Weekend Shenanigans

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This past weekend my sister and nephews came to visit. The boys enjoyed the usual push-pull that comes with 5 boys under one roof: fast friends and at times worst enemies! It is fun to see them all try to work out their differences and the discussions were pretty hilarious to overhear. It was crazy fun for all of us, adults included. The best part was probably slack-lining at the playground while the boys played nearby.DSC_0048DSC_0057DSC_0059DSC_0065DSC_0027

Krista turned out to be a natural, and Andrew showed us a few tricks (including jumping and landing, walking backwards the entire length of the slack line, and jumping onto the slack line from the ground- he’s getting really good!) before having a nasty fall. He got right back on, tough guy. DSC_0029DSC_0036DSC_0014DSC_0017DSC_0022

Milo was eager to teach Ian and Charlie how to play chess. The boys were at it for hours on Saturday afternoon while Emil napped (oh wait, he didn’t nap) and then we were back outside. The whole weekend long, swinging and playing and laughing — it was a good one! DSC_0003DSC_0006DSC_0009DSC_0001Oh, and Andrew and I ate our weight in fresh tomatoes over the course of two days. I’m not seeing any ill effects yet… but still checking the mirror to make sure I’m not morphing into a tomato!

Have a happy Monday!

Tough Guys and Chickens

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There are no words.

Only… every day of this unscheduled summer has brought tears to my eyes, whether through laughter, joy, or anger (mostly laughter). These guys just know how to do it right. They teach me about being in the moment, about creating your own fun, about being tough…
DSC_0071DSC_0070DSC_0087… and being tender. My boys, you fill up my heart and soul with laughter, wonder, and joy!

Dress That Mama

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This has become a version of my summer uniform: either all white or all blue in the form of a tank and shorts, plus beat up ragged sandals from last year and a straw basket for a purse. It’s getting hot again here in St. Louis, so less is more! DSC_0021Also, when I wear white with three little boys I never fail to attract comments on how crazy I am! Yes, of course I get dirty! But isn’t that what bleach is for?

Reading…

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I’m sure you are sick of hearing about off-grid living (or sick of not hearing about it, ha!), but there is something that has awakened in me over the past few months that I just can’t seem to shake. The discomfort and restlessness that seems to swirl within my gut when I am moved by something and all at once challenged by it, the epitome of growth has begun. I don’t know where this will take us. Maybe nowhere. And that’s okay too, but I have to explore and examine and maybe exhaust the idea to death in order to move forward, to dive deeper or swim in a totally different direction…

I don’t mean for this post to be controversial or guilt-laden, but these are my thoughts and my deepest reactions lately. I am in no way anti-technology or anti-smartphone; I am constantly amazed by and appreciate how far we have come and the convenience of it all. But moderation seems to be hard to come by. Lately everywhere I look I see faces 8 inches away from screens, not talking to each other or interacting with each other on a basic human level, face to face. Driving is scary — I glance over to see the driver of the car next to us texting away. I’m not exaggerating when I say that we have almost been hit by cars several times while crossing the busy street a few blocks from our house because those drivers are clearly texting or looking at their smartphones.

I see ultra-competitive and judgmental parenting and want to barf or scream and run the other way. I experience a loneliness on the playground in a neighborhood jam-packed with children on a beautiful summer day… where are they all hiding? Of course I experience all the opposite as well — some great connections with people, some connected and grounded parents, some kids who run just a little amok (thank goodness!), but maybe I expect more? I feel really sad about it right now.

And all of it makes me want to push against it. I think I’m in a fragile place right now. I long for open spaces and nature and the freedom to raise whatever kinds of animals or food we want on our property without permits and fees and inspections (they make it really hard to keep chickens in our neighborhood!). I want to see for miles from the top of a mountain overlooking trees and meadows and rolling hills. I want to watch our boys experiencing the world and wildness in all its beauty and intensity and harshness and wonder without feeling pulled to screens and busy schedules and a barrage of consumerism.

