October 22, 2014

Harvest Lunch


Every fall we get excited to head out to my mom's, in western Massachusetts, for the local Harvest Festival. It's always a good time to take part in the various activities they have for kids, grab some hometown food and beer, shop some crafts, and listen to live music. The festival has gotten bigger, and more commercial since my own childhood, but there are still lots of the old stand-by's represented, like the pumpkin toss, hay jump, and pocket lady (always my favorite, and I love that James snapped a covert picture of me pilfering a pocket... I did give that prize to the kids- honest!).

This year we waited out a rainy morning, and arrived just in time to order up some warm lunch. Little Smith got the most enormous potato pancake loaded with apple sauce, it seemed the perfect indulgence for a fall fair. I would have loved a little sour cream on there too, but the boy could not be convinced.


We finished up our food sitting on the grass and listening to some music. The kids are in a dancing phase right now, but in typical Smith fashion it's very understated... the subtle synchronized bobbing makes me laugh.  I also tried my best to give hula hoop instruction, which is far more challenging than I remember. Scary!

*And don't worry, there is plenty more of this festival to share (otherwise known as, I took way too many pictures and am having an editing crisis... so check back for more photos of pumpkins, hay mazes, my cute family, and that most unfortunate hat choice for myself... you've been warned!). 

See our Harvest Festival fun though the years here

October 20, 2014

Frost


We woke this morning to chilly toes and the smell of winter in the air. The kids drew pictures on the frost covered glass while the sun rose, and I dug out my heavy sweaters and noted only four pairs of socks free of holes. Another shift on the way; always a reminder of the bittersweet passing of time, yet also the promise of a clean slate and fresh possibilities. I wonder how I would find any rhythm if I lived somewhere without such distinct seasons. The weather provides so much of my life's structure, it's the datum against which I measure every move and change. 

We've been celebrating a warm October, with all the freedom and ease that 70 degree days bring... but this new cold does feel just about right. I needed the slower pace; dark evenings spent reading, working, and cooking, instead of capturing every last minute of daylight, scraping together careless meals, and then racing to make bedtime. I'm hoping the children feel the change as well, and stay cozy in their beds just a little longer so we can all get some more sleep. Wishful thinking!

October 14, 2014

Details C10.01

after lunch free play fall dresser work and warm breezes groggy mornings dusty mantle sunday lunch at her perch working piles (his, her's, and mine) family fun daily collections

I've been thinking a lot about balance, an enviable state that I never seem to be any good at reaching. We've been pushing any semblance of balance in our household to its absolute limit. It seems there's much to say about being a stay-at-home parent, a work-at-home parent, a parent who chooses to identify as stay-at-home (for a whole variety of reasons; personal, practical, political), but does also do outside work. However seeing as we are passing by 2AM, and I will likely get my first wake-up call in a mere three hours, for now I will just say that I feel like I have the best, and the worst, of both worlds. 

James and I are scrambling equally to stay on top of everything, juggle the basic household chores, and take good care of the babes... and we do talk about balance.It sounds good, but I'm not even certain it's something we are striving for right now. Maybe not all phases of life are supposed to feel balanced. Maybe there are years, or decades, that swing to one extreme before ultimately correcting. 

I was feeling really low last week, and a colleague, who also has two small children, took me aside to ask how I was able to look and sound so pulled together when he was tearing his hair out. It was such a shock, and a much needed sprinkle of flattery. It's amazing how critical we can be of ourselves, and also how much impact a few generous words can have. 

We are working more deliberately in our own family these days, to be kind to ourselves and one another. Pushing our limits might be worthwhile, but it does also mean cutting a good bit of slack in all directions. 

Thanks so much to those of you who continue to visit me here, share in a few words and pictures, and offer so much encouragement, advice, and support in the comments here and via email. And with that, good night!

October 10, 2014

52 Pick-Up and Smiles

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When I'm sifting through pictures of my kids and selecting which ones to pull out, I often find that I pick ones where they aren't smiling. Does anyone else do this? I actually have to force myself to put smiling shots in this series so that we won't look back and think everyone was depressed all the time... so just for fun (and because I want to remember the way that Roo's snaggle tooth smile looks right now forever and ever), here's the 'B-side'.


Little Smith has really not been a fan of photos lately, so I take what I can get. Babies, on the other hand, are all too ready to play peek-a-boo with the camera...


I wonder if she would mind if I started making little wishes for that other front tooth to never grow in... I mean honestly, I've never seen a baby just with one front tooth missing and all the others filling in around it, and it's just the cutest thing in history. Little Smith was toothless until 15 months, so I guess some oddities with teething are just in the genes.

... and now for a little catch up...

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This is an iPhone picture, but I love that it reminds me so much of our summer. It's taken outside of the original Hasty Pudding building in Harvard Square. We've been having waves of lingering warm weather and spent a couple weekends in a row scooting and biking around Harvard and the Charles River, enjoying street musicians and eating outside. The kids have both just about outgrown their sandals, but I keep squeezing them on for yet another last hurrah, it's so hard to say goodbye. 

