What Would You Do?

The other week Zara and I were shopping at Marshalls after my prenatal appointment.  It was pretty busy like it usually is in the afternoons.  Normally, I don’t pay much attention to other shoppers unless I’m standing in line people watching; but this time I ran into the same mom twice.  I still probably wouldn’t have even noticed except that she had two boys just younger than the ages of ours.  And there was a lot of yelling.  Neither one of the boys was staying with her and the youngest, who was maybe six, was in under clothes racks, tunneling through clothes like a rabbit creating a new burrow.  Did I mention yelling? Oh, yeah? That was the mom.  The boys didn’t seem to hear her.

She had clearly had it.

I finished looking and got into the checkout line.

Unknown to me (until the yelling started again), she was in line behind me.

The yelling got worse.  The littlest kid whined and she snapped that he’d just lost his privilege of stopping at Toys R Us.  He whined some more and she said yelled, “No, I mean it.”

He spit at her.

I’m not even kidding.  It was kind of a spluttery, lots of air included spit, but clearly intended to be a spit.

About that time, Zara peers around my shoulder at their little family, makes eye contact with the mom, and breaks into one of her biggest smiles.

I didn’t even turn around; but her words pierced the entire area.  “Yes, I see you being all cute.  But I’m sure you have your moments, too.”

That’s not the question.  Zara definitely has her moments.  But in my head, I wondered how overwhelmed a mom has to be to get snarky with a two year old who smiles at her?

We checked out while her son walked over in front of the door and picked at the floral display while his mom tried to ignore him and then said, “Do you want to get picked up by someone? Get back over here.”  I had Zara buckled and crawled into my own seat just in time to see her forcibly dragging a very reluctant boy across the parking lot.  The doors were closed but her facial expression and mouth movement when they crawled into their own car was telling.

And all the while, I watched helplessly.

What is there to do?  We all know moments of frustration.  But there was something in the level of their interaction that spoke of living this way a lot.  He was six for crying out loud.  Not two and missing his nap.  Not thirteen and belligerent.  Just six.  There was a side of me that wished for a business card for Allegany Boys Camp so I could have scrawled, “Hang onto this for three years.  I suspect you’re going to want it.” and quietly given it to her.  There was a side of me that wished I could think of something encouraging to say ….. anything.  A “hang in there, you’re going to make it,” kind of message.  After the way Zara’s smile antagonized her, I’m not convinced anything could have felt encouraging.  There was a lot of me that ached inside for that kid and his mama and the life they’re living.

I really don’t like seeing pain happening.

Oct 15 (63 of 79)

Have you ever run into a really upset family in public and have you ever had the courage to speak into it? Have you ever been that mama? What would have spoken hope to your heart?

The Resident Two Year Old

Zara is two.  The past six months have swished by so quickly there are days I cannot comprehend this. But all it takes is a few minutes of watching Zara and the truth is unmistakable.

She is definitely two.

toddler life (11 of 4)

toddler life (12 of 4)

toddler life (13 of 4)

I’ve absolutely loved watching our babies turn into little people with such distinct, individual personalities and Zara is no exception.  She is super independent most of the time. If I dare to pick her up to put her in her high chair, she yells a distressed, “Me! Me! ME,” that doesn’t let up until I put her back down on the floor and let her climb in by herself.  Choosing clothes for her to wear is best done quickly and strategically while she’s not looking, because if the dresser drawer is open, you can bet your bottom dollar she will have enormous opinions about what to wear.  Around February I had a few packs of diapers with XO’s on them for Valentines.  Zara loved them.  Every diaper change turned into an ordeal because she wanted the “E,O” ones and anything else produced huge alligator tears.  Speaking of clothes, it’s hysterical taking her shopping.  For the longest time, everything she saw was “dat TUTE, me, ME!” and there were huge tears when things had to be put back on the shelf.  But the other day she was in a mood and it wasn’t a pretty one.  She’d missed her nap for the second day in a row and I was actually looking for spring / summer clothes for her.  I thought she’d love it.  But oh, no.  It was not her day for shopping.  Every time I showed her something and said, “Look Zara, isn’t this cute?” she wrinkled up her nose and said, “Dat ewww.”  But the independence dissipates like mist under a July sun when it’s time to go out the door and she becomes completely incapable of walking.  She is terrified of Goldi.

toddler life (3 of 8)

Yes, Goldi, who has always been the docile golden retriever and is now showing her advanced age by lying in the sun and barely walking around.  Zara was fine with her until last fall when the neighbor’s dog came to visit and jumped all around and on Zara and now all dogs are to be feared like the bubonic plague.  She can’t wait to go bye bye, but the instant we get close to the front door she chants liturgically with shakes of the head for emphasis, “No, de doh.  No, de doh. No, de doh.”

