Weekend Shenanigans

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This weekend… let me be honest, it was one of those rare weekends when I just wasn’t feeling it. All day Saturday I struggled to find an ounce of energy, and the boys were whiney and needy. None of us really felt up for anything, despite the fact that we are all physically well. I have to admit that it was a drag, and I ended up sound asleep at 8:30pm! For a family who is used to having adventure and action, it definitely threw us all off! But some days are like that. You trudge through, try not to snap at each other, and wake up the next morning determined to find a better attitude. DSC_0119DSC_0127DSC_0123

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… And luckily, we did. But looking back, it wasn’t all that bad. We did a lot of laying around, reading, sorting bottle caps, reading some more, and major organizing. Interspersed was some cooking and playgrounding and fun with neighbors. We got a head start on our master bedroom project (I won’t call it a remodel, as we are only changing a few things and no walls will be coming down or anything — but I’m excited to get started nonetheless), made things easy with a yummy taco night, and spent much-needed family time in-between Andrew’s travels. DSC_0035DSC_0058DSC_0061DSC_0063

Emil cracked us up all weekend. He talked to his little train and bunny constantly, and during taco night, silently got up from the table, carried his drink, plate, napkin, and fork into his little play house outside, closed the door and windows, and sat down for a private dinner for one. I have no idea what goes on in that head of his, but it sure is amusing to observe. DSC_0068DSC_0073DSC_0085

On Sunday we redeemed ourselves by taking a trip to explore a new playground (Faust Park — it was great!) and spotting a water snake in the pond. The boys put on a “trick show” in our back yard which included brave leaps off of high places. We listened to classical music for hours while cool breezes blew through open windows, strong enough to move our curtains aside and gently sway indoor plants. It was a gorgeous day. DSC_0086DSC_0092DSC_0103DSC_0110And now, on Monday, we look forward to the true beginning of fall, my favorite season. Bring on the pumpkin everything! Happy Monday.

Blog Hop: On Writing

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Kristin, a fellow St. Louis blogger, lovely and brave mama to two, extraordinarily driven (and busy) woman and student and compassionate friend and writer tagged me to post about my writing style and process. I have immense respect for her even though we have never met in person, and so of course I said yes! Below, find my answers to her questions.

What am I working on?

Right now I am working on ideas! Recently I have found myself with extra time during the day as my three boys are in school, so the ideas are really beginning to flow. I think about parenting, alternative styles of living (mostly more kind and sustainable ways), gardening, alternative education, and style (mostly buying fewer and better-quality items, and keeping one’s wardrobe simple and thoughtful).

I am also writing articles for the Washington Post’s On Parenting, and working on a few things for St. Louis Family Magazine. These jobs feel as though they have dropped into my lap through blog exposure and good friends who believe in me and push me to be better. I am forever amazed by the good people in my life, actually.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

I don’t know that my work does differ much from other bloggers, but I try to keep my writing honest and open — sometimes that means I expose myself and make myself pretty vulnerable. Writing about the time I was accused by a stranger of child abuse was a terribly emotional, vulnerable thing for me. But I think a lot of bloggers make themselves more vulnerable now — it’s a way to stay genuine and keep the fluffy stuff in check (though I do plenty of that as well). I am eternally aware of the sheer number of blogs out there and find it humbling to have a small readership.

Why do I create what I do?

I enjoy writing because it has become a very important outlet for me. I tend to ruminate on things unless I can write them out and explore them though words. So there’s that feeling of dumping these extreme feelings onto paper (or a computer screen), but then there’s also the storytelling aspect of writing that appeals to me. I enjoy stories — children’s stories, stories told by friends, and I enjoy telling stories to others, whether they are about something crazy that happened to me or something I observed through my children. It’s just a really fun way to engage with life, I think.

How does my writing process work?

