Happy Friday

DSC_0016I’m on my way to visit my dear friend Nora in Washington, DC with Milo! It has been so long since Nora and I have seen each other, but she is someone who will always be a true and constant person in my life. It’s amazing when time and distance seem obsolete in friendship; especially as I get older I am realizing this to be true.

So excited to share this time with Milo, too! Have a wonderful long weekend, and I’ll be sure to post plenty of pictures on Tuesday. Hope you have lovely weather wherever you are!

Tree Tops

DSC_0167

So impressed with the fun and beauty of these tree tops, ℅ Koko Kara. Reviewing toys is one of our very favorite things, and these did not disappoint. First, they are beautiful wooden toys, simple in design, and genius in their shape. We quickly realized that the rounded sides of the tops make for perfect spins; spin the top quickly enough, and it will turn itself upright again, onto the thin wooden “trunk.” What a challenge to get the top to spin, turn upright, and stand still on its own like a tiny tree, but Milo did it a couple of times!

So while upon first glance this looks like a toy for younger kids, I would beg to differ; older kids and even adults can spend quite a bit of time enjoying the challenge, while younger kids can practice their fine motor skills just trying to spin the top upside down.

DSC_0176DSC_0161DSC_0148DSC_0135DSC_0179DSC_0183DSC_0186DSC_0207DSC_0206DSC_0127If you’re looking for a unique gift, I would highly recommend these. The added bonus? They look absolutely adorable and beautiful on the shelf!

Thank you, Koko Kara, for the lovely tree tops!

Dress That Mama

DSC_0003DSC_0012

Nothing like a cotton tank dress. This one is my current favorite, a more modern style with a low scoop back and mid-calf length. Throw a denim shirt on top for a little more coverage, but I know this will be a staple when the summer temperatures soar sometime in mid-July. I have a feeling I will be living in this dress even more than I have been…DSC_0021DSC_0025

Tank dress: Organic by John Patrick; clogs: Rachel Comey; denim shirt: JCrew (similar here).

Happy Wednesday!

Reading…

DSC_0025

State of Wonder, by Ann Patchett

 It’s probably no coincidence that I stumbled upon this book at the library immediately upon finishing Euphoria, another book about someone in the science/social science field uncovering mystery while navigating complex social relationships in the jungle (are there many books like this, because I really really like them?!). It’s the kind of book I find myself feeling protective over, annoyed when someone interrupts me to ask what it’s about… (or maybe I just feel that way because I sense my reading freedom is about to come to an abrupt halt after this week, which marks the beginning of the boys’ summer vacation) but I do feel that when someone asks me, I have to openly praise it (so far). We know how that goes — endings can be a let-down, so I’ll have to finish the book before I can give it my full approval. But I am enjoying it immensely right now.

State of Wonder is an exciting adventure and a touching emotional journey all wrapped into one. I am reading it quickly because I love it so, but I also don’t want it to end. Ah, the dilemma of a good book.

Weekend Shenanigans

DSC_0106DSC_0111DSC_0112DSC_0109DSC_0101DSC_0039DSC_0029DSC_0031DSC_0035

This weekend Andrew was out of town, so the boys and I shared some intense mama-time! On Friday while the boys were at school, I put the finishing touches on our front porch space. After living here for nearly five years, we never really used the space for anything other than bike or stroller storage. But visiting my sister really inspired me. Her porch is nearly identical to ours, but she had made such a lovely living space of hers and I took note as we spent so much time chatting and eating there!

So to our own front porch, I added two outdoor carpets layered on top of one another (cheap from World Market), some hanging baskets, a few potted plants, and a bench, folding Ikea chairs, and stumps for extra seating. We thought about putting a low table in the middle, but decided against it, as the boys like to take their “work” out there and spread out on the floor of the porch, sometimes with a blanket (especially during a thunderstorm). This weekend we ended up using the front wall of the porch as an eat-in countertop, lining up our chairs and stumps along the front facing out toward the neighborhood. It was a very fun way to eat, waving to neighbors! We’ll be up on the neighborhood gossip in no time… ha, ha!

DSC_0033

But the real talk of the weekend was Milo and Oliver’s circus show. They did so well! Milo’s clowning act was better than ever and Oliver was brave and adorable, flashing a constant megawatt smile up on trapeze. It’s been a wonderful experience we plan to continue for the boys. The show was bittersweet for Oliver, who was a little blue realizing he wouldn’t be coming back next week for another circus class. DSC_0041DSC_0043DSC_0060DSC_0075DSC_0085DSC_0089

And on Saturday night I was reminded of just how lucky I am to have such good friends here in St. Louis. A last-minute gathering saved me the trouble of figuring out what was for dinner and how to get my second wind of the day. I found myself in the middle of some amazing company, met four new intelligent, funny, engaging, and interesting people with whom I hope to become better friends. As usual, my friends Elisha and JJ welcomed us into their home with open arms and delicious food, and sent us away with unexpected presents. They are sweet and funny and generous, and totally made my night with their company.

Sometimes I don’t realize I am lonely or stressed until I’m around my friends, who shoulder the burden and make me laugh hard and true, with whom time flies by too quickly. I kept the boys out too late and paid for it the next day with whining and fighting and just general moodiness (why don’t they ever sleep in?!!!), but Emil managed to crack through one stressful point of the day by cheering me on with great enthusiasm, “Good job wiping up my poop, Mama! Really good job!” This kind of mental high five keeps in all in perspective, doesn’t it? DSC_0128DSC_0132And that about says it all. Happy Monday. And good job at whatever you find yourself doing this morning. Hopefully it doesn’t involve poop. But you know, if it does, good job anyway.

