Archive | January, 2014

3/52

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the 52 Project:: a portrait of my children once a week & every week in 2014

Lena: She loves to color, but only with someone else, and really she prefers to watch the other person coloring instead of coloring much herself. I took the photo during a rare few minutes when she was content to continue on her own. Her need for interaction is exhausting, but I’ve been trying to tell myself more lately to be grateful for it because pretty soon she’ll be 18 and in college. Right??

Gil: He is Mr. Independent these days, and he is also determined to start walking ASAP. His new thing is to grab any object light or small enough (chair, riding toy, small table, my legs…) and push it in front of him as he toddles around as quickly as he can. He had just scooted this wooden box to this pole, and I snapped the photo as he dove headfirst into it to pull out some wooden blocks. His tiptoes and determination had me laughing out loud.

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How was your weekend? It’s been alternatively sunny or pouring rain (and hail!) here, but I’ve managed to get outside with the kids every day, and that helps my sanity. Learned that important lesson over the holidays!

For reasons I can’t share yet, this week is a long and tiring one for me, and I find myself praying often for patience and grace with our little children. There is so much I aspire to be: a faithful wife and friend, a creative mother, a fabulous cook, a maturing Christian. And yet so often the little ones’ needs and requests become the sum of my entire day, and then the day is done, and then the cycle starts again in the morning.

I love that Annie Dillard quote: “How we spend our days is, after all, how we spend our lives.” How we spend our moments, too, is how we spend our days. I long so much to be able to look back and know that — even if my “achievements” were lost in a hubbub of snack making, outfit changing, and book reading — I lived these moments of these days with God-given patience, mercy, and thoughtfulness.

But oh patience! how elusive you are! A little boy is crying for me after his nap, so I’ll have to end here, but… any tips on how to cultivate it?

9 :: in 52 project

A Book Review: Cozy Classics board book

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Last week we received a surprise package from Jess, Elliott’s sister. She’d sent several thoughtful gifts, including this gorgeous calendar for me and this wonderful book for Elliott.

But it was the kids’ gift that took the cake! It was a board book based on the story of Pride & Prejudice, but with the most unique illustrations and some fabulously-selected text. Here are a few pages:

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Isn’t it amazing?! Both the artwork and the choice of words had me laughing with delight as we paged through the book. I looked up “Cozy Classics” and found the website, where I learned more about the books:

“The concept for Cozy Classics is simple: every classic in the series will be condensed to 12 child-friendly words, and each word will appear alongside a needle-felted illustration. Each word is carefully selected to relate to a child’s world… If you, as a parent, can fill in some of the original tale as part of the reading experience, so much the better!”

The authors/illustrators are twin brothers, by the way, with four kids four-and-under between them. Guess they know what they’re doing!

So far they have eight other books (and more coming out each season), including Moby Dick, Huckleberry Finn, Les Miserables, Jane Eyre, and even War and Peace! Do you think if I read this version of War and Peace I’d actually finish the book this year?!

Thanks so much, Jess, for these thoughtful gifts.

4 :: in good reads, wishlist

Gift Guide :: First Birthday Gift Ideas!

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About a month ago, my most amazing cousin and her husband started fostering-to-adopt a sweet 13-month-old girl. She’s rocking it as a brand new mom! As questions have come up, we’ve talked on Skype about sleeping, eating, playing, etc. Last night she asked me about toys: how many to have, how to set up a rotating toy library, what things a 13-month-old would enjoy, etc.

Well, here you go, cuz! An all-out gift guide, inspired by your new little girl and my almost-one-year-old son (in two weeks!!!). By the way, I keep a running Amazon wish list to help me remember good recommendations, and that’s an easy place to reference before birthdays and Christmas. My cousin liked that idea, so I thought I’d pass it along.

Without further ado, the first birthday gift guide:

1. Goodnight Goodnight Construction Site is a bestselling picture book these days, and it would be a fun gift for a little boy as he learns to love and understand stories in his second year of life. (Also, this is what Elliott and I will be giving Gil for his first birthday. But shhh, don’t tell him!)

2. Polka dot dress for a little girl in your life. Babies will start walking around their first birthday, so dresses will no longer be dragged or caught under girls’ knees anymore while crawling. A dress would be a fun way to celebrate this developmental milestone.

3. A wooden alphabet puzzle encourages so many skills, particularly fine-motor and language. Lena loved our wooden alphabet puzzle. When she was about 21 months old, we finished that puzzle about five times a day, and as a result she knew all her letters by her second birthday.

4. Stacking towers are ubiquitous, and I saw why when Lena was about 16 months old. She played with her wooden stacking tower every single day multiple times a day all by herself. Order wasn’t important, but the accomplishment of stacking every piece on the stick gave her so much joy.