It’s funny, but I really don’t know how it works. I guess it starts as something like a strong feeling or thought that I need to work out in my head or my heart, and I get a strong physical feeling that I need to write in order to set it straight. When I do feel that inspiration, it is extremely physical; my pulse starts to race! It can strike at any time, but usually I am most inspired and creative late at night. I remember as a teenager I keeping a series of diaries and it was the same way — I would feel physically pulled to the books, scribbling out all sorts of thoughts and feelings and memories onto a page as fast as I could before the they slipped from my head. There’s definitely a sense of urgency when I write, though when I step back and think about that, it’s silly, because those thoughts and ideas keep swirling around in my brain until I release them through words. And sometimes ruminating for a bit longer helps me develop those thoughts.

What I’ve found most interesting about my writing is that I often have no idea what’s going to come out when I sit down to write. It’s always been this way for me. When I was in fifth grade, I had a short story writing assignment in English class. I sat down and began to write about this cat named Samson. First, I drew a very detailed picture of him, filling absolutely every inch of the paper with color. Then I wrote and wrote about his adventures, and at the end of the writing period, I turned in the unfinished draft to my teacher. The next class, she approached me and expressed that she was really pleased with my writing and asked me what was going to happen next (to Samson). I told her that I had no idea. She looked so puzzled! She told me that I had to know what was going to happen next or I wouldn’t know how to proceed with the writing assignment. It completely baffled me back then, as a 10-year-old girl. But that is very much the way it is with my writing now — I often sit down with all these feelings and not much of a plan! It seems to work out okay for me, but I guess it is unconventional! I suppose that is also why I write in a kind of stream-of-consciousness style; there are plenty of run-on sentences and grammatical errors, but those things are less important to me than the expression of true, honest emotion.

Milla

And now, I pass the baton to Milla of The Girl Who Married a Bear. She is an amazing writer — one of the few bloggers left in the universe who keeps it real and still manages to inspire daily. Her posts are not for those who half-heartedly bounce around looking for fluffy material; her stuff is thought-provoking and beautiful and profound, oftentimes asking all of the important questions. Milla is beautiful and smart, crafty, and stylish, but above all else, she is genuine. She lives a real life (in a really beautiful place, I might add, on an island in the Pacific Northwest). She flits in and out of the internet world, off to live real-life adventures, but when she returns, I am always here waiting.

Grateful for…

DSC_0003… a beautiful fall day and thoughtful friends. After a lovely coffee with one friend, I come home to this nice surprise in my mailbox — a magazine bookmarked to a piece on Asheville, NC, where we will soon be going for a family trip. Thank you, Maggie!

I am forever surprised and grateful for the amazing people in my life.

 

Montessori-Inspired

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Since all three boys have started Montessori school, I have been trying to make our home environment more consistent with what they are used to during the day. I think doing so will help them move seamlessly between both worlds, and aside from that, the theories behind the set up and materials just make sense to me.

It was a such a pleasure to attend an hour-and-a-half long parent education at the boys’ school recently, where I learned more about the Montessori home environment. I thought I would share some tips about bringing Montessori home if you’re interested in the method. And even if you’re not, some of the tips might be helpful anyway if you have small children. DSC_0003DSC_0005

Starting off with young children in Montessori, there is a great emphasis on practical life: activities that center around skills such as pouring, cutting, washing, folding, baking, ironing, dressing and grooming, polishing, and sewing. All of these activities build the foundation for self-care, self-confidence, and also aid in lengthening and strengthening concentration. Making some of these activities accessible at home means making them within reach and easy to see.

Something that stuck with me was the thought that when we move into a house, we spend a lot of time thinking about how we adults want our house to look and feel: where to put the couch, which cabinets the dishes will go in, etc. But our children live here too, and making things comfortable and functional for them as well as for us is an important way of including them.

