End of Summer Quick Takes

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Wow, I really lost my blogging mojo for, oh, about a month there. Oops! In my defense, that month contained:

  • Tom’s last week of the grad school semester
  • Our 4th anniversary
  • A big road trip up to Vermont with my parents and the girls, for a week-long Smith fam reunion
  • Recovery from said trip
  • A crazy hot heat wave
  • Potty training Lucy
  • Somewhat-sleep training Maeve
  • Selling our Pilot, buying an Odyssey
  • Staycation adventures with Tom during his time before school starts
  • Home projects, trying to keep the house clean, actual cooking now that my sous-chef/child-wrangler is home in the evenings again!

So not much time left for tapping out updates or thoughts or book reviews or anything of that sort. But a good, full, stretching-ourselves-in-a-good-way type of busy!

 

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Fuzzy, cheese-y mornings #allthejammies #allthechins

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I’m starting to plan out what I hope our fall “routines” and daily “schedule” will look like (fully realizing that both terms are used very loosely!). But Lucy definitely needs a little more structure to her day to avoid boredom and serious acting out/torturing sisters/destroying property. I realize now why people send off 3-5 year olds to preschools. So we’re just going to improvise here at home.

She loves all kinds of fine-motor and crafty type activities, so I just got  this book for us, and will eventually stock up on the very basics: glue, safety scissors, good quality watercolors, finger paints, homemade play dough, etc, to make it happen. I am woefully un-crafty, but I think I can handle this level, where the kids don’t really care what it is, so much that it is. Art/fine-motor– check!

This adorable book will be fun to go through with the girls, and Tom takes them to local nature centers several times a month. Nature study/science– check!

Lucy also really likes alphabet-related activities so I may start doing some of these with her. Pre-reading/religion– check!

We dug up some old-school Wee Sing books from my parents’ (i.e. from my childhood) and Lena and Lucy both LOVE going through and singing the songs and doing the finger plays. We’re compiling a classical faves playlist and Lucy likes to listen to it for the approx 3 minutes she lays on the couch for quiet time, if she isn’t listening to audio books.  Music– check!

Any ideas for good quality children’s lives of the saints and Bible stories? I’m looking for something with good prose and beautiful illustrations to read aloud to the girls every day (no dumbed down text and no ugly cartoons!). Help!

We’ll continue, as always, to read a plethora of books, and Lucy will probably be happy to take on some more memory work from Children’s Garden of Verses (we have this one, and it’s beautiful), Mother Goose (we have this one which I loved as a kid), and The Harp and Laurel Wreath.

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Perhaps we’re being overly optimistic, but starting Sunday we’re going through 30 Days Grain Free.  I did a zero-grain protocol for about 3 months 5 years ago, and it did wonders for my health, so I’m hoping for similar results, as well as building better snacking habits. Tom’s also going to be starting this, kind of in tandem, so…yeah…pray for us!

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I just signed up for the Mid-Atlantic Catholic Women’s Blogging Network Conference. I loved it last year, and can’t wait to get out to beautiful Front Royal for this year’s! Definitely check it out if you’re a local blogger.

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Links!

The Weeds and Wheat in Children’s Literature

Yes, yes, yes! I always hated hearing, “But at least they’re reading!” as a teacher when the content was absolute drivel!!

I instantly knew which school the author here was referring to– my dear husband’s alma mater! He always lamented about the phenomenon she’s talking about, and it happened with fair regularity at my alma mater as well.

I’m curious about whether or not the upcoming Netflix original about the current royal family, The Crown, will be any good. I like Clare Foy from Little Dorrit and several other BBC things, so we shall see!

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Photos!

 

 

Lena's baptism day celebration

Lena’s baptism day celebration

A series of selfies and shots that the girls are constantly taking on my pilfered phone…

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And this cutie just turned SIX MONTHS … and is CRAWLING all over!

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Have a fun weekend and stay cool!

Linking up with Kelly!

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It’s July?!

