Montessori-Inspired

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Oliver loves his school so much, he leaps out of bed in the morning to announce emphatically what lesson he hopes to get. When I pick him up in the carpool line at school at 3:30, he is so talkative and excited to tell me about what he accomplished, it’s often a (hilarious) struggle just to get a word in edgewise — and the words are often, “Oliver, I can’t wait to hear all about it, but you need to sit down and get buckled so we can move forward for the next person!”

Enthusiastic about Montessori would be the understatement of the year. I’m pretty sure this kid could be the Montessori spokesperson if anyone asked him. And it’s not just school in general. I think something has clicked with Oliver here — he was born for this type of education. I think he feels at home there in a way that is hard to explain.

The other day, Oliver asked me (quite accusingly, actually) “Mama, why don’t you ever let me wash the floors?” To which I replied, after almost spitting out my coffee, “I just never thought of it, Oliver! That’s a great idea!”

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Our floors are often in need of washing because though I do sweep and vacuum a lot, I am not quick to mop. We used an eco-friendly general floor cleaner safe for wood (and little boys), a mixing bowl with warm water, and a cotton cloth (plus two towels for Oliver’s knees of course).

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And though I have no idea how they teach the lesson at school, Oliver claims that his favorite “job” at school is table washing, followed by table drying. Similar tasks, I gather, that represent something useful to him right now.

It all got me wondering, why do we often view around-the-house tasks as mundane adult chores when they are often really interesting and important to our little ones? Maybe it’s the Cinderella complex? The thought that our precious littles should never be expected to scrub on hands and knees? But what fun! There is water, there are bubbles! They are contributing and learning and working, and according to Oliver, it’s “awesome.”

DSC_0047DSC_0054Happy Thursday. Our floors are clean.

Dress That Mama

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While in Chicago last weekend, I was really inspired by the fantastic style of the local ladies. They were, for the most part, pretty bundled up, but even so, they were magnificently put together. There was a lot of black paired with patterned sweaters and layers and great jewelry. This necklace, made by Mary (the owner of Tusk), caught my eye before I even walked through the door. I have a thing for lightening bolts (perhaps channeling Zeus? or Thor?), and it reminded me of exactly that. Sometimes an outfit needs a little jolt, you know?

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I think pairing whiskey colored leather boots softens an all-black outfit.

Have a wonderful Wednesday!

Chicago, Part II

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On our second (and last) day in Chicago, after spending the morning in Logan Square, Elisha and I headed over to what quickly became our favorite neighborhood — Andersonville. We were kicking ourselves for not allowing enough time to hang out in this diverse, quirky area — we missed the Swedish Bakery (though we did walk past and it smelled amazing!) but we did take note of the lovely lack of chain stores and restaurants. So refreshing! The number of local establishments definitely adds to the charm.

Among them, Woolly Mammoth — a noteworthy antique and oddity store packed to the brim with awesomeness: taxidermy, anatomical models and art, skulls, bones, specimens, and all kinds of natural history items. Obviously, I was in my element.

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We met and chatted with Adam, the quick-witted and outgoing owner of this fantastic place. He told us about the taxidermy classes they hold in the store!  He was so warm and welcoming, like everyone we met in Chicago. People have a serious pride and love for their city. DSC_0135DSC_0138DSC_0140DSC_0141DSC_0142

Elisha and I both found some great things to bring home — she found an amazing old chemistry set; I found a few natural history items for the kids and a wonderful old set of binoculars with a leather strap (that Milo has been spying on our neighbors with already). Good stuff.

We also checked out a few stores in the area and then headed to dinner a bit early at Vincent on West Balmoral Avenue. It was beautiful and the food was delicious!DSC_0148DSC_0146DSC_0154DSC_0150

And that was our last night in Chicago! After staying up late drinking whiskey and chatting for hours on the floor of our hotel room, we deemed the trip a huge success. We caught the train the next morning just as wet snow started to fall. I’d say we dodged a bullet with the weather for sure! Definitely planning to come back in the summer.

And… just as an afterthought, I returned tired but happy to a clean house full of little boys and a freaking amazing husband who had done all the laundry and had already started dinner. Plus, the boys had stories about the outdoor adventures he took them on the day before:

IMG_0700IMG_0705IMG_0709IMG_0712IMG_0715IMG_0718 When I said to Andrew, “You didn’t have to clean and do all the laundry! You should have left it for me!” he replied, “What’s the point in going out of town if you just come home and feel behind?” How did I get so lucky? Thanks to JJ, Elisha’s husband, who set up the whole trip for us, and to Elisha for inviting me, and to Andrew for taking care of everything (and much much more) so I could get away for a few days!

