Thursday, July 2, 2015

Pickle is TWO!

A snapshot of our little jolly Pickle!
  • Jabbers and sings loudly most of the day
  • Is learning to stand up for herself
  • Loves food, but will likely eat when you least expect
  • Twirls her hair to go to sleep/when tired
  • Loves digging in dirt, airplanes, bikes, and trains
  • Is a very good little mommy
  • Never forgets to include others in play, or song or snack
  • Sleeps all night but awakens at the crack of dawn
  • Loves her "ba" (pacifier), especially upside down
  • Still needs loads of snuggles and cuddles each day

Friday, June 26, 2015

Ireland: The Beginning of New Adventures

Four weeks ago, we were preparing to leave for the airport to spend a week+ in Ireland. This trip included many firsts for our family. We were so blessed to travel with family and that made the adventure even more fun!

Packing: My motto for the trip was "4 people, 2 backpacks, 10 days in Ireland". Here is a picture of our luggage:

Together, the adult packs weighed a combined 42 lbs fully packed. The backpack in the middle was Sweet Potato's. It held her activities/toys and few snacks. We also took a stroller with a strap to make getting on and off public transport easy (thanks Craigslist!).

As you can tell, there were no carseats. This was intentional. We spent all of our time in Dublin and utilized public transport exclusively. We packed 6 pairs of underwear and 5 outfits in (awesome!) travel bags making organization inside the packs super simple. I did bring one pack of diapers and one pack of wipes. The wipes lasted the entire trip and we grabbed one small pack of nappies at the local Tesco (grocery) shortly before leaving.

When we arrived at the airports and saw other families struggling with armloads of bulky luggage we were so thankful to have just our backpacks. We could grab them, snap them on, and take the girls hands in minutes. Totally worth it! We'll never travel "heavy" again!! In fact, we had the lightest bags of our family, yet the most people for which to care.

Accommodations: We were able to pack lighter because the house we rented had a washing machine so we were able to do laundry as needed. I found the house through VRBO and Simon, the owner, was grand! He and his team were flexible, accommodating, and offered us a true home away from home. We kept finding little surprises at the house (crisps, bottled water, jam, butter, cookies, candy, scones, Guinness bread, etc.) and the beds were so comfy after long days of walking/travel. I highly recommend NearCityRentals if you find ourself needing accommodation in Dublin.

Getting Around: A note on how we explored the city. We purchased LEAP cards. They are refillable, refundable and allowed us to travel by DART, bus, and LUAS (tram) around the city. For our entire stay, we spent the equivalent of 1-2 day's car rental. They were very easy to use and the money that remains on them, after a bit of paperwork, will be refunded to us. While, a tourist pass is available for 72 hours for 20 euros it is not refundable. We opted for the regular LEAP card for our stay. Definitely worth it if you plan to be in the city for more than 3 days! The girls loved the LUAS and soon Sweet Potato even had the bus numbers and tram stops memorized!

Along with the LEAP card, I purchased a SIM card for my cell phone. It allowed me to have an Irish number and access the internet without incurring roaming charges. It wasn't expensive (approx.  20 euros) and I became the default navigator because I was the only family member that had "free" access no matter where we were in the city. Additionally, we highly recommend using the Transport for Ireland app. It was invaluable at figuring out which bus to take where.

Sightseeing: Everyone wants to know where we went and what we did. I feel as though I'm going to disappoint when you realize how slow we approached our trip. Our goal was to be on vacation. This meant that we had things we wanted to experience, but we were not viewing this as a "once in a lifetime" trip. Every time we stepped out our front door it was a new experience!

As a family we loved, Phoenix Park. It's a little tricky to get to but totally worth it. First, it's HUGE. We went to the zoo, walked a half hour to the visitor's center, saw a herd of deer that reside in the park, toured the President's residence, passed the American Embassy, and strolled through a Victorian Walled garden. We also had the best scones in the city at a tea room in the park.

For David and I, the Long Room at Trinity College, part of The Book of Kell's tour, was clearly our favorite. A huge room filled with really old, magnificent books. From the bindings, to the organization, to the beautiful barrel ceiling, it was awesome. Of course, I was tickled that the displayed books were around the theme of "Myths in Children's Literature". Made me want to move and pursue further study in children's literature in that magnificent space. Sigh.

Sweet Potato's favorite stop was Captain Americas Restaurant. She was so excited to eat there. The all Irish beef burger was delicious and the fries were fantastic without adding any salt or ketchup! In fact, the majority of food we had was proudly raised in Ireland. America should take note and be proud of its abundance. It was hard to find things not made in Ireland, food or otherwise.

With the help of Uncle Philip we navigated the DART system of light rail that runs north and south out of Dublin for a fun day at the Irish seaside in Howth. It was lovely to smell the sea air, play briefly on a beach, glimpse Abbey ruins, and visit some quaint shops. (My favorite was Ditzy Days where I found the most adorable Danish mice as stocking stuffers for the girls. Shhh.... Louise, the owner, was so gracious to our family!) We also had the BEST fish and chips at Beshoff Bros. The fish was caught that morning and there wasn't a hint of grease. It was scrumptious! I've been waiting since middle school for that meal and it totally lived up to all my expectations.

We did visit the National Archeology Museum and Guinness Storehouse. While the Irish Stew at Guinness was delicious, the actual tour isn't something I'd be eager to repeat. I would also recommend not going on a Saturday. The National Archeology Museum was fascinating. Free admission and bog people were the highlights. They also have a sweet little cafe and unlike American museum food, this place rocked! We had Irish Salmon wraps, huge Caesar salad with chicken and bacon, and made to order cheese sandwiches for the girls. The cost was less than a restaurant and equally good.

Cost: I know finances are often taboo, but I think, especially with international travel, there is often too much mystery about costs that many make the decision they cannot afford it but they have no real research. So let me tell you roughly what we spent. Outside of flight costs, which averaged about $2,500 for my family of four (2 adults, one child, one lap infant), we spent about as much as we would have going to the beach for a week. Our house for 9 days was approximately $2,100 including exchange rate. We used our credit card* wherever we could and often were given the option to pay in dollars at an exchange rate of $1.17 to the Euro. As for food, souvenirs, admission, and transport we spent another $600. We ate most breakfasts in and many of our dinners too. This saved money and gave us predictable bookends signally normal routine for the kiddos. All told, again minus airfare, we spent about $2,700 for 8 days in a foreign country. We looked for deals, but we certainly didn't live on a shoestring. Another cost saving tip we discovered was to carefully watch tourist packages. By in large, for our family they wouldn't have saved us money, so we didn't purchase. *We did have a credit card with no international fees.

If you've been considering going abroad but are nervous, I highly recommend Ireland. First, they