Flashback Friday

MiloBabyJust wanted to share this picture that our dear friends Garriy and Cat passed on… the evening of their wedding was so beautiful, full of love and fun and mischief, and a very giddy baby Milo about 7 years ago. And not long from now, we will get to meet their new little baby boy! Can’t wait to see you guys next week!

The Music Game

Do you ever listen to instrumental/classical music with your kids? I’m a big fan of Andrew Bird, whose music conjures up all sorts of mysteries and beauty, particularly of the natural world. This song is one of Emil’s favorites. He listens intently and calls it the “tiptoe mouse” song, because the plucking of the strings sound to him like a mouse tiptoeing around. I love to guess what animals represent what parts of the song. Let your child listen with you and see if you can identify the mouse, hummingbird, bumblebee, and spider we picture throughout this song. It’s such fun to see what they imagine!

Dress That Mama: These Colors!

DSC_0097All I can see in the fashion world these days are these colors, these shades of oxblood, burgundy, deep purple, jewel tones. I’m on the hunt to add a few more pieces to my fall/winter wardrobe to compliment all the neutrals I’ve been wearing. I think anything red or burgundy or even rust will look lovely with all the creams and black currently hanging in my closet.
DSC_0102DSC_0103People around St. Louis go nuts about cowboy boots. I don’t see many people wearing them, but whenever I wear mine (vintage Frye boots I picked up in Kansas City a couple of years ago), I get a whole lot of comments on them. They’re pretty fun, modern-meets-vintage, and yes, the colorDSC_0106DSC_0108What colors are you noticing lately?

The Garden, a Metaphor for Friendship

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Above: our weed-infested garden last Monday; below, 24 hours later

Walking past our vegetable garden this summer became painful. We tried to ignore it– the overgrown weeds, the rotting kale that had drowned months ago in the unseasonably wet entire month of June. Past the weeds that grew waist-high, past all the failure. Brush it aside, pretend it isn’t there. Pretend you don’t care. There are more important things.

But I did care, apparently. Year after year, we have cared. The process of composting, the waiting and turning and tending, only to add a wheelbarrow full of nutrients to this one small plot of land. The process of overwintering, of protecting hard-earned fertile soil from the elements with leaves or cover crops or both. Then in spring, the hard work of removal and preparing the earth for another crop of vegetables. Then planting, watering, weeding, all summer long. If it were all figured out in a salary, how much time spent on hands and knees, squatting in the hot sun, or how much anguish we feel when cabbage moth caterpillars decimate an entire crop of kale or broccoli, when it all comes down to it, from an outsider’s point of view, we would look like maniacs. Crazy for trying, crazy for putting in the time and effort, the sweat and blisters and scraped up knuckles, cut hands and mosquito-bit legs and arms. For what? A few vegetables that we could easily buy down the road at the grocery store?

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Who knows why it is so satisfying. It just is. It gives me such a basic satisfaction to harvest and see this food grow, to see our boys enjoy a sun-warmed, sweet strawberry straight off the vine. It gives me space in my mind to work out everything — without it, the sun, the soil, the sound of insects and birds and nothing else, I seem to close down and feel more anxious. Crazy, maybe. But it just works.

And this is how I found myself, early Monday morning, with a fire in my soul and a determination to make things right again. As soon as I started sweating out there, weeds tickling my legs, sun beating down on my neck, it dawned on me: gardening as friendship, and its relation to this summer. I’ll skip waxing poetic about gardening as a metaphor for life. Here, it has everything to do with adult friendships. Tend to them, nurture them, do a little here and there. Sometimes it’s all you will need and the plants will do their part and grow. You weed, you water, they grow, they flourish. Other times, things will happen that are far beyond your control. You will loose half a garden through no fault of your own, and you will want to give up on all the rest, to go inside and walk away, take a break and forget it all exists. But the more you ignore it, the more the trouble grows. The weeds choke out some of the healthy plants just because you’re staying away, and before you know it you can’t even see the hardy, strong little plants in there that are working to survive, hell bent on showing you they can make it — that they are there for you, under all the crap, if you just look hard enough. You can’t see them until you clear away all the bad stuff. And put some damn effort into it again.

