preschool graduate

It's officially summer break up in here; Willa had a half day today to finish out her school year.

Naptime is currently going terribly; Cameron is so excited to have his sister home that he's not sleeping and the clock is quickly ticking down on what's left of Willa's hour of quiet time. But I best just embrace the moment because I'm sure it's going to be just like this for the next 2.5 months! I am genuinely excited for summer adventures, but naptime is so precious...hard to part with! 

Anyway! Here are a few pictures from the last week or so of school. And a video at the end if you're so inclined!

^^willa's last unit of school was about exercise. at the end of the year "celebration of learning" we got to see a lot of the class's work. i particularly liked the picture she drew above. good reminder for all of us!^^

^^they had a little graduation ceremony yesterday during which we watched them receive their diplomas, listened to them sing a goodbye song, and watched a slideshow of pictures from the year. i'm blaming pregnancy for tearing up during the pictures. after the ceremony we had cake on the lawn and most of the kids practiced their tree-climbing skills.^^ 

It's so typical of me to say, but I honestly can't believe she's done with preschool and will start kindergarten in the fall! She grew up so much this year. Learned to write much more than just her name, and is starting to ponder reading. More important than all that, she made and nurtured friendships with each and every one of her classmates. It's so fun to watch her grow up. 

halfway! :: pregnancy update

How far along? 
20 weeks and 1 day. Past halfway, actually! Woot. 

How big is the baby?
The length of a medium-sized banana (6.5 inches) from head to heel. Apparently starting at 20 weeks you measure from crown of the head to the heel, not the rump anymore. Those legs have uncurled and are kicking me more and more!

Total weight gain/loss?
About 15 pounds. 

Maternity clothes?
Yes. Not many of my non-maternity clothes fit very well anymore. I have just few pairs of pants that are tight enough to stay up but not so tight that they make me uncomfortable. I seriously hate pants without waistbands though. I've heard that the over-the-belly panel works for some people, but they just doesn't make sense to me. They don't stay up! I bought a pair of maternity yoga pants and even those won't stay up (don't recommend!). It's getting hotter though, so maxi dresses from here on out.

Sleep?
I'm feeling a tiny bit less tired, so I'm managing to get up at 6:30 most days instead of begrudgingly rolling out of bed at 7. It's hard to avoid back pain from sleeping on my side, but once I get to sleep at night I do ok. Thankfully the nausea has subsided enough that I'm not taking Unisom anymore so I wake up feeling well rested.

Best moment this week?
My anatomy ultrasound last Friday! It was so reassuring to see the baby wriggling about, and all my measurements matched perfectly with my due date (October 12). Afterwards we went out for Pho, just randomly trying the closest place with good reviews, and it was absolutely delicious. Check out Golden Bowl II if you're ever craving Vietnamese in Wheat Ridge or find yourself passing by on i-70! 

Symptoms?
The nausea has definitely eased, but it refuses to go away 100%. I still get pretty queasy at night, starting around dinnertime until bed. Eating dry cereal after dinner helps...But otherwise I've been feeling pretty good! No more headaches, and, as I mentioned already, I'm feeling a tad more energetic. 

On a more negative note, I've been definitely struggling with patience and emotions. Mindfulness is not something that comes naturally to me, and so I've worked in the past few years to cultivate that skill, especially in regard to parenting. I'm not sure if it's fair to blame hormones or fatigue, but whatever the reason, I've been very impatient and reactive lately. Deep breaths. 

Food cravings?
Not really...Dan actually mentioned recently that I haven't sent him out to buy anything. Gotta play that card before this pregnancy is over!

Food aversions?
I'm still not very interested in sweets...we went out for ice cream last weekend and I got a small cone (Side note: the sizes at Sweet Cooie's are totally out of whack! I ordered the "little dip" after seeing what size the gal handed Willa and Cam and Dan got the "kids size" which was HUGE.) but I didn't really enjoy it. Spicy food is tasting a bit better.

Gender?
Still thinking it's a boy...we thought we might have seen something on the ultrasound, but you never really know. Could have been a foot!

Milestones?
Getting to 20 weeks. A month or two ago that felt soooooooo far away, so I'm glad to be here. 20 more weeks does feel like a long time, but, summer!? 

Bump?
Oh yeah. A couple weeks ago I was feeling enormous, but now, for some reason, I just feel appropriately big. Here's to a healthy growing baby!

reducing waste :: groceries

Recently, a few friends have suggested I organize an information session or something similar to talk about ways to reduce waste. My initial response was, “Me? There are so many people who know way more about those issues than I do!” If you Google or search Instagram, you’ll find tons of “zero waste” blogs/feeds that are super informative. 

But. I'm very passionate about this issue, so maybe I'll definitely consider doing more... For now, I thought maybe I'd just share a bit more here on my blog about ways I try to reduce my own family’s household waste.

With that in mind, let's talk grocery shopping! Below is a picture of the groceries I bought in packaging on a recent trip to Safeway. Everything else was produce. I have a stash of washable organic cotton bags that I use for produce and bulk. I love that I can write the bulk number in a washable marker right on the bag and then it comes off in the wash. Most grocery stores (Whole Foods being the exception) won't/don't deduct the weight of the bag at checkout (the cloth is heavier than the disposable plastic bags stores provide) but sometimes they'll give you the 5 cents off per bag. I don't really do it for the money, but it's nice when they incentivize the behavior! 