Do you know what’s so funny– I thought that since Tom is going to be gone late into the night so much this summer because of grad school, I’d have so.much. time to blog! And here we are, almost halfway through the program and … yep. Hardly a peep. I will leave it to your capable imaginations to figure out why that may be.

But still, we are alive and mostly well, if exhausted and run a little ragged most days. Lucy’s currently fighting a fever/summer cold which has her parked on the couch (SO unlike her normal self) and even taking naps (REALLY unlike her normal self) but I’m hoping a couple more days of rest and more naps will do the trick.

We’ve also had some pretty jam-packed weekends to take advantage of Tom being around during the daylight hours…a (long) trip to the beautiful Shenandoah area to visit a very dear friend, go to a winery, and drive up a mountain to dine in her parents’ magazine-worthy home…

 

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I was having so much fun that I literally only got this picture while changing Maeve…oops!

 

Father’s Day BBQ…

 

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Maeve contemplates the greatness of her dad on Father’s Day

 

…and then my 10-year high school reunion last weekend! Maeve came with us to the evening events, and my parents very kindly watched the girls (and hosted us overnight during the weekend too). It was really, really fun to see old faces and friends and meet new spouses and kids.

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Then this weekend it was the library, catching up on tons of cleaning and chores, after-dinner ice cream and walk around town, some pre-4th of July festivities with family, and then cancelled day-of plans, due to Sick Lucy. But whew. The multiple nights of keeping the girls up past bedtimes have been taking their toll, mostly in deteriorating behavior and screaming sessions from the adults toddlers.

I’m hoping July will be a little calmer, a little less jam-packed and give us a little more time to rest and enjoy each other. I have to make a real, conscious effort throughout the days to enjoy the girls rather than merely see all their needs (and there are MANY), get fed up with their whining and crying and screaming, and lose my patience with their willfulness and lack of anything resembling cooperation or obedience.

This is why, even though it ends up being a lot of work and prep and cleanup, I tell myself to just do it: set up the pool for them, let them dig in the sandbox or make mud pies, “help” me bake or cook in the kitchen, eat popsicles, schlep all of us and our lunches to a park or play date.

It’s a hard summer, this one, and we need all the smiles and good memories we can get! I think things have gone pretty well when we make it to the end of another day and we are mostly in one piece and have had something substantial for dinner (thankful for a bunch of frozen slow cooker meals, batch cooking, and yes, plenty of frozen pizza/nuggets and mac n cheese. Survival!).

And when they’re all finally asleep, I can begin to sort through the tornado of sorts they’ve left in their wake before I collapse with a good show (just finished Home Fires and really enjoyed it! And now am going through Rebellion, which is maybe a bit too intense, but compelling, and when Tom’s home we absolutely love watching The Great British Baking Show. Who knew that could be so addicting?!) or sometimes a good book, if I have the mental capacity (almost finished with Room With a View, which we’re discussing at book club tomorrow night, and am supposedly still reading/listening to Brothers K, but let’s be real– my real life is crazy enough without reading about the Karamazovs every day too).

Here’s to a few more weeks of craziness before a vacation and having Daddy back at home!

 

Babies in the Garden {p,h,f,r}

Leila Lawler is suggesting showing shots of our gardens-in-progress for today’s link-up, and so that’s what I’m gonna do! I also feel that I need to capture the garden in its as-yet still untouched growing glory– I know the deer are watching and waiting to devour and ruin our work. They’ve lobbed off at least 5 beautiful little bush bean tops, but some of them have bravely started re-growing. And then my dad lent us some super-smelly anti-deer spray, and (fingers crossed) it is working (so far).

