas for family traditions, holidays and milestone celebrations. What I really like about this book is the way it explains the history of many holidays and cultural traditions in a concise way.

2. Simplicity Parenting: Using the Extraordinary Power of Less to Raise Calmer, Happier and More Secure Kids – A wonderful resource filled with ideas on how to reduce clutter, create a calm and loving environment with routines that honor your children’s natural rhythms and how to get over urge to over-schedule kids with tons of extra activities.

3. The Creative Family – This is a feel good book filled beautiful photographs.  Lots of ideas for encouraging creativity, expressing gratitude and cultivating a love for nature.

4. Slow Family Living:  75 Simple Ways to Slow Down, Connect, and Create More Joy – Simple ideas and reminders to leave the mess, go outside, break the rules and bring more fun and joy to family life.

5. How to Bury a Goldfish – A little gem of a book with lots of ideas for everyday as well as unique situations such as waiting for a new baby, when a friend moves away, when someone dies, welcoming a step-child, first time at sleep away camp.

6. Nurturing the Soul of Your Family: 10 Ways to Reconnect and Find Peace in Everyday Life – Learn to create a stress-free and satisfying family life in alignment with your highest values and priorities

7. The Book of New Family Traditions – I have the first edition of this book, Meg’s Cox’s revised addition is even better than the original.  Of course, there are lots of ideas for celebrating holidays, but what I love about this book is how many of the ideas are for everyday events such as dinner rituals, chore rituals, bedtime routines.

8. The Family Dinner: Great Way to Connect with Your Kids, One Meal at a Time – Family Recipes and Recipes for Kids, conversation starters, cooking with kids, setting the table, gardening and composting.  It’s really a beautiful book.  I could read it over and over again.

5 new garden projects for our kids

We are dreaming and scheming about all of the garden projects that we want to do this year.  We’ve had a couple of nice days recently and I’ve been out in the garden looking for signs of life.  Bulbs are starting to emerge, buds are on the trees and I am anticipating a very different landscape in about 2-3 weeks time.

I like giving the kids a garden (both edible and non-edible) area of their own.  I plant strawberries in hanging baskets by their playhouse that they are welcome to pick and eat anytime.  Last year, we also planted two blueberry bushes (my son’s favorite fruit) that the kids love.  I was dreaming of weekends with blueberry pancakes but the yield so far has been small, mostly because the birds love our blueberries, too and they pick them faster then we do!

1. Creating a cottage garden.  The kids have a small garden bed, which is about 5 ft wide by 10 ft long. For two years, we planted a sunflower garden with moderate success.  The strong summer rain and wind took it’s toll on the sunflowers and the birds and squirrels also really love them, too.  This year, I want to switch it up and create a cottage garden instead.  Something that Beatrix Potter would have loved.  Think old fashioned flowers like foxgloves, phlox, salvia, cosmos.  We’ll also use an obelisk to grow some kind of a climber, maybe clematis or honeysuckle.

2. Growing a pizza garden. We have a Friday night homemade pizza tradition.  I thought it would be fun to grow our own stuff for our pizzas.  Basil and tomatoes, for sure. Probably onion and green pepper, too

3. Planting a lemon tree. Supposedly in our garden zone, we should be able to grow a Meyer lemon tree as a patio tree.  Let’s do it.  Why not?  Lemons are happy and fun and who doesn’t love lemonade.

4. Creating a mud kitchen/flower shop. I love being able to have cut flowers from the garden in the house and I’d love to create a area for Ava to create her own arrangements.  It will be a challenge to convince my husband that this is a good idea.  He is worried the kids will destroy all the flowers!  My son loves mud/dirt so a place to make mud pies would also be fun.  I’m think about low table/chairs or maybe a couple of crates.  A few old pie tins.  A peg board with some hooks for utensils.  I’ll start looking for most of this stuff at the thrift store in the next few weeks.

5. Hopscotch garden pavers.  Pavers are a few dollars each at places like Home Depot.  We’ll paint them, put numbers on them and set them up in the backyard.

Stay tuned, I’ll post pictures of our progress.

January Update

Hello again,

It’s me, Patti.  I’m still here although getting to this blog to write is proving to be more and more of a challenge.  Our lives are feeling busier than ever. I like writing brain dump type posts because it’s a quick way to hit on a broad range of topics when I don’t have a lot of time to write.

1. Yoga Teaching.  My life has been yoga, yoga and more yoga since I started teaching last month.  I took 26 classes in January and taught 18 classes.  In February, I picked up two extra classes so now I’m teaching five times a week.   It’s been an amazing journey so far and it’s only just started.