Here's my rationale (or in some cases, excuses) for the waste I did purchase. I analyze this stuff constantly...to me it's not about aiming for "zero waste." It's about making informed choices as a consumer and using that power to maybe someday get manufacturing practices to change slightly.

1. Pasta. For some reason, pasta is rarely available in the bulk section. Occasionally I've found whole wheat macaroni at Whole Foods and tri-color rotini at Sprouts. But you can't count on it. So, I usually buy pasta in as much paper or cardboard packaging as possible (instead of in plastic bags). It's hard to find a box that's 100% recyclable, but most stores have pasta in boxes with just a tiny bit of plastic.

2. Alternative milk. I buy cow's milk in reusable glass bottles. I sometimes make nut milks at home. But as a family of 4, we go through a good amount of milk in coffee, cereal, etc. Tetra-pak (shown above, what many milks come in) is not at all a good choice. It's terribly difficult to recycle because it's a combination of plastic, aluminum and paper. Denver now has facilities to recycle it (as do most major U.S. cities), but it's questionable how many cartons are actually being captured and whether or not the material salvaged can really be used in any meaningful way. 

3. Bread. Thanks to my mom, I have an awesome recipe for homemade bread. I make it regularly. However, it's for white bread, and I have yet to delve into making my own wheat/grain bread. I need to learn. I like this Dave's bread because it's one of few on the market that doesn't have added sugar. Plus it has a good amount of protein per slice. The bags are recyclable; you can put them right in your curbside recycle bin if your city takes #4 plastics or you can return them to plastic bag recycling bins available in most grocery stores.

4. Tuna + Beans. Aluminum is one of the most sustainable forms of packaging. Cans contain more recycled content than plastic or glass containers. They are easily melted and reformed into more packaging. They're light to ship. If a type of product is available in aluminum I will chose that over glass or plastic 100% of the time. When I occasionally buy my kids juice, I buy pineapple juice that comes in cans.

5. Yogurt. This is the worst thing I buy! Even though I've started making yogurt at home, and my kids enjoy it, their favorite "special treat" at the store is a fancy yogurt. They love the novelty of it, I guess? I hate it. But I like making them happy, and yogurt is a lot better than many things they could pick, so I cave. I recycle the plastic...but that doesn't really make it much better.

6. Produce stickers and tags. Not much we can do about these unless the industry standards change. Even farmers' markets often have produce with stickers. I try to take the stickers off as soon as I get home so we don't accidentally compost them (on banana peels, avocado skin, etc.).

7. Tortillas. We eat a lot of tortillas. I really want to get a tortilla press and learn how to make my own, but in the meantime I reuse the resealable bags for storing food and produce.

8. Frozen peas. I mainly buy produce without packaging. But I like to keep peas in freezer for those times when there aren't any other vegetables in the house or I'm super tired or lazy. Also, who has time to shell peas? Excuses, I know.

::

Other things I regularly buy with problematic packaging:

  • Cheese
  • Meat 
  • Fish
  • Tofu
  • Flax seeds
  • Dates
  • Potato chips
  • Berries
  • Wine

Foods we love but I try not to buy because of their packaging:

  • Clementines
  • Grapes
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Baby carrots
  • Rice cakes
  • Crackers

What about you? Do you think about the packaging on the foods you buy? What tips do you have to share? 

cameron's second birthday!

As I write this, Cameron is completely and utterly consumed driving a Hot Wheels car carrier around the living room. He recently moved on to that after using his Bruder Loader Backhoe to move around a Thomas the Train engine

He loves toys. Things with wheels, especially. But his love for toys is pretty remarkable (particularly after I'd been used to a first child who was only rarely vaguely amused by something manufactured especially for children). 

Yesterday, we celebrated Cameron. It's always nice when a birthday falls on a weekend day, so we can all be together as a family. 

We started the day with sprinkle waffles and two kids delighted with a ride-in water-spraying fire truck thanks to Grandpa. We attempted to go to the Children's Museum, but didn't realize there was a trick-or-treat event happening (side note: is it just me or do there seem to be an excessive number of opportunities to celebrate an already excessive holiday?) so we enjoyed some fresh air and sunshine at Jefferson Park instead. 

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After Cam's naptime, serious celebrations commenced. More presents (thanks, all!) and then Auntie Al and Uncle "Jay-bit" arrived for a mango lemonade cheers and pasta dinner.

Cam was so enthralled with his new toys, that even shouting "cupcakes!?" elicited no response. So finally we decided to just light the candles and sing "happy birthday." Once he saw a double-decker cupcake coming his way, he knew what was up and wasted no time blowing out the candles ("I blew out candles!"). He put away an impressive amount of cupcakes and ice cream (homemade banana chip!) before diving back into playing. 

