1 April


Light snow is in the forecast for tonight and later in the week. But just now I smelled the unmistakable scent of earth and sun and growing things that means spring is around the corner and I'm so excited!

Last week was busy and a little chaotic here. We had a ridiculous comedy of errors trying to get everything done that needed to be. And then we discovered Saturday afternoon that the puppy had destroyed all of my shoes -- and I do mean all of them -- within the preceding 24 hours. She's so sneaky. It's kind of funny but of course not that funny, too, because all of my shoes (and I am not a big shoe person, I only owned 5 pairs total) were expensive. I wear a size 12 and have plantar fasciitis (which is way better now than when it developed 8 years ago, thanks to wearing good shoes), so I have to be careful about what I wear on my feet, and of course, what I can get is pretty limited due to my size. (Being as tall as I am is mostly great, but the challenges come in when you are on the largest size of generally available shoes.)

Anyway, that was a bit of a digression. Friday night found us at our church's always breathtaking Good Friday service. We are blessed with what I am convinced to be the best music director of any church of any denomination I have ever witnessed. In three years, he has transformed our slightly rag-tag group of singers into an amazing choir, who perform beautiful pieces from Gregorian chant, to Thomas Tallis, to contemporary choral works. It's impossible not to be brought to tears with our music director's musical setting of the Reproaches. Being a musician, nerd, and highly religious individual, I fully admit to looking forward to this all year.

waiting for the Easter Vigil to begin

Saturday was, as always, a quiet day for us. We did some minimal prep for Easter dinner and then rested in the afternoon. After the alarming shoe discovery, we set out to the Easter Vigil. (One pair of shoes was intact enough that I could wear them with the addition of a grocery store insole.) It was extraordinarily beautiful. Fiona slept for about the first hour, but was up for the rest, and the other two children took turns sitting in the aisle so they could see better. They were all quiet and did beautifully the whole time. The Easter Vigil is long (about four hours at our church, this can vary), but so beautiful and transcendent. I wish I had better words, but I guess this will have to be enough. We got home at about 1:30am, and my husband had to be up at 6:00 to go play in a brass quintet at another church's services!

(Note: I made my dress, based on some basic ideas I saw on DIY Maternity, using fabric from Girl Charlee. I am not going to take full-body pictures of it because even though I like it, I don't feel the need to share full shots of my pregnant self on the internet. More about my rosary here.)

slow Easter morning

table setting

I love our dining room

lemon water


The rest of us spent a slow morning. Elisabeth and I gradually prepared our Easter dinner in spurts, between my resting and the children playing outside with sidewalk chalk and bubbles. 

My husband arrived home at about 1:00, and my brother and his wife arrived at 3:00 for dinner. It was a sunny, beautiful day, so restful and perfect. Keeping it simple and doing most of the prep in advance made it easy for me and my helpers. I never host holiday meals because generally that's the territory of my mom and mother-in-law, but this year it just worked out for us to stay home (with the addition of my brother and sister-in-law). It was so nice. I hope over time to have the chance to host a few more things!

Last night, I got my three overtired children and exhausted pregnant self into our pajamas at 6:00. I read each of them one chapter from their latest books. Fiona was asleep by 6:30, James by 7:00, and I think Elisabeth managed to hold out until 8:00 before falling asleep. They all slept in until 8 this morning, too, so it was well-needed rest!

Well, this is may be my rambliest and most pointless post ever, but I'm happy, so happy, that Easter has come -- I've been so looking forward to it this year! -- and that spring is around the corner. Soon enough, we'll be getting ready to welcome our baby. What a season of goodness lies ahead.

11 March

finishing touches

finishing up the snowman

snowman's profile


This moment seven years ago, I was basking in the afterglow of my blessingway and heading out to supper with my husband, my almost-four-year-old little girl, and my friends Gina and Rachel. It was snowing then, as it's snowing right now. The next morning, I woke up and had a baby!

In other news, I have been feeling crabby today, had a slight headache, and snapped at my children. It was altogether not a great afternoon. 

Saturday night, after a long day playing out in the snow (snowmen were made), we made my favorite soup, Pasta Fagioli. Or Pasta e Fagioli for the fancier people. 

My parents used to go to this restaurant ages ago, it reminded me of the type of fine dining establishment you might see in the Godfather movies. I mean, it was really nice, but it was definitely that old school, urban Italian-American feel. There used to be a few of those places in the city where I grew up but they all seem to have disappeared with time.

Anyway. If you went to this lovely little Italian restaurant, they brought you out a bowl of this soup to start. My mom was able to get the recipe by a slightly mafia-esque maneuver (exaggerating! I'm exaggerating!), and now I'm going to share it with you, only slightly updated to include canned beans because I never remember to soak mine the night before. Bad crunchy mama. :)

mmm, soup

my favorite soup

Pasta Fagioli Soup

1/3 cup olive oil

1 cup finely diced onion
1 cup finely diced carrots
1 cup finely diced celery

(We made a double batch this weekend and to save time we used the food processor but oh, it's so much better when you dice by hand.)