While we don’t have the amazing materials of a Montessori classroom in our home, I like the idea of setting up similarly in our main living areas. This includes some spaces with open shelving, keeping their things within reach, and rotating items so there are only a few things out at a time. Above, their shelving unit in the dining room includes their ever-growing feather collection, pinecones they have collected from the neighborhood, and in the basket is an enormous collection of Pokemon cards, ha! Below that is a pitcher and washcloths (thanks, Julie!) for pouring or washing activities. The bottom shelf holds wooden blocks. DSC_0009

In the living room beside the fireplace, we cleared off a shelf for their magna tiles, stone collection, natural building materials, and lacing cards. Small wooden trays keep collections nice and neat. Avoid crowding the shelves. There should be a clear place for everything — that is also a bonus when it’s time to clean up; it’s obvious where each item goes! DSC_0015

Child-sized furniture is great if you have the space. Our boys eat, play with sand and play dough, play Sorry and chess, line up little animals, draw and write at this table. It’s pretty great to see them set the table before dinner and clear it off after. It’s their own space and we encourage them to take pride in that!

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In the kitchen, we have a low cabinet solely for the kids. It holds their glasses, snack and cereal bowls, child-sized utensils, and a small cutting board and rolling pin on the top shelf. The middle shelf is just for paper — a hot commodity around here! And on the lowest shelf are a few art supplies like paint, paintbrushes, colored pencils, crayons, scissors, and notebooks… but whew, you should have seen this area before — a total wreck, jam-packed full of stuff so overwhelming that no one could find anything, therefore no one used anything.

Upon arriving home from school just after I reorganized this area, the boys immediately helped themselves to pumpkin bread; Milo cut three pieces while Oliver got the plates. Emil got forks for everyone and they met at the little table. I’m pleased to say that I had nothing to do with any of it. Hooray!
DSC_0014I put away a good deal of other art supplies and will rotate them in once the boys fall out of the habit of using what’s already out, or if they request something in particular.

And below, towels for cleaning up messes or drying hands are in our lowest drawer and always have been. Emil runs to the towel drawer after a spill and then returns the wet/covered-in-yogurt towel back to the clean drawer… oh, well. We’re working on it!
DSC_0025I am really interested to see if these changes in our home environment have an effect on the independence of the boys and also on the smoothness of our morning routine, which feels a bit rushed as we have to get out the door so much earlier than we did last year. Either way, I’m really happy with the more organized state of our downstairs, so I’d say it’s already been a success!

Dress That Mama: One Dress, Three Ways

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I think these posts are the “fluffiest” part of this blog, meaning, they are superficial and simple and kind of mindless. But it is part of what I enjoy. Style is a part of who I am. As superficial and vain as it may be, it’s a piece of me that I care about. And when I’m completely honest about it, not every day has to hold a meaningful online conversation, right?

Andrew recently got this dress for me, and I think the main selling point for him is that it is sexy in an understated way. What I love about it is the crazy soft fabric and pretty forgiving shape. There’s shirring on the sides so it doesn’t show every little thing. Plus, it’s long enough to be warm in the winter with some leggings or thigh-high stockings. I thought I would share the dress styled three different ways, because with fewer clothing, those pieces you do invest in need to go a long way!

So here it is: one dress, three ways: First (above), all dressed up with some classic black pumps. Despite the material of the dress (jersey cotton) being very casual, I would wear this out on the town on a date with my main man.

Next, dressed down with sneakers, braids, and a casual scarf.

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And finally, the winterized version, with warm black leggings, ankle boots, and a warm sweater. Frankly, I wanted to curl up on the couch and take a nap in this last look — so comfortable and cozy!

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I think there are 20 other ways to wear this dress, so be lookin’ for it around these parts!

Looking for a similar dress? Here are a few: this one has long sleeves and a really pretty neckline; and I love the cap sleeves on this style. This one has a really pretty ballerina back. Here’s a looser-fitting version with ruching and long sleeves. And for a little less money, this gray version is very pretty. Happy Wednesday!

Pizza-Makers

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Last Friday we had the best night! Our lovely friends Elisha and JJ and their girls came over for a make-your-own pizza night. It was a really chilly night, but the smoky smell of the fire pit and our grill heating up made it feel like the beginning of fall. Elisha brought over all kinds of pizza toppings and we giggled as we (I mean she) figured out how to toss the pizza dough way up high.