I found myself wanting to video the entire evening, because everything that came out of Cameron's mouth made me smile. He excitedly exclaimed "Daddy's pasta!" at dinner. He yelled "boom shaka-laka" at one point; not sure why. He can express himself better and better each day, and it's fantastic to hear his thoughts. He regularly says "thank you, mommy," which totally melts my heart.

He had trouble falling asleep after all the excitement, but had a purple Hot Wheel in one hand and Thomas the Train in the other. He woke up this morning asking for his loader and car carrier. "Keep playing!" is his mantra. We love you Cameron!

new season, new goals

With the start of a new season, there's often an urge to make promises to yourself; to strive to accomplish goals you've set awhile ago. Lately, I've been really feeling this. I want to work harder on several things that are important to me. A few big goals, but mostly little ones. Some are things I used to do but have fallen by the wayside. Some are things I've always wanted to do but haven't gotten to. Some are random. Some are predictable. I know I won't get an A+ on this endeavor. But I'm going to try my best. (And be glad the days of getting grades are long behind me.)

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Goals for the rest of 2016:

  • Send more letters and cards by post.
  • Cook more. Mostly whole foods. Don't cave and give the kids things we don't really want them to be eating.
  • Spend 10 minutes of focused play time with each of my kids, twice a day. (Read this, and this for more on the topic, plus numerous parenting books!)
  • Blog more. At least one post a week. Do the updates/reformatting I've been planning for way too long.
  • Create our "family yearbook" of photos for 2015. (Nope, that year is not a typo.) Start the 2016 one.
  • Complete the household projects that we've been thinking about forever: new curtains, craft area for kids, laundry room organization, pictures in various spots around the house, the guest room closet...
  • Don't plan on exercising during Cameron's naptime.  It never works.
  • Host a party occasionally. I like parties.
  • Plan a new activity/park/outing once a week. I love our neighborhood, but I tend to do the same things and go to the same places all the time. I need to keep expanding my/our horizons.
  • Don't drive if I can walk or bike. Unless the weather is really bad. But sometimes, go places I have to drive to.
  • Continue to reduce our waste. Don't buy things in packaging if they can be obtained without packaging.
  • Minimize screen time before bedtime. Find an alarm clock to replace our phones.
  • Complain less. Just address the "problem."

while i was snapping...

I've been given a hard time lately for a dearth of Instagram photos. I used to post at least once a day, but in recent months I've waned. Mostly, my aging phone has been to blame. Every picture I took was blurry and not Instagram-able. But, also, I must admit, Snapchat has been dominating my social media time. I really like Snapchat. It's fun. And quick. However, Snaps do indeed disappear unless manually saved, so I best post some pictures on this here blog lest we forget everything we've been up to lately. Here's a roundup of pictures from the past month or so!

IMG_3352^^spring has been coming and going, but i think the nice weather is finally here to stay!^^

IMG_2775^^biker cam! we've been biking a lot more, but the two kids are pretty heavy in the trailer, so when the whole family bikes, we put one of them on the back of dan's bike.^^

IMG_3405^^one of those bad shots i referenced from a roller-skating birthday party!^^

IMG_2825^^flowers on our cherry tree!^^

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IMG_3439^^that montage is called: "eating out with kids is fun..."^^

DSC01173^^so much magna tile fun with grandpa!^^

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IMG_2848^^yay for backyard time!^^IMG_2891^^celebrating A&J's birthday!^^

DSC01238-001^^girls' spa day in boulder for our dear friend sara's baby sprinkle!^^

IMG_2896^^mother's day lunch at taste of thailand. SOOOOO GOOD!^^

IMG_2899^^her "celebration of learning" at school. she was so excited to show us what they'd been working on but mostly she was thrilled to "be in charge" all night. ;)^^

IMG_3520^^pizza delivery race at her school's field day!^^

wish list + wise purchases

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas...

(Actually that was in October when we had friends visiting and went hiking above the snow line. But still. It's currently snowy in Denver. Promise.)

Christmas is about so many things: Making memories with my family. Remembering memories of past holidays. Hugging. Eating. Eggnog. Spinach Balls. Joy. Surprise. LOVE.

But it's a little bit about gifts too. Try as I might (and honestly I'm not able to try that hard) you can't completely eliminate materialism from Christmas. And I'm not sure we should. Exchanging gifts is part of the spirit of Christmas. Reciprocity is an important part of our culture. And desire is human nature, no?

That said, here's my Christmas list. Things I've been lusting over. And after my desires, I'm listing some of my favorite products. Things I've been given or bought in the past couple years that have literally changed my life. If you need gift ideas, they'd make someone very happy. Promise.

DESIRES //

A new Patagonia fleece. I had this one in brown for a few years, but I made a mistake and got the wrong size. So I never really enjoyed wearing it. It was always too small. I finally accepted the reality, and passed it along to a friend, but I've been missing it. It's so warm and perfect for those not-super-cold winter days that Denver has a lot of. I'm not loving the options Patagonia has on their site right now, but perhaps REI or another retailer has some other options. Also, investing in a brand like Patagonia that prioritizes repairing products (that are already made to last in the first place) instead of buying new ones, has my vote. Great company that truly values sustainability.

