ladybug princess

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111/365

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Do you hear that sound? That whoosh rushing past your ears?
Slow down a minute.

Let it move through you, through the very core of you.
You'll notice things.
A button dangling by a thread from your pants
You fiddle with it, willing it to hang on just a little longer.

There’s joy and there’s pain and they’re on a parallel course. 
Can you see them? Neck and neck.

Keep me company a while.
I’ll tell you a story.
About anticipation. And fear. And hope. And joy and pain. 
And love.
They’re all friends, you know. 
They eat dinner at the same table. 

My heart repeats to my head: opportunity awaits. 
Great things will unfold. 
You just don’t know about them yet. 
It’s a secret. 
But secrets are bad, so let’s call it a surprise.


 

please vote for B's room!

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Ohdeedoh is hosting their "Small Kids, Big Color" contest, and B's room is a contender! Please take a minute and vote for her room. No catch. No gimmicks. No spam. Just a fun contest with some amazing prizes...and bragging rights of course.

Voting is only open for 48 hours, so please vote now and tell your friends! Many thanks, readers. We love you!


CLICK HERE to see the entry and vote by answering the survey at the bottom. (hint: choose option A)

Wish us luck!

the law of entropy

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I can't tell you how much work it takes to stay a step ahead of Bronwynn's messes. Kris gave her the nickname "the great un-doer" because whenever we take time to clean an area of the house, she comes immediately behind us and makes a new, bigger, better mess. At lightning speed. (Remember this video?) 

What I wasn't prepared for is how Miles would so quickly follow in B's footsteps. Exhibit A:


That's after about 5 minutes of playing alone. 

I'm not a perfectionist. I don't need a spotless house. I actually think it's kind of cute to find toys buried in my bed or hidden in my freezer. I just need to NOT step on a ripe banana in my living room. Finding sippy cups full of curdled milk in the toy box isn't fun either.

the emerging artist

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Take note, readers. These pieces I'm about to show you are going to be worth big money someday. Our budding artist works in mixed media and loves to layer her colors. You can see the intensity of emotion in each piece.

First up, from her greeting card series. Send her a card (any occasion will do) and she'll transform it into something like this:


I think it's even more valuable because she sleeps with it. I dare say, not many artists sleep with their work under their pillows... And then, over the course of several days, she adds more layers to it. "It's not finished yet, Mommy" she tells me.

Is art ever really "finished"?

dining area before & after

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We put some finishing touches on our dining area this weekend. Want to see?

Here's the BEFORE (this is the way the previous owners had it decorated):

Not bad. Just not our style. The chandelier is way too fussy for my taste. And one critical flaw: The railing in the back, which overlooks our (now) play area is a death trap for children. Bronwynn can fit half her body through the openings, and Miles could just walk/crawl right through. So our first task was to find an attractive way to babyproof that, since it's not in our budget to build a new railing right now...

All moved in

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I thought you'd like to see how much B adores her homemade dollhouse. She received furniture and accessories as birthday gifts, and we set up everything in her room last weekend. IKEA sells these colorful side tables for just $7.99 (How the heck do they do that?! Maybe I don't want to know, actually. Nevermind.)

Anyway, we got a cute yellow side table and laid everything out for her. In this photo, she's making a teeny tiny cup of coffee for me with the itty bitty coffee machine and mug. Isn't that thoughtful?? I love her.

Also, I swear I didn't plan it this way, but isn't it cool how the dollhouse goes with her new room colors?

fabric letters for the fridge

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Miles has been chewing on our plastic fridge magnets, and since they're all secondhand (read: old), I got a tad worried about phthalates and other toxins. So, I had the idea to make him some fabric magnets that he could gnaw on. THEN I thought, wouldn't it be cute to have a fabric alphabet??

I layered some felt in between scraps of my favorite fabrics and cut out the letters. Then, placed  magnets (available at any craft store) in the middle of each one. Finally, I sewed the edges closed.

Total cost: $4 for the magnets. 

I like the rough (shall we say shabby chic?) look of my letters, but if you wanted yours to be more polished you could use alphabet stencils as a pattern and turn/top stitch the edges so they don't fray.

I only got to "J" before the kids woke up from their naps. So I'll have to finish this project another day. But B couldn't wait to play with them anyway. Stay tuned...I'll post new photos once it's complete!