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(*full disclosure, that last picture of Smith on the 'wheely cow' is from months ago. as i said, he's not been much for pictures lately- and without his hair, you can't reeealy tell!)

Lately he: has been full of opinions and testing my boundaries. After a smooth start to school this year, he's been reconsidering and saying he doesn't want to go daily:

little smith: I'm not going to school anymore, I'm going to stay here with you and Woo-by.

me: You have to go to school, and all of your friends would miss you if you didn't show up.

little smith: I'm going to close school. All of my friends will stay home too. And my teachers will stay home too. No one will go to school ever again, because I am closing school.

me: That's silly, and you'd be bored just hanging around with Roo and I every day.

little smith: I wouldn't get bored. We'd take walks.

The kid makes a good argument! I definitely miss the summer days when it was just the three of us, fitting in adventures between errands. Sometimes it is so difficult as a parent to stick to your guns and do what you think is right in the big picture. 

Lately she: is such a tough little girl. It's funny because in some way the gender stereotypes have really held up so far with these kids; he is into trains and cars and rocket ships, she already rocks her baby dolls and tries to feed them bottles... but on the other hand, she is such a bruiser compared to her big brother. He was always very good a gauging his body in space and managing his risks. He never toddled into things and always stopped to evaluate edges or steps. She will bang right into a table and keep running off the end of a ledge... it's slightly terrifying.

Her favorite game right now is taking her head and slamming it into mine so hard that it actually hurts me and leaves her with a mark, then smiling and say, 'OWWW'. If she doesn't get her way, she hits. She will wack her brother with a block for no particular reason. We are working on 'gentle touches', but she is so little that it's sort of challenging to discipline. This babe is going to be quite a force, watch out!

October 6, 2014

Quiet


I've been caught in a holding pattern of falling short for the better part of a year. It's frustrating, confusing, exhausting... surely my plate is no fuller than most, but I just can't seem to empty it. I wonder how other people manage; if I am lazy, or terribly inefficient, or just unskilled. Ultimately I know that's all too harsh, more likely I'm just tired (and maybe that does make me a little more lazy, inefficient, and unskilled than I could be). 

I have learned that fretting over what I haven't accomplished does little to push me forward, so I'm just drawing deep breaths, constantly adjusting my lists and expectations, and taking it one sleepless night at a time. 

I do hope to journal here more frequently (like the good old days!), but for now I am choosing sleep... Sleep, as I have mentioned countless times, does not come easily for me. Baby Roo seems to have inherited my wakefulness... and so while her older brother naps his afternoon away, I try to enforce a quiet time for her. 'Quiet time' for a 14 month old? Yeah, it's going about as smoothly as you might imagine ;)

September 27, 2014

Family of Four


For months after we brought home our second baby, I couldn't actually grasp the idea that we had kids. Not just one child, which somehow seemed like a single, manageable, and isolated leap of faith, but now a group, a unit, two whole human beings relying on us for their every need. If having our first kid before most of our friends joined the parent club felt bold, going for the second in a peer group of reticent procreators seemed outright nostalgic. I self consciously imagined that I was being judged in the way a new convert to some opposing political party, religion, or exercise regime might be... as though having multiple children was a lifestyle choice that now radically reframed the character of our family. 


The practical reality was that having another baby didn't change our day to day rhythm much. James and I were the same people (if maybe a bit more tired and irritable), Little Smith was the same character, and we were all lucky enough to have this new drooling baby ball of sunshine, along for the ride. 

And for the better part of her first year, that is exactly how our Roo rolled. She napped when and where she could, bounced on my knee through her brother's classes and marathon potty training sessions, eventually crawled around on the floor at his doctor's appointments and preschool drop-offs... she was just there, wherever we needed her to be, and asking little more than an interrupted sleep cycle in exchange for her good nature. 


Of course babies do grow. I had done this part before, and so I embraced each of the bittersweet milestones that marks a first year of life. And with each one came an adjustment; eating real food, crawling, walking, talking, demanding, discovering that she may be sweet, but she ain't no pushover... our little girl gracefully, yet forcefully, carved out more and more space in this family, until one day I looked around and realized how much our second child had truly changed everything. 


It turns out that parenting these kids is indeed a lifestyle choice, one that I realize is common and expected in many crowds, and hardly warrants this degree of reflection. However conventional, these changes in our family do feel profound, and the shift from single child to two has been both gradual and substantial. Our current reality includes far more teamwork, communication, compromise, often sacrifice, and always love. The shape and structure of our challenges and blessings will look completely different in another year, and again in another decade, but there is comfort in knowing that we're on this ride together. It's clear that we were somehow meant to test and learn from one another, and I imagine we all feel ridiculously lucky (and occasionally cursed!) to be part of this family of four.

*these pictures are all from apple picking last week-end. i'm convinced that it's impossible not to have a good time while picking tasty treats. note to myself that there's a couple additional shots from this day here, and if you'd like to see our family pick throughout the ages, check out this, this, this, oh and this... i haven't even shared blueberry picking from this year yet, as i'm waiting to test out our jam (get excited!). we are just a bunch of pickers ;)