Slip-on sorta-winter boots. Not very specific, I know, but I'm not sure exactly what I want. Maybe someone can suggest some for me? I have a pair of Sorels that I love for real snow boots, but I need want some that I can slip on when it's just a little bit snowy or slippery. I suppose my Uggs from 2002 fit this purpose...but they're Uggs. So 2002.

"Get to Work Book" planner.Here's a very specific one. I want this exact planner to get my life in order in 2016. I've thought a lot about my goals, big and small, and researched books. This one is what I want. If you don't buy it for me, I'm buying it for myself. You might want to buy it for yourself too?

My Mom's gold star necklace. My mom has a beautiful star necklace. It looks a lot like this one. Ever since the first time I trolled through her jewelry box, I've wanted it. Now I'm making it public. Mom, fork over your necklace! Kidding. But think about it? I love you!

Frame Jeans - Flares. Flared jeans are finally back in style. Hallelujah! I like these. Now I just also need sewing lessons so I can hem them myself. Therein lies the problem with non-skinny jeans...

Something from Kit + Ace. Technical cashmere seems like something I should probably have in my life.

LOVES//

Minnetonka Fringe Boots.I got these in black a year or two ago, and there are not words to express how much I love them. They are so comfortable. It's basically like wearing slippers. They also have the effect of making me feel like a youthful teenager and a hip thirtysomething simultaneously. That shouldn't even be possible, but it is and it's a good feeling. Get them.

Casio Watch.This is the ultimate parenting watch. The top right button sets an alarm for 1, 3, 5, 10, 15, 20, or 30 minutes (one press is 1 minute, press twice for 3 minutes, etc.). I use it about 75 times per day. "Willa, we're leaving in 3 minutes." Or, I set it for myself: "When the alarm goes off I better be putting on my shoes or we're f-ed." It's good for cooking too. It has a stopwatch and alarm function too. It does not, however, have Indiglo, so it's not so good for night wakings with babes. Thankfully, that is very recently no longer an issue for me.

Breville Barista Express Espresso Machine. We saved and saved for this and finally splurged right before my birthday last year. That was also right after Cameron was born. It perhaps sounds ridiculous, but this machine has seriously improved the quality of my life. It's easier to wake up in the morning knowing I have a coffee shop quality latte in my near future. The built-in grinder feature is key.

Cuppow drinking lids. Make any Mason jar a travel cup. Ditch plastic and single-use cups.

Car phone mount.I'm all kinds of against using your phone while driving. But let's face it, no one's buying a new Garmin when their iPhone has the capability of providing directions. This mount makes your phone easy to view while driving and it's nice and small for travel too. Just set up an app to block messages, and you're good to go!

Alex and Ani earrings. I wear these almost every day. Love their bangles too!

crested butte craziness

You know what traveling with kids is not like? Traveling without kids.

Shocking revelation, I know. But really, as simple as that sounds, it's a fundamental concept that one is forced to come to terms with when embarking on adventures with little ones. And I think it's something that many of us struggle with in the years after we first have kids. Your "pre-kid" life wasn't that long ago, and it's hard to shake the memories of when traveling (or doing anything, really) was, well, quite different.

A few weeks ago, great friends of ours flew in from Texas and we all trekked out to Crested Butte for the better part of a week. We'd had the trip planned for several months, and our friends were excited to have a Colorado mountain experience.

Crested Butte is sensational. It's truly an idyllic mountain town. We'd been twice before, but this was our first time going in the summer. The town was as quaint as ever and we were blown away by the breathtaking views. We tried our best to maximize the hiking trails and other outdoor adventures the area has to offer.

It was challenging though, to be sure. We were tired. Cameron didn't sleep that well. Willa had the ups and downs that seem to be par for her course at age 3. I got frustrated. At one point I cried and declared we should just drive back to Denver.

I didn't really mean it. And we didn't. I'm glad we didn't. The week was special. It was memorable. We got closer as a family. We reconnected with our friends. We got to know their kids.

There are numerous quotations about how things are hard but you should do them anyway. How it's the hard that makes them great. I'm not saying I wouldn't take a relaxed vacation sans kid drama...I would. (Gosh, I would!) But different is okay. Different has its own charms.

Some highlights:

^^Secret Stash Pizzeria. So good.^^

^^Meridian Lake. We hiked the steep route which was a lot of bang for your buck. Great views and refreshing swim.^^

^^Henderson Park aka "the mini park." According to Willa, this was the highlight of the trip. I'll bet you've never seen a smaller park.^^

^^Our VRBO on Elk Avenue. It was close to town and also to several hiking trails. It had a bit of an odd bedroom set-up (a really large master suite with a sitting area, a tiny bedroom by the kitchen with a full-sized bed, and two bedrooms upstairs with twin beds) but it worked out just fine! Great outdoor space.^^

To round out this story, it must be said that friends who can parent together are true friends. The challenges of this trip were eased by the extra eyes, hands, ears, and hugs throughout the days and the camaraderie around the campfire at night. We love you guys!

a happy birthday brunch for our three year old!

Willa turned three last week!

So far, I'm not sure what to make of this age. It's so hot and cold. Up and down. She's the cutest little girl EVER and then moments later she is so naughty. But I know it's all part of her development, and I'm doing my best to take deep breaths and be patient and supportive as she's learning.

