Just to Make You Laugh

In case you need a laugh this Wednesday, here is the note posted on my daughter’s door. Anyone need Morse Code lessons?

Make/Play/Learn

Make Healthy Snacks

Ok wait. Let’s be clear. I just took brownies out of the oven and am trying to learn the art of making sourdough bread, it is not at all health central around here. However, last week when I picked up my groceries I realized that there were six, SIX, different bags of chips. I also knew they would be all gone by the weekend. So I’ve tried to offer up healthier snacks during the day so that no one gets hangry and maybe we’ll get like half of our daily nutrients by the end of the week. Here’s what I make

crispy chickpeas– roast chickpeas and then flavor however you want. They have a great crunch and I like to make them salty so, while no one would mistake them for Ruffles, they kind of fill that need

brown rice and nutritional yeast– I know, I know, what kind of hippie shit is this? But this was a weekly snack at my kids’ school and they love it. I make the rice first thing in the morning in my instant pot so it’s pretty easy to throw together. If you haven’t had nutritional yeast before it has a cheesy, salty kind of flavor and it’s delicious. Just sprinkle it on top of the rice and enjoy!

lentils- again, I know! But my kids love green lentils with cheese and salsa on top. Again I make them in the instant pot so they’re ready when my kids come looking for a snack

Peanut butter and apples– classic for a reason!

hummus and veggies and crackers

At least once a week I fill up a cupcake baking tin with all kinds of goodies. It works because I can mix in goldfish or chips with fruit, cheese, or some other kind of protein.

Play with Lovevery

I recently subscribed to Lovevery, a Montessori box catering to toddlers, and I have to say it’s a huge hit. The toys are really well made and the twins like helping Sam figure out whatever new thing we pull out that day is. Right now we love this Simon Says cube. There are different pictures showing an action on each side. You roll the cube and then everyone does that action. You could absolutely make your own or create a similar kind of game. It’s fun to see all three kids giggling over something together.

Learn about the states

My mom sent the kids this table cloth of the United States that you can color in with permanent markers. Each state has the state animal, bird, and flower in it and my kids have been loving looking them all up. So they are learning geography and biology while also getting absorbed in something without needing my help at all. It’s amazing!

We are on the final countdown of school and I have to say that I am ready. I know summer won’t look too different over here, but keeping up with Zoom calls and school work is getting old, no matter how many brownies I make. We’re at the point where if the kids get frustrated I just pack everything up and tell them to go play outside.

They also have a birthday coming up and I’d be interested to hear if any of y’all have done something special for an isolation birthday! I’m trying to think of fun ways to make the day feel important to two of my favorite people.

Go On A Family Hike

I started taking the twins on hikes and walks when they were about 5 on a regular basis. We had just joined our Wild and Free group in Dallas and at least once a week we were out in nature, in pretty much any weather. When they began attending a nature school we tried to get in family hikes as often as possible, exploring trails and paths around our city.

Since moving to Colorado I can say that our hiking has improved and become an almost every day thing. I know not everyone has a forest in their backyard, but I wanted to share some ideas on how to get out in nature with your kids, and have fun doing it!

IMG_4825

Just Pack Up and Go

If you wait until everyone feels like getting out, it will never happen. Pretty much every time I say we’re heading out there is at least one child who doesn’t want to go, who I have to poke and prod to get their boots on or to get in the car. And once we start the hike that same child usually gives me a bit of grief, but I’m near 100% on that same kid forgetting what they were complaining about and having a great time. Yes, it can feel like an impossible task to get everyone out the door, but truly that’s the hardest part. Get past that block and you’re golden.

IMG_4809

Have a Mission

I’ve found that just hiking to hike is not great with kids. They need a mission! Maybe it’s to find a picnic spot, to get to the rocks to climb, or to find as many butterflies or cool rocks as they can. The questions of ‘are we there yet’ are hard to answer when there is no ‘there.’ So make a goal and hype it up! And then, when everyone’s just having fun and doing something different, forget the goal and just enjoy the day. Rules are made to be broken!