2. 2 year olds.  I have one that I might be willing to sell for a great price.  Ava was an easy-breezy 2 year old.  Oliver is…ahhh…not the same.  He may or may not have chucked a sucker at a lady’s head while Ava was at swimming lessons today.  I keep telling myself that with consistency a lot of this will pass but it’s so hard to see the clearing when you are standing in the middle of a forest.

3.  My house.  My house is spinning on its axis.  It has taken a beating this winter.  Drywall needs to be patched in places from trucks being rammed into the walls.  I feel like every room that the kids are regularly in needs to be repainted. Oliver has removed at least half of the door stoppers in our house. I’m dying, DYING for warmer weather so my kids can get outside and stop beating the crap out of our house.

4. I’m craving heart-felt conversations with close family and friends.  I’m craving home-cooked meals.  I’m craving time outside in nature.  I’m craving time to do something creative.

5. I’m on the mission to move from a place stress and chaos to more joyful, fulfilling and peaceful days.  Less arguments over how many “bites” at dinner and more connection.  Less “hurry up – we’re already late” mornings and more relaxed more routines.

Alas, I have more to share, but my time is up.  I’ll be back again with more.

 

 

 

Cheers 2013, hello 2014!

It’s hard to believe we are on the eve of the last night of 2013.  Where did this year go? Really, I have no idea.  No big parties for us tonight.  I’ve been in my pajamas since 7pm, the kids are all tucked up in bed although I can still hear my oldest is still bumbling around in her room, resisting sleep.  In a little while, we’ll open a bottle of champagne, watch a movie and I probably fall asleep before it finishes with one of our dogs on my lap.

My role as mom to Ava, Oliver and Colette continues to be the most prominent (and time consuming) in my day to day life. In 2014, my children will turn 5 in July, 3 in May and 2 in August.  They are all so little and yet it seems they are growing up so fast.  I really don’t have a “baby” anymore as Colette, at 16 months old, is really a toddler now.  The challenges of life with 3 little ones felt overwhelming at times this year.  Trips to the supermarket have felt like Olympic endeavors and on especially challenging days, I’ve felt like running away and moving to some remote Caribbean island where no one asks or needs anything from me.  I’ve lifted more kids in and out of car seats, changed more diapers and done more loads of laundry than I could possibly count.

Motherhood is a hard job, but it’s a great job, too and I am very thankful for my children.  On the flip side, holidays are more fun, days are never boring and sometimes the sweetest and simplest gesture from one of the kids can really brighten my day.

Marriage with young children is not for the faint of heart either.  Free time can be hard to come by since there is always a chore to be done, a child’s need to be met. Conversations without interruption are a rarity, too.  It’s endless, really– like never-ending to-do list –but I am so thankful for my husband who makes simple, boring everyday stuff fun.  I wouldn’t want to do this with anyone else.

Yoga has been a big part of my life in 2013, too.  I am not sure I could do this motherhood thing without it.  It’s my re-set button.  My sanity savor. I am thankful for my husband for supporting my yoga habit.  171 studio practices this year (yes, I counted!) + 9 whole weekends of yoga while I attended teacher training from February to September.  That’s a whole lot of yoga.

On Saturday, I begin my first day as yoga teacher at Down Dog Yoga, the studio where I did my training.  I’ll be teaching 3 classes a week on Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays.  I’m so excited to move into this role and to continue on this journey.  I’ve been feeling the pull for some time to re-adjust the balance between my role as mom and my personal and professional interests so this feels like the right thing at the right time.

Whenever you are, whatever you are doing to ring in the new year.  I wish you love, peace and happiness in 2014!

 

New Ornament Tradition

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The entire time Paul and I were living in London, we never spent one Christmas at home.  When we moved back to the US, the only Christmas decorations we had were a handful of ornaments.  I always wanted to have a very festive house at Christmas but when you start with almost nothing, it takes a bit of time and effort to built a collection.

One way of building our collection of ornaments is to give the kids one ornament  each year.   The ornament is personal to them or reflective of something that has happened during the year.  I wrap the ornaments, give them to the kids sometime in the month of December and they get to help put them on the tree. Given that we are half way through November, I have been busy deciding what to choose for each of them.

When my children become adults, my intention is that they can keep their collection of 18 or so ornament for when they have a tree of their own.  This is going to be our fifth Christmas as parents and I have already learned that I need to keep a list of which ornaments I gave them and when because I am already getting confused!