toddler life (5 of 8)

She’s a girl of routine.  Months ago I gave her a toothbrush while combing her hair to help keep her distracted.  Now, even if it’s two minutes before lunch, she can’t get her hair combed without “teef.”  She’s also the girl with music in her veins.  She sang before she could talk and at twenty-one months held a pretty impressive repertoire of songs she could sing along with, including “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star,” “Little Drummer Boy,” “Miss Polly Had a Dolly,” “Jesus Loves Me,” and a host of other Christmas songs.  Now she sings “Dinkle Dinkle Little Star” all by herself and I still catch myself just stopping to listen as her little voice lilts through the words.

toddler life (4 of 8)

But the funniest thing about her currently is the dramatic expressions.  When I call her name from another room, she yells “what?” in the most grownup tone imaginable.  As soon as I tell her to come she says, “otay” in a baby voice.  If the boys were downstairs, she used to stand at the top of the stairs and yell, “Addie {Adam}! Tom!” in commanding mimicry.  It’s becoming more and more obvious there are big brothers in her life. Sometimes when I tell her to do something, she flounces her arms down against and gives me a huge sigh …. oops! You’re two, honey.  Not THAT age … yet. 😉  But my favorite is the facial expressions which seem to be impossible to catch on video because they’re so unpredictable and even more difficult to describe.  She can furrow her brow and throw her eyes in a quick move that has all of us erupting in laughter.  Or, in a current signature move that looks an awful lot like her Grandpa Beachy when he’s thinking about something you’ve said, she purses her lips to the side and gets uber thoughtful in an expression far, far beyond her years.

toddler life (2 of 8)

One of the best parts of being two is the vocabulary explosion.  I knew it seemed like she was saying new words every day but two weeks ago when David and I went to Life for our last training session, I was in shock at all the new things she was saying after three days of being away from her! It’s the dearest thing the way she brings things and says, “I nee’ elp.”  or the way she randomly gives me a hug and coos, “I uv ou.”  Most words are pretty decipherable, including her funny little “another” that starts with “a” and turns into a tongue swishing across her lips funny sound; but we’re still trying to figure out why a horse is a “ba ba” and a fish is a “wee wee.”  The other day we were heading into town when my phone beeped with a new message alert.  “Dat noise?” piped up a little voice from the back.  That was my phone. “Dat ‘nnoying.”

toddler life (6 of 8)

toddler life (10 of 4)

I thought for awhile she was going to potty train herself.  With all the hullabaloo of school and a few trips this spring, I wanted to wait until late May when we could really focus and then stay at home for awhile.  There is nothing more inconvenient than a recently potty trained child on a long trip who figures out they get out of their car seat every time they need to go to the bathroom.  But Zara was ready.  She begged to go so I bought a little potty to introduce the idea at bath time and let her get good and ready.  Twice in one day she told me she needs to go and sat down and went.  We still haven’t gotten serious about it.  I’m pretty sure she mostly goes when she wants candy.  “Me pee pee. Me tandy.”  There is no rhyme or reason and while I feel she’s close enough we’d probably get there in a day, I’m not willing to go through the recession I think is likely to happen on  a long trip so I try to ignore the subject as much as possible.

toddler life (8 of 8)

Meanwhile, she’s awash in a world mixed with routines and new discoveries.  Playing guitar with the purple pick (and only the purple one), wrapping her baby in a blanket and learning how to burp her after a bottle, making little beds with pillows and blankets and insisting Liam lie down and take a nap, helping to tear lettuce for salads, learning how to crawl into her crib, going bye bye with daddy, making rounds at chuckwagon with Liam to say hi to her favorite boys, singing the ABC song, needing paper and pen so she can write, counting to ten,and thinking hot tea should be a daily occurrence.  It’s a fun world, this world of being two.

The “Perfect” Family

For two months shy of ten years I was a mama in a boy world.  Trucks, bulldozers, fishing, fire fighting, jeans with big holes at the knees, hammers, astronauts … these were the language of my days.  I loved it.

Feb 16 (6 of 125)

When I was pregnant with Adam I realized that I was slightly terrified about being a mom to a son.  Growing up in a family of three girls, a boy world seemed so foreign.  I would randomly see these twelve year old boys and wonder, how in the world would I have any idea how to parent a son?

Then he was born.  The world was foreign.  I was navigating toy aisles I’d never walked, learning boy language, and what made them feel strong and confident.  I built roads in the living room, drew up targets for BB gun practice, and searched the library for books that would help enlarge his world.  As he got older, I realized that being mom to a boy was really nothing to be afraid of even if I knew nothing about it before.  Boys don’t suddenly show up as twelve year olds.  We get to grow up with them, and because we do, we learn how to parent in stages, progressing so gradually from baby to toddler to preschool that we hardly realize how we are evolving along with them.