Chicago, Part I

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Bean1Bean2

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I’m back! I had the best weekend in Chicago with my hilarious friend Elisha — we lucked out with mild/cool weather (none of the eye-watering, cheek-stinging wind I had been slightly wary of) and instead found ourselves navigating the el and buses and walking around the city feeling mighty fine! After a 5-hour Amtrak ride from St. Louis, we were famished when we arrived, so we headed straight over to Big Star for the best tacos of my entire life (being hungry had something to do with their deliciousness, but they were damn good). DSC_0007DSC_0008DSC_0010

Of all the tacos we ordered, the taco de papas con rajas was my favorite (and vegetarian!). Elisha highly recommended the taco de panza. It was all delicious — just be warned, we were there at around 2pm on a Friday and it was still (or already?) packed. Here’s the menu if you’d like to drool on your keyboard right now.

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 Big Star: 1531 N Damen, 773.235-403

After we were fully functioning human beings again (did I mention how hungry we were?), we went shopping in Wicker Park, which had some really great stores. I’m so glad we skipped the “Magnificent Mile” and came here instead. Much more up our alley (though I didn’t take any pictures of the Wicker Park shopping district, I do recommend it).

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Though we didn’t do much of the touristy stuff this time around, we did make a point to visit Millennium Park, where we took a zillion pictures of the “Bean” and enjoyed the views of the skyline and architecture before walking right past the ice skaters for a cup of coffee. DSC_0054DSC_0051

One of the highlights of our trip was riding the el to Logan Square for breakfast Saturday morning at Lula Cafe. It was amazing!!!

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Lula Cafe: 2537 N. Kedzie Blvd., 773.489.9554

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Apparently the pastry chef there is a genius — she made the above bittersweet chocolate banana turnover that Elisha and I regretted not buying 5 more of — the crust was flaky, the filling the perfect balance, not too sweet, just right. And below, red lentils with squash, toped with a poached egg for breakfast? Yes please. DSC_0029DSC_0032And an important note: we got there exactly 17 minutes after Lula Cafe opened and barely got a table — it’s amazing and worth the wait! After eating, we went right next door to City Lit Books, a great local bookstore, where a lovely man was just starting story hour for the local kiddies, playing his guitar and singing gently about his love for good books. It was so heartwarming to see kids flowing in through the front door with their parents to enjoy the morning there.

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Also while in Logan Square, we walked a few blocks down to Tusk, where we chatted with the amazingly talented and friendly owner, Mary, who has curated a beautiful collection of clothing and makes much of the jewelry she sells there (both Elisha and I bought really awesome necklaces). Mary also has great vintage pieces which she sells for really reasonable prices. We were so smitten with her!

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Tusk: 3205 W. Armitage Ave. (at Kedzie), 423.903.7093

Just be sure to check the hours – in Mary’s words, “I’m really not a morning person.”

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We just had the best time and were so impressed with the people we met — we wanted to be friends with each and every one and bring them all back to St. Louis with us!

Be sure to check back tomorrow for pictures from the rest of our trip! Hope you had a fantastic and fun weekend!

Reading…

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I’m thoroughly enjoying Mary Roach’s most recent book, Packing for Mars. I am a huge fan of her quirky, humorous take on science writing — she makes everything more interesting and at times, just downright hilarious. This one is about space exploration and the bizarre things that happen to human beings who have made the amazing adventure. One interesting fact: did you know that on top of all the crazy qualifications to becoming an astronaut, among them are personal traits that you may have no control over? For example, if you snore or have bad breath, you will not qualify for space travel. Which makes sense — think of the close quarters with which they must share their lives for months on end — bad breath would be enough to literally drive your partner crazy.

Among other explorations in the book — the effects of isolation and inactivity, the tricky problem of waste elimination (poop, people), and what to do if you vomit in your helmet while on a spacewalk? I can hardly put this book down.

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The next book is a recommendation from Milo and Oliver: Greek Myths for Young Children, by Marcia Williams. Although, I will venture to say that no Greek Myths are really for young children — those stories are so brutal! Consider yourself warned: there’s plenty of death and jealousy, suicide and vanity, and just all things intense. But that’s probably why Milo and Oliver love this book. It’s presented in comic book form, with strips of action to follow along with the storyline. DSC_0012DSC_0014DSC_0001DSC_0003Oliver has been intently studying every page, every day for the past two weeks. When I told him it was due at the library soon, he openly cried. So, of course, I renewed it. We may have to buy this one!

