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Hello, December.

The cold and wind seems to have finally arrived here in the Midwest. It's an adjustment, for sure. There are now three kids to dress in warm clothes, heads to cover, three pairs of mittens to keep track of. I won't be surprised at all of it we make a habit of staying in over the next few months, if we use the cold as an excuse to slow down for awhile.

Autumn was good to us. Chris is settled in to his new job and very busy with the holiday season. I am back to working "full-time," whatever that means when you work from home. The girls seem to be adjusting well to having Nolan in our lives. Nolan is, well, the sweetest. He's a peach. He has recently starting giggling and sometimes he giggles just because he's caught my eye. It's sweet being a mama. He is three months old today, which feels like a milestone. The end of the fourth trimester. He still sleeps in bed with me for much of the night, in the crook of my arm with his check pressed against my breast.

We kicked off the fall with our first ever family camping trip. I had no idea what to expect, but considering that we had a preschooler, toddler and a one-month-old, an air mattress that sprung a leak and damp firewood, things went pretty well. We left saying things like, "Next time..." so that feels like a win to me. In the future, we'll be better planners, that's for sure. As it turns out, it is difficult to cook eggs and bacon without a spatula and a case of water isn't really all that much if you've got teeth to brush and you're a breastfeeding mom.

Homeschool is only kind of happening. We do an activity here and there, work on Spanish in the car, do crafts in the afternoons. Clementine is obsessed with spelling right now, so I've been following her lead, teaching her phonics as we go and squeezing in a reading lesson when I can. I'm glad preschool doesn't require structure and I like the freedom homeschooling gives us to follow her interests.

That's pretty much all for our autumn. We have enjoyed spending time with our new friends from Thrive Wild+Free and spend as much time outside as possible. Some days, being a mom of three and working from home is really hard, but I'm adjusting and the girls are going to a new babysitter next week. I'm looking forward to some focused time to get caught up on work and start planning for the New Year.

How was your autumn?

Mary

Autumn, in Review


I've mentioned here before that our family is on the other side of a pretty long and difficult season. Earlier in the year, Chris was unemployed for nearly five months. We learned a lot during that time about our family and ourselves. It was a challenging time for our marriage and our emotional welbeing. Once Chris was offered a new job and we felt we had recovered from the stress of unemployment, I started thinking about what we could take away from that time. This piece was born from a lot of personal reflection and learning to communicate better with Chris about what was happening in our lives. I am so proud of this piece and happy to have found a home for it at Amendo. 

When my husband, Chris, lost his job early in our marriage, I felt overwhelmed with concern about what would follow. We were in our early 20s. I was finishing my bachelor’s degree and he was largely responsible for making sure we paid our rent each month, had money for groceries, and stayed current on our student loans. I was worried about the toll his job loss would have on our financial future, but I was also unsure of how unemployment would affect his view of himself and his mental health. Would he lose confidence in himself? Would he struggle with depression?
For 20-somethings like us, the unemployment rate is higher than any other age group in the United States. In fact, more than half ofunemployed individuals in this country are millennials. Chris found work again quickly, only to lose his job again earlier this year. Our student loan balance had barely changed and our expenses had risen since his first experience with unemployment. We were in our late 20s, with our third baby on the way and a mortgage payment. We spent five long months of unemployment fretting over what was next for our family. Read the rest at Amendo...

20-Something, Unemployed, and Under Pressure: How Not to Totally Lose It

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Life with three is no joke. Since becoming a work-at-home mom, I often found myself searching for ways to keep busy and to fill our time. That is no longer the case. Most days are a whirlwind of housework, meal prep, errands and play-time, all punctuated with nursing and diaper changes. Since Nolan's arrival, the days rush past before I feel I have even found my footing. Some days, I quickly change into jeans from pajamas just a few minutes before my husband comes home for the day. I go days without so much a swipe of mascara or a glance in the mirror.

The days are not easier, but this has been my most enjoyable postpartum season to date. Changing hormones, exhaustion and an overwhelming to-do list have all nudged at my patience and mood on the regular but even so, I feel happy to be living this life at home with my kids. I am grateful to be able to cram work I love into the margins of our life so that I can spend time at home with my kids while they are so little.

Time moves so incredibly fast. Nolan is filling out his 0 to 3 months clothes, forcing me to take stock of drawers filled with the next size up. Clementine is learning to read, moving on more quickly than I can keep up with. Hazel isn't a baby anymore, she talks and sings nonstop whether or not there is someone nearby to listen.

If I am afraid of anything during this time of my life, it is that I won't see what is so special about our days. I admit, I find I am rushing myself and my children through various tasks because so much of my day is focused on checking something off a list as quickly as possible so I won't fall behind.

In Four Seasons in Rome, Anthony Doerr speaks of the danger of becoming too comfortable in the habits that simplify or order our lives.

"We need habit to get through a day, to get to work, to feed our children," he says. "But habit is dangerous, too. The act of seeing can quickly become unconscious and automatic. The eye sees something--gray-brown bark, say, fissured into broad, vertical plates--and the brain spits out tree trunk and moves on. But did I really take the time to see the tree? I glimpse hazel hair, high cheekbones, a field of freckles and I think Shauna. But did I take the time to see my wife?

This is true of chocolates and marriages and hometowns and narrative structures. Complexities wane, miracles become unremarkable, and if we're not careful, pretty soon we're gazing out at our lives as if through a burlap sack."

As much as I appreciate mornings, like today, when I dress three little bodies, comb three heads of hair and usher them out the door without a single tear, I am choosing to remain wary of efficiency. It is necessary, of course, for our survival most days, but I am fearful it will narrow my focus or inhibit the spontaneous moments of connection that overvalue any item on my to-list by a long shot.

I suppose that is why I keep coming back to this space, whether I take months off for mental health or a few weeks to relearn how to swaddle and nurse a new babe. These blog posts are my means of slowing down, of capturing the things I refuse to forget, to remind myself to look again when what I am seeing each day becomes far to familiar.

Life with three

 

Nolan Daniel was born on September 2nd, 2016 at 12:07 in the afternoon. He was 8 pounds, 4 ounces and has a beautiful head of dark hair. We are deliriously happy to have him, he is really the sweetest thing. His sisters, especially Clementine, love him and can't get enough hugs and kisses.









Nolan Daniel is Here!


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.

In My Hospital Bag + Finishing Well

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.

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


"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.  


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