Let’s start with the front bed, right below our dining room windows:

What you see is a TON of lettuce, that we originally planted WAY long ago (I think like early March!) as a cold-weather crop. It survived the randomly super cold spring, and we have much more lettuce than we can eat at this point. The empty spot at the end is where we planted our butterfly/bird flower garden (a mix that will hopefully attract lovely things like hummingbirds, finches, butterflies, etc.). There’s a dahlia at the end that our neighbor gave us, but those buds never seem to want to actually bloom into flowers. Maybe it gets too much sun??  Then an absurdly tall stalk of cilantro that requires assiduous pruning since it keeps wanting to bolt and seed. But at least we have fresh cilantro this year!! We also got two pink hydrangeas from Aldi’s for $10 each, which was a steal, and one of these days we (meaning Tom) will have a few seconds to dig up the clay-ey soil right in front of the bed, and plant those and mulch around it. So far, they’ve seemed pretty happy  in their pots though, and have bloomed considerably since we bought them.

Next, the raised beds:

 

Oh look, a TON of weeds, 3 squash (of the 8, I think, Tom planted) and then 3 volunteer tomatoes! Hooray for volunteers! We will put actual tomato seedlings in the empty (well, except for all the dang weeds) space in the back, and maybe some heat-tolerant spinach underneath, shaded by the tomatoes. We’ll see.

The next bed has bush beans, 2 rows of them, and you can see in the close-up that they will be multi-colored, some purple, some green, which will be really fun! Then a bunch of carrots, which may or may not survive being consistently pulled up by Lucy before they’re ready.

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The last little bed is just cucumbers, and hopefully, they don’t get demolished by deer like last time. (Also, what the weeds! We reallyyyyy need to weed. And we really do not have time! All that rain has made our lawn/weeds/invasive crazy vines just take over our yard and gardens).

And of course, we’re still growing these:

(I can’t believe how much Maeve has started resembling Tom of late. Is that not his face, right there, in miniature (and on a girl baby?))

I tried setting up the sprinkler for the girls last week when it was blazing hot and thought that this year they’d both finally be into it (Lucy was a little timid last year, while Lena put her face right in it and loved it). Surprisingly, Lena was TERRIFIED of the spray of water and screamed, “IT’S WET!!!” in the most surprised, injured tones every time the water touched her.

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Preparing for the sprinkler to pass over…

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…andddd reaction. Lucy smartly turns head away, while Lena screams right through it.

So, I guess we’ll have to dig out the kiddie pool.

Hopefully, I will be back soon with something other than pictures and captions. This week has been particularly cuh-razy as Tom is both wrapping up his school year/grades/summer camp prep AND starting grad school that is over an hour away, four days a week. The kids haven’t seen him very much this week, nor have I really, but next week he should be home more in the mornings and early afternoons, and (please, dear God!) I’m hoping Maeve will start napping better (or at all, really) during the day too. Feel free to send up any prayers you want to for us during the late afternoon or early evening witching hour/dinner/bedtime…doing it solo with all three is no joke! However, I really can’t complain, as military and medical residents’ wives have it so much harder. Teach me your ways, brave women! (Seriously. Leave me advice if you are one!).

Hope you have a wonderful, non-humid weekend!

 

Cute and Not-So-Cute Toddler Antics {p,h,f,r}

My mom pretty much supplies any of the matching clothing the girls wear and it’s always fun to dress them in those outfits. But it’s pretty difficult to actually get a decent shot of them together with Lucy not screaming, “CHEESE!!!” and causing Lena to look in her direction…so here’s what we got:

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Lucy loves saying, “We need to take a picher of this!” whenever she is doing something she thinks is cute. Holding her baby dolls was one such occasion.

 

Well, I’m stealing this from Instagram, but I mean, it’s too good. This is what happens when you’re nursing the baby and the toddlers are on the other side of the car, where they know you can’t see them, and where the ever-tempting garden beds lie. “We’re pouring dirt on each other’s heads!!!” they called with glee. Let’s just say the showers we had to give them afterward were not well-received.

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Linking up with Like Mother, Like Daughter! 

Ready for Fall (goodbye September!)