I want this, and I don’t. I know how hard it would be, how lonely it could be, how impractical at times it would be. I know I am an extrovert. That people, the right people, make me feel a joy and connectedness that is incomparable. That there is sometimes nothing better than laughing with a girlfriend over a cup of coffee, that running into interesting new people can make my day full of color and life and surprises.

All of these thoughts bounce around in my head all day long. It has dominated my thoughts since early June and I think the only to work through them is to read. I am devouring off-grid literature and ideas lately. This book I am enjoying immensely and thought I would share. Even if you’re not at all considering this lifestyle, the book is spiritual and thought-provoking and inspiring.

And because I am only just beginning the book (and could never write quite as succinctly), here is praise for the book by Mira Kamdar, author of Planet India: 

A compassionate yet powerful personal odyssey into the heart of what it means to choose to live with less in a world gone mad for more. William Powers’s Twelve by Twelve is not only a retreat of mind from which we all can draw sustenance as we gird ourselves to confront a world heading for catastrophe, it is also a template we can use to ask ourselves what, really, is important in our lives.

I can only say that upon returning home from a week-long break from my computer and cell phone, getting back on the computer was a deeply depressing let-down for me. I think I expected something more, that I had missed out on something, but I found quite the opposite. The habit I had gotten into of constantly “checking in” during the day– checking my email, going on Pinterest, flitting about on the internet, left me feeling completely hollow and disappointed. I think the only thing I am finding worthwhile is reading the blogs of people I truly admire and have somehow steered clear of the consumerism and emptiness that sometimes accompanies blogging lately– people like Milla and Lilly, Anne and Jessica, Erin and Heather to name a few, and there are so many more! The genuineness of these women gets to me in such a good way, and I appreciate it always. But there is so much more I can do without, and will. So in the attempt to get to the bottom of it all, I will close the computer during the day and write posts at night, and in-between I will figure it all out, and I will read.

Weekend Shenanigans

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A good, soulful weekend indeed! I think I’ve figured some things out (through writing and reading — always a good way to figure things out in my opinion) and had some really amazing moments with the boys while Andrew was out of town. The weather was gorgeous, nice and cool and juuuuuust right! We ran into friends at the Botanical Gardens not once but twice, and stayed longer than we ever have before. We’ve been missing Kim and her boys (and always think of them when we are at the gardens as this is where we met!) and awaiting their return from New Zealand any day now. DSC_0027DSC_0011

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We were so glad to have Andrew back on Sunday, though I did a poor job of relaying that to him after having a crappy night of sleep courtesy of Emil-the-3am-Sleep-Terminator (why why why why why???). After a good nap and an even better talk, we enjoyed the afternoon and evening. It’s sometimes hard to get back into the duel-parenting groove when you might not be on the same page (more lax rules when papa is out of town sometimes does not bode well for papa laying down the law when he comes back- oops!). Ha, ha, all is well and you know, sometimes the best way to move past it is to just crack jokes until everything else falls away and you realize you’re in it together and always will be. I sure do love that man. DSC_0013P.s. – This may or may not have been the only bath he took this entire week…

How was your weekend? So good, I hope!

Have a Wonderful Weekend

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We have been really living it up this summer! If I’m being completely honest, it’s the first summer in many years that I haven’t felt really stressed out. I’m having so much fun with my boys and feeling reflection and gratefulness on a daily basis. There is a lot of adventure in our lives this summer…

Andrew is traveling just as much, but I no longer feel the impending sense of dread just before he leaves. It has a lot to do with the boys growing older I think. Sure, Emil’s still up for an epic temper tantrum every now and then (like yesterday for an hour straight right around nap time — I blame myself for pushing it off a little too late in the day), but generally things are pretty awesome. We decided to put Oliver and Milo in a two-week half-day circus camp which they are loving, and this gives me some alone time with my youngest for three hours every morning. DSC_0052