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I’ve struggled my whole life with female friendships. Ever since I was a girl, I found boys easier to understand, easier to be around, easier to talk to; less drama, I thought. Fewer expectations. If I disappeared for awhile, they didn’t shun me or even ask questions. If I needed space, they didn’t take it personally. They didn’t gossip or say untrue things behind my back, or give me the silent treatment for reasons I couldn’t understand. My guy friends seemed to understand, or at least not be offended by, my strong need for space and independence, my need to disappear every now and then. But those same needs, when applied to my female friends, were disastrous, often ending in hurt feelings and a lot of times, ended friendships. I didn’t get it for the longest time, but I think I get it now — I have come across as indifferent, and maybe at times I was. I had no tolerance for pettiness or drama, and I admit certain situations were such a turn-off to me that it was easy to drop a few friendships because of it, and maybe that was a mistake to move on so easily. But through every stage of my life, I have had a handful of close, truly amazing female friendships. They bring to me something that my friendships with guys don’t: a sisterhood and depth and understanding that is unparalleled. They may not be many, but they are mighty, my female friends. And I think that is why I have so much trouble saying good-bye or being without them — there is an unsaid understanding once you find those people, that they will accept you no matter what, flaws and strange quirks and mood swings and need for space and all. I need these women in my life, I need these friendships to keep me strong and honest. Right now, I need more of these women in my life!

And sometimes, I need to take a chance. Plant something I’ve never planted before, and tend to it like the devil. Give it a chance, and then plant some more.

Weekend Shenanigans

DSC_0048DSC_0052DSC_0010DSC_0012DSC_0023This weekend, we celebrated Emil’s 4th birthday, attended the boys’ back to school family swim night (with very little swimming — it was pretty chilly!), played in the large green space down the street from our house… well, I read on a blanket while the boys tore around me in all directions playing frisbee and soccer and rolling down the hill in a giant blue tunnel… but you get the point! We also did a lot of back-to-school shopping for snacks and supplies and shoes and and and…

Whew! We are ready. The weekend placed the first kiss of fall weather upon us. It was cool and overcast at times, sunny at others, but never uncomfortably hot. While the low pressure has me fighting day four of the-neverending-headache, I can’t even complain because it is just so gorgeous outside!
DSC_0024DSC_0037DSC_0057DSC_0059DSC_0060DSC_0070DSC_0074DSC_0084DSC_0220DSC_0171We’re all excited about school starting this week. I’m chomping at the bit to read and write more and have some slower afternoons to myself, while Milo, Oliver, and Emil are all expressing excitement to see their friends and get into a routine. Especially Oliver, who is just such a school boy. This year he will be joining Milo in the Lower Elementary classroom (grades 1-3) and I think it’s going to be really good for him. He always rises to the occasion at school.

As for Milo, it will actually be good for him to remove his nose from a book for a minute or two! He is very into Harry Potter right now, having read the first four books in quick succession. He is currently on chapter 14 of the 5th book, has the 6th on his dresser waiting, and recently informed me that he’s going to need the 7th for his birthday. I think a whole stack of books are coming his way with the way he devours them!DSC_0174DSC_0217Here’s to birthdays and school days! Have a beautiful Monday!

Emil is 4!

DSC_0004DSC_0009DSC_0010Impish: (adjective) inclined to do slightly naughty things for fun; mischievous. “He had an impish look about him.” Emil: age 4

Today is Emil’s 4th birthday. He is, at four, sweet and funny and impish, but very much a people-pleaser. When someone expresses anger at him, he gets the saddest, most genuinely devastated look on his face and cries. He does not like to be in trouble, yet he sometimes just can’t help himself when it comes to certain little naughty ways. For example, a common occurrence in our house is the sound of Oliver or Milo (mostly Oliver, though) shouting, “EMIL!!!! COME BACK HERE!” followed by the pounding of several pairs of feet racing around the house, Emil’s laughter, and finally the thumping sound of Emil being pummeled. It is usually because Emil grabbed something Oliver was playing with and ran away, laughing, just to torment his brother. It happens every day, as predictable as can be. Just as predictable is Emil’s seemingly surprised and offended reaction to such a walloping. Eventually, he will get over this game. Maybe.

DSC_0023DSC_0028DSC_0034DSC_0013Emil is finally a good sleeper. For years, he would wake several times at night, insisting that there was a bad guy in his closet, or that he needed a hug, or a drink of water, or a kiss, or to be tucked in. But now, he is happy to go to bed and usually stays there. Sometimes he even tells us he would like to take a nap, and subsequently puts himself to sleep for a couple of hours in the afternoon.

He loves to play with Legos, Magna Tiles, and his little Octonauts bath toys. He often carries one Lego guy around on all our errands, to the playground, everywhere, then sleeps with him at night. He takes very good care of this one guy (usually Darth Vader).