4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp dried basil
1 tsp ground black pepper (please take my word for it and don't skimp on the pepper)

1 15-oz can diced tomatoes
1 15-oz can small white beans, rinsed and drained (Great Northern or Navy beans)
7-8 cups chicken broth (you can use vegetable broth if you'd like a vegetarian soup -- also, if you use reduced sodium broth, you may wish to add salt to the soup)

1 cup small pasta (tiny bow-ties are traditional, or you can use little macaronis. We had to settle for large pasta this time which wasn't quite the same)

In a large stockpot, heat olive oil over medium heat. Make a mirepoix with the onions, carrots, and celery. When they are richly fragrant (about 8-10 minutes), add the garlic and stir until fragrant. Add the basil and pepper, give it a good stir, and then add the tomatoes, beans, and broth. Simmer for at least 20 minutes, preferably longer. 

Add the pasta, bring to a boil, and cook until pasta is done.

Serve with bread, grated cheese, or whatever you like.

Best soup ever.

5 February


naughty dog

Today is a lovely, sunny, spring-like day. Being a rare day we don't have anything on the schedule, it's also turning into a lazy day.

It's been quiet, most of us on our own today. Elisabeth has been reading and practicing piano, James has been working on a few art projects and playing with his trains. Fiona has been sitting with me on the couch while I study for a test this week. There are so many -- so many! -- dishes to wash, and I want everyone to get outside and play. But mostly we've been having a nothing day, which is a good thing. 

Last summer in my towel post, I alluded to the fact that I have lots of opinions about bridal registries. I was surprised that a few people chimed in about wanting to hear what those were. Then the other day, Mackenzie and I started chatting about it, too. It seems like a funny thing to talk about in this space, since it's not my usual subject matter, but Mackenzie encouraged me to write about it since it's actually an interesting thing to think about. Anyway, I thought I might do a post about that this week. It seems funny and random, but also I think something that a lot of us could have done better back in the day -- maybe some brides-to-be would find it helpful. :)

For now, I'm back to my lazy day.

1 February


Wow! I had no intention of letting a whole month go by without a post. January is a tough month for me (like August) -- the transition times after a school break leave me feeling like we are limping along without a routine. We've also had a series of viruses run through our house. Thankfully, I think everyone is healthy now. Last night I slept with my mouth closed (like, because I could breathe through my nose) for the first time in a couple of weeks. That was nice. 


We've just been quietly hanging out, hoping for snow. It did snow one time in January, this past Monday. We got about 3 inches which was noteworthy for this sad, sad, dry winter we're having. I'm used to having a lot more snow than this! It seems disappointing.

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puzzle 2

puzzle 3

puzzle 4

The fun of a 1000-piece jigsaw puzzle was discovered and everyone in the family has been variously addicted to working on it. It's nearly complete now (more than in these photos). My husband picked up another one the other day, which makes me grin.

reading together


The house is starting to feel a bit more settled. We've been here for about 8 1/2 months. We still need to get things up on the walls. And we need baseboards downstairs. Then there are the big projects that remain -- exterior paint, new windows and doors, moving the laundry room to the basement, updating the kitchen and bathrooms, re-installing the coat closet that was removed to make a shower in the powder room. (We don't need a main floor shower -- or a handicapped toilet -- like the last owners. But we sure do need a coat closet!) Someday there will be a sewing room with egress windows in the basement for me so that one of our children can have the fourth bedroom upstairs, but that's further down the road. And I dream of repairing the fireplace in the family room and putting in an efficient-burning insert. And maybe a small woodstove in the living room, someday. There is lots to do, but I'm beginning to feel more at home just as it is now. I feel that the living spaces are pretty, the bedrooms are spacious, we are comfortable. This house is just the right one for us. That feels reassuring, after the long search, choosing something that needed so much work, and so on. 

In one of the photos above, you can just see my completed Winterwoods sampler in a frame. The matte is too small for it so I'm going to change it out before I take another photo of it, but I am so happy to have it! It's perfect for the living room. 

I think that's about it for today. I'm so happy that it's February. Goodbye January slump! Hello birthday season!

14 November

I guess it's inevitable that once I allowed myself to miss one day this month, I'd miss another. You know, ever since last week when we were driving Daddy all over the world, it seems like our pace hasn't evened back out and I've been longing for some quiet days at home. Today we finally took that day and it was so worth it.



I made some homemade deodorant, using this recipe. This is the only recipe I've tried, as my friend Claudia went through a period of trial and error with a few different deodorant recipes and said this one was the best. I have never had any complaints about it. To answer some questions I anticipate you might have:

-Does it work? Yes, it works great as a deodorant. It is not an antiperspirant, though I think the baking soda and arrowroot powder do absorb some moisture. If you are used to antiperspirant, this is a different experience. You will notice some wetness. I switched from antiperspirant to plain deodorant over 10 years ago because I learned that the reaction of the chemicals in antiperspirant with sweat is what causes yellow stains on clothing. Since making that switch, I haven't had a problem with yellow stains, so I think that's the definite culprit. All that to say, if you try this, you will notice some wetness but it takes care of odor.