She's working on being a big sister. She loves her little brother and enjoys having him around. She will say, "Hi little buddy!" when he wakes up from a nap, and if he's fussing, she'll say, "It's ok Cameron!" and then tell him something about what's going on. She has trouble sharing her toys with him. She often grabs things away from him. But she'll occasionally bring him a toy to play with, and she loves to share her food with him while they're at the table eating.

My favorite thing about Willa at this stage are our conversations. She loves to ask me questions. Lately we've been talking a lot about "workers" and what they build. She started with, "Mama, did workers build our house?" And now she asks if workers have built other things. The other day we were driving somewhere and she asked me to explain how the workers built our car. You can feel her mind working.

She remembers details and events of things we did so long ago. I am always surprised when she reminds me of them weeks or months later. She can carry on a conversation so well. It blows me away. She is getting so tall and so smart. I feel proud of the beautiful and inquisitive little girl she is growing into. She challenges and delights me each day.

Her birthday was a wonderful day! We were lucky to have family in town to celebrate and we threw a little brunch shindig with friends, donuts, cake, and an inflatable pink picture frame (Is that what we call it? No idea. But it was fun!).

^^"Mango cake!" For weeks before her birthday, Willa was telling everyone that she was going to have a mango cake. We weren't sure exactly what a mango cake was, but opted for vanilla cake with mango custard in the middle and buttercream frosting. It was delicious. Willa might have ruined her appetite with donuts, but I certainly enjoyed it. Huge thanks to the pastry chef! ;)^^

^^Cam slept for the first half of the party, but woke up and put on his party pants. He tried some snacks and was super excited to meet his Uncle Mike!^^

^^An inflatable pink frame = possibly the best $1.99 I've ever spent at Goodwill.^^

little things lately

Willa will be 3 in a week. She suddenly seems so much older. 

She asks specific questions. She makes remarkable observations. She tells jokes. And talks with her hands. She can still drive me crazy...I'm not looking forward to holding her down to apply sunscreen every single day of the summer. And why does brushing her hair have to make her scream like I'm torturing her? But she can put her shoes on by herself! She can get dressed on her own too, but being naked is more her jam. Good thing warm weather has finally arrived!

^^Have you ever have these Lemon Ricotta Waffles with Poppy Seeds? They are THE BEST. Seriously. Make them. And if you have leftover ricotta to use up, I suggest this cake.^^

^^My friend Katie and her kids were in town a couple weeks ago, and we were delighted to have them over for a play and dinner. (I was also delighted that my child isn't the only one with some ups and downs in the 3ish year old behavior department.) Old friends are so wonderful. Thanks for the visit, dear!^^

^^We had friends over for dinner the other weekend and got dressed up for the occasion. I tried to take a selfie with Willa, but that was pushing my luck.^^

^^Cam was sick this week. He had a fever and was out of sorts for a few days. (Note some Tylenol on his jammies in the photo above.) But thankfully he's now back to his smiley self. And he really is smiley. It's awesome. I hope he stays this happy for months and years to come.^^

choose your own adventure

You know what's great about not having a "regular" job? The flexibility. You know what's super overwhelming? Flexibility.

Pretty much every day I have a long stretch of time without any plans. Hours that can be filled however I want. There are things that need doing: grocery shopping, work, meals, dishes, emails, diaper changes, exercise, laundry... But most of those things don't need to happen at a specific time. I can work out in the morning or in the afternoon. We can go to the park whenever. Willa can nap at noon or 1:30. The grocery store is open all day.

This whole stay-at-home/work part-time thing has been tough for me to master. It's a work in progress. Before Cameron, I felt like I sort of had things down. We'd go out and do something in the morning, and then come home for lunch and naptime. Even if we didn't get out the door first thing, we still had time to do something. But now, Cameron naps mid-morning and so it sometimes feels like I'm being held hostage in the house with my almost-three year old. Good times. Notsomuch.

This summer, I need to figure out a bit more of a schedule. I need to be the driver of our time. It is wonderful to be able to design our days just how we want them, but it's not without challenges. Sometimes it feels like the day slips away from me. I'm totally okay with staying home and not doing much, but I want it to be an intentional choice.

Here some reminders for myself as I work to achieve a more scheduled life that balances work and play. Maybe you have some pointers too?

//

Have a plan. So simple. So obvious. Yet hard to execute. The days we have a plan and somewhere to be at a certain time, we get ourselves there. The days that are open-ended are when we sometimes get a bit cranky. Even when I don't have an obligation or scheduled meet-up with a friend, it helps immensely if I make my own schedule ahead of time. I'm working on a "bucket list" for the summer to make sure we get to all the things I want to do.

Make use of small blocks of time. Don't underestimate the short or simple outing. Everyone's mood gets so much better with a little fresh air and stimulation from the outside world. But, I tend to overestimate how much time it takes to do things, so often I don't go somewhere because I don't think there's enough time. It's good to remember that a quick outing can be quite restorative, so squeeze something in between naps or whenever you can!