DSC_0019An interesting part of Emil at four is his empathy for bad guys. He seems to understand the other side of every story. For instance, when reading This is Not My Hatby Jon Klassen, Emil sides with the small fish who stole the hat from the larger fish on the grounds that the hat is small, thus fits the small fish better, so he feels the small fish deserves to have the hat, even when it belongs to the big fish. He does not like how the story ends, so we don’t read it anymore, despite all attempts to discuss what stealing means and why it’s wrong.

Emil is so thoughtful and generous, it sometimes breaks my heart. If he gets a snack, he immediately asks Oliver and Milo if they want some too. He shares everything happily, and has no trouble making friends because of this. He wants people to be happy and for things to be fair. Emil is also so tender and physical and loving. He can give a million kisses and hugs and still be ready to dole out more. He is all heart, that one.

Happy Birthday, my dear sweet Emil. May you always keep a bit of mischief in your life, and a kind and open heart to the world around you. Here’s to four!

Reading… (and a Giveaway!)

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This summer has flown by. The days and weeks passed so quickly, I didn’t realize until I really took a look at Milo (who is on the verge of turning eight years old) just how quickly things can change over the course of three or four months. Over the summer, he lost four teeth, gained two very professional-looking adult front teeth, and grew two inches and a whole shoe size. I know this is only the beginning; his growth spurt is a sign of things to come, things that I wasn’t quite sure I was ready to broach with him just yet. Thoughts of the physical changes of puberty in a few years make me a little nervous — how do I talk to him about these things so that I don’t make him feel uncomfortable, and more importantly, how do I keep the lines of communication open so that he feels that no matter what, he can come to me with any and every question?

I think the answer lies partly in this book: The Boy’s Body Book, by Kelli Dunham, illustrated by Steve Bjorkman (p.s. — there’s also one for girls). The book is a general guide to questions relating to puberty, relationships, bullying, school pressure, peer pressure, healthy living, and stressful situations. What I like so much about this book is that yes, it gives boys good, straightforward answers to these questions, but it also gave me an idea of what to say when these questions come up. I like feeling like I’ll be ready for those questions!

With a new school year starting, this is the perfect book to give to a boy to help him feel a little more prepared for issues he might face in school. There’s a great section on healthy eating in school, good study habits, and also about tips on how to handle not getting along with a teacher. I found this last part interesting and helpful, and liked that the advice here (as well as throughout the whole book) continually encourages to communicate with parents about problems.

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If you need to bring up an issue with a teacher, do it after class. Most teachers are more relaxed one-on-one than when they are dealing with a whole classroom of kids. 

Sometimes it may feel like the problem is the teacher, when the real difficulty is that the subject they teach is one you don’t like or that you have a hard time with. If the class is hard for you, make sure the teacher knows you are doing your best. 

The book also discusses added responsibilities of getting older, such as managing money, managing time, and how to navigate new relationships. But perhaps my favorite part of the whole book is the entire page devoted to a tricky emotion for boys. Is it okay to cry?

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Can I tell you how much I love this page?! I wanted to yell, YES! out loud, hug my boys, tell the whole world to stop telling our sons that men don’t or shouldn’t cry, and then write a song about it.

You don’t have to stop all the tears. In fact, it’s really important to cry when you need to. Crying is a release of strong feelings, and if you don’t ever have that release, it can cause you problems in your mental and physical health.

It goes on to say that every boy should have a really good friend with whom he can cry and not be judged, and that he should be that friend to someone else. Also included in this magical page is the physiological side of crying and the release of chemicals the body is trying to rid itself of. Such a good advice, such good information!

The Giveaway: The kind and generous folks at Cider Mill Press are offering The Boy’s Body Book to one of our readers* for free! If you have a son, friend, cousin, grandson, neighbor, etc. who you think would enjoy this book, please enter by leaving a comment (make sure to leave your email address so I can contact you if you win). A winner will be chosen at random and announced on Saturday. The giveaway is open until 5pm CST on Friday, August 21st. Good luck, and thanks to Cider Mill Press for sending the book our way, as well as sending a copy to one of our readers!

*Giveaway open to U.S. and Canadian readers only. Sorry we cannot currently ship elsewhere!

**UPDATE** The winner of The Boy’s Body Book is KAC! Congratulations! I’ll email you shortly to get your address!

Dress That Mama: Black Crop Top

DSC_0074Wearing this crop top with everything lately — high-waisted black jeans, high-waisted skirts, pretty much anything that is high enough to allow just a peek of midriff. Not trying to show too much skin at once, but still enjoying the classic polished look of this trend. Also, time for another haircut, no? DSC_0041Happy Wednesday!