-How often do you have to apply it? Once a day is fine for me. Maybe as your body adjusts, you might need to reapply, or on really hot days. But it's very effective.

-Does it irritate your skin, or get powdery when it dries out? I have extremely sensitive skin and this particular formula has not given me any trouble over the approximately 18 months that I've been using it. I have not noticed it becoming powdery.

-How much does it make? This recipe is enough to fill two two-ounce jars, which I got at the health food store in the essential oils aisle. Elisabeth uses deodorant now(!), so it's perfect: one for her, one for me. Though my husband is wary to try it, I kind of presume I'll mix up a more masculine-smelling batch for James when he gets bigger. Because I feel like, why go the route of chemicals if you don't absolutely have to?

a return to stitching

sunny day

Other than that, I picked my stitching back up after a two-week hiatus (see? doing extra at the beginning was wise), and we just hung out for most of the day until it was time for swim team. It was a much needed day of rest.

5 September

I wrote a post a couple weeks ago about August, how hard it is for me, how I finally realized that I just hate it. I didn't end up posting it because I was feeling too sorry for myself about it being August in the first place. But can I just say right now, August is over! And I couldn't be happier. Just turning the page on the calendar was a relief to me. And the weather, while still hot, is not as unbearable. And we're finding our rhythm a little bit again.

I can never not live in the West.

On the subject of family rhythm, some things have changed for us there. Long ago, two houses ago, before Fiona was even a dream, I wrote about our bedtime rhythm. I believed strongly then, as I do now, that chronic sleep deprivation in children is a real problem in the world these days. At that time, when I had two small children, very few classes and activities to take them to, and a husband who worked a lot (but not as much as now), I felt like putting them to bed early was vitally important to both their health and my sanity. 

Today, things look a little different. James is now older than Elisabeth was then, and in addition to her music lessons and occasional classes, we've added year-round competitive swim team to the mix for her, as well as soccer for him. I am right there with all the parents and "experts" who bemoan the loss of childhood and the overscheduled child of today. And (even bigger for me), I am really selfish and protective of own time. I'll gladly fill up a day spontaneously but I dread having things that I "have" to do. 

But it (finally!) occurred to me that, as homeschoolers, we are not locked into any schedule in the same way that families who go to school are. I realized, in a very freeing way, that it's OK for us to have a later dinner, and a later bedtime, if my children don't have to wake up at 6:30 in order to catch a school bus. So now we are eating dinner at around 7pm and the kids are asleep at about 9:00. This would have been a blasphemy to my old way of thinking, but these days, I'm grateful to have shaken away that more dogmatic perspective. I think it's so easy as parents to perceive one "way" as being "virtuous" and anything different to be "wrong". I've certainly done that about a lot of things, and I'm sure I continue to do so in more ways than I even realize. 

I think as mothers, too often we find ourselves in the trap of comparing ourselves, our families, to others. But why do we do this to ourselves? It's true that comparison is the quickest way to fall short. We all know that, I think, but it's so easy to think that someone else must have it "right". In the end, we have to remember that we only have to do what's right for our own families, and that might be really different than what another family needs, for so many factors: time, schedules, biorhythms, temperaments. We all need to seek a place of balance, and that's hard to do, but it's freeing, too. Instead of comparing, and fretting over whether we are doing something right, we can find that place of balance for our own families. And that's where the peaceful, joyful, felicitous family moments reside, rather than a place of anxiety.

I feel like we are at the point where we can say "yes" to more afternoon activities because we aren't locked into a daytime schedule. As I type this, it's just past lunchtime, and my kids are all playing outside, enjoying unstructured, happy childhood time. Since they get that time during the day, I am branching out, in a way that feels a little bit new to me, to letting them do more things outside the home. And I'm so glad I am. They seem happy and balanced and relaxed. It's been a good thing for us.

So it begins. That's James on the far left (red t-shirt).

{Also. The pictures here (sorry, more phone pictures -- I really am hoping to get back to my "real" camera!) were taken last week at James's first-ever soccer practice. I never set out to do the whole soccer thing. But oh, man, I really like it! He is so into it, so excited, and I'm amazed by how much I enjoy sitting there at the field during his practices. So, yeah, I guess I'm a soccer mom now.}

9 June

Another phone post tonight, as I'm too tired and sunburnt to fuss with one on the computer, which is not yet properly set up.

I've been trying to capture some before and after pictures of the process of making this house into our home, but of course I wish I'd taken even more of the "before" pictures (I think that's always the case, don't you? The contrast seems more pronounced when you can really remember what it was like before!)

So far we've stripped a ton of wallpaper and painted almost all of the interior walls of the house (when we're finished, we will have). We've demolished a low wall in the kitchen, pulled up carpet and layers of linoleum, and are now installing our hardwood floors. It's all so exciting (and tiring!), but everyday I'm actually amazed by the changes to the house.

The kids have met a neighbor girl and have spent hours this week playing outside with her. This is the first time we've lived in a neighborhood with any children in it, so everyone's excited.

Swim season is in full swing. Today we had the longest swim meet ever. All told, it was over seven hours! Exhausting! And we all came home more sunburnt than we meant to. But still, I remarked to my mom today, I love being a swim mom. It's a great sport to participate in, for so many reasons.