We have been having so much fun just the two of us! One day we walked around downtown and ended up at the Arch on a beautiful cool sunny day, perfect for lying (and rolling) around in the grass and playing “airplane” under the arch. Another morning we spent at the pool; Emil is teaching himself to swim under water and it’s altogether hilarious and amazing to watch him work up the courage and to see him make such quick progress. There’s a sadness to this summer too, the ticking time bomb that we are already over halfway through Emil’s last summer before entering school. If he can handle it, he will be attending full day Montessori with his big brothers, which leaves me… with a lot of time on my hands! I have so many things I am looking forward to, but I’m also freaking out a bit that my youngest little guy is going to be away from me for that long every day. It is all going by so fast! But let me tell you, this one is ready. DSC_0027I hope good things are in store for you this weekend!

 

Montessori-Inspired

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Self-care is a major part of Montessori-based learning. Not only does it foster independence and confidence, it also makes life easier for everyone! If everyone can get ready on his own, things are a lot less complicated, especially in the morning when there can be a bit of a rush to get out the door.

Emil will be three years old next month, hard to believe. He has proven to be the most motivated to be independent at this age. He has been dressing himself for about four or five months now and seems to thoroughly enjoy it. He changes clothes several times a day, I think mostly just for the practice of it. As with everything else, kids this age seem to be obsessed with repetition — it’s the practicing over and over that gets the skill down pat! DSC_0103DSC_0106

A part of Montessori self-care is keeping clothing within reach and easy for the child to access. Low shelves with baskets of socks, undies, shirts, and shorts/pants would be a great way to start. Emil has a dresser that he can manage on his own and is very good about sorting; he knows where his socks and underwear go, as well as his beloved pajamas (he really has a thing for pajamas) and all the rest, and you’d better not try to mix it up or he’ll let you know about it! DSC_0110DSC_0113DSC_0115

Taking these pictures was interesting for me, because I realized that I rarely actually see Emil getting dressed. He does it on his own every morning and prefers not to be hovered over (I actually asked him if I could take these pictures and he said yes – though he also told me when he had enough!). When we were first showing Emil how to get dressed, Andrew and I showed him how to find the tag of his shirt or underwear or shorts so he knew front from back. He rarely puts things on backwards, which is more than I can say for myself, ha! DSC_0124DSC_0127

I think the best advice about encouraging your two- or three-year-old to get dressed on his own is to give some guidance but to give even more space and privacy and time for figuring it out on his own. Leave the room and don’t come back in too quickly to help! It seems that the most trouble for me happens when I am watching and waiting. Who needs that kind of pressure?! DSC_0134DSC_0139DSC_0140Ta da!

Raspberry Lemonade

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You know when it’s a million degrees outside and all you want is some lemonade because it seems in your mind to be the only thing that’s going to hit the spot? We had one of those days, so Oliver suggested that we squeeze our own. And he wanted it pink. 

I wish I could say that I had a recipe for you here; truth be told, I set out trying to figure one out. But like most of my recipes recently, I didn’t write it down. I started out with 10 lemons (1 1/2 cups of lemon juice) and about a half cup of raspberries (the really juicy, falling apart ones), and a bunch of sugar. I started with 4 Tbsp of sugar and made a simple syrup using the sugar, 2 Tbsp water, and the raspberries, but when I added it to the lemon juice (and several cups of ice water), it was still very tart, so I kept adding dissolved sugar (in increments of 1 Tbsp sugar per 3 Tbsp warm water) until it tasted just right. Oliver and I tweeked it so much that I’m afraid by the end of the whole thing I had completely lost track of what the proportions were. DSC_0201DSC_0205DSC_0209

I will say this, though. It was just the right amount of sweet and tart. Of course. But no worry! The whole thing was actually a lot of fun, like a science experiment. Oliver took his tasting job very seriously, dipping a spoon in periodically with a thoughtful look before declaring, “Too tart!” until finally, “It’s GREAT!”

And it really was.