August 28, 2014

The Hustle

always rainbows boy's pickin's finding trouble preparation big baby kitchen window  busy mid-day little clothes serious play

I'd like to say that we are soaking in these final lazy days of summer, and there is the occassional moment where that's the truth. The greater reality though is a tailspin of neglected deadlines, evening classes, sleep struggles, work demands, backlogged laundry, and preparations for a big camping trip this weekend that feels anything but relaxing. 

I'm exhausted and cranky. James is exhausted and cranky. The baby is exhausted and cranky. Little Smith is sleeping eleven hours a night, taking a proper two to three hour nap daily, and doing just swell, thank you. I've been attempting to reward him for his good nature with a decent helping of summer adventure, but every trip to the pond or visit to our favorite farm just lands us deeper in the hole; nap schedules shattered, deadlines sliding further from reach, and that laundry pile swallowing our bedroom floor.

It's been one of those weeks. But somehow come morning, we'll get the cars packed (yes both cars, don't ask), drive way further than is sensible, and ultimately enjoy a couple days of carefree camping with some dear friends that we don't see nearly often enough. Those blasted teeth will give Roo a rest, and her sweet baby ways will return. Everyone will sleep. Everyone will be less cranky. Little Smith will probably seize the opportunity to take a break from angel and channel his inner devil, but I'll take it...

...Because it's either that or we are insane and have decided to torture ourselves by following up a really rough week with a seven hour car ride and several nights of shared-tent-sleep. Cross your fingers for us, your guess is as good as mine!

August 24, 2014



Last week he: officially graduated to 'potty trained', it's still evolving but feels amazing to have this massive parenting challenge on its way to the finish line / sat at the barber shop eating a lolly and watching dad get his hair cut (he still wants mama to cut his... a request I'm finding increasingly challenging!) / got sad when he learned his favorite teacher won't be in his class this fall :( / was so sweet with his baby sister, he hugs her and tickles her, encourages her to try all of his favorite foods... he just becomes a better big brother constantly.

Last week she: walked walked walked!, she is more confident every day / cut more new teeth, I think she has three on bottom and three on top with one stubborn front-top-tooth causing lots of aggravation / ate two dozen eggs (I know we probably shouldn't let her have so many eggs, but she is in love) / started bursting into tears when we tell her she can't do something, 'nah-ah roo, no climbing the slide'... followed by the most pitiful look and massive rolling tears. this one is going to get her way. a lot!

August 20, 2014

Walk Baby Walk

August 14, 2014

This baby never pulled up or 'coasted' along the edge of tables and couches the way her brother did. Instead she was determined to stand on her own two feet, usually while holding a doll in one hand and a water bottle in the other. It seemed like a perfect metaphor for her growing personality, such a grounded little thing this one. It was no surprise that when she finally took her first steps, she was able to string together quite a few. Her balance improves by the minute, it won't be long until we are all just trying to catch up. We are so proud of our big girl, but I'm insisting that she is still very much a baby!

Seed to Table

A little boy planted a carrot seed.
His mother said, "I'm afraid it won't come up."
His father said, "I'm afraid it won't come up."
And his big brother said, "It won't come up."
Every day the little boy pulled up the weeds around the seed and sprinkled the ground with water.
But nothing came up.
And nothing came up.
Everyone kept saying it wouldn't come up.
But he still pulled up the weeds everyday and sprinkled the ground with water.
And then one day,
A carrot came up.
Just as the little boy had known it would.

The Carrot Seed by Ruth Kraus, (Illustrated by Crocket Johnson)

We've read this book at least once a week for over three years. I'll confess that sometimes I've chosen it for its brevity, but mostly we just love the words and pictures. Today as I was finishing the last page and shutting off the lights for nap time, Little Smith sat straight up and turned to his baby sister to explain, "Wooby, it might not look like a cay-wot you know, because it's a tiny tiny seed, and then you just see the stem... but the cay-wot is weally unda' the gwound. You have to just know that, and take cay-wa of it, and wait until it's weady to eat for dinna'."

It's been a good summer.

August 19, 2014

Steam Train Dream Train

James and I have been traveling up to the White Mountains in New Hampshire for as long as we've known each other. It's such a special spot, full of beauty and perfect for skiing, snowshoeing, hiking, and kayaking... but above all else, what it has going for it are those mountains. They're big, huge by east coast standards, and there is just something about the mountains that always feels like home to me. Sure the ocean is pretty, but nothing flips my lid and melts away my worries like a good mountain view. 