I want to knit something. Or maybe learn to crochet. Granny squares are calling my name. But for now, my focus (and money!) are going to the house project. It's all a season, I know. And in just a few more weeks, I know we'll really begin to feel home.

More soon, friends.

9 June

9 June

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9 June

Ready or not

We closed on our house the day after Mother's Day, and we've spent every one of the last 10 days over there pulling off wallpaper, spackling, painting, pulling out kitchen cabinets, getting carpet installed, and on and on.

The new house is not ready for us to move in quite yet, and the old house is not ready for us to vacate it quite yet, but here we are and today is moving day, whether we're ready or not. Actually, we had hoped to move a few days later but our schedule was kind of dictated by truck availability.

Here are a handful of recent (phone) photos ... more to come.

Last project if the first night. Before.

And after.

Wallpaper. This took a full week to get down.

Brass-colored PLASTIC light fixture. Oh, 1979.

E's bedroom

Ignore the ugly fixture, but notice the sun coming in on the lively "Glass of Milk" white walls. J & F's bedroom.

Back yard view

Comedy of errors

New piano

We are all so exhausted.

I miss knitting. Or anything else not moving related.

Like I said.

21 October

Thanks for sharing our excitement regarding Millie! We are so happy to have her, what fun it is to enjoy the antics of a kitten!

21 october

Today is a lovely warm autumn day, with the smell of dry leaves on the air. I have a big pot of beans cooking for supper. I spent a bit of time seriously researching the method for the one piece of attire I'll be required to construct for this year's Halloween costumes (a bit of a departure since before this, all of my children's costumes have been completely sewn by me -- and for the last 5 years, they've all been documented here, too!). Today is my husband's last day of marching band! (Which began on July 5! I'm so looking forward to having him home a bit more ... since August 1, he's been away an average of 70-80 hours a week, which is too much and has been exhausting for everyone.)

21 october

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21 october

A new magazine and my knitting are beckoning. My children are playing hide and seek (all three! together! it feels like a small miracle!). Two animals are snoozing happily. I have a glass of seltzer to enjoy. 

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It's kind of a perfect day. 

Wishing you a weekend full of this kind of simple perfection.



We got a kitten. 

It was a spontaneous decision. And like anything spontaneous, it feels a bit radical.


Her name is Millie. She weighs just about a pound. The first day, she scared us all with some ninja moves, but that has since settled down. 



Now she snuggles in bed with any and all of us (even our crotchety old beagle pup). I told my husband that there is something so wonderful about the objectivity of an animal; the fact that she loves us is strangely validating ("Hey! We're not that bad!").

I've learned that black kittens are not that easy to photograph, especially in the imperfect lighting conditions that exist in this house. And she's FAST. And when she's asleep, you can't really even see her face, it's so black. And we can't take her outside, because, as I mentioned, she's FAST. 

So, these are all the pictures in existence of her, and probably all there are likely to be for a while. 


She has pounced and purred and curled and scratched her way right into all our hearts. Even me, the grumpy old cat-hater that I am. Or was. 

All is beautiful and well.

1 September

{This was yesterday's post -- my thoughts turned toward the new beginnings of September -- but I couldn't post it yesterday because my camera software was corrupted and had to be reinstalled, and I couldn't find the disk until today!}


So, it's the first of September. I can hardly believe it! August zipped by in a flurry of chaos and adjustment, and this September promises to bring many good things. I'm thinking back to a year ago, when my husband was in the midst of the worst of his illness. We didn't know what the future would bring and I tried to distract myself from the unspeakable fear. A year later, things are so much brighter. What a difference one year can make!

morning reading

I wrote a "back to (home)school" post last week that needs some editing and tweaking before I publish it, but today I want to write a little bit about rhythm, something that I know is on the minds of many during this time of year.

roly poly

grasshopper observation

Rhythm has become a bit of a buzzword around blogworld. People talk about it and think about it a lot. For some, it's kind of become synonymous with a schedule of sorts, for others, it's a way of consciously structuring the things that repeat in their weeks -- whether the things that need to be done (errands, shopping, baking), or that they want to get done (art projects, hikes, etc.).




I wanted to propose another way of thinking about rhythm.

For me, rhythm is the way a family's days "go" at a given time in their lives. It may be quiet and inward, it may be wild and boisterous. It may be oriented toward a season or holiday, it may be free-form. But, to my way of looking at it, it's not imposed or structured, but develops organically over time, and shifts happens subtly. It's like realizing that you've fallen into step with your walking companion -- serendipitous, happy, natural. Though there have been many times where I've felt it necessary to institute a schedule to our days, it never works for the long term. I believe that's because a schedule can never take into account all the various things that really make up our family's unique rhythm.



Sometimes a rhythm is necessarily dictated by things that are scheduled, like this summer when we were swimming three hours throughout the day. But most often, for us, it's the smaller things, like the way my children are playing (together, and separately) at the moment. The things we are enjoying eating, and therefore, their preparation. The creative outlets that pull at each of us. 