Safety Note: Make sure the magnets you use are large enough that your kiddo can't choke on them, and stitch them completely inside the fabric.

1 year

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You quietly announced your pending arrival with mild contractions that lasted for days. But then, when you made up your mind, it was all gangbusters... 23 minutes from the time my water broke until you were in my arms.

Even now, your personality sneaks up on us and catches us by surprise. So quiet and so funny and so smart.

I miss cradling your peach-fuzz head in the palm of my hand, but adore watching your graceful transition from baby to toddler. ...And, yes, always, little brother.

B vs. lip gloss

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On being gentle

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If you hang out in our house for more than, say, 20 minutes, you’ll hear me say this to Bronwynn:

“B, you can choose to be gentle, or you can choose time out.”

I say it as she hovers a wooden toy a few inches over Miles’ head, threatening to drop it. I say it as she is reaching over to pinch his leg or pull on his shirt. I say it as she leans in to give him a bear hug that’s sort of a hug but not really a hug as much as a ploy to tackle him to the ground. I say it as she swipes toys out of his pudgy little hands.

And usually, most of the time, B responds “I choose be gentle, Mommy.” 

Because the alternative is much less fun.

Our dear friends Jes, Austin (3) and Oliver (1) were visiting us this past week, and I probably said that line to B a hundred times. And usually, most of the time, she chose wisely. And when she didn't,  I hauled her kicking-and-screaming body to time out where she wailed for 3 minutes and then apologized to whomever she had wronged. And THEN she chose to be gentle.

After a few days of this, Jes said to me that she thought I was a much gentler mother than she is with her boys. She felt like she was harsh by comparison (she has a zero-tolerance policy for whining, which is actually very gentle and very effective).

I suppose on the surface I may appear gentle as I quietly carry B to time out. But I feel so far from gentle. What Jes can’t see, what no one sees and few mothers talk about, is just how much our kids can make our blood boil.

I say "our" because I mean "we." Mothers. I know I'm not alone in this.

I may be calmly putting my child in time out and setting a timer for 3 minutes. I may be offering choices and creating boundaries around the toddler behavior. But under the surface? Rage. I’m surprised you can’t see the smoke seeping out of my ears. My primal, cave-woman response to seeing my 3-year-old intentionally hurt my 1-year-old? I want to smack her. I want to scream. I want to make her cry so she knows how it feels to be hurt. I want to strap her into her carseat and drive far, far out into the country somewhere and leave her in a pasture to be raised by sheep.

But I don’t. I never have. That’s MY choice.

That’s not to say I don’t express anger. I take “Mommy time outs” when my fuse is about to blow. Or if I can't take time out, I step outside and let the fresh air wash over me (something about a breeze on my skin, sun on my face, birds chirping, or even cold raindrops, always snaps me back from dark places). And I let B know that it’s okay to scream into your pillow, or punch a stuffed animal, to be PISSED, or to just be alone, or to cry if that’s how you feel.

'Cause here's the thing. I grew up in a household that was not gentle, where those options were not presented, and I still bear some of the scars from that. Denying that we have angry feelings, stuffing them away, pretending we're perfect? That's what crazy feeds on. And so I choose each day (sometimes each minute) to create a healthier environment for my kids. I try to cultivate honesty and authenticity. It’s not easy. It’s parenting in the dark, without a road map. Starting fresh. Creating a new legacy. Still imperfect, but better than what I had.

When Jes said to me that she thinks I am gentler than she is, we were drinking martinis, unwinding from a long day with our toddlers. I almost blew vodka out my nose. I thought she had to be joking. Because I felt the EXACT same way toward her. I thought I was being cruel and impatient with my kids while she is this bottomless well of nurturing love and patience.  I felt weak. I thought she was strong. I felt like a failure every time my kid was screaming in time out. But never once did I consider her a failure if she had to discipline her boys.

And then it hit me: I’m not gentle with myself.  

I’m not even sure what it would look like to be gentler with myself, but I’m going to try it. It’s been an interesting year. A truly joyous year full of new life and deepening love and new adventures. Truly. But also really really hard in too many ways to count. And I wonder if I could tip the scale more in my favor if I was a little kinder to myself. Stopped judging myself so harshly for every. little. thing. ...Maybe if I learned to ask for help more, and gave myself time to let this move take root instead of demanding happiness from myself every waking moment. And what if I embraced the toddler tantrums that are SO developmentally normal, and rejoice that my children are never going to be afraid of me if I can help it, because I will be gentle?