We saved ourselves plenty of time and effort by picking up the dough from our favorite pizzeria, and found that it was worth it — not only was it cheap, but the kids loved it, and the dough cooked to a crispy-on-the-outside, chewy-on-the-inside perfection. We made a plain cheese pizza for the kids, and two fancier pies for the adults: one with heirloom tomatoes, mushrooms, mozzarella, and topped with fresh basil after the cook; the other with olive oil, goat cheese, fresh figs, thinly sliced red onion, prosciutto, and arugula after the cook (below). They were all delicious!
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And after dinner, we made s’mores! We just enjoy these friends so very much. It is a true pleasure to laugh, eat, drink, and enjoy these two and their girls. DSC_0073DSC_0077DSC_0078DSC_0080DSC_0086

They are also so stylish — I swear, Elisha always inspires me with her outfit choices and accessories (her amazing tattoos included). Look how cute they are!

The night was great, and they left on a good note, making us think we should make this pizza-making thing a tradition. There’s something so enjoyable about making food together. The kitchen is one of my favorite places to be, and to share it with friends and laughter is just tops. DSC_0067

Fig, Prosciutto, and Goat Cheese Pizza

  • 1 13-inch pizza crust, uncooked
  • 6 figs, quartered
  • 6 oz goat cheese, crumbled
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 3 oz. prosciutto, torn into small pieces
  • a few thin slices of red onion
  • 1 cup arugula

We used a pizza stone on our grill (The Big Green Egg is so great and leaves the pizza with a great smoky flavor) and heated it in the grill for 45 minutes at 500.  Stretch dough onto a large cutting board or cookie sheet covered in parchment paper, then lightly sprinkle olive oil on dough.

Gently spread olive oil across dough with fingers. Sprinkle crumbled goat cheese evenly across dough, then place figs, onion, and prosciutto on top. Sprinkle with salt, if desired. Slide pizza, with parchment, on top of pizza stone and cook for 10 to 15 minutes, until crust is slightly golden brown and cheese is melted and prosciutto is nice and crispy.

Remove pizza, immediately top with arugula, and serve hot!

If you want, do it all in your oven. And check out this amazing list of 50 Easy Pizzas that you can make at home. I can’t wait to try some of these next time!

Weekend Shenanigans

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What a beautiful, fun-filled weekend! After a lovely Friday evening with some of our favorite people (more on that tomorrow), we awoke to amazing early fall weather. I am aware that it’s technically still summer, but when the temperature drops so low at night that we awaken to a freezing cold house, it is hard to remember that! The sunshine warmed us up enough while we walked to breakfast with the boys, where they enjoyed their very first hot chocolate of the season. Then we headed out to Shaw Nature Reserve. It has been too long since we have visited this great place. I am always aware of how crucial it is for all of us to get out of the city and be around these green open spaces with trees towering above and water, woods, and fields to explore freely. It is built into our very beings, this need. DSC_0099DSC_0104DSC_0112DSC_0116

It never ceases to amaze me the transformation that happens to all of us when we are in nature. It’s something different from just being at a playground or even a smaller green space. I think it needs to feel massive, greater than us, to get the feeling. And it’s worth it every time. We lay in the grass after snacking on apples and cheese and crackers and let the sunshine warm us and restore us. The air was fresh and cool, just the perfect day. DSC_0147

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We spent nearly the whole day there, just slowly moving from field to woods to pond. Being in these places with my boys always makes me feel like myself again, and I know they enjoyed it just as much. It fills up their little souls! DSC_0365DSC_0395DSC_0391DSC_0005

The rest of the weekend was spent at home and with our neighbors, a new group of young families that we have really grown to love. They are people who are outside enjoying their children and their community as much as we do, and it’s become a heartwarming tradition this summer, our meeting at the neighborhood playground every Sunday afternoon, chatting for hours, slack-lining, and always finding time for a soccer game (kids versus parents). It was a weekend full of belly laughter and teaching moments and filling up on joy. I love this time of year. DSC_0008P.s. — Our first successful lettuce crop, and Oliver found THE BIGGEST apple from our apple tree. He enjoyed every last bite.