IMG_4835

Stop and Notice

If your kids aren’t stopping to notice the small things, model it for them! Squat down and show them a flower coming up, have them feel the soft moss on a rock, point out an oddly shaped tree. Then when they start stopping to show you what they find interesting,  take the time to pay attention! It’s amazing what different things everyone in your family will notice, you will absolutely get more out of your nature walk when you all take the time to really see the world from one another’s point of view.

IMG_4801

Download a Nature App or Carry a Good Field Guide

After everyone starts noticing all that beautiful nature, they’re going to start wanting to know what it is. Either invest in a field guide or download an app. We love iNaturalist, PlantSnap, and the Merlin Bird ID. All of these are great because you can take a picture and then use their database to find what you’re looking for and then get a lot of information right then. Especially handy if you’re new to this and nervous about your kids possibly touching a poisonous plant (or finding a poisonous snake!). Everyone learning together is a great way to feel more confident the next time you go out.

IMG_4828

Have the Right Gear

Chris and I joke that Colorado is all about the gear. People here are serious with their hiking! I don’t think you need all the things, but make sure you’ve got the right shoes, water bottles, some snacks, hats and sunscreen, and layers to put on or takeoff as needed. I usually keep a bag stocked and in the car with extra socks, mittens, and hats, and then a couple of plastic bags to wrap up clothes if it’s summer and we happen to find a stream to play in.

Start Small

My last piece of advice is to start small. A walk around the neighborhood, a paved trail that makes a loop around a lake. Don’t venture out on a 5 mile hike for your first go around! Get everyone used to the idea and gradually build as you go. And if you find yourself in the middle of a longer trek and everything seems to be going wrong (we had a horrible incident with fire ants once), it’s ok to call it! Turn around and head back and later you can play up the adventure and laugh at your lousy luck. Learn from it and you’ll be more prepared the next time you head out. Your kids will take your lead on the experience, so show them it’s ok to call it quits but it’s absolutely worth getting out again!

I hope you get outside, whether it’s a manicured park or somewhere more wild. I can honestly say every city has somewhere, living in Dallas we were constantly finding places to explore that were sometimes hidden right in the middle of the city. Use this time of being at home together to start a new habit of nature walks and I promise everyone’s spirit will be lifted and your kids will cherish the memories of exploring with you.

 

{holidays} Meaningful Advent

Yesterday marked the second week of Advent. I feel like September through mid November dragged and now my life is flying by! I’ve been working hard to stay present and in the moment and even without a huge life change on the horizon, I know a lot of people strive for that this time of year.

The liturgical calendar gives us a name for this time and as I get older I find Advent more and more comforting. The chance to simply be in the waiting, to allow ourselves to anticipate the coming of Christmas, it’s a beautiful thing.

Advent is not a countdown, it’s a season unto itself and it can feel dark and scary at times because the world feels dark and scary at times. I feel less alone when I hear the readings in the lectionary, that there are so many others across so many years that have not known what’s ahead but forge on anyway. This is faith to me, to believe that there is light in the darkness and to try to cultivate it within myself and Advent, especially in a year ahead with so many unknowns, helps me focus on that light.

This year our celebration of Advent is fairly simple and completely imperfect. We are reading this book together as a family every night, Anticipating His Arrival, that I picked up in our church bookstore. It has the readings for all three church years as well as discussion questions. We are also reading A Christmas Carol, one of my all time favorite books. It is so perfect, and even if you think you know the story I promise it’s worth a reread. We have just made it through the first stave (the first spirit is about to arrive!) and so far the big kids seem to be enjoying it! Obviously some goes over their heads, but they pick up a lot of Dickens’ jokes and imagery and I hope it becomes something we do together every year.

Besides this we are trying to find fun things to do together as a family and with friends and celebrate this time of year in the home that we’ve made and loved in this city that we will soon be leaving. It’s all a little bittersweet, but honestly I feel like that suits Advent more than anything. I hope this season is meaningful to you as well and that wherever your life is at the moment that you can focus on the light in the darkness.

 

Thoughts on Minimalism

As I wrote about last week, I’ve been giving a lot of thought to what has my attention lately. It has led me to a lot of reading about minimalism and I’m itching to go home and make space for the things and people that matter to me the most.