See there? Even now I'm judging myself for having judged myself. This is hard. 

I recently watched B playing “mommy” with one of her baby dolls, and it was like holding up a mirror. The way she cradled her baby. The way she said “oh, honey” and “it’s okay, sweetie,” with a pat pat pat to its back, and sang to it, and yes, even gave her baby choices and presented consequences in a loving tone. 

Where did she learn all that?? Oh, yeah... The realization made me weep.

So that’s where we are. Choosing to be gentle.
Because the alternative, for me, is much less fun.


Rub a dub dub

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3 kids in a tub. The 4th is just outside this frame, playing bartender on the ledge. He didn't want to get clean.

There is something so sweet about having treasured friends stay in your home for a week, sharing laughs and meals, and yes, baths. We're sad to say goodbye to our live-in playmates.

Pumpkin cupcake recipe

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Several people asked me to share the pumpkin cupcake recipe. It's SO easy, y'all. (do I sound like Paula Deen? ....ooops. I meant to sound like Jessica Seinfeld.)

Okay, so here it is:

1 box yellow cake mix
1 cup pumpkin puree (NOT pumpkin pie mix. I used an organic canned puree.)
6 oz low-fat organic vanilla yogurt
2 large eggs
1 egg white
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/4 cup water

Throw everything in a large mixing bowl and beat until smooth (about 2 minutes). Then bake at 350F for 18-20 minutes (for cupcakes....longer if you do a sheet cake). The cupcakes won't rise as much as conventional cupcakes. You can tell that they're done when they are kind of spongy (they bounce back when you tap the top of them). Or, you can be like Kris and just eat one to decide if they're done :)

For the frosting, I used a store-bought vanilla kind. But I custom mixed the icing colors (you can find icing colors at craft stores or gourmet food stores). I melted the icing in the microwave for about 10 seconds and dipped the cupcakes to give them that sort of shiny petit four look. I placed the little candies while the frosting was still warm and then refrigerated them to harden.

The pumpkin and the princess (the cupcake series)

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Today we had a joint birthday bash for our October babies. It was Miles' first taste of cake, and unlike B who preferred carrots on her first birthday, Miles dove right in to the sugary goodness. Even now B is much more into the singing and blowing out candles than the cake. Though, as I was arranging the cupcakes on the plate, her eyes just about popped out of her head, and she said "oooooooooh, Mommy, those are sooooo beautiful!"

I used the Jessica Seinfeld Deceptively Delicious pumpkin cake recipe and customized the icing for a pumpkin and princess theme. My aunt gave me a gourmet cupcake cookbook, though, and there are too many cute designs in there. I'm thinking of baking my way through it (a la Julie & Julia). What do you think?
























Thrift store score

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I came across this vintage 1963 world map for $2 and thought it'd be perfect for Miles' room. I love that it has relief, and it's fun picking out the countries that no longer exist. It also lists the estimated populations of different countries at that time.

I know. We're total nerds that way.

3 years

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When Bronwynn was born—7:50pm on October 13, 2007, ten days past her due date—she didn’t cry. The doctor immediately laid her on my chest--her warm, pink, slippery skin against mine. The nurses reassured me her color was beautiful, she was breathing well, and not to worry. I was shivering uncontrollably—the fatigue of a long labor, the blood loss, and sheer excitement over this child. Kris tucked a warm blanket around both of us.

In those first moments, Bronwynn’s eyes quickly found mine and we stared at one another intently. Here was someone I had known intimately for months, a part of me now on the outside, and I was in awe.

She is really mine.

I am really a mother.

This little person needs me and loves me, and I don’t even know her yet. I offered her my breast and she nursed voraciously. It was over an hour before one of the nurses interrupted us and suggested we weigh her. 7lbs 11oz

Those first 24 hours, I was afraid to take my eyes off of Bronwynn. She was so quiet. Swaddled. Content. I leaned in as close as I could to hear if she was breathing. I could smell her breath, like honey, so sweet and pure, a smell I quickly became addicted to...For months afterward I would kiss her plump rosy cheeks and steal a whiff. After several hours that first night, the exhaustion caught up with me, and I dozed off with my hand next to her, my fingers resting on her tiny little belly, rising and falling with every sweet breath.

