Saturday, June 10, 2017

The Deck

A request for some deck details was a good motivator to bring me back here.  We spend a lot of time on our deck in the summer and fall because here in Michigan you blink and it's time to get back inside and shut the doors for months on end and turn on the heat.  We've kind of made the deck a second living room and over the last few years have collected some really basic pieces that we use over and over again to make it one of our favorite places to be.  We don't have a huge deck at all so we can't put as much on the deck as I'd like to and there are some days Chris would argue I need to stop already.

Our deck is also basically on the face of the sun, that darn western exposure, so I'm pretty thankful that succulents and cacti and palm trees are having a good long moment, and are pretty cheap, because that's about the only thing I can guarantee won't look dead every day between the hours of noon and seven p.m. I get a lot of those kinds of plants at Lowes and even my local grocery store (and Grand Rapids friends--check out the D & W at Knapp's corner for great inexpensive plants--while their groceries and produce are a joke in every context--they sell some amazing cheap plants).

I think it's worth it to go out and buy a really huge pot--really huge--to anchor small cheaper pots around.  However, the really big one I have is from a local nursery (Horrock's if you live in Grand Rapids) and was less than $50.  And you really only need three to five pieces in a little group to make an impact.

And the item that I'd say really transforms an outdoor space is something that creates a running water sound.  My mom has had this little copper lotus leaf bubbler (featured below) for a long time and there aren't really any other ones on the market, which is so weird to me, but you can find this one on Amazon and it's so easy to just place in a pot and when you hear that little trickling water sound, it just instantly makes your deck seem like a get away.

A few of my other favorites are in the collage below--the rug we have from Target, some pots from Target that we've had for years and they still are doing well despite baking in 100 degree heat every day, the love-seat from World Market that's a few years old but they still sell them, the little house lights from Target that are under $10, and some more favorite planters and plants.

The Deck

That little cactus in the turquoise planter is called a road-kill cactus and I got it at Lowes.  No prickles either!

So--that's about it!  We also have two pretty huge cantilevered umbrellas on the deck that we bought on clearance one year at the end of the summer but that's not too exciting--but so necessary being that whole face of the sun thing.

Hope you're cooling off somewhere good today!

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Wills. (The kind that scream at you.)

It's fairly obvious when you look at this picture of Crosby that there's sure to be a strong-will in that little body (and let's be honest--an incredible sense of humor).  One that has strong opinions on fire men, winter boots, clothing, protective eye-wear, and just about everything in between--opinions that so often clash with mine, common sense, public decency, necessary social norms, and just general, "I'm not going to unleash a crazy person into the world," parenting.  

And man---sometimes it leaves me feeling like the worst mom in the world.  I don't keep my cool nearly as much as I'd like to and do the things I swore on a Holy Bible I'd never do as a parent.  And it makes me want to curl into a fetal position and wish I could erase the last fifteen minutes and do it again the right way, the super nanny way, the love & logic way, the transformative parent way----really just any way except the "Are you sure you're stable enough to be a productive parent?" way.  And I'm one of those moms that let's herself feel some mom guilt; makes us better if we don't let it consume us in my opinion--but that doesn't make it easy.  

So today--I'm really just here to say......solidarity moms.  We're all in this together.  This afternoon wasn't necessarily a mom resume builder as we're currently butting heads over how many books to read before nap and bed-time, where to read these books, how to read them, what voice to read them in, how fast to turn the pages--or how slow, if we read them once or twice, if Crosby reads them or if I do, if they get to go into bed with us or not, what color I incorrectly say a balloon on a page is (it's ALWAYS ORANGE.....ALWAYS....and why I haven't learned that by now is beyond me), and whether or not Crosby sits next to me in the chair or on my lap--this one is a moving target.  For the love---it's all a moving target.  And the whole ship really just goes down when I get tired of the game and give a few warnings and're just going in your bed.  

Yeah, that.  And then there's the part where I decide to act almost the same as my two year old.  

So like I said.  Revel with me in the days where you really just can't wait for the re-do to start tomorrow morning and know you're not alone.  Not alone at all.    

These kids man.  These incredibly amazing, beautiful, hilarious, wouldn't trade them for the world, I'm going to start climbing the  

I love you Crosby.  Cute pictures to follow because it erases the last 1/2 hour.  And so does remembering the way you say thank-you to Jesus for fire trucks and tall ladders when you pray, how you roll your 'r's' when you say things like SOCCERRRRRRR ball, how you can make the perfect fire-truck siren noise, how you say 'awesome' and 'gross' as a two year old, how you make your Little People talk to each other, how you think it's so funny to steal peoples seats at the table, and how you give the tightest and best little two year old hugs around........

There is no little boy I'd rather have a battle of the wills with than this one.  Not a single one.  Sometimes I just wish it involved less shrieking at me and irrational chucking of stuff over the side of a crib.  

A girl can dream.  

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Ban Busy.

Remember a few years ago when Sheryl Sandberg launched her "Ban Bossy" campaign.  The one where we should stop calling little girls bossy but instead say they had "leadership potential," "CEO skills,"and were "risk takers." (Side Bar….here's an interesting perspective on that.)

