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Tuesday, August 23, 2016

In My Hospital Bag + Finishing Well


I am not so sure the internet needs another post detailing what you can find in an expecting mother's hospital bag. In fact, I had decided not to share until a stumbled on a post that claimed to be minimal but instructed new moms to pack their own bed linens and expensive toilet paper for the guests that come to see them after their baby is born.

I found that a little excessive, so I decided to share what I have packed. This was all thrown together last Saturday, after a few hours of regular contractions, and then settled into the corner of our bedroom when I realized we were dealing with a false alarm.

For Mom
Labor outfit: this is entirely optional but I am bringing a t-shirt dress because I hate wearing hospital gowns. 
Toiletries: as much as you need to feel comfortable. For me, this means face wash, moisturizer, mascara, deodorant, hair brush, toothbrush, toothpaste and body lotion. 
Pajamas: I am bringing two sets for wearing in the hospital
Nursing bra
Going home outfit: last time I packed maternity jeans and a loose top, this time I am bringing maternity leggings and a tunic. 
Book and journal: as a first time mom, I would have never imagine caring about or needing these items but when I welcomed my second I wanted something to busy myself with when I wasn't able to sleep or when I was nursing. 
Snacks: Your hospital won't provide you food during labor and will probably ask you not to eat until after you have given birth, but I've been known to smuggle a few larabars in with me during labor.
Phone charger
Camera

For Baby
Going home outfit
Pacifier: most hospitals don't provide pacifiers any longer, so if you plan to use one in the early days bring one with you. 
Bulb syringe or nose frida: OK, this one shows a little of my own paranoia. I wanted to have this on hand just in case I deliver before we arrive at the hospital.
Carseat: You'll have to get your carseat approved by the hospital staff before heading home.
Optional: 
Sleepers: Depending on your hospital, you may not need this. My last hospital didn't allow baby to wear their own clothes (for security reasons) until discharge. 
Swaddle blankets: if you have a preferred swaddle blanket, bring it along. Otherwise, use what the hospital has to offer.

You won't need personal items like maxi pads, nursing pads, lanolin, etc... Your hospital will provide those and most likely send you home with extra as well.

So, that is what I have packed. These items are what I consider to be the bare minimum, but your list may not look exactly the same. I find comfort to be the most important consideration. If you forget the carseat, someone can always make a trip home but if you have certain comfort items such as specific pillows or essential oils, it will be much harder to get those to you when you are in the middle of labor.

I can't believe this is where I am, at the bags packed point of pregnancy. When I stand back and look at this season of our life, it is impossible not to see it as two synonymous periods of gestation. After a somewhat violent visit from what I suspected was a stomach bug, we learned I was unexpectedly pregnant with out third child. That was just a few days after the new year. Less than two months later, my husband became unemployed. So, for the last five months we have been waiting for a new opportunity for my husband and waiting for the arrival of our third babe. Meanwhile, I was also dealing with prenatal depression for the first time. I'm sure our sudden change in circumstances played a role, as well as managing the physical symptoms of my hardest pregnancy so far.

Now that my husband is employed, now that nearly five months of waiting, fretting and praying is over, I feel anxious to end this pregnancy as well. It is almost as if giving birth is what I need to begin picking up the pieces of the last five months and start pasting them back together in an attempt to heal my health and my heart. As strong as my desire to return to old rhythms of family life is my desire to reconnect with my more whole self. In part, medication has helped tremendously with my healing, but it is easy to feel that the waiting, the discomfort of late pregnancy and the physical limitations I currently feel are still holding me back in a way.

Have you ever been on an extended vacation, woke up one day and realized it was time to go home? To make soup for dinner, instead of eating out again, to sleep in your own bed and wake your children slowly for a lazy day on the couch instead of an adventure in a new place? This is the best way I know how to describe how I am feeling today, at 39 weeks and a few days pregnant.

I would love the finish this season well, to parent patiently, to keep submitting high quality work to my editors, to keep my home clean and cook nutritious meals, but most days I am relying on something frozen for dinner and wake up much too exhausted and impatient to do anything well. My desire to move on to the next season in our life has left me frustrated, to be perfectly honest.