Ditch the schedule. But only sometimes. My kids like to nap in their beds. I'm not sure if it's their nature or something we've fostered, but they don't sleep very well in strollers, carseats, etc. As a result, I have a love-hate relationship with naptime. I love the break it gives me but I sometimes hate having to be home for it to happen. It's good to throw naptime to the wind occasionally. This lets you have the whole day to do whatever you want. Sometimes this totally backfires and you've got meltdown madness on your hands. But usually everyone adjusts. It's important for everyone to learn/remember to be flexible.

Do things you enjoy doing. Since becoming a mom, particularly a mom who is primarily at home, I've felt a lot of pressure to do certain activities. "Kid-friendly" things. Many of those things are a lot of fun. But some of them aren't. At least not for me. But what I want to do is constantly changing. There are things that sound fun today that last year I swore I'd never do. I try to remind myself that there are many ways to raise kids, and children can benefit from a wide range of experiences, so it's okay to just do what you want to do.

Be gentle with yourself. I'm working on this one. I try not to stress too much if I forget something or am a bit late to meet someone. I do the best I can, but things are hard enough without beating myself up. Yes, I try to remember the sunscreen. But if I forget it, we'll find some shade and everyone will be okay.

Use television strategically and sparingly. I don't have a real issue with kids watching TV, and I certainly make full use of our Netflix subscribtion. However, I've noticed that the more shows Willa watches, the grumpier she is afterwards. With summer coming, I need to remember that playing outside is much better for everyone. I want to try to limit our "screen time" (mine too!). I hope to reserve shows and movies for times we can cozy up on the couch together to enjoy the experience.

Slow down. As much as I enjoy doing things, it can be equally important and beneficial to stay at home or to just walk around the block aimlessly. I can be nice to just let the day unfold as it will. Some of the best memories can be made when you aren't trying too hard.

baby items you (i) actually need :: the first year

Last month, the food blog Eater published a post about editor Andra Zeppelin's "Personal Denver 38." For each city covered by Eater, there's a list of the "Essential 38 Restaurants." This is my go-to resource for where to eat. But I loved the idea to feature people's personal lists, because everyone is a bit different. Different food preferences, different neighborhoods, different lifestyles. The same is definitely true for baby items. (I can tie any topic back to food, apparently.) There are so, SO, many lists out there about the "essential" baby items. But what that person needs isn't necessarily what I need. And what I need is not exactly what you need. Someone in a city needs different things than someone who lives in the country or the suburbs. You get my point; there are a few universals, but most baby stuff is a matter of choice depending on your lifestyle, parenting preferences, and more.

Before Cameron was born, I spent a lot of time thinking about what we'd actually need for him and whether or not we needed anything new. I've written about some of my thoughts regarding all the stuff marketed to parents; all the stuff we're made to think we need to successfully raise our children. I struggle with this. A part of me strives to be minimalist, but I also feel an urge to have the "right" stuff to make my life "easier." Carefully selecting quality, useful items can indeed add to your life. But I've come to realize that too many material things makes me feel overwhelmed. It can be hard for me to focus on what really matters when the living room is a cluttered mess.

When Willa was a baby, I discovered we actually didn't need anywhere near as much stuff as I'd thought we would. I was shocked to realize how little we used a stroller. People always talk about how expensive kids are, but for the first several months of her life, I felt like she didn't cost us anything!

Before she was born I'd tried to take a "less is more" approach to my registry, but we still somehow ended up with way too much stuff. We've since gotten rid of some of those things, but we've held on to most and continue to use them since we already have them. And I've of course bought new things. But. If I could go back in time and only buy or ask for the stuff that's absolutely a necessity, here's what I'd recommend to my former self:

Convertible car seat. Unless you are lucky enough to live in New York City, you probably drive sometimes. And if you're going to drive with your baby, your baby needs a car seat. Your baby does not, however, need an infant seat. The car seat companies just want you to think that they do. That way, you'll eventually buy another car seat when your baby outgrows the infant seat. I didn't realize this before Willa was born, but there are lots of "all-in-one" car seats on the market. Meaning, one car seat that you use from birth until they no longer need a seat or booster of any kind. We're a fan of the Diono Radian because it's one of the narrowest on the market and also because it folds flat for travel. (It is not, however, the lightest!)

Prefold cloth diapers. Babies need diapers. (Well, actually, you could go the Elimination Communication route, but that is a whole other topic that we don't need to get into here.) I'm a fan of cloth diapers primarily for economic reasons. There are lots of debates about whether or not they're better for the environment than disposables (I'm inclined to think they are), but it's impossible to debate the fact that you save money by using cloth. The first time around I went with All-in-One cloth diapers because they seemed easiest, but experience has made me realize that prefolds and covers are a better bet. If one or the other gets worn out, you can replace them for relatively cheap, and most adjust small enough that you can use them from day one. I highly recommend econobum, but if you have a bit more of a budget, the Flip "diaper system" is awesome (so glad Alli recommended them to me!). And be sure to get some diaper cream too, as well as bamboo liners so you don't ruin your cloth diapers with the cream (these are also good if you're squeamish about poop and want it to be thrown into the toilet easily). Oh and make sure you have a diaper-friendly detergent. I love Nellie's. You need so little that I only went through two bags in the 2.5 years Willa was in diapers. See, economical!