Feb 16 (43 of 125)

There were many days I wished I’d get to have a  daughter.  As Adam and Liam grew older and often went with David, I would remember the girls shopping trips, the times we’d sit around talking and laughing, or the times we’d do a fun project together when I was growing up. And then there were the Saturdays when my heart nearly burst watching two boys trail after their beloved Daddy … and it smiled a little bigger at the realization that I had a day to myself. 😉

Two years ago, Zara splashed our world with pink.  While the transition felt surprising in some ways … just getting used to a baby world again was breathtaking  …  in other ways, it felt so natural.  Head bands, twirly skirts, toy strollers with babies to ride in them, and tea sets.

Feb 16 (116 of 125)

When we found out we were expecting again, I realized I didn’t have as strong a preference boy or girl for myself.  But everything inside me hoped so very much that Zara would get to have a sister.  I know it’s a narrow perspective, skewed by my own experience of growing up with sisters; but I could hardly imagine life for a girl without a sister!  Five weeks ago, I got to peek at the darling little girl who was kicking around inside me.  Zara is going to have a sister!

We were all elated! Even Zara who had no idea what all the cheering was about but whooped anyway because her beloved brothers were cheering.

Mar 16 (2 of 1)

What took me by surprise in the weeks following was how many people found out and then commented with, “What a perfect family.”  I’m still trying to figure out what I was feeling inside when they said that.  It wasn’t that I felt upset by the comment … I knew they meant that it was super cool that the boys each had a brother and the girls would have a sister and that it wouldn’t have been imperfect had we found out we were having a boy.  It was more a bumping inside of me.

Long, long, feels like half a life time ago I remember struggling through the “perfect” family image.  When we got married life felt so perfect.  Then we had Adam and it felt like we were complete in a way we hadn’t even realized we were incomplete.  It felt so perfect.  Around Adam’s first birthday, I remember us taking a little walk down to the bridge and almost laughing inside at how we reflected the postcard image of family.  Dad, Mom, a boy and a dog.  But a while later, our family didn’t feel so perfect.  Dreams and prayers and pleading for a baby didn’t bring answers.  I wondered if Adam would ever have a sibling and I begged God to please give him at least one.  I watched him play with little friends and then come home alone while they went away in twos and threes and fours, the party continuing even at home.  I tucked him into his big bed at night and watched him bravely live his little life alone.

I tried to believe that our family was perfect for us, but it didn’t feel like it.

Then the miracle happened and Adam had a baby brother.  The profound gratefulness I still feel for that gift is not diminished all these years later.  Our family was perfect. Or was it?  Their four year age gap felt tricky for awhile.  He had a brother, but it hardly felt like it.  Instead of curling up on the couch to read stories to the boys, I would read short books to Liam, then read chapters of another to Adam.  There were heart melting giggles at bedtime and older brother protection when they walked out the lane to watch for their daddy to get home.  But there were plenty of frustrating moments because playing ball was either no fun for Adam or dangerous for Liam.  Every game even remotely based in strategy was an instant win for Adam.  But in those years as I once again realized there very well may be no more babies, I learned to truly believe that our family was perfect because it was God-designed.  As I watched how dynamics differed in small families versus large families and especially how they differed based on sibling spacing, I chose to believe that God had designed our family to prepare our boys for the life that is ahead of them as adults.  I chose to believe that our family was perfect, even if it didn’t look like what we would have chosen.

I still think I fully embraced that belief.  But the recent “perfect” comments made me realize that lurking in the crevices in my heart were feelings that didn’t feel perfect.  I wouldn’t have chosen to raise what sometimes feels like two families.  I adore that we got to experience babies again, but there are days when juggling two big boys and baby / toddler life feels like a stretch.  There are days when I struggle with wishing we could take the boys on the kinds of outings we thought we’d be doing by the time they’re this age.  There are days I feel guilty for the many naps Zara has to miss because homeschooling and being a toddler mom don’t always mesh.  My perfect dreams at twenty definitely didn’t include doing a pregnancy at thirty-eight.

But you know what? They’re right.  Our family is perfect. Not because we have two boys and two girls, but because it is perfect for us.  In all its seasons.  In all it’s stages.  In the heart melting moments and the moments of juggling, it is perfect because He created it.  I’ve never known anything quite so sanctifying as the gift of motherhood.  😉 Which is making me think that maybe God defines family perfection for us as mothers as much as He does for our children and how it will impact their future.

it's a girl (1 of 1)

So whatever your perfect or imperfect looks like, I hope you can find rest in the fact that the same God who ended each day of Creation with “that’s good” is defining your life with good, too.  Meanwhile, I’ll be over here in my corner, learning to believe that on a deeper level, too, thanks to friends who unknowingly revealed crevices of unbelief in my heart; and wildly celebrating the parts that feel too perfect to be true.