I'm not sure why I am sharing all of this, except to say it is hard to finish well. Whether you are a first time mom and expecting your third like I am, I think it is important to know just how hard the last few weeks of pregnancy can be. Let's remind ourselves of this and be gracious towards our limitations.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

So, we're a homeschool family + our super simple pre-k routine

It is funny to think how many times I went back and forth about my decision to homeschool. A little over a year ago, I shared I was still on the fence but wasn't sure sending my oldest to preschool was the right fit for our family. Six months later, I basically said the opposite, that I thought my lifestyle as a work-at-home mom and my daughter's need for social interaction meant we were best suited for preschool a few days a week followed by public kindergarten next year.

Here we are, a couple weeks into figuring out how to homeschool for pre-k.

It wasn't really a complex decision. I feel like I should say I made lists of pros and cons or I prayed long and hard about the choice, but really we chose what made the most sense for our family. I am due with a new baby any day now and Clementine would have started preschool last week. I was having trouble wrapping my mind around loading three kids up in the car, twice a day, to get her to school each day. What's more, I was finding myself more drawn to the idea of having her home with us, at least for this next year. Having been homeschooled myself, I had a pretty good idea of the flexibility it provides and how easily curriculum can be adjusted to a child's unique needs. I loved the idea of offering Clementine a tailor-made education while we nail down some of the stepping blocks she will need if she ends up in public school next year.

So, I started ordering stuff. My personality is well suited to a laid-back approach, so I simply started piecing together a few different ideas I had seen on blogs or read in books for our mish-mash of Montessori and Waldorf education.

Since I have had several questions from friends on on my Instagram, I wanted to share what we have planned for the year. Of course, know I am not a seasoned homeschooled mom and this will likely adjust over time.

Our Days
We plan to homeschool four days a week. The girls spend one day with their grandma, so we take that day off. Since that day migrates throughout the week, I planned our days as Day A and Day B instead of Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday.

My rhythm for our days is heavily inspired by Jane at Salt+Sea. She uses block scheduling for her younger kids and I found that approach brilliant since I hope to keep our time at the school table limited to make space for free play and plenty of time outdoors. We don't typically spend more than an hour and a half working at the table. Many of our lessons migrate outdoors or involve longer crafts, but I don't count that as table time. My goal was to avoid antsyness by keeping Clementine active and limiting how much she was required to sit still.

Our days are broken down into "head, heart and hands," inspired by the Waldorf Educational philosophy. Head is our main subjects, heart is Bible and character building and hands is learning practical skills and handwork. I didn't make art a part of our daily rhythm since I have found ways to lace it into our main subjects.

Day A:
Head: Maths and World Studies
Heart: Bible story and memory verse
Hands: Skill of the week (we learned to braid the first week and we are working on learning to use a needle right now)

Day B:
Head: Handwriting + Phonics and Nature Studies
Heart: Character focus and matching coloring page or art project
Hands: Practical skill (cooking, cleaning, etc...)


Our Resources
As I mentioned above, we are using a mish-mash of resources instead of a curriculum. Here is what I have found and loved so far.

Maths: focusing on counting forwards and backwards, basic math concepts such as equal, less than, more than, addition and subtraction. 
- This Montessori Math Board
- These wooden people
- Small chalkboard and chalk

World Studies: focusing on developing a global perspective, understanding how people live differently all over the world.
- This awesome book, Give Your Child the World, filled with age appropriate book lists for ages 4 to 12.
- The library! Once a week, I sit down and request books for the next week based on a theme and print out coloring pages to go with that theme.

Handwriting + Phonics
- We use a sand tray, play dough, a chalkboard + chalk and Pre-K writing paper I picked up at Mardels
- Phonics is still a work in progress, I originally didn't plan on teaching Clementine to read but she is showing interest so we are planning on starting Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons after the baby arrives.

Nature Studies
- We are using these guidebooks, along with plenty of library books, to guide our VERY relaxed nature studies this year.
- The girls both have magnifying glasses and we plan to get a pair of binoculars when we order the guidebook on birds.


For Mama:
I am reading How to Raise an Amazing Child the Montessori Way and Understanding Waldorf Education.
I have also learned a lot by following Peaceful Preschool on Instagram and reading Salt + Sea and Cloistered Away.

Are you homeschooling this year? What ages? I would love to hear any great tips you have for this newbie homeschooling mom. 