I first learned about minimalism through design aesthetic. I got the impression it was for people in sleek modern homes painted all white with uncomfortable looking furniture. It’s only recently that I’ve encountered people that apply the principles of minimalism to their real life and it’s something I want my family to start exploring.

My definition of minimalism, at least how I see it as applied to a family of five, is a lifestyle built around the things that matter and not letting possessions or the obsession with busy take focus away from those values. I love Miranda Anderson and her philosophy of “Less Stuff, More Adventure.” has become a motto for my family. I ordered her new book and will definitely share what I think about it, but go check out her blog and podcast to see how living a life focusing on what you have, not what you need or want, can change the way you see the world.

I’m working on a daily challenge for when we get home that I’ll share soon. I am leaving our time here in Denver feeling very refreshed and recharged and I want to take what I’ve learned here home with me.

What Has Your Attention?

“Attention is the rarest and purest form of generosity.” – Simone Weil

I read this quote over the weekend and it got me thinking about who and what I give my attention to. These past few weeks have been very interesting for us as a family as we have been living with a lot less stuff in a much smaller space. It’s got me thinking about minimalism and what that really looks like in the real world and what the benefits might be of a life less cluttered with things.

These past few weekends have been heavenly. We’ve taken off for quick trips into the mountains and spent time together hiking, playing, eating, and just generally being together. There have been minimal screens and lots of singing along to the radio and reading books and trying to see who can swing the highest at the park. I’ve found myself listening more to my kids and husband (lots of good talks to be had outside on a trail!) and also just enjoying being with them in silence looking at the beautiful scenes around us.

This giving of one’s attention is something that is easily lost in the busy day to day of real life. We can all spout off what is important to us, but when we stop and analyze what really gets our attention I think we would be disappointed in ourselves.

And it’s not just others that deserve our attention. Giving yourself the time and space for whatever is important to you- meditating, creating, exercising, unplugging- is as generous a gift and makes life more than a calendar full of to do lists and meetings.

I’ve been thinking about how to carry this home with me and apply it to my life from now on. How can my husband and I keep giving each other and our children this gift of our attention as fall begins and with it the onslaught of modern day life? How can we find these moments and model to our children what it means to share a life with someone when we’re not somewhere as picturesque as a little mountain town?

With all the changes in my life over the past few months, this focus and clarity seems like a natural step in shaping my life into something that feels authentic and makes me proud. I hope to check in and share my thoughts as the months go on so I can reflect and hold myself accountable. Giving attention to what gets my attention I guess? In the meantime I will be soaking up as many hikes and mountain scenes as I possibly can to carry with me home to Dallas.

Best of Florida

IMG_0035

We’ve been in Florida the past week and I had intended to write about the fun stuff we did and any tips or tricks I had to help you plan your own Universal/Disney extravaganza, but as we got closer to the trip, Chris and I decided to really set an intention for what we wanted the trip to be. Yes, we wanted to ride the fun rides, get our wands for Hogwarts, and drink a Butterbeer or two, but more than that we wanted to focus on these two amazing kids of ours.

IMG_0029

This past year has been rough for our family and a lot of changes have taken place and these two have born the brunt of it all I’m afraid. Starting last summer, they gave up so much for reasons they didn’t understand and this summer we are determined to give it back to them. We left the baby with my parents (so hard, but absolutely the best choice!) and set out to have a week filled with time together. And that’s just what we did!

IMG_0047

We went on this trip with Chris’ family and I don’t want to exclude the awesome cousin time that was had- they love their cousins!- but I also don’t feel great about posting pics of kids that aren’t mine online so instead this post is about the magic that happens when you just allow yourself to be with your children. The giggles that are shared, the introspections and questions that come up, the snuggles and small moments that are so precious and fleeting. We would have time most days with just the four of us (different age kids means different levels of rides!) and we simply focused on us. There were so many little conversations throughout the day and it was wonderful to be able to stop and talk (or just listen) and not be distracted by work, phones, or a baby crying. Don’t get me wrong, there was still bickering, a few tears, and very tired legs but there was also a lot of this

IMG_0099

Moments where we saw our children still completely innocent and pure and happy. What a wonderful way to start the summer.