Thoughts on Happiness

DSC_0125Last week, I posted a bit on teaching our children “the art of happiness,” linking to an article I had written inspired by a book about the topic. I had written the article with enthusiasm and a strong memory of my best friend from an earlier time in my life (a more hectic but still rich and amazing part of my life), who had inspired me with her daily gratitude journal and the awareness that it took some work to be happy sometimes, that it took practice and hard work to stay out of the dark place some of us know too well.

Depression has threaded its way through my family tree for generations. There are secrets and mysteries surrounding the topic that I wish I could uncover and brush aside as easily as clearing the leaves from a dormant spring garden… but I can’t, and won’t. There is this story in every family, I’m certain. And I think that’s why, when faced with the slightest (intelligent, well-thought-out) resistance to what I had written, I became instantly defensive and let my words and thoughts flow too soon. Often I self-moniter and defer, realizing that each opinion is valued and justified and someone’s absolute truth and story. But you know, sometimes it touches a nerve. And so I reacted (in these comments). And despite my great desire to go back and erase my comments and emotional reactions, I let it stand, because well, I am human and real and can be bothered. No shame there. (Well, maybe a little -ha!).

But if I am to be honest, I have experienced melancholy and rough patches, intense anxiety after having Emil, but never depression. Never the all-consuming, energy- and life-sucking darkness that I have witnessed others fight against. The deepest sadness I experienced was at twelve years old, losing my father with whom I was intensely close, and is the bar with which I compare all other sadness; nothing ever hits that spot. I feel it still, a deep pit in my stomach when I allow it to enter, a stone I hold within me. But it was grief, not depression. It was a grief that has matured into something untouchable within me, grief into strength, an experience that no one can take from me, that I will never forget and would never want to forget if given the choice. It’s a depth that has helped me grow in the other direction, to experience absolute vulnerability and joy and love in my marriage and motherhood and friendships.

Happiness, however. What is this thing? And is it something we should actively seek? I appreciate the push from Veronika, Kristin, and Esther to think this through one more time, to play devil’s advocate. And I think the answer lies in the wording of the thing. Of course, as Kristin states, happiness is a feeling. Should we be seeking certain feelings over others? I don’t know, but I desire joy and feel it often in my life when I practice gratitude. I suppose I want my children to feel that joy and appreciation in the everyday things. I want them to go through life seeing the beauty of it, not taking it for granted.

So, yes, I see the value of practicing the art of happiness. Because I do believe that’s what it is — an art. It’s contentment with life, with community, with nature and art and science and literature and with one’s self. It’s being in touch with the universe and not overlooking all the amazing things right in front of our eyes. It’s feeling sadness and regret and jealousy and embarrassment and then moving past them because wow. How amazing is this life? How just utterly amazing and beautiful it is to be here while we are here. What a gift.

Teaching Our Children the Art of Happiness

DSC_0011

We all want our children to be happy

I recently read an inspiring book, Teaching Happiness and Innovation, by Mike Ferrythat focuses on ways we can teach our children to be more grateful, inspire creativity, and in turn, be happier. It’s a quick read and totally worth your while. I love the idea that we can practice happiness as a skill and improve upon it through practice just like any other skill. It’s definitely gotten the wheels turning in how I parent our boys.

Read the full article here.

Have a wonderful weekend!

The Best Fish Tacos

DSC_0042

This recipe is inspired by the delicious dinner my sister made for us when I visited with Oliver last weekend. The secret is in the complex flavors in the sauce… it’s really a winner! I only tweaked a few things; of course feel free to adapt to your own preferences or what you have lying around. Fish tacos are, in my opinion, the perfect summer meal. They are light and fresh, and pair especially well with an ice cold Corona and plenty of limes to squeeze on top!

Fish Tacos

  • 4-8 tilapia fillets, seasoned (I highly recommend Trader Joe’s Garlic Chili Tilapia)
  • 1/2 head red cabbage
  • 1/2 head savoy cabbage
  • 2 limes (at least)
  • 2 Tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • soft corn tortillas
  • 2 avocados, sliced thinly

For Sauce

  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 lime, squeezed
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp coriander
  • 1/2 tsp dill
  • 1/2 tsp oregano
  • 1/2 tsp ancho chile powder
  • 1 tsp capers, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp cilantro, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp chives, chopped

Make sauce a day ahead if possible so flavors can meld overnight. To assemble, mix all spices together and set aside. Stir spices into sour cream, then add capers, cilantro, and chives and mix until well incorporated. Cover and refrigerate.

Make the cabbage slaw. Finely chop both cabbages and toss with red wine vinegar and sugar. Marinate while fish is cooking.

Preheat oven to 350. Butter a 9 x 13 casserole dish and place seasoned tilapia fillets on top. Add a pat of butter on top of each fillet, and bake for 30 minutes. Warm tortillas in oven for about 5 minutes.

DSC_0045

Assemble tacos. I prefer to put the sauce down first, then some fish, cabbage slaw, and a slice of avocado (though my boys pleaded for guacamole on theirs, of course). Top with a nice squeeze of lime and try not to devour the entire platter by yourself. Thanks, Krista, for a great recipe.

Dress That Mama

DSC_0017

Black sandals are a must for me this summer. I searched and searched and finally tried these… and fell in love! I should have known to trust Madewell’s sandals, as my last favorite pair of sandals came from here, and they are pretty affordable considering they should last at least two summers, are soft leather, and super comfortable for lots and lots of summer walking.

They also come in brown!

DSC_0031

Tell me, is it sandal weather where you are?