I could not write down a "schedule" to what our rhythm looks like. It's not a "breakfast at 8, tidy up at 8:30, stories at 9, outside at 9:45" type of thing. And yet, we do find that there are things we do every day, in roughly the same order. And it shifts over time, with the seasons, with the things we have going on. Naps happen at roughly the same time. We all need time to read and relax and be quiet, to work on projects alone or together, to care for our home. 


This fall, we are trying something a little bit different for "schooling" than we've done in the past (more on that in my upcoming "back to (home)school" post), and I want to find a way to gently work it into our days without disrupting the good rhythmic elements that are in place already. I know that we're finding our way into a new rhythm right now, anyway, as autumn approaches (100 degrees today, but in the 70's by the weekend!), as we continue to adjust to daddy's new work schedule, as preparation for Halloween begins to be a part of our creative consciousness. So, I guess I'm not too worried about how adding some schooling back into our days will be. At first, it's going to be one of those "scheduled" things that the rest of our rhythm will move and stretch itself around. And my hope is that on the best of days, it will become part of that daily rhythm, that breath of our family's life together.


I'm very much interested in reading Amanda's new book, The Rhythm of Family, which I think must touch on what I've written here, because ever since this post nearly five years ago, I've felt that her way of looking at rhythm was similar to mine. The book hasn't found its way across my threshold yet, but it will soon, I hope. :)

I've been doing this for two weeks, and I love it. It's a way to briefly jot down my impressions of the day, without giving it too much thought, without laboring over it like a blog post, or editing what I say for others to read on Facebook or Twitter. It's just a little bit of my own memories of our days. And it even sends reminder emails, so I've not missed a single day. Such a simple way of recording these days of ours, and their unique rhythmic ebb and flow.

And finally, feeling such gratitude tonight for the health of my mother-in-law, who had a medical procedure today, for my best friend's sweet new baby boy, and for my brother, who will tie the knot on Monday! (Oh, and that my children don't have any squeamishness about insects.)

{Edited to add: I do feel that intention is so very important in family life, but I also don't believe that deciding to myself "Wouldn't it be nice if our days went like this?" and then writing it down makes it our family's rhythm. If that makes sense. This is meant to share my ideas about rhythm, not to criticize those who use the term to mean more of a schedule! In some ways, it's just semantics. Whatever you call these things, we all have both natural patterns to our days, and things that we need to schedule.}

A week in the life : Friday

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Yesterday, we:

  • I had a dentist appointment first thing, so my husband, who had teacher planning but no students or meetings that day, stayed home long enough for me to go. It was great to slip away by myself, and I hoped to fit in 10 glorious minutes of knitting in the waiting room, but they called me right back. Darn!
  • took a mid-morning nap (all of us, except Daddy, who headed back to work)
  • had a variation of a beet salad that Kyrie shared years ago for lunch (on her old blog, so there's no link, but it's essentially: equal parts lightly boiled or steamed beets cut into matchsticks -- as you can see, mine are sliced, but matchsticks are better -- and green beans, also very lightly steamed. Toss with nuts of your choice -- Kyrie suggested hazelnuts, I think?, but I used walnuts -- dress with your favorite dressing -- I mix up my own -- and crumble some cheese on top [blue cheese, feta, goat cheese, etc.] -- which I omit because Elisabeth doesn't like cheese)
  • more laundry and dishes
  • picked up my sister and niece (the house above is not theirs, but is up the street from theirs -- they live in a great old city neighborhood)
  • spent the afternoon at IKEA with my sister and niece
  • saw a double rainbow out the window while eating supper there, which was extremely hard to photgraph through those windows, as they were not that clean ;)
  • bought nothing at IKEA 
  • spent the evening playing at my sister's house
  • came home, kids asleep in the car, to find that my husband had picked up a 6-pack of hard cider for us to enjoy together with fans blowing the cool of the night into our living room
  • made yesterday's post before absolutely crashing into bed!

This was maybe my favorite day of the week so far, even though I don't love shopping and so a trip to IKEA isn't really my ideal way to spend a day. But I really, really love hanging out with my sister and we don't get to do it often enough because of our husbands' widely divergent work schedules. (Not that we can't do stuff with the dads along, but we rarely do because of family time.)

I'm having fun with these and I'm looking forward to sharing the last two days with you!

A week in the life : Thursday

I almost didn't squeeze this post in today, but here I am, just minutes before midnight. I was with my sister today. One should never assume that a day spent with one's sister will end at a reasonable hour. Ahem.


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Yesterday, we:

  • had whole wheat toast with butter and preserves for breakfast, same as the day before
  • went to James's swimming lesson. He "dove" off the diving board twice (really a front-leaning jump -- almost belly flop)
  • played dress-up. I'm loving Fiona's particular sense of humor these days.
  • laundry and dishes, laundry and dishes.
  • had some lunchtime shenanigans based on these dogs (the dogs are funny, but my kids imitating them is downright hilarious.)
  • James proudly hand-sewed some fabric together, his first sewing project (unassisted by me!)
  • did a doll performance in the living room
  • played outside for a long time
  • it was cool and so pleasant!
  • practiced writing cursive (even James had a go with a "J")
  • enjoyed some chips with salsa made by one of my best friends!
  • had baked chicken, brown rice, and salad (with lettuce from our CSA and mustard greens from a friend) for dinner
  • enjoyed animal crackers as before-bed treat
  • listened to the crickets as we drifted off in our (cool) beds

A week in the life : Wednesday

I only took a handful of photos yesterday. It was a bit of an off day. I woke up to bad news about a friend, and it clouded the day. It was also another day spent doing doll work and I don't want to give away too much of that. :) 

But here is what I have!