Much love, mama friends!

WFMW: Swallowing Pills

Do you remember what it was like trying to learn how to swallow pills?  Like it was yesterday I remember the way the pill would swirl around and around in my mouth as I took in a mouthful of water.  It swam like a whale and then beached itself on the front of my tongue, even more forward than where I had dutifully placed it to begin it’s journey.  Not only that, it now tasted horrible.

Somewhere along the way, long after I’d learned how to swallow them successfully, I read a great tip and stored it for future reference.  It worked beautifully with both boys.  Adam learned how to swallow pills when he was five!  Liam didn’t need to until a bit later, but also learned very quickly.

learn how to swallow pills (1 of 1)

Put some water into a water bottle, like the 20 oz kind.  Anything with a smaller opening that automatically creates a pursed mouth shape.  If the bottle is only a third full or so, they will need to tip their heads back.  We started with a tiny soft gel because they are the easiest to swallow.  You can get little fish oil soft gels for kids or Vitamin D soft gels.  As soon as they got over the hurdle of letting something go down with fluids, they had no trouble swallowing a larger capsule.  Adam has superceded me by a long shot and swallows four or more capsules at a time. {eyes bulging!}  And I know, why would a child need to swallow so many pills? Lyme will do that to you.  Thank God we’re nearing the end of the many capsule nights for both boys!

Have you helped someone learn how to swallow pills? Any great tips?

Pregnancy & Plexus

This pregnancy is flying faster than I imagined it was possible for a pregnancy to fly!  I’m quite sure it has an enormous deal to do with it being baby number four and the way my days are filled to the brim with little time to think.  I’m equally convinced it has a lot to do with not being in abject misery for months and months on end!

I’ve just passed the seventeen week mark and I still can hardly believe I will likely make it through an entire pregnancy without my insides trying to reach the outside with projectile force.  Actually, I think I’m still trying to wrap my mind around the fact that I am pregnant in the first place.

So what made such an enormous difference?

That little pink drink, of course!

plexus (1 of 1)

I’d been hearing stories of women dealing with infertility (including cases of endometriosis) getting pregnant after starting Plexus.  I’d heard a lot about hormones falling into line after getting their blood sugar stabilized.  I knew I was feeling better; but I didn’t expect that it would make such a night and day difference for me.  But even as I steeled my heart for what would likely be another long emotional journey, boom, there it was.  A little plus sign sending shock waves of joy through our hearts.

I think I’ve finally found the cocktail that works best for my morning sickness days, er weeks, er months.  While Plexus has eliminated morning sickness for many women completely, I only got relief of the desperate level I used to experience.  This time there were only about three or four days of wishing I could die instead of weeks on end.  There was feeling yucky and being on the couch for hours, but infinitely less gagging and none of that unmentionable projectile stuff.  Did you get that? None!  Food tasted gross a lot, but dishes didn’t send me over the edge.  Previous pregnancies? I often couldn’t even get within three feet of my completely empty and clean kitchen sink without dire results for a few weeks.  While I still got sick at five weeks this time, it didn’t last nearly as long! At nine weeks when the intensity usually escalated out of control, I started feeling a little better! By eleven, I was definitely seeing light (say what?!) and by fifteen my head was clearing and energy was returning.

Lack of energy was definitely bigger for me this time than nausea and I’m pretty sure the recent Lyme / mono attack was to blame as much or more than the pregnancy.  Often when I couldn’t pick myself up to do anything I realized it wasn’t the typical first trimester exhaustion, but the familiar exhaustion coupled with super heavy arms that didn’t even want to be told to lift from last summer. It makes me really curious what this pregnancy would have been like had I not been so depleted going into it.  Even so, I am infinitely grateful to actually be able to enjoy parts of being pregnant! The closest I ever got to this feeling was sometimes for two weeks in the middle when I said, “I think I can see why some women say they enjoy being pregnant.” :)

I’m loving all the little kicks going on.  Baby is super active, much like I remember Liam used to be.  I think he / she is having fun in there!  And speaking of he / she, three more weeks til the gender reveal assuming baby cooperates! We can’t wait!