Mount Washington is the highest peak in the Northeast, and you don't even have to hike in order to enjoy the scene from the summit, you can actually drive right up to the top (which always seems like cheating to me, and to anyone who's earned those views the hard way). You can also take a train, a cog rail that climbs straight up the steepest terrain of those 6,288ft, and it's one of those things that I always used to see and think was kind of cool, but never imagined I would actually do. 

Enter a three year old who is totally obsessed with trains, and suddenly this was a must-do for our Smith family adventures this summer. I imagine that parenting gets way more complicated when faced with teenagers, whose happiness hinges on all kinds of hormone-fueled emotions and undeliverable achievements... so I'm taking this opportunity to bask in the glow of actually making my kid's dreams come true. I have zero doubt that Little Smith is going to remember this experience, and it feels real-darn-good. 

Three has been a tough year, full of illogical tantrums, and fumbling my way through discipline. It's also been incredibly fun to see my son develop his own personality, have actual chats, and learn about his interests and passions, even if they are as cliche as trains, cars, and bugs. It's crazy how much specific information these little people can soak up, and Little Smith is a bona fide expert on trains; types of engines, rails and cars (I'd embarrass him with my ignorance if I tried to impress you with anymore details). His favorite is unquestionably, the coal fired steam train.

As someone who considers myself an environmentalist, it was pretty unnerving to watch that giant plume of black smoke sully the gorgeous landscape. Thankfully, this cog railway has actually converted most of its engines to bio diesel, keeping one legit steam ride a day for 'steam enthusiasts'... and we had one of those. Along with campfires and my very un-fuel-friendly car, this goes into the big pile of things that I will need to make up to the planet elsewhere.

To be honest, it was really flipping cool. Watching that guy in the back (his name was Cookie!) shoveling that coal furiously into the engine, hearing the real steam whistle and hiss as we clickity-clacked along the impossibly steep track, it's pretty amazing how capable simple technology can be. 

And getting to see those mountain views without having to lug a couple kids to the top, well that was my kind of bonus. 

*so many pictures, so little editing skill ;)

August 17, 2014

Hashtags and Baby Shots

This might be an embarrassing admission of age and cluelessness, but I really never understood hashtags. I could say a lot about my conflicting (and often hypocritical) stances regarding privacy and social media; my long standing boycott against 'Facebook', that feels much less righteous (and far more self righteous) in the face of years of public blogging... not to mention Instagram, which brings me alternating joy and skepticism. It's all very complicated, and my own thoughts aren't even firm enough for me to grasp hold of them, let alone summarize them. 

two months  / eight months / ten months

But thanks to the evening news, hashtags are a phenomenon that even my technology absent mother is aware of, and they're very confusing. Having never embraced 'Twitter', my first hand experience is solely on Instagram, where it seems like the purpose is either to call out a brand #heymykidiswearingthiscool(andprobablypricey)jumper, or to kind of say something under your virtual breath #ineedadrink. I'm sort of drawn to the latter, as parenthetical thoughts are very appealing, in case you hadn't noticed! The strange part though, is that this opens you up to be lumped in with everyone else who tagged their image with those same words, and as I learned the hard way, spam followers just searching for fellow #veggielovers, or what have you. 

So I put the kibosh on the hashtags, #hashtagfree. But then I started taking monthly pictures of our baby girl sprawled out on a blanket, and I finally figured out a legitimate purpose for those silly tags! They just organize your own images together, and as long as you pick a tag that is pretty obscure, and check that no one else is using it, you can enjoy cute baby pictures, all neatly ordered and with zero effort. I haven't gone too crazy, but when one is occasionally stuck in traffic*, it can be kind of addictive.

three months / nine months / twelve months

I am still full of concerns with all of this stuff, but in those moments where I can just shove all of that aside and relax, it's really fun to have these little squares of lightening speed baby growth, laid out for me to see and sniffle over. This was one fast year!

*as a passenger in that traffic, just to be clear.

August 14, 2014

Burrito Lessons

Every parent has life lessons they want to pass along to their children. In our house, nothing trumps mastering the perfect burrito... as taught by the burrito king himself, daddy. I think James's entire cooking repertoire is restricted to pancakes and burritos, but he's got them both down to an artform. No joke!