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burrito boy

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Yesterday, we:

-had fresh-baked whole wheat bread (from our bread machine), butter, and fruit preserves for breakfast

-went to James's swimming lesson. My kids have, for many years, liked to be "wrapped up like burritos" in their towels after swimming, and I don't know that I've ever photographed it or documented it anywhere, but it's something I don't want to forget.

-I knitted a whole row while at the pool. At least that's an improvment over the previous day!

-stayed and visited with a friend at the pool for a while

-the heat we'd been experiencing (a month of temperatures over 90 degrees) broke, which was a relief -- our house has been so hot and muggy!

-had a quick and light lunch (tortillas with shredded beef)

-worked on dolls for most of the afternoon

-had pasta and homemade sauce for supper

-spent the evening (and late into the night) at the home of some friends -- I had my camera with me, but we were having so much fun, I didn't snap a single photo!

Looking at the few photos I have from yesterday, I realize that I slipped a bit back into my usual photo style, and I'm trying again today to step out of that comfort zone a bit more.

A week in the life : Tuesday

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Yesterday, we:

-had potato and leftover pulled pork hash, watermelon, and orange juice for breakfast

-went to James's swimming lesson

-I knitted exactly half a row at the pool

-went to our neighborhood health food store (where I used to do most of our grocery shopping, but with a bigger family, more expenses, etc., we now carefully choose the things that are most important to buy there)

-laughed at a funny dog in the car parked next to us

-stopped for a (rare) treat at Dairy Queen

-came home and built little forts in the living room

-read lots of books

-worked and worked on dolls

-simple lunch and supper of leftovers and fresh produce from our CSA were quickly prepared by Elisabeth while I worked the afternoon and evening away

-Daddy got home at 8pm, after his first afternoon marching band practice (he thinks this will be typical for at least the first half of the season)

-I stayed up super late, working, and also reading (I have summer homework that I haven't even looked at yet! Oops!)

Thanks for your kind feedback after the first day! This feels like a much different type of blogging than I'm used to. I'm glad to see that it's receiving a warm reception, because it feels so foreign and strange to me, but also fun and freeing!

A week in the life : Monday

So, I totally got the idea to do a week in the life thing here from Kyrie. I know it really comes from Ali Edwards, it's something of a scrapbooking "prompt", and there is a specific week for it each year, but I'm just doing my own thing. I wanted to post this last night, but honestly, by the end of a long day (I got home at almost 11pm), I was just too tired. And then our mornings are so busy. So here goes!

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Yesterday, we

-played horsies under the kitchen table before breakfast.

-had potatoes and migas for breakfast. I talked to Sarah on the phone while making it.

-washed dishes more times than I care to recount.

-barely made a dent in the laundry.

-went to James's swimming lesson. Fiona dangled her feet in the baby pool while he had his lesson. At the very end of the lesson, his class went into the baby pool to play "What time is it, Mr. Shark?"

-admired our swim team's trophies while at the pool (first in our league and second in state!).

-went to the grocery store, where Elisabeth walked and read the whole time.

- played outside in an early afternoon thunderstorm -- ten minutes of downpour followed by a long afternoon of stifling humidity.

-James made a pictorial list of the things he needed to get done (bring the groceries in the house, take out the recycling, get dressed).

-lanolized diaper covers and had a lunch of salad and fruit.

-had an afternoon gymnastics performance.

-I spent the afternoon teaching cello lessons, while my husband (who was home early because he'd had an orientation day) took the kids to Costco for some staples.

-portioned out some of the staples and made a quick and simple supper

-I went out for dinner and drinks with some friends.

In doing this, I wanted to remember to take pictures that were not just "bloggable", but told a story of our day. As I look through the batch, some of which are not the usual "type" of photo I'd share here, I am bemoaning the poor light in our house (this is already generally a problem, but especially on overcast, hazy days like we've been having here lately), and wishing we had a prettier living room. Oh, well, all in good time.

I'm also reminded what a fantastic and lovely little family I have here, and how good it is to have good friends.


I have some things I want to admit:

my thumb (proverbial or otherwise) isn't this color

1. We are not doing a garden this year. Whew. That one has been hard for me, because I so want to be the "type" who gardens. And maybe, someday, I will be. But in the three years we've lived here, we've poured a lot of money (I don't even want to know how much, but it's over $1000) into soil enhancements for our hard clay soil (in addition to power-tilling it), which was still cheaper than starting from scratch with new soil for raised garden beds. And we have poured money (a little less, but still a lot) into seeds and plants, only to have them fail to grow ... due, we now realize (kind of late, I think) to the huge amount of shade in our yard from all the tall trees surrounding it. Yeah, that kind of made us feel stupid, not noticing the shade for more than two years. (See that dark shady area in the back of the photo above? That's where the farm-sized garden plot in our yard is located. In complete shade.)