Things that make me nervous

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I fancy myself a fairly laid-back parent. It takes a lot to ruffle my feathers. But toddlers have a way of pushing the limits, and I realized that there are some things that inevitably jack up my heart rate a few notches. I started a list.

1) The sound of the toilet flushing. This could mean a) that B went potty without asking for my help. YAY! or b) It could mean that she flushed a toy, an entire roll of toilet paper, or worse...

2) Silence. As long as B is awake, the house is NOT silent. When it is, I know mischief is afoot.

3) Miles eating a new food he REALLY loves. I've never seen a baby who can cram as much chow into his plump little cheeks as Miles does. It doesn't matter how small I cut his food and how closely I supervise him; I worry about him choking.

4) Miles' problem-solving. This at once makes me very proud and very nervous. Have you seen an 11-month-old who can unbuckle the safety belt on a grocery cart all by himself? Meet Miles.

5) The realization that I've misplaced my Sharpie (or lipstick, or scissors....)

6) Waking up to the realization that B has been awake for MUCH longer than I have. I can usually tell by the toys strewn across the house or the fact that she's gotten herself dressed and helped herself to milk from the fridge. Makes me wonder what else she's been up to while the rest of us were snoozing...

I'm sure I'll have more to add soon.

What about you? What are your tell-tale signs that trouble's a-brewin'??

Upcycle old sweaters into pants for the kids

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I'm sure you have a few sweaters in your closet that are destined for the donation pile. Did you know you can turn them into pants for your little one?

This is one of my favorite fall projects. It's free, and it only takes about 30 minutes to complete. I blogged about it a couple years ago, but never included instructions. So I thought I'd revisit the topic with a full-fledged tutorial so you can try it at home.

Of course, I'm all about winging it, and don't bother with sewing patterns and pinning, so not every pair of pants I make is perfect (in fact, none of them are). But if you're willing to accept my tutorial and all its flaws, let's get started!


Flashback

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I was cleaning up my photo library and came across this shot of Bronwynn from Jan 20, 2009. I think I just died a little. Plus, I miss my old house.

Milestones

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Have I ever told you why I hate parenting books? It’s not that I think they’re evil or that no one should read them. In fact, from what I hear, there are dozens of very wise, very useful books out there that can be that beacon in a storm for some moms and dads.

One day, when B was about two months old, I cracked open one of the many parenting tomes I had been given as a baby shower gift. This one was one of those “what to expect” spinoffs, and since I hadn’t read it before, I decided to start at the beginning. By the time I got to the “Week 4” entry, I was crying, because you know what it said? It said something like, by now, you should be able to easily discern your baby’s cries. You’ll know when she’s hungry and when she’s wet and when she’s tired and when she’s over-stimulated….

And, in my postpartum hormonal haze, I was like, You mean there’s a difference between her cries? Shit.

That one little paragraph in one book made me feel wholly inadequate as a parent. And as I listened to other new moms at my playgroup, I realized I wasn’t alone. Women were spending hours fretting whether their child rolled over on time, whether they smiled or waved or could do long division. They spent hours online at night googling whether the baby is dying because his poop is chartreuse.

85/365

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In search of fall

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It's October. October is my favorite month because I have a crazy love affair with fall. I love fall for all the clich├ęd reasons one loves fall: perfect temperatures (crisp, yet plenty of sunshine), cozy sweaters, apple cider, pumpkin patches, soup for dinner, the crunch of leaves beneath my feet.

My babies were also born in October....something we did not plan, yet is perfectly serendipitous, because what better time of year to wrap a warm newborn in a sling close to your chest and take long walks and breathe fresh air and sip warm lattes and just enjoy the tender glow of new life?

It's October. I looked at weather.com and saw that the projected high today is 105.

ONE. OH. FIVE.

That would have made me weep, except I already have an escape route. I'm holding in my hand first-class plane tickets to North Carolina. My lovely, thoughtful, gracious aunt knew I would need this, and so she invited us to get out of town for a few days. The projected high where we're going: 74.

I packed jeans. JEANS! You have NO idea.
 
(And in case there are any creeps out there thinking this is a great opportunity to figure out where I live, come to my house and throw another rock at my window, you should know that Kris and Ollie are staying home and using this time to install our new home security system. :)

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