Dress That Mama

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Oh, drat. You know that New Year’s resolution to add a bit more interest to my wardrobe? Well, yeah. That hasn’t really happened yet. In fact, if I’m being completely honest here, lately I’ve been dressing more and more like a guy — relaxed jeans, denim shirt, gray men’s scarf, and lace-up flat boots. This has been my January uniform.

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Some days I feel most comfortable blending into the background— disappearing into a nameless, genderless, quiet being reading pop science in the corner of the coffee shop. Isn’t that what it comes to during the winter months?

Have a quiet, relaxing Wednesday.

Weekend Shenanigans

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Saturday morning started with one thing going wrong after another. I awoke in a foul mood and no matter how I tried to shake it, the little things kept building and building — Emil disappearing to make messes upstairs instead of getting dressed, coming downstairs with a t-shirt and completely naked otherwise while Oliver and Milo wrestled and squealed near the front door, seemingly deaf to my polite requests to get out the front door. The dog threw up on the floor while I packed apple slices and yogurt and cold pizza into the lunch bag and Emil returned downstairs with a t-shirt and one sock on, completely naked otherwise. Coffee helped, but the entire cup of hot chocolate dropped right outside the door onto the sidewalk did not. Nearly running out of gas and hoping we were heading in the right direction, hoping not to be stranded on the side of a country road at 8:30am with Andrew out of town while Oliver whined about how he wanted to go to the playground, not to the nature reserve… none of that helped.

But 40 minutes later, fresh cool air and warm sunshine, fields of golden grass and ponds of shining ice surrounded us and the entire morning took a pleasant turn for the better. Like magic.

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We were the first people there, racing across fields to the iced-over pond, ice-skating on a puddle and trying to break the pond ice with larger and larger stones thrown high into the air across the pond. The sun grew warmer and warmer until we no longer had to continue moving to keep warm. DSC_0044DSC_0061DSC_0063DSC_0065DSC_0069DSC_0074DSC_0080DSC_0082

We wandered and explored for hours, bird-watching and crossing logs and climbing, running, jumping, and building. DSC_0084DSC_0100DSC_0103DSC_0108DSC_0110DSC_0114DSC_0141DSC_0152DSC_0157DSC_0164DSC_0166DSC_0170DSC_0188DSC_0172

We met a wild turkey and collected feathers. We ate snacks and headed back down to the ice, and I found a seat on a sun-warmed stone near the boys when they found their task: making an “ice factory” by breaking up the thick chunks of ice with a long strong stick, passing the chunk to the next brother by sliding it across the icy pond, then passing it on the the brother closest to shore, who would pick up the ice and carry each chunk to the collecting stone, where the pile grew and grew until the factory’s business was booming.

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This was the point when I was very aware of the push to keep moving. There was a lot we had yet to see in the reserve, yet it was clear how engaged and happy the boys were to stay and continue their game. I kept my mouth closed and tried to blend into the background so they could stay and continue on, letting the sun warm my face and just enjoying the beauty of the day. It was so wonderful. DSC_0124And it wasn’t until two hours later, when Emil accidentally stepped right into the icy water up to his knee that we had to move on, but this time content and absolutely nature-high from our much-needed time outside. On the drive home, with windows cracked and country-air flowing into the van, from the back, “Mama, this was the best day of my life.”

Happy Friday!

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Hope you have some good plans (even if they include simply relaxing) this weekend! I’m planning to fully enjoy every minute of Saturday outdoors — it’s supposed to get up to 54 here in St. Louis! Also looking forward to having the boys home on Monday and spending some time with a friend and her girls.

Totally unrelated, but wanted to share — my grandfather is about to turn 98 years old! He has been eating an avocado every day for years now… I’m convinced he’s onto something, so I’m trying to get on board. This week I had avocado on toast with sea salt and crushed red pepper and it was so satisfying (and delicious).

Also on my mind, this article by the Post on a highly thoughtful couple of parents who found themselves being investigated for child neglect for letting their children walk home from the local playground. Definitely worth a read.

Have a wonderful weekend!

Dress That Mama

DSC_0058DSC_0013Dress: Sonnet James; Boots: Rachel Comey (sold out, similar here); men’s scarf: JCrew

Red lips + long wool scarf tied in a bow, feeling feminine today. Have you ever tried tying one of your scarves into a bow? It’s kind of cute, I think!

DSC_0038DSC_0044Also, loving this delicate bracelet from Young Frankk and Hackwith Design House, a gift from Andrew this past Christmas. And honestly, I would add an oversized sweater to this ensemble — it’s been pretty cold lately!

Happy Wednesday!