You don’t have to go to Florida to feel this connection (I mean, fireworks and Harry Potter sure do make it all seem so magical!) but I do think it jumpstarted how we want the next few months to go and reminded us how amazing these people we created together are.

And yes, Chris and Charlie are Slytherin. Harper is a Hufflepuff. And I’m in house Gryffindor. I’ll keep you abreast of Sam’s status when the time comes.

3 Months

Yesterday Sam officially turned 3 months old! He is the happiest little guy and such a snuggle bug. He’s started sleeping 6+ hours every night which puts a smile on everyone’s face. He loves his brother and sister and has started yelling a kind of ‘ha!’ When they get him excited. Harper swears she taught it to him and that she’s teaching him to talk. He loves meeting new people and stares intently at every new face he sees.

He doesn’t much love his car seat, but hey, nobody’s perfect.

We’re enjoying our holiday break and getting to stay cozy and snuggle as much as we want. It’s crazy how much he has changed in 3 months and so fun to see his little personality coming through! Sweet Samuel, you are very loved!

Intentional Holidays|Countdown to Christmas

The holidays are here! I hope everyone in the States had a lovely Thanksgiving. Ours was spent laughing with family and it was wonderful. I was very sad to wake up this morning and send the kids to school and my husband to work.

My birthday is at the end of this week and it’s the time of year where I always reflect on the past and plan for the future. This is the time of year I look to resolutions and goal setting and I love that it always coincides with the new church year as well. There’s something to starting December with a mindfulness of where I am and where I want to be that makes this time of year more meaningful for me.

For the next few days I will be sharing how I plan to celebrate the holidays with intention. I have been thinking about what I want this month to look like for my family and how our time and money should be spent. With a new baby we simply cannot do all the things, so I’ve been honing in on the things that matter most to us and what I want the focus to be this season.

Sometimes I think the best part of Christmas is the anticipation for the big day.  Having a fun way to countdown brings festivity to the whole month and can become a fun tradition for your family. I consider this to be a separate thing from honoring the Advent season, and I’ll share more how we do that later in the week!, these countdowns are meant to bring a little daily excitement and togetherness and also are sometimes a great way to channel the kids’ enthusiasm in a way that doesn’t drive me bonkers!

For the past several years I have done a book countdown. I wrap 24 Christmas/Winter themed books and we open one every day and then curl up and read it together. It’s seriously the best and my kids always get excited when the stack of wrapped books shows up.

The first few years almost all the books were from the library, but now we have a great collection that I’ve accumulated through many book sales, digging in Mimi’s bookshelf, and special purchases for books that they asked to read again and again. I set up shop in front of a movie one night and get them all wrapped and then the hard work is done and it’s totally worth it! Even if you don’t want to wrap 24 books, I highly suggest pulling out some favorites or checking some out from library and reading them together throughout the month. I have wonderful memories of the books my mom put out with all the other Christmas decorations every year and cuddling and reading them all together.

Another tradition I started last year was to get the kids their own Advent calendar. We have a giant one from when they were little that they were growing out of and who doesn’t love opening those little squares every day?  I got the kids each a Lego Advent calendar last year  and they were a huge hit. This year I went searching on Amazon and found this Hatchimal and Squishy calendar. I usually hate buying both of these things (so much plastic crap!) but  I know they will spark play every day and be even more special since they are a treat! (And I don’t think individual calendars are a must, my brother and I shared one growing up and just took turns every day and somehow we survived!)

For myself, I bought the David’s Tea Advent Calendar for the third year in a row. This becomes part of my daily ritual during the month of December and I look forward to it so much. Besides the delicious tea, it forces me to take a moment and slow down and it is as sacred to me during Advent as the scripture readings I try and focus on. This year they are offering a couple of different options and price points and the tea is always delicious and high quality! A great gift idea too!

That’s how we are going to countdown to Christmas this year. You don’t have to do anything like this or you can do more, but the point for our family is that our book and Advent calendars are ways to connect and slow down and I hope sharing what we do sparks some ideas that sound meaningful to you! Remember, no one does all the things and no one does any of them perfectly. Set your intention for the holiday season and focus on that and it will be easier to drown out the noise that is so loud from the outside world and actually enjoy the holidays.