Also, I may or may not have a black thumb.

So, we're not doing it. And I feel guilty, but also OK about it.

2. A friend and I have been discussing a phenomenon that we both seem to be experiencing. Maybe some of you have experienced it, too. We are in our 30's, have been married at least a decade, and are getting to a point of hating all of our stuff. Do you know what I mean?

I think when you're first setting up your household, you think you need a lot more "stuff" to fill it out than you really do. You think back to your parents' home, and all the "stuff" they have, and you figure, "I need all that, too." So you start accumulating things, from all different sources, without really considering if they are even things you need or want. And now you have 40 million mismatched towels, when you really only need 6. You have cabinets full of never-used kitchen appliances and random luncheon plates. You realize you have too much of everything, and none of it (or very little of it) is anything that you really appreciate. 

I realize that this is such a first world problem to have. And I am truly, truly grateful for the relative prosperity that my family enjoys. But I am so ready to start weeding things out -- the things that I don't use, don't need, don't like. Except I don't know where to start. And replacing the things I hate with (fewer, carefully chosen) things that I love is not exactly in my budget. So I just keep putting it off, and then continuing to feel stifled by all my stuff. It's high time to take action, I think.

my instrument of torture

3. In the early morning, Fiona likes to play a game where she makes me kiss her dolly or stuffed animal. And in the half-sleep of dawn, I often feel like I'm actually being suffocated by her toy (like I can't breathe). But I kiss it anyway, because, really, is anything sweeter than those first steps into the world of pretend?

4. Bedtime around here has been pretty bad lately. I won't go into all the details, because I'm sure many of you have experienced a bad bedtime or two.

I find that sometimes I'm able to keep a very strong bedtime routine and we all thrive for it. And sometimes, depending on where we are in life, I just can't swing it. Tonight my overtired middle child, getting up for a fourth time to ask for this or that, or maybe just to whine, came out into the kitchen and broke a dish, and I reacted in a not-very-kind way. As I type this, at 9:30, I'm still feeling tense from that exchange. Sigh. I wish it were easier to keep things running as smoothly as I want them to.

5. Tonight I laid in bed and listened to birds at dusk with Fiona. And it was the happiest moment of my day.



We thought we would find out the results from the interview last night. But instead they are waiting until Monday to do the final portion of the interview process. So we may not hear until Monday night or Tuesday. I'm trying not to spend my weekend overthinking the whole thing, but of course I am. I go back and forth between thoughts like, "he's perfect for this job, it was practically made for him, he is the obvious candidate" to a sinking feeling like I know he hasn't gotten it already. I know these thoughts are normal in a situation like this. But I don't want to become obsessive. Because he does have his job to return to in the fall, although it's always shaky in an inner-city school with shrinking enrollment. But we haven't reached the desperation that so many have lately. So I'm thankful for that, always. 

We've had to take on some new expenses. A car, a computer. We knew they were both coming, and they came close together. Suddenly I'm thinking, "Should we really be reserving campsites for this summer? Can we afford that this month?" and other silly worries like that. Here is what I know. Sometimes you have to take on bigger expenses, and things feel tight, and you have to stretch. And then you do stretch, and you find you can make do with fewer of some things. And you may not be able to make all the same choices you've been making. And that can be freeing, in a way. 

And what else do I know? I know that yesterday I went to my sister's to watch the Royal Wedding and it took us 11 hours to get through it. There were some frustrated words from both mamas. I remember that things like 4-hour television specials about some strangers getting married are not particularly riveting to one- and two- (and five-, and even, nine-) year-olds.

I know that tomorrow is May first and I haven't yet completed that blue sweater as I'd hoped I would. Because I spent 11 hours yesterday trying to watch Kate Middleton become the Duchess of Cambridge. And that I do really care about that transformation in the life of a woman I've never met. It gives me hope. Not that I'll become a princess one day (though when I was four, my career aspiration was to be the Queen of England), but because it reminds me that in a real way, "fairy tales" happen to all of us, in ordinary and extraordinary ways all the time.

I know that my house has been neglected for two days. And that it looks like it's been neglected for a month. I think if one of you walked in right now, you would think it has never been cleaned. I'm surprised, all the time, how fast things can decline, even when we haven't been home most of that time. 

I know that anything is possible: with patience, love, humility, and openness. 

And that's what I know on this Saturday.

This week....

Whew! This Easter week has just flown by for me! What about you?

I've had something going every evening (when I would normally formulate some thoughts into a blog post....)

Here are some snippets of my week, which I'd love to add began very cold and gray and is ending warm and sunny.

This week ...


... a friend and I enjoyed a much-needed moms' night out. So good for the soul.


... I noticed my baby getting cuter, and cuter, and bigger, and bigger.


... I hung out on the couch with this old girl, under quilts, and still shivered.