Here’s my full pregnancy arsenal this time around.  I was on progesterone with Zara and noticed a slight improvement in the level of nausea.  This time when I started getting sick David suggested I get back on it, just for that.  The combination of triplex, progesterone, and lemon water was pretty impressive.  If I missed even one night of either ProBio or progesterone I could tell a big difference in how I felt the next day!  I weaned myself off the progesterone at twelve weeks because by then the placenta manufactures a lot of it on it’s own.  I couldn’t wait, because while it does seem to help me with nausea, it also seems to make me gain weight like nobody’s business and it makes me super, super tired.  From then on there were iffy hours and a random bad day here and there, but so much improvement over my history!  Now I just want to tell the entire world of women who are holding down the couch as they grow tiny humans inside, there is hope!!!

morning sickness (1 of 1)

I showed the supplements to my midwife even though I’d heard that many, many OB/GYN’s and midwives across the country are approving them for women in their care.  They couldn’t see any reason why there would be a problem with them and I happily continued.  I love that I have FINALLY found a vitamin that doesn’t make me sick.  I’ve never taken vitamins consistently during pregnancy because they make me even ridiculously more ill.  So I duly swallow them until the nausea rears its head, hoping to get enough folic acid in to reduce the risk of spina bifida and then quit until about twenty-four weeks when I take them as I can handle them. This time I took vitamins every single day! Yeah for baby!  The X factor doesn’t have iron in it so no nausea.  Instead, it contains black currant which helps your body to absorb iron better.  There are even stories of people with long standing anemia who have had their iron levels come up because of taking the X factor!

Interested in knowing more about Plexus? Email me at smilesbymiles{at}gmail{dot}com or message me on facebook.  If you’re early in pregnancy I promise your secret is safe with me. 😉  And if you’re looking for help with other health issues I have so many hopeful testimonials I’d love to share with you!

A 40th birthday celebration

Back in September my friend, Jeanne, was talking about how she’d thrown a fortieth birthday party for her husband, Keith.  Now he was wanting to do the same thing for her and stressing about how to make it happen.  I jokingly said, “Oh tell him I want to help.”  The more I thought about it, the more I realized I wasn’t joking.  It really would be a lot of fun.  I sent him a text in early November and told him if he wanted a party planner I’d love to help.  He was delighted; but hardly as much as I was.

40th birthday party (18 of 27)

Plan a fun party about the time the doldrums of winter are setting in? Yes, please! Plus, I knew it would give me something pretty and fun to focus on during the hardest part of my pregnancy.  Our mutual friend, Nola, offered to help which made my job so much easier.  I got to know Keith and Jeanne almost seven years ago when I wrote a piece of their story.  Getting to know someone on such an intimate level does something to bond your hearts quickly.  They’ve been friends of ours ever since.  But sometimes, like when planning a party, I realize how much our relationship developed on a heart level first.  I didn’t know her favorite foods or colors; so having a friend step in who knows her so much better than I do was amazing.  Plus, Nola is a genius in the kitchen which is clearly not my forte.  Cha ching.

40th birthday party (5 of 27)

Keith gave us a guest list and answered a few questions about whether he wants a formal dinner or a fun come and go type of event, but other than that, he pretty much turned us loose.  And oh, did we have fun!

Because Jeanne loves blues and we were planning an early January event, it seemed like a natural fit to incorporate snowflakes, aqua, a touch of silver, and lots of white.

40th birthday party (9 of 27)

40th birthday party (16 of 27)

40th birthday party (8 of 27)

If you don’t know Keith and Jeanne, the best way I know to describe them is outgoing, friendly, generous, and fun.  You know how often people marry their opposites? Well, Keith and Jeanne definitely aren’t carbon copies of each other, but they both love being with people. Sometimes when I was running party plans around in my mind, my thoughts kept going to Jeanne and how much she embodies what the word friendship really means.  She is always thoughtful of others, asking how they are, giving little gifts, finding ways to care for and bless others.  She’s the first person I thought of when the neurologist called and said I need you to have Zara in the ER by 5:00 because I knew that not only would she stop and drop to take care of our boys, her heart would understand mine without us needing to talk about it.  She’s the friend who remembers little things, who enjoys your kids, and checks in with a text if she doesn’t hear from you for awhile.  But when she first talked about the possibility of Keith doing a party for her she said, “If anyone throws a party for me, I don’t want any gifts.” It seemed a bit strange coming from someone who loves to give to others; but it made a lot of sense when we asked her more about it.  “I love to give gifts; but I just don’t ever want my friends to feel obligated to give me a gift.”   We really wanted to respect her wishes, but still have her go home with something tangible so we sent out blank cards with the invitations and asked people to share memories or a blessing on her life. Words of life and blessing are sometimes one of the most meaningful gifts of all; and sometimes the one we most forget to give to others.