*Note: I'm sorry my links don't look like links, working on fixing that. If you scroll over the text you can see anytime I mention a product or book you can click the link.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Our Visit to the Nature Sanctuary + Giving Your Children Freedom to Roam


"Children seldom roam, even in the safest places. Because of their parents' fear of the monstrous things that might happen (and do happen, but rarely), the wonderful things that happens as a matter of course are stripped away from them. For me, childhood roaming was what developed self-reliance, a sense of direction and adventure, imagination, a will to explore, to be able to get a little lost and then figure out the way back. I wonder what will come of placing this generation under house arrest."
- Rebecca Solnit, A Field Guide to Getting Lost

Reading has been a bit forced lately, most days I trudge through a few pages before drifting off to sleep. So, most books I've been working my way through for weeks now, including Rebecca Solnit's A Field Guide to Getting Lost. The quote above, just a few pages in, stood out immediately to me. She addresses so pointedly something I often find myself concerned about. 

In our suburban life, lived behind locked doors, when will my children have the chance to roam? When we they be given the opportunity to really test who they are, to explore the furthest reaches of their imagination? Will they leave home timid and without trust of their self-sufficiency? How can I arrange their childhood to allow them to grow into courageous young girls and boys? I don't have an answer to these questions and it bothers me. They follow me throughout the week and I find myself looking for little ways to loosen the reigns, to let my kids be kids without my constant intercession of "be careful!" and "don't stray too far!"

Being outside is the simplest way to give my daughters' a sense of freedom. Letting Clementine wander around the next bend for a moment, allowing Hazel to lag several steps behind to inspect rocks and collect sticks. It isn't perfect, it isn't the free range living I'd like to give them, but it is what I have to offer and it will have to be enough for now. 
This evening, we threw together peanut butter sandwiches and grabbed a few bananas for an impromptu trip to a nearby nature sanctuary. It was our first time and the girls had a blast searching for dragon flies and whisper-asking me to take a picture each time we stumbled onto one. (I was never quick enough or quiet enough to catch one, of course.)



Hazel appointed herself the keeper of the map, stopping every few minutes to clumsily unfold it, shouting "Wait! Let me check the map." At one point, she offered a few thoughtful hmmms before looking me square in the eyes and saying, "Mama. Please turn right." 

Slowly walking the trails with them, I couldn't help but think that these are the moments of motherhood I want to remember. Clementine confidently marching ahead, calling out directions at Hazel and me or asking us to hurry up. Hazel wandering, as she does, stumbling through patches of grass to get a little closer to whatever bug or flower she has her eye on. 
My time for hikes might be drawing to a close for a while, but I really hope to make this a regular habit with the girls and their new brother once he arrives. I want them to have the chance to roam and play outside of the confines of our front yard or the local park (even though I am endlessly grateful for the ease those spaces provide me) and I am so glad Kansas City has so many beautiful parks and nature centers to explore. 


I hope you and your family are finding yourself outside often this summer.  


Monday, August 1, 2016

Blueberry Picking + Easy Weekday Blueberry Pancakes


The three of us went blueberry picking a little earlier in the season. It was fun to watch Clementine follow behind Hazel, reminding her to pick the blue ones, even though Hazel continued to fill her bucket with green, red and blue berries.


With a third baby arriving so soon, it is nearly impossible not to notice how quickly my other two are growing up in front of me. After a whirlwind year of work and caring for them, I have slowed down quite a bit, mostly out of the necessity of surviving late pregnancy. Slowing down is allowing me time to pay attention to the small changes in each girl. I am noticing how well they communicate with each other, how Hazel easily follows Clementine's directions (and how Clementine adores taking charge). I am watching Clementine naturally gravitate towards independence, dressing herself and buckling herself into her car seat. Hazel is a ball of sunshine much of the time, singing to herself throughout the day and doing her best to make her dad laugh.


Since I have been home more, both girls have grown especially attached to me. It is sweet, but also exhausting at this point in my pregnancy. I suspect they sense a change ahead and I am worried about their transition when the baby arrives. How do you prepare your older children for another baby? How do you avoid frustration and exhaustion when everyone wants you most of the time? I want to finish out this season well, but most days I feel frustrated and impatient; I worry about my ability to be tender with them when the needs of a newborn are added to the mix.