What’s up, world? We’re just over here, doing our usual, and getting a little a lot excited for fall’s recent tip-toe into our neighborhood. (Does anyone else get inordinately pumped about switching out most of the summer wardrobe for fall’s?? Or is that just me?).

I feel that over the last couple weeks, we’ve finally reached the point where our daily lives have some semblance of a predictable rhythm. Since Lena has officially and forevermore dropped her morning nap (for better or worse), it means we can actually have a bit of a schedule.

It’s nice to know we wake up at roughly the same time every morning, give or take 15-20 minutes, have the whole morning for breakfast, clean-up, second breakfast (Lena), and outside time or a short outing somewhere before the lunch/nap flurry. And since Lena’s only napping once, the girls’ naps overlap almost all the time now, which is the game-changer. I think the hardest thing about two little ones is having one go down to nap and the other one wake up 20 minutes later, leaving you in a deeply desperate place of no time alone whatsoever. So this is nice. And then the afternoons are good for walks, more outside play, or whatever the girls like to do in terms of destroying playing inside. I won’t go into the Witching Hour that follows, but I’m happy to emerge every evening with (most of) my sanity intact and something edible to serve for dinner.

For the end of our summer, before Tom had to return to work and the craziness that is September for teachers, we did a few fun summery family things like…

A humid afternoon in Georgetown, where we took the girls to the park where we got engaged

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Still got the fat rolls on her thighs. Love it! And check out what the humidity does to those curls!

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Not sure Lucy understood our explanation of, ‘This is the gazebo where Daddy asked Mommy to marry him…” etc.

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What a difference 3.5 years makes!

A couple of local nature centers, replete with as many turtles, frogs, snakes and even OWLS a toddler could possibly want:

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A lot of popsicles and outside play:

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Her favorite spot: INSIDE the flower bed…

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And some sisterly bonding over breakfast:

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And after tragically/stupidly forgetting to reserve some sourdough starter a few weeks ago before making my loaves, we went a few weeks with no homemade bread. The stuff is so, so delicious, and I’d managed to keep my starter alive and thriving for over 1.5 years. Thankfully, I’d given a stranger in my farm coop some extra a few months ago, and she paid it forward/back by giving me back some of her extra. All is now right with the kitchen again.

For Want of Wonder

Currently, Vol. 5

Recovering: from a lovely mini beach vacation earlier this week, and the three days before that in which everyone but me was sick with nasty summer head colds. The beach did seem to be a great antidote though (those Brits were onto something when they “went to the shore for their health”).

With that in mind, I’m just here to drop a few pictures (half of which were taken by my much more on-top-of-it sister-in-law/her dad…

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Someone super excited to start the road trip…

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…and some great links that I’ve been saving to share. Some of these things are probably old at this point, but still worth sharing I think!

4 Reasons Midwives Are a Superb Women’s Healthcare Solution

This is an excellent and informative article by our friend Joy. I can firmly attest to the truth of all the facts she mentions here, and I think it’s worth a read even if you love your epidural (which is totally fine, btw) and/or think midwives are illiterate backcountry women asking you to go boil some water (they’re not). Particularly in light of the recent Planned Parenthood scandals and discussion about women’s healthcare. The only thing I’d add here, is that if you are someone who really needs or wants the hospital setting/drugs, you can still use a midwife! Many midwives only practice in hospital in conjunction with an OB system, so that is a very common option for anyone not ready to go 100% natty.

Our Marriage is Stronger Because My Husband Isn’t My Best Friend

Another article by a friend, Julie (we have a lot of talented writer friends!). This one sparked a lot of interesting controversy amongst the comments, but I totally understand where she is coming from. Tom and I had only known each other for a short while before starting to date, and then got engaged less than 6 months later, so I would never say we were some kind of life-long besties or anything. Many people missed her main point though (probably because of the click-baity title) that while a spouse can be a best friend, he or she is actually much more than merely that.