40th birthday party (1 of 27)

The hardest part was going to be surprising Jeanne.  She is incredibly intuitive and because she is such a caring person, she stays in touch with her friends a lot.  Living over an hour away, I knew I was pretty safe unless I inadvertently sent a text to her instead of Keith. Being virtually next door, Nola had a tougher time keeping everything out of sight when Jeanne would pop in out of the blue.  It was so much fun having her actually be so surprised! I think she herself was surprised at being surprised! :)  A few days before her party, she switched a child’s birthday party to that night and Keith wisely let her go.  So instead of suspiciously looking for something to happen the morning of her party, she was busily making taco soup and cake.

40th birthday party (27 of 27)

Jeanne’s local friends helped with food {we could never have made so many fun dishes for a crowd of fifty by ourselves} and our husbands were amazing … hanging lights and tulle with precision, running after balloons, making jalapeño poppers, capping strawberries … if it needed to be done, they did it.

40th birthday party (19 of 27)

40th birthday party (11 of 27)

40th birthday party (12 of 27)

40th birthday party (7 of 27)


You know how sometimes you plan an event and then when it happens, you wish you would have done something differently? This was one of those times when it felt like everything happened perfectly.  Well, aside from the fact that I should have given myself an extra hour on Saturday and the fact that the whipping cream I stabilized suddenly decided to go wibbly wobbly; but that’s pretty minor.  It was pretty and sparkly just like we’d hoped.  The food was delightful to look at and even more fun to eat.

40th birthday party (21 of 27)

40th birthday party (20 of 27)

40th birthday party (23 of 27)

40th birthday party (22 of 27)

40th birthday party (24 of 27)

And everywhere you turned, there were little groups of friends talking and laughing and having a great time.

40th birthday party (13 of 27)

40th birthday party (14 of 27)

40th birthday party (26 of 27)

40th birthday party (3 of 27)

40th birthday party (2 of 27)

I remember during the planning process thinking about Keith and Jeanne … about how much they love each other and love to surprise each other with little things.  But I also thought about how much they shower love on others.  When I imagined what they would want if they verbalized it I could hear Keith wanting the party to be about celebrating Jeanne’s life; but I could also hear them both wanting it to be a wonderful time for all their friends who came.  Because that’s who they are.  That night, surrounded by so much happiness, I couldn’t help but savor how much friendship is a gift that gives full circle.

40th birthday party (25 of 27)

Storm Jonas

If it’s going to snow, this was an awesome way for it to happen!

storm Jonas (1 of 1)

After lots of preparation and window peeking while doing school, the first flurries showed up around noon on Friday.  We haven’t had any significant snowfall this winter so any snow would have been fun.  But predictions for one to two feet?! That’s cause for some excitement! The timing couldn’t have been more perfect! In Virginia, a big snow usually meant a snow day both for school kids and construction workers.  When you do school at home and you live practically within breathing distance of your husband’s job, it’s a little tougher to get a break unless you declare a vacation day.  We had about thirty minutes of school work left for the week when the snow arrived and better yet, the biggest snow day would be on Saturday when David was home.

storm Jonas (2 of 1)

We haven’t had a lot of free weekends recently.  Who am I kidding? We never do since we live here.  This one was supposed to be an at home weekend; but to have it turn completely into a fun, kick back and relax weekend was such a fun gift!

storm Jonas (7 of 1)

storm Jonas (8 of 1)

storm Jonas (9 of 1)

storm Jonas (14 of 1)

It’s the kind of weekend that makes memories forever.  Lots of time to read, to play in the snow (although somebody got the flu and somebody’s mom hadn’t purchased baby girl snow pants so that didn’t turn into an all family event this time), fun foods, lots and lots of coffee (ah, finally, finally I can drink it again!), excited snow measuring, a fiercely competitive game of Monopoly, and watching a movie together.  And that word is perhaps what makes it so much fun.  Together.

storm Jonas (10 of 1)

storm Jonas (11 of 1)

(Zara watched Liam and started begging, “Me. Me. RaRa. Eeeeeeee. Me. Finally it was her turn.  This picture happened about 1.7 seconds before the look of terror turned to crying, “no, nooooooo” and the ride had to be aborted. She doesn’t want anymore eee rides.)

So many hours to be together … having fun, playing, talking … while the deep snow muffled the noisy demands of life.

storm Jonas (3 of 1)

I love the way the world gets still outside when snow falls.  White. Beautiful. Pristine. And silent.

But I love even more the way it quiets our normal and helps us pay attention to little things again.

The way it gives opportunity for big conversations about life that might not have happened otherwise.

storm Jonas (4 of 1)

The way it reminds us of how barren can become beautiful.

I tried a new recipe this weekend that was an instant hit for David and I. (Don’t bother asking the boys for their opinion.  Their taste buds are still developing.) These Greek gyros with homemade pitas and Tzatziki sauce are oh so delicious.  The only thing I’d change next time is to add a bit more salt to the chicken and up the seasonings in the sauce just a tad.  But this and a Greek salad on the side? Party in my mouth.

chicken gyros (1 of 1)

Did you get hit by the storm? Tell me something about your snow party.