5. This ride-on toy will mostly be used as a walker for a brand new one-year-old, but after that it will be greatly enjoyed around the house for years. Every child who comes to our house immediately hops on this bumblebee and zips around. Plus… so cute, right?!

6. A tugboat for bath time! It’s made out of recycled plastic and sure to be a favorite for both girls and boys.

7. A stylish little romper. I am completely smitten with Boden, and Mini Boden is about as beautiful and adorable as children’s clothing can get. Gil received one of their rompers for Christmas, and it’s one of my favorite items in his wardrobe.

8. Dear Zoo is definitely Gil’s favorite book. He gets a smile on his face when we sit down to read it each evening, and he loves opening the flaps and looking at each animal. Lena couldn’t get enough of lift-the-flap board books at this age.

9. Rainbow stacking tower if you want to be more creative than the traditional ring tower. It is made out of wood and looks like an heirloom!

10. These Tegu blocks are wooden but have magnets inside them, which makes them super fun for babies, kids, and adults. This 8-piece set would be perfect for traveling because the pieces will stick together instead of getting lost! (Or at least I hope so… hah.)

11. A little toy airplane for a handsome little boy.

12. Fast track game. Put the wooden cars in the top and watch them flip and fly all the way down!

And now it’s your turn, moms and lovers-of-children. Do your kids (or did you!) have some favorites that I should add to this list?

17 :: in gift guide, wishlist

jumping on the 52 project!

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Last year I was inspired by Bleubird‘s beautiful images for her “52 project”: a photo once a week for an entire year. She committed to take a portrait of her children every week, and the result was a stunning portfolio. With my own children growing and changing every day, my goal to learn my camera, and my excitement about this book (currently in the mail!), this seems like a fitting photography project for the year.

So here are my photos from 1/52 (just whatever I could find that I took in the first week of January!) and 2/52 (which were a little more intentional):

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Lena 1/52: From a trip to the farm below our house, where she snuggles with “Wilbur,” a little puppy that we first found in the pig pen and have since considered adopting…

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Gil 1/52: He’s learned not to touch Siena’s food after dumping it on his head a few times (yuck!), but he still loves to watch her eat. And his oversized pajamas just get me every time!

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Lena 2/52: She recently told us that she wants to be “a dancing doctor for cats and dogs and lions” when she grows up.

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Gil 2:52: After church on Sunday, flashing one of his signature smiles.

Now what to do with all these photos besides post them on this blog?! Any good ideas? Printing them out is not my strong suit. I made photo calendars for my grandparents and parents this past two Christmases and they have loved them, but I have yet to print any for us or put them in a book, photo album, or even on the wall….

15 :: in 52 project

our first getaway without the kids!

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When my mom was visiting in early December, Elliott and I went away by ourselves for 24 hours. This is the first night we have ever spent away from our kids together. I blame that on living overseas! Please don’t do as we did; prioritize this and get away with your spouse whenever you can!

We had planned this for awhile, but when it actually came time to leave my [amazing, incredible, and very brave] mom with our kids, I was nervous. We were leaving her with two small children with a manual transmission car in a foreign country. (I told you she was brave!) For these reasons, we decided we wouldn’t go too far. From the picture above (taken from our kitchen window), you can see Nicolosi, which is about 30 minutes away.

We stopped in a natural reserve (Monti Rossi) for a long hike, and then we checked into our B&B in Nicolosi and spent the rest of our time there exploring the stylish mountain town, sipping mai tais (yep) and cappuccinos, and eating rustic, authentic Sicilian food. Here are a few of my favorite photos!

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We visited two restaurants while we were in Nicolosi: 1877 for dinner and Antico Orto di Limoni for lunch. Both of them were built in converted wine presses from the 1800s!

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Colors of Sicily: green pistachio cornetto, blood red orange juice, and creamy white cappuccino.

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We both did a lot of reading and writing during our 24 hours away. (In the photo above, Elliott is working on his book after we finished lunch.) I thought we would also do a lot of sleeping — no nursing babies or frightened toddlers! — but I still woke up multiple times in the night! And woke up at 7am and couldn’t go back to sleep! Now how is that fair?!

I did miss Lena and Gil, but I knew they were in wonderful hands and savored long hours of quiet and freedom with Elliott. I have dreams of leaving the kids with their grandparents in a few years to go on an epic vacation with Elliott — visiting the Galapagos and hiking to Machu Picchu is at the top of my list — so I guess I better start training up for that now!

Have you ever left your kids for a getaway with your spouse? Was it a success or a flop?

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44 :: in husband, motherhood, Mt Etna, Sicily

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