How about we add 'busy' to that list?  Being SO busy, so overwhelmed with life, crazy, insane, can't keep my head above water, don't have time to call you back because I'm running from here to there, can't commit to anything because something bigger and better might come along, and "oh, my word you wouldn't believe how much I have to do," has become the newest syndrome in America. And maybe it's not so much that being busy is the newest syndrome (because I know we were busy growing up--and my mom and her friends didn't even have Amazon Prime!) but talking about it incessantly. 

It seems to me that people like to throw around the "I'm so busy" line lately like this passive aggressive weapon that proves how important they are.  A way to say that their pursuits, appointments, schedule, jobs, commitments are more important compared to yours because they take up more time, are more demanding, and are more urgent.  Because heaven knows---no meetings, events, paper work, initiatives, after-school sports practices, cookie sales, budgets, schedules, or outlook appointments could EVER be completed without their input.

Just ask them if you haven't seen them in a few days or weeks…."how've you been?"  "Oh my word--sooooo busy.  It's crazy.  I can't even believe how busy I am. YOU wouldn't believe it."    

And I find all of that so, so, so frustrating.  And I bet it's safe to say that the majority of people we lament to about how busy we are would find it as frustrating.  It's not that being busy is annoying--it's the constant talking about it.  Because the truth is…..a lot of us are really busy.  With things we've chosen to do.

A more demanding job.
More responsibility at work.
More community involvement.
A full calendar for our kids.
Amazing opportunities to advance our careers.
More helping out friends.
Book Clubs.
Committees.......for literally everything.

Good things.  Fun things. Important things. Marginally necessary things.

But bottom line--things of our own choosing.

And we choose them because….generally….they're fun, and challenging, and fulfilling, and stimulating… least they were when we first started them.

But sometimes those things become less fun, less fulfilling, less life-giving, and less defining.....but we think they're now mandatory.

They become the things that erode our relationships because we're always trying to make them more efficient (hint--relationships--if they're good ones--can't be efficient) due to the calendar space we've abused, turn us into users-of-people, make us late to the next thing, and suck our joy out of the moment because we've got eight more "moment's" left in the day that we're supposed to find amazing.

So what I'm saying here to myself… you if you need to hear it……is to be busy if you want to be.  Suck every drop of life you've been given bone dry.  But please stop talking about it and lamenting about it and blaming your neglect of other things on it.

When people ask how you've been say "Great!, I have a fantastic job that keeps me on my toes, my kids are loving soccer and gymnastics, I'm repainting my bathroom and it's been a learning experience."  Or just say, "great," or "I'm a little tired--but it'll be fine," or "It's a tough season but nothing I can't handle--how are you?," or "I'm really sorry for not getting back to you--I don't have a good excuse." But not----I'M SO BUSY followed by a dramatic pause and sigh and the world-is-ending-but-I-don't-have-a-choice-because-I'm-so-crucial-to-the-sun rising look.

Because we always have a choice.  We absolutely do.  If you want to be busy--be busy, busy, busy....but embrace it as your choice, not as a cross you have to bear. And let's stop telling each other how busy we really are.

We can do it.  I can do it.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Turning Pages

This is not the thought provoking post that the title alludes to.  It's quite literal.

I am always on the look out for beautiful new children's books that make my kids want to sit on the couch and flip through the pages of actual books.  I'm not anti screen in any way and think kids should be pretty adept at maneuvering their way around technology but I think it's fun to look at printed pictures together; to touch the words we're reading, see the colors in a big way--bigger than a phone screen can provide, and to work our way through a stack of books and claim victory over them.

Here's a few we've been reading the last few case you're on the look out too!

1.  The books on the top of the stack in the picture above are AMAZING for the toddlers in your life who are learning colors, and letters, and basic vocabulary.  Xavier Deneux fills his books with thick cardboard pages and rich colors and a tactile element that is so perfectly done for little hands.  Everything sticks up and kids can feel the shapes of letters and objects to hold their interest just that much longer.  And he has so many books!  We have three--there are a lot more to pick from.

That little finger.  I kind of love it.

2.  Before & After.  Honestly--a genius but simple book.  Truly such a basic but engaging way to teach kids cause and effect, progress, the passage of time, and transitions.  There are no words in this book so the conversations you can have with your kids and the predictions they'll come up with are really fun.  If I was still teaching a great activity would be to have kids write their own narratives describing the sets of pictures and why A leads to B.  There are very straightforward cause and effect images as I've detailed below and even more in depth ones that span four or five pages that show the change in a plot of land over many years.

3.  A lot of kids are curious about Braille since it's on every bathroom sign they ever pass, but don't necessarily come in contact with people who use Braille on a very regular basis. Georgia was curious about it....and of course Amazon delivered with a very pretty book on Louis Braille.

4.  The "What do you do with...." books.  Problems?  Ideas?  We've all got them and sometimes kids (ummm--and adults too) need a little clarity on how to process them and know that problems and crazy ideas are kind of normal.

5.  I am a Story. I seriously love this book.  So incredibly much.  This book details the importance of story and how it is passed down from generation to generation and even how some stories have been shunned and burned at certain points in history.  Loved reading this one with Georgia!

6.  The House On Maple Street and At the Same Moment Around the World are perfect for helping kids to understand timezones and the passage of time.

7.  And finally, these two books about being home and what home means and all of the wonderful things that homes can hold are as visually interesting as they are thought provoking. 

January is maybe one of the most perfect months of the year to curl up on the couch and read books with your kids.  What are some of your favorites? 

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