Things have been moving along here, Roo started walking yesterday! We're all thrilled for her, and also sad that these baby days will be giving way to toddlerhood in short order. I feel the same way about the new chill in the morning air, it's the best kind of weather, yet makes me anxious that our summer won't last forever. 

We're already getting Little Smith geared up to go back to school as a 'three day friend' (big time!), and I am also prepping for starting back at teaching at the end of the month. I have taken on a lot more responsibility this semester, with classes two evenings a week and a brand new syllabus that's still a work in progress. I'm excited to be pouring through all of my books, searching for precedents, and shaping assignments, but I'm also nervous about juggling it all (yes! there is a serious theme of ambivalence going on with just about everything in my life right now).

And, as is always the case when I'm feeling anxious, I'm barely sleeping. I think I averaged two hours a night all last week, but luckily Roo 'slept in' until a decadent 5:45 this morning and let me catch up a little (if only the cat wasn't parked on my head, it would have been heaven). 

I have tons of pictures from the past few weeks that I am determined to find time to get into this space. You can look forward to steam trains, berry picking, and random tidbits. This whole last year, I've let so many photos slide by and never posted them (I know that may be hard to believe with the amount of documentation here, but it's true)... and I just forget anything not collected here. Since I'm not getting any sleep anyway, lets hope I can at least cross a few things off of my to-do list. 

Oh, and our tomatoes are finally in full swing. We've been eating tomatoes with everything, which is messy with the kids, but so very worth it. I love this time of year, when it's effortless to make all our meals from the garden. 

And because this is now the most disjointed collection of thoughts, I'll add that Little Smith has left behind diapers! (Well, except for naps and nighttime, during which we're back to using cloth). It's still pretty rocky, but we've made enough progress that there's no turning back. I thought it was never going to happen, and thank you to everyone who commented and emailed with great suggestions. All of them were very helpful, and I'm so honored that you took the time to offer useful advice (man has this silly potty training been a doozy!).

Okay. Happy weekend.

August 12, 2014


I imagine that self identity is a source of struggle and reflection for most, but it seems particularly heightened for those of us who describe our roles as 'stay-at-home' parents. I am profoundly grateful to have this opportunity to be at home with my kids, and I don't take it for granted. It is easy to lose sight of yourself though, without that professional separation. My children, parenting, and creating a life and home for my family is a huge part of how I define myself. I'm proud of that work, as mundane as it might seem, but there are obviously so many other interests and passions that contribute to my self and world view.

It's probably healthy to regularly carve out some independent time away from children in order to maintain a sense of individuality. I have to confess that I do a very poor job of that. It's really a struggle for me to separate from my kids, which is why I teach and work at night, when they are already sleeping. I trust that these relationships will shift as they get older, and I've learned the hard way that I really can't force these things. I've come to accept where I am now, but to also try to be open minded to feeling differently tomorrow. (Well, maybe not tomorrow... but trying to be open minded here).

While I'm not skilled at structuring time for myself, one area I do succeed in is  incorporating my interests and passions into our life as a family. I have a strong idea of what excites and inspires me, and I do my best to share my enthusiasm with the kids (and James, if he isn't already on board... and sometimes he's not!). 

So between tantrums, sleep strikes, and dirty dishes and diapers, we spend our days working in the garden, baking, turning up the volume on our favorite songs, getting outside as much as possible (whether it's camping in the summer or skiing in the winter), visiting museums and checking out my favorite buildings... and somehow, despite never having a babysitter or getting time away, I feel remarkably clear in who I am. It sometimes seems selfish that we don't do more kid oriented stuff, but usually they both appear to be having fun. And because I am able to engage so often in activities that inspire me, I can still relate to James as an adult, with thoughts and ideas beyond our children. Except of course for those days on end where we talk about nothing but potty training and sleep rituals, super fascinating topics to both of us as of late. 

True, it can be a chore to go places that aren't specifically 'kid friendly' with little ones, but we try to be realistic about our expectations and pick activities where there is at least some chance of success. We hadn't been to the ICA since Roo was born, so last Sunday she got her introduction to contemporary art. She wasn't totally convinced (takes after her pop. He'll debate me on this, but his appreciation is very narrow!). Luckily we could also admire / criticize the building and roll around on the harbor front boardwalk taunting seagulls. A little something for everyone, just the way we like it. 

*This video installation was just stunning. Definitely check it out if you have the chance!