Having pounds of fresh blueberries in the house has meant a lot of baking over the last few weeks. I have baked oatmeal in the freezer, milk making food for my first few weeks postpartum, and we've had blueberry muffins and pancakes on a regular basis. 

Pancakes have typically been a Saturday morning breakfast in our house, they require extra time and work that isn't conducive to busy weekday mornings. I value calm and simple weekday mornings (even though they are often anything but), but it is nice to have a special treat from time to time to break of the monotony of everyday life. More recently, I have been whipping pancakes up more frequently because I have adjusted a favorite recipe and memorized it, making it simple enough for any old Wednesday morning or Friday night. I wanted to share the recipe with you, because it really is so simple and it is a staple meal in our house both for breakfast and "brinner" when I am looking for an easy dinner to cook. 

Easy Weekday Blueberry Pancakes adapted from Fifteen Spatulas
Serves 4, easily doubled for larger families



  • 1 cup whole wheat flour (a little more if using white, all-purpose)
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tbsp butter, melted + more for greasing pan
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tbsp maple syrup
  • 1 cup fresh blueberries


  • Whisk together the dry ingredients in a medium sized bowl. In a separate bowl, beat buttermilk, egg, butter, vanilla, and maple syrup together. Combine the wet and dry ingredients and gently fold in the blueberries. Melt butter in a cast iron skillet or griddle over medium heat. Drop a good spoonful of batter into the skillet and let cook for roughly three minutes, or until bubbles form on the surface, before flipping. Top with with melted butter, more blueberries, and maple syrup. 


    How do you mix things up when weekdays are starting to feel monotonous and old hat?







    Monday, July 25, 2016

    Our 4th of July + Mom's Potato Salad



    My husband and I tend to hold fast to our parenting routines. We protect bedtime whenever possible and I decline any play dates that jeopardize nap time without so much as a shred of guilt. Most days, I feel this is a strength we both possess that has benefited our children, especially our oldest who seems more dependent on schedule and routine than our younger daughter.

    Still, there have been times I have found myself wishing we were a bit better about letting loose and throwing routine out the window for the sake of a little family fun. In the past, we haven't really celebrated the 4th of July, simply because the festivities were too late for our young toddlers. This year, we did things differently, we spent the evening with friends and family and walked to the lake near their house to watch a community fireworks show.


    The girls loved it and did really well with the switch up in their routine. We arrived home near eleven and dropped two sweaty, sticky girls right into bed and swore we'd bathe and wash bed sheets in the morning. It was a sweet time for our family. Clementine was enthralled with the fireworks and spent the entire show giggling. Hazel spent most of the show throwing rocks into the water while I tried to keep her from drowning herself in the lake. I love our routine, but I am glad to see how easily my girls can adapt for the sake of celebration or spending time with family.



    For as long as I can remember, my mom has been throwing together a simple potato salad for BBQs and summer picnics, always receiving gushing compliments from anyone who tasted. (Side note: I totally believe potato salad gets a bad wrap, this recipe will change that.) This is recipe anyone can make and it feels like an essential addition to the recipe box of all home cooks. I threw together a batch for our 4th of July and wanted to share the recipe with you.

    Mom's Potato Salad
    Serves 6-8, easily doubled for larger crowds

    • 2.5 lbs of red potatoes (skin on), boiled in salted water until tender
    • 4 hardboiled eggs, peeled and chopped
    • 4 slices bacon, fried and chopped
    • 2 tbsp mustard
    • 3/4 to 1 cup mayonnaise 
    • salt & pepper 
    • paprika

    Allow potatoes and eggs to cool completely before assembling the salad. Chop the potatoes into bite-sized pieces and mix everything but the paprika in a medium bowl. Adjust mustard and mayonnaise to your taste, I was taught to eyeball it but I think the measurements above are fairly accurate. After you transfer the salad into a serving dish, sprinkle lightly with paprika.  

    I hope you all are enjoying your summer, we are currently melting in the Midwest. If I am perfectly honest, at 35 weeks I am done with the humidity, ready to give birth and looking forward to the cooler temperatures of autumn.   