Happy New Year

It’s the start of another year and always the perfect time to reflect, dream, plan.

When we were little girls, I read a story about another family who wrote out their bad habits and burned them and then wrote out their New Years resolutions.  I don’t recall whether that was the first year Mom stayed up with us to see the New Year in or whether we just added that little tidbit to the staying up tradition.  Being a list oriented person already back then, I was enthralled with the concept.

If only it were that easy to get rid of bad habits and reach new goals.

These days I feel far less inclined to make a list of goals in favor of thoughtful evaluation and dreaming.  Not that goals are bad in any way, but I know my tendency to get over-achieving list happy and then feel like a failure when I can’t possibly accomplish it.  So this year I’m taking a moment to think about the future.

Like anyone, we have things we are excited about and things that feel heavy.  But this year, we have one thing our entire family is excited about!

baby announcement (1 of 1)

Oh summer, come quickly!

An Auto Ramble

Somewhere in October or early November our family seems to get hit with an exploring itch.  When Spring comes, we head out to enjoy our favorite places.  Summer arrives with a plethora of outdoor activities.  But October? October sends chilling winds that remind us of how much easier it will be to stay inside with a baby and a cold-blooded mom and suddenly we’re itching to explore somewhere new before the year is over.

Green Ridge State Forest Maryland (6 of 36)

Green Ridge State Forest Maryland (9 of 36)

Green Ridge State Forest Maryland (8 of 36)

Most times we think of hiking.  For being so far back in the mountains, our immediate area of Maryland is surprisingly void of great family hikes.  We toyed with the idea of driving over an hour to try one of the hikes on our “to do while living in Maryland” list, but it was a little late in the afternoon to pull it off.  The leaves were pretty much at peak and David and I thought it would be fun to drive around Green Ridge State Forest to enjoy the color.  I was pretty sure the boys wouldn’t share our enthusiasm at sitting in the van for a few hours so we sent them outside to play hard for thirty minutes while we fixed little snack bags of popcorn, chocolate truffles, pumpkin lattes and a hot tea for Liam.

Green Ridge State Forest Maryland (2 of 36) Green Ridge State Forest Maryland (4 of 36)

It worked perfectly.  Zara immediately conked out in her car seat and the boys were enthralled with their snack.

Green Ridge State Forest Maryland (1 of 36) Green Ridge State Forest Maryland (5 of 36) Green Ridge State Forest Maryland (3 of 36)

The leaves were the prettiest I’ve seen since we moved here!

Green Ridge State Forest Maryland (7 of 36)

Green Ridge State Forest Maryland (10 of 36)

We drove to Point Lookout, a fantastic view of the Potomac River valley and the horseshoe curve of the river itself.  This article describes more of the history of the overlook including the fact that George Washington used to own the land.  In fact, this part of the river was known as George Washington’s Horseshoe Bend.  It was also used as a lookout by union soldiers during the Civil War.  I always find it easier to imagine history happening here because of how remote it is.  Some of those winding roads are paved now, but it only takes a little imagination to think about what it might have been like for Mr. Cresap trying to build a road through those mountains to make it easier to get from Fort Cumberland to Fort Frederick.  I can’t imagine how hard and how isolated their lives must have been back then, trying to eek out an existence on poor soil.

Green Ridge State Forest Maryland (11 of 36)

Green Ridge State Forest Maryland (12 of 36)

Green Ridge State Forest Maryland (13 of 36)

Green Ridge State Forest Maryland (14 of 36)

Green Ridge State Forest Maryland (17 of 36) Green Ridge State Forest Maryland (18 of 36) Green Ridge State Forest Maryland (19 of 36) Green Ridge State Forest Maryland (20 of 36) Green Ridge State Forest Maryland (22 of 36)

Green Ridge State Forest Maryland (21 of 36)

Green Ridge State Forest Maryland (24 of 36)

Green Ridge State Forest Maryland (27 of 36)

Green Ridge State Forest Maryland (26 of 36)

Just a bit further down the road is the Carroll chimney, the only part remaining of an 1836 steam powered sawmill. The boys disappeared while I was getting Zara out of the van.  I rarely worry about them when we are out and about around here, because there is seriously never anyone around.  It is the most amazing thing how you can drive around most of the afternoon and spot maybe one vehicle.  By the time I got to the chimney, David was casually waiting on me and the boys were nowhere in sight.  I asked where they were and he acted completely nonchalant.  It was the oddest thing. There was nowhere for them to be and I couldn’t believe they’d just wandered out of sight that quickly.  Neither is it like David to let them.  I called.  No answer.  I couldn’t figure out why David wasn’t more worried and suddenly I got desperate.  Just like that he grinned and said, “alright guys, come out.”