Cloth wipes. I use cheap baby wash cloths for everything. Diaper changes. Runny noses. Spit up. Ice cream hands. I also cut up old clothes and take them with me on the go. Once used, I sometimes save them, but usually I toss them in a trash can. 

Baby carrier. I read somewhere recently that baby carriers aren't just for attachment parents, they're for parents who like to get sh*t done. You can either hold your baby and get nothing done, or you can wear your baby and get stuff done. Especially when you have a toddler doing the most dangerous thing feasible at the playground on your first outing with the new baby. You need a carrier. Also, babies are tiny. They like to be held close. (Ok, maybe I am a bit attachment-y.) I have two favorites: the Solly wrap and an Ergo. Get both. (The Beco is a close 2nd to the Ergo, but if you only get one the Ergo is a better choice because it's good for toddler carrying too.)

Bloom Alma Mini Urban CribThe American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that babies sleep in their parents' room for the first 6 months. With both kids, we've had them in a Pack-n-Play in our room and then we've moved them into a crib in their own room. However, during those first months I always stress about where they should be napping and if I'm providing continuity (or does it even matter?). If I had to do it all over again, I'd buy one of these so I could keep it in our room at night and wheel it down the hall or wherever for naps etc. Folded up it's approximately the same size as a playard anyway, and much prettier. Not to mention it looks much more comfortable.

Bottle(s). Nothing drives me more crazy on a wedding or baby registry than "sets." Knife sets. Sets of pots and pans. It's a racket! No one needs both a 6" and a 8" chef's knife. But anyway. Bottles. Here's the thing about bottles: your baby can't drink out of more than one at a time, right? And, once emptied, they shouldn't be left sitting for long or the milk residue will grow bacteria (see useful breastmilk storage/use guidelines here). So. You might need a few bottles. But you don't need 10. And if you're not going back to work full-time, you probably only need one. Ok fine, two.

Blankets etc. Similar to bottles, you do need blankets, but probably not 15. I have 8 of these aden + anais ones and it's way more than enough. I could get by with just 4. Make sure you read the material content of what you get though, because aden + anais blankets are now sold at Target and other stores and they're not all created equal. Get the real deal ones. I also recommend sleep sacks. You don't want to skimp in the sleep department.You can swaddle with blankets, but at 2am when you're sleep-deprived the velcro version is pretty fantastic. When you baby gets a bit older, this one is awesome because it can be used as a swaddle or not, depending on what they like.

Clothing. Your baby needs clothes. But they grow super fast in the first year and you don't need the added stress of making sure he wears all his cute 3 month sized outfits in one week. You'll likely get plenty of clothes as gifts, but if you need more, Goodwill is the bomb. And I love thredUp too. Also of note: sets of white onesies seem to be ubiquitous, but I have no clue why. A pooping baby and a white wardrobe? Stock up on dark-colored basics, like these.

Highchair. I believe it's super important to include babies with you at the table for meals, and to do this you definitely need a highchair. (Ok, you can have them sit in your lap, and if your baby will sit with you and let you eat your food, I am insanely jealous. Mine won't. They need straps.) I like chairs that don't have trays, so you can put your baby at the table with everyone else. Which exact chair you get depends on your table/eating situation, but it's hard to go wrong with the Stokke Tripp Trapp. It resells on Craigslist for almost retail because it's that awesome. I also love Phil&Ted's chairs. We have this one, which was discontinued, but their newer model looks fantastic, and Inglesina makes a good one too. Great for counters, travel, restaurants, etc. I also like the totseat for travel.

Eating accessories. In my limited experience, babies do need a few items in addition to their highchair to help facilitate meals. I do, however, try to limit how much plastic we bring into our lives and baby eating items involve a lot of plastic. Whenever I buy new things I try to stop and really think about if it has to be made of plastic. A place mat? Yes. A place mat is a good idea, especially if you have a table that could be damaged by excess crumbs and food scraps. I'm a big fan of this one because it sticks to any surface (several of them have suction cups which don't work on wood or any porous counter/table). We don't, however, have much by way of plastic dishes or utensils. Willa loves using the espresso spoons that came with our flatware, and I also have some wooden spoons that we use a lot. Around the house I give her food on small plates we already own. However, when she was first started eating I did buy one plastic plate and one plastic bowl from Goodwill. And don't get me started on sippy cups...I'm a big fan of regular glasses...but I did really liked this cup as her first sippy (although beware: it leaks!), and I'm hoping my bottle-hater will take to it in a couple of months. For some reason "they" try to make parents think that kids need all kinds of special items for eating (fancy Disney plates, for example!?) but chances are you already have some small plates on hand as well as a cup or two that it won't matter if it breaks. You also need a few bibs. I like these because they're plain and the velcro doesn't wear out after several washings (I hate, however, that they're labeled "boys." They're primary colors!)

Thermometer. Self explanatory. But don't waste money on a fancy pants one. Rectal is the most accurate.