... I knitted,


... and knitted, 


... and knitted,



... wound some yarn,


... and knitted some more, on a sweater that I am determined to finish before May first. And some very late Christmas gifts. (All after completing [most of] my daily chores.)

... Elisabeth "graduated" from her CGS program, after 6 years. 

... my husband was offered his first job interview in several years. The interview is a day-long process tomorrow (Friday), and if you would be willing to send some prayers and good thoughts our way, we would be appreciative!

... I think we kept ourselves out of trouble for the most part. 

Tomorrow I think I'll head over to my sister's house to watch the Royal Wedding (on DVR), and anxiously await any word from my husband about his Big Interview. See you later!

On housekeeping (part 1)

Today I'm going to write about something that I have wanted to talk about in this space for a really long time: housekeeping. But first, thank you for your birthday wishes over the last few weeks. We have one more birthday approaching in a couple of weeks and then birthday season will be past us and I'll heave a sigh of relief. And I thought I'd also update you on the illness front. It turns out this was pneumonia. And my first chest x-ray also showed something concerning in my lung, and I ended up having follow-up x-rays and a CT scan to find out what was going on. In the end, it turned out to be nothing. But between the pneumonia and the uncertainty, it was a kind of stressful time there for a while. Anyway, that's all on the mend and I'm avoiding human contact at all cost (OK, that's an exaggeration), to avoid any more exposure to illness this season!

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So, back to the housekeeping. This begins with a confession: I am not tidy. I am not neat. (I am clean, and actually slightly obsessively so, about things like bathrooms [I clean mine daily] and sheets [I change them at least weekly without fail] -- after the advice given to my own mother when she was a newlywed by an older friend and mentor of hers, a mother of five, who had been given that advice by her family physician when she was struggling with keeping five little ones healthy. So my mom took that advice to heart in her own family, and now, so do I.) But mostly, I think I fall into that "absent-minded professor" category: brainy, a bit scattered, and, well, kind of slovenly.

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I have a hard time keeping after clutter. I mean, I know everyone says that, but I'm worse than the average person. I am not good at getting rid of stuff when I don't need it anymore. I'm a saver. (You know the type.) Between overwhelm, busyness, lack of diligence (a huge problem of mine, and others like me, for whom so many "academic" things have come easily), and absence of any sort of system, this house can be quite messy, chaotic, and disorganized.

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Of course I appreciate a tidy home, but getting there has always been so hard for me. I see how our family thrives when things are running smoothly, but achieving that on any kind of consistent basis has been extremely hard for me. It's so hard to know where to start. (And for any of you wondering right now about the home that you've seen on the blog: never discount artful photography.)

I'm going somewhere with all this, I promise. Last summer, thanks to the advice of a friend who had experienced the same type of frustration, overwhelm, exhaustion, self-blame, and general stress from a life lived in messy surroundings, I found something that worked for me. My friend felt so transformed by her new way of life that she was nearly evangelical about it. And now I'm about to be.

on housekeeping

We call them "my cards".

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It's a system outlined in the book Sidetracked Home Executives, written by two sisters who had come to the end of their ropes with housekeeping. They came up with the system because they needed it. Simply, you write every single task that needs to be accomplished in your household on 3x5 cards, which are color-coded based on the frequency of the task. Daily chores are on yellow yards, weekly chores on blue ones, and anything that is done monthly or less frequently (seasonally or annually), are on white cards. (Pink are for "personal" things, like appointments, classes, activities, homework, vitamins or medicine, etc.) I made a card for each and every task that needs to happen in our house. As I've gone on, I've eliminated some cards that I don't need anymore (because I never forget to do the chore, and so don't need it anymore), or consolidated some. With other things, I've changed the frequency, after seeing what has worked and what hasn't.

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The system has been so freeing for me. There is no longer any emotional attachment surrounding housekeeping. If I don't complete all my cards, I just re-file them and get to them the next day (or week, or whatever). I do complete most of them most days. And I do get so much pleasure from completing something on a card -- even something small, like changing the dog water -- and filing it to the next day. As I see the day's cards diminish, I really do feel a sense of accomplishment. And it's such a good feeling to finish them and then feel "free" for the rest of the day.

on housekeeping

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My house is still not perfect. We have clutter "hot spots" that are constant battles. I fall off the wagon sometimes. Sometimes even for a couple of months. But I know that I have a system in place that can support me as I work on forming stronger habits, making our home beautiful and peaceful, and keeping our family happy and healthy.

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In my next post, I'm going to talk a little bit more about actual cleaning, my favorite tricks and tips, and using natural cleaning agents (something I've been doing since I was first married and really love).

And finally, I am giving away two copies of Sidetracked Home Executives. These are not gifts from the publisher, I'm purchasing them myself to give to two of you, hoping that someone out there will be helped by the book as much as I have been. I will also throw in some supplies to get you started (some cards and maybe a surprise or two). Please leave a comment on this post and I'll draw two winners in one week (Thursday, March 24). Good luck!

Edited, March 25: Comments closed! I'll announce the winner in a separate post in a little bit! Thank you all for entering!