Green Ridge State Forest Maryland (31 of 36)

Green Ridge State Forest Maryland (35 of 36)

I heard giggles and saw legs emerging from the chimney.  Seriously.  They love nothing more than to get me all worried about them!  Funny boys.

Green Ridge State Forest Maryland (32 of 36)

Green Ridge State Forest Maryland (34 of 36)

Green Ridge State Forest Maryland (33 of 36)

The sun was dropping fast and the temperature was dropping even faster.  We were trying to make it to one more overlook and instead got thoroughly lost! It took us nearly two hours to drive home as we blindly followed our GPS hoping to get back out of the confusing forest.    It’s all part of exploring, you know!

Green Ridge State Forest Maryland (36 of 36)

Green Ridge State Forest Maryland (28 of 36)

Last year around this same time we hiked Lovers Leap.

Lovers Leap (1 of 17) Lovers Leap (2 of 17)

Lovers Leap (6 of 17)

Lovers Leap (3 of 17)

Lovers Leap (7 of 17)

We were a little disappointed because the hike was pretty short and very easy. We were looking for the “break into a sweat, hope you brought a snack” kind of hike.  But the view from the top was stupendous!  It’s the kind of thing where you know it’s going to be great, but then you get there and it almost takes your breath away!

Lovers Leap (10 of 17)

Lovers Leap (11 of 17)

Lovers Leap (14 of 17)

Lovers Leap (12 of 17)

Lovers Leap (5 of 17)

Lovers Leap (4 of 17)

Lovers Leap (9 of 17)

The wind tends to be really strong at the top … we read this little fact before hiking, but didn’t think it could be that bad.   They meant it.  The wind was so strong and the drop off so steep that it felt a little unsafe to have small children up there.  That day it felt like it could throw Liam off balance.  Not a good scenario when you’re at the top of a precipice!  We’ve opted out of taking guests with families, but the easy hike, great view, and name make it seem like a fun place to hang out as a couple with a blanket and a picnic basket!  I’ve heard there is great bird-watching there, too, especially when the birds are migrating.

Lovers Leap (13 of 17)

Lovers Leap (17 of 17)

Lovers Leap (16 of 17)

Do you have a  favorite way to explore the world with your family? I’d love to hear about it!

Lovers Leap (15 of 17)


WFMW: Norwex

Remember that post I did about my favorite cleaning products way back here?  Well, I have a new favorite.  When so many people came out of the woodwork to vouch yes for Norwex I decided to give it a try.  I ordered the enviro cloth and the window cloth online and I was hooked!  Seriously. This house has old windows that are impossible to clean.  No matter what I did they kept that streaky, old, cloudy look.  Now?  Let me tell you.  I whizz over them and they are sparkling clean!  Well, when I whizz over them they are.  There is a toddler in my house.  More often than not there are adorable hand prints and not so adorable pretzel smears on them.

I was getting ready for my family to come when Lindsey, the boy’s piano teacher, noticed me swiping down windows.  She looked in disbelief and said, “I want one of those for my house.”

Now I had a party and I want half the stuff in the book!  The funny thing is, I figured out I’ve been cleaning my windows wrong and it still worked. 😉 I can’t wait to try it the way it’s supposed to be done to see if I’m even happier.  I was using the enviro cloth really wet and then using the window cloth damp.  Literally, all I did was wipe.  I didn’t worry about water droplets left behind and as long as I didn’t clean it when the sun was shining on it, I had no trouble.  Now I’m hearing you usually leave the window cloth dry.  I’m anxious to try it but I might stick with my way since it works.  Having a damp cloth makes for less resistance which translates into less stress for my grouchy shoulder muscle.  I like being able to clean all the windows in the house without suffering for two days afterward.

I love that I don’t have to carry around paper towels and windex and a trash bag and that I don’t go through a roll of paper towels every time I do a thorough inside and out job!  Want to try them for yourself?  You can order them here.  My first recommendation is the basic package.  You can literally clean most things in your house with just this!  I’ve only been using mine for windows.  At the party I learned that people use the enviro cloth for anything from dusting to cleaning bathrooms to getting mechanic grease out of carpets. Yes, you heard right.  Just the cloth and water!!  How’s that for a simple cleaning routine?

If you’re lucky, you might even get help! If not with the scrubbing, at least with the fingerprinting.

June 15 (147 of 148)

My party is still open until October 31st so if you order before then you can use Michelle Beachy for your host.  After October 31st, just skip the host name.

Happy scrubbing!