… And here is our trip to Shaw Nature Reserve 2 years ago, where Oliver wore the exact same overalls Emil has on during this trip (not planned, I promise), and upon reading that post, I realize it must be difficult to have a bad day in that beautiful place. And look at how little they were! It makes my heart ache.

Have a wonderful Monday!

Adapting

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These past two weeks have been a dance — a push and pull and pirouette into a new routine. Yes, Milo and Oliver have been to school before, but this time it is completely and totally different, good different. And Emil, he is adjusting in a major way. He often says “I don’t want to go to school” and “I want to stay home with you, Mama!” but his overall well-being is good; he is clearly happy and healthy, albeit a bit more tuckered out. He never cries at drop-off, never tries to hold onto me or run back to the car, but sometimes at the end of the day he looks at me earnestly and says, “I was missing you today, Mama.”

And that is the hardest part, the knowing that school and friends and new experiences are enriching his life and so good for him, but also feeling that pull to hold onto him a little longer. He is just three, and suddenly gone from me all day, off in the morning with his little red lunch box, marching happily into his classroom after greeting his directress at the door, and not back in my arms until 3:30 in the afternoon. He often walks in holding Oliver’s hand, and I am reassured by his big brother’s care for him. But to deny that it tugs at my heartstrings (a lot) would be a lie. DSC_0122

For Emil, it was zero to sixty. Sending him half days were not an option, as the school is quite far away and for me to drive out, then back, then out and back, then out and back again for his brothers… just completely crazy and impossible. We would spend half the day in the car. And so, full day, every day for little Emil. He is actually doing very well; he takes a nap every day with his little bunny pillow, plays on the playground with the bigger kids, and is busy busy busy in the classroom. I just… miss him!DSC_0125This is the achy part of motherhood. The bittersweet goodbye. The feeling of freedom as I drive away to a day completely open to me — I grocery shop without distraction, I walk to a coffee shop and stop for several minutes along the way to watch a hummingbird. I sit in the sunshine with a book and drink coffee until I’m ready to leave. I clean and do laundry and the dishes from last night’s dinner, tidy up the house, water and weed and garden, mow the lawn, prepare dinner, chat with a friend. I write in a frenzy when inspiration strikes and lie on my back in the middle of the rug staring at the ceiling when I am stumped. I attend an open aerial class and wear myself out for an hour and a half on my own trapeze bar with no one watching, shoulders and arms and abs burning and shaking, my hands calloused and pink and aching as I pike my legs up and over the bar over and over again, a trick I wasn’t strong enough to do only a month ago. I drive home with the windows open and music loud. I miss them, all of them — the peanut gallery in the back seat is quiet and I miss it. And life is so good at this transition because I love this alone time and miss them too. And when I pick them up from school, my heart nearly bursts with pride and love. To hold Emil in my arms again in a big mama hug, to see Oliver’s inquisitive expressions and sweet silly smiles and excited stories, to hear the very style of Milo’s speech change over the day to something increasingly intelligent and interesting, it is all just such a gift.

They have never been mine, they are their own. I am so lucky to be a part of it.

Dress That Mama

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One at a time, I’ve been updating my fall wardrobe. Still taking on this philosophy means that if one thing comes in, another item goes out. It’s easier than it sounds, actually. That polka-dotted shirt I loved three years ago suddenly feels a little juvenile for my current style… or the shape of a skirt doesn’t look right anymore with the muscles I’ve gained (ha!).

So I’ve added a sleek black dress, a really versatile sweater, and this denim shell, which I’ve been wearing maybe too much (is three days in a row too much?) but I suppose a good sign that it’s a keeper! I find the slightly cropped style really flattering with high-waisted skinny jeans, and plan to wear it with my lighter denim-colored linen skirt and also over a more fitted dress when fall brings cooler weather. Oh, the possibilities!

DSC_0023P.s. — It also comes in grey, which I may be saving up for!

Happy Wednesday!