Skip Hop Treetop Friends Activity Mat.Part of me wants to say that a baby doesn't really need any toys. And that's somewhat true. But, your life will be easier if you feel like you have a designated place to put your baby down. And this activity mat comes with 5 awesome toys, which makes it a good deal. Also, I recently discovered that almost every single one of my closest mom friends has this exact item. So that is pretty significant.

That's it! But I'm certain I'm forgetting something essential. So you tell me: what are your "must haves?" What could you have done without that surprised you?

it goes so fast

Cameron is three months old. It goes by so fast. 

A truer phrase was never said.

He is wonderful. My heart swells with love for him. "They" say there's something about the second child. The second time around you are able to appreciate things in a way you couldn't with the first. I worry a bit less. I find myself cherishing little moments. And knowing that the "bad" won't last long. He's so sweet. He's so little. He needs us so much. We need him.

He is fantastic in so many ways. He sleeps. Oh my gosh he sleeps. Knock on wood. He sleeps as my first child did not. He naps in his crib! Several times a day. He can be put down awake. What!? 

But you know what he doesn't do? Take a bottle. Nope. He won't have it. I can't say I've had to endure it firsthand, because obviously when I'm around things go a different way. But he is fierce in his resistance. We thought Willa refused the bottle, but turns out what she did was just mildly show us that she didn't really like it that much. She drank from it. Cameron? Nope. He did for a few weeks, but not anymore.

I'm not happy about it. We're still trying. But if it doesn't work, it's ok. It won't be an issue for that long. In the blink of an eye he's going to be a toddler. Running away from me instead of clinging to my shoulder.

Three months. Can't wait for more.

being in the moment

Sometimes when I'm reading blogs and looking at pictures of amazing people doing amazing things, I find myself wondering how much of their fun outing they spent trying to capture it in photos. Were those photos really shot quickly and effortlessly? Or were they staged and took 20 tries to get right? The blogger obviously wants you to think the former, but I'm sure it's some of both.

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I love taking pictures. Always have. When we're out and about I try to snap photos when the mood strikes me, and then later I'll see what I've come up with. I rarely have a specific shot I'm trying to get, but I do sometimes find myself trying to get some "good shots."

My family was in town earlier this month. All of them. Mom. Dad. Sister. Future brother-in-law. We had a lot of fun. And they were a lot of help (2 kids to 6 adults seems like a solid ratio, no? ). Willa was in heaven. They were so happy to meet Cameron.

There was family time. Double date night. Mom-daughter time. It was great! But I didn't take many pictures. On one hand, that makes me sad. But on the other, it makes me realize I was enjoying life and just living it. And I have lots of memories to cherish. Even without pictures.

"ready" for christmas

A common greeting this past week or two seems to be, "So, are you ready for Christmas/the holidays?" It's a perfectly friendly, well-meaning question. Nevertheless, I am not sure how to answer. What does "ready" mean exactly? Emotionally prepared? Gifts bought? Wrapped? Food planned? Centerpeice arranged? Even writing those all out makes me feel a bit overwhelmed...

There's no way around it; a lot of "work" goes into celebrating holidays. I use quotation marks, because is buying and wrapping gifts really work? Not so much. But yet, it is. Work in the sense that it takes effort and organization. I go back and forth: on the one hand, I think it's important to keep things low-stress. But at the same time, I want both us and our children to experience special holiday traditions, and those don't just create themselves.

The past several years since I've been married, I haven't gotten around to making our Christmas holidays as tradition-heavy as I would like. I always have grand plans, but never get to many of them. Somehow though, this year, we managed to make lot of things happen, despite having a new baby. I think time took care of things...the past couple of years Willa hasn't been old enough to participate much in traditions, but this year she has been so excited about everything.

Here are some pictures of our holiday activities so far. And once I get my wrapping done, I'll be officially ready for Christmas!

^^spinach balls! a christmas tradition since i was little, and i'm so excited willa enjoyed eating a few this year!^^

^^tree decorating! i missed out on most of the ornament hanging this year because i was on the couch breastfeeding, but willa did a great job with a little help from her dad. our tree is from whole foods again this year, and i think it looks good!^^

^^many hours have been spent making three batches of cookies (sugar + gingerbread). the first batch of sugar cookies had natural food coloring for the frosting. tasty, but not pretty (in the photo above, willa's attempting to make green. puke green, i suppose?). willa's favorite part is licking anything she can get her hands on. she's not as interested in eating the finished product, but she is very excited to leave some out for santa!^^

^^last saturday, we rode the bus downtown for a family adventure. we'd thought about checking out the carousel at denver pavilions, but decided to first go to union station for a hot chocolate. union station was so festive that it ended up being our only stop before dinner. we had hot drinks and cake pops from pigtrain coffee, which we enjoyed by the huge christmas tree. santa ended up being there and willa was initially really excited to see him, but as soon as it was her turn she went and hid behind a chair. i don't really blame her! he scared me a little too (he wanted to sneak up on her in her hiding place so i could get a picture? and when i declined to that plan, he suggested "photo bombing" via a different angle? chill out, santa!) after a quick dinner at illegal pete's, we took the bus home after dark and admired the christmas lights along the way.^^