    Monday, July 18, 2016

    Back at it: returning to old routines





    It has been a strange few months for our family, to say the least. For a short while, Chris and I switched roles and I worked more while he was jump hunting for roughly four months. Today, we return to old routines. Chris returns to work full-time and I return to full-time stay-at-home mom while juggling part-time freelancing on the side.

    I feel nervous about the transition. I am 34 weeks pregnant with a preschooler and a toddler at home and various clients counting on me to follow through with assignments in a timely fashion. In addition to my normal workload, I am preparing for maternity leave by getting ahead on my work for regular clients. I feel anxious when I think about all that goes into nurturing my children, keeping everyone fed, clean and clothed as well as finding time for work and adequate rest. To say I am overwhelmed is an understatement.

    At the same time, I am looking forward to returning to our old routines. Since we first got news of my husband's job offer, I have found myself day dreaming about returning my focus towards home just in time to prepare for the baby's arrival. I have missed some of the familiar rhythms that come with being a stay-at-home mom: the trips to the library, making things beautiful at home and even keeping a semi-regular cleaning routine.

    Something else I have missed is this space. I'll be the first to admit that I have blogged, inconsistently, for five years for all of the wrong reasons. To present a certain image or find enjoyment in motherhood when I was plagued with loneliness. Now, for maybe the first time I ever, I want to blog just because. I am enjoying my days with the girls, I am looking forward to our son's birth, I am enjoying my days of work and I want to put words down and upload pictures that document this special time of our life.

    Even so, I think I know well enough that a blog used as a family diary isn't the most interesting read. So I think I want to share helpful things here, too. I am not quite sure what that will look like, maybe a recipe here and there or tips on things that are working for us during long days at home or while we adjust to life as a family of five.

    All that to say: I am back at it. Back to old routines and back to blogging for fun. Hopefully we'll be seeing more of each other in the coming months.

    Monday, June 20, 2016

    The Sacred Practice of Messy Generosity

    A few Sundays back, I walked the entire span of the River Market neighborhood. Here in Kansas City, this area sits just on the south side of the Missouri river and acts as a gateway from northland surbubia into the more urban areas of the city. Every weekend, the market fills with Kansas Citians from every side of the city. Suburbanites vie for parking spots, hoping to blend in with the apartment living, city dwellers just for the day.

    I am one of those. I drive in from the suburbs because this neighborhood feels special to me. There are memories of friendship here and, in a way, my writing career was born in the River Market at a wobbly table set right by folded napkins in a coffee shop on Delaware. So, I keep visiting, sometimes multiple times a week, drinking a flat white and pounding on my keys while the girls spend the day with the grandma or their dad.

    On this particular Sunday, I squeezed into a parking spot and then out of my car. Hoisting my laptop bag onto my shoulder, a took the long way to my normal spot at the window of the coffee shop. I have been trying hard these days to pay more attention. As a work-at-home, writer, needing inspiration but finding my face jammed in front of screen working has become a thorn in my side. I need fresh ideas, fresh perspective and while I know it is there I haven't been seeing it lately.

    So, I slipped my phone in my purse and looked straight ahead, my eyes searching for whatever the market had to show me. I was looking for a pitch to new a food publication I want to break into, but what I saw was generosity. I watched as a street vendor paused between paying clients to toss a warm hot dog into the hands of a man, telling him to hush up and get lost when he offered payment. I watched a hipster, coffee shop patron stand on the sidewalk and repeatedly offer cigarettes to passersby who repeatedly refused, who probably didn't smoke, until someone stopped and shared a cigarette with him. It was messy generosity, it was imperfect, and it was sacred in it's own way.  

    I live a very disconnected life. I have found myself struggling to really connect with others outside of my computer screen after spending so much time with toddlers or emailing editors I've never met day after day after day. Seeing that generosity still connects us in this world, even when we seem to live such self-consumed lives most of the time, gave me inspiration--just not in the way I had expected. Instead of my next pitch, I found hope and motivation to move forward with more generosity. Not your run-of-the-mill, cash money generosity, but the same messy generosity seen in foil-wrapped hot dogs and shared cigarettes. I want to push forward to be more giving of my time, attention, and love with less care for how it will perceived or if I am doing it right or if my theology is OK. I don't really care to protect myself from judgement these days, as self preservation simply doesn't fit in a world that seems to be desperately in need of a little generosity lately.
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