To the Gentleman in the Target Parking Lot

I already shared this on Facebook, but it’s just so good. It’s hard to imagine fielding such vitriol but apparently lots of adults have little self-control. Anyway, if you see a mom of multiple little ones trying to navigate any place in the public sphere, just a) offer to help or b) smile and say something positive (and no, “You’ve got your hands full!” does NOT count).

Hope you’re week is full of joy and cheese!

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Pulse Check (we are alive!)

Wow, it’s been a long blog silence this time around. Thank goodness I finally got a minute to do my book review for the Kalpakgians’ book, which gave me a little kick in the pants to get back on here. It’s not that there hasn’t been anything about which to write, it’s just that my brain has melted into an incoherent puddle of mush every night, and every afternoon that the girls are simultaneously napping, leaving only enough energy to lie on the couch and scroll through Facebook feeds filled with all the depressing news. If only my housework were less neglected than the blog, but alas…

Anyway, some of the reasons for this recent lethargy are starting to lift, like the fact that Lena now sleeps through the night. Her definition of night, however, is of the non-conformist variety (7:30 PM- 5:15/20 AM. No one else here has the desire to get up any earlier than say, 7). She’s the hangriest person I think I have ever met…her new nickname is Low-Blood-Sugar Lena. I mean seriously, she wakes up screaming, and won’t stop till she has downed a small bowl of blueberries, two sausage patties, and either a bowl of yogurt or oatmeal. And that’s just First Breakfast for our little hobbit.

Here I had to bring her booster chair into the kitchen with me and feed her part of the dinner while I finished the rest. She's reaching for more, of course.

Here I had to bring her booster chair into the kitchen with me and feed her part of the dinner while I finished the rest. She’s reaching for more, of course.

Eating bean burritos is serious business.

Eating bean burritos is serious business.

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At dinner, she often out-eats even Tom and I (and always Lucy). The girl is crazy. But you know what, at least she’s sleeping all night. Only took a few screaming episodes (and honestly, she would scream even if we were holding/rocking/nursing her, so it was just the way she needed to learn to fall asleep. In case any attachment parenting police stumble upon this blog and felt a little queasy reading that sentence). And the upside to her early as heck rising? She now takes her morning nap and a good afternoon one too. Cue angels singing.

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Oh, right, we have another kid too. I better include a picture of her!

Oh, right, we have another kid too. I better include a picture of her!

Tom is also now finally, finally on vacation, as of the last week of July. It’s been so spoiling to have an extra adult in the house all the time, because I can take NAPS, and he’s getting tons of house projects done that he never has time for during the school year. We’re scheduling the re-painting of our dining room and our master BR at long last, and we finally, finally got NEW CURTAINS for both rooms. Do you remember the paint colors and the “custom” curtains, both hideous and heinous? Here:

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This is my only “before” picture, which is actually a “during”…see Tom’s elbow right there……….^ He was hanging our new curtains. Anyway. Those who-knows-what-color curtains, with a papyrus-y texture are finally gone. Their counter parts in our bedroom will be shortly, and I will post the official after pictures here after we’ve got the new paint. But here are the colors we chose, just to give you a little taste:

Not our dining room…but the same paint– Wythe Blue by Benjamin Moore.

And one more. We kind of love it and can’t wait to have it up.

The bedroom will be Pale Smoke by Benjamin Moore. (Our room will have a lot more color than this one and so things won’t look quite so washed-out)

So, a great improvement, no?
We also celebrated our 3rd anniversary with a really nice afternoon and evening out. We ended it by stopping by for a quick visit to the church where we got married, and it turned out they had Mass starting in 5 minutes, so that was a serendipitous moment.
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How beautiful is this church?!! We do miss being parishioners so.
Hopefully, I will be back soon with more of our recent pictures, news, stories, links to share, etc. Now I need to go make more coffee (by the by, we got an Aeropress after some intense debate on Facebook re: the best method for brewing single-cup coffee. I’m reallllllly loving the Aeropress, and it also means we’re steaming our milk every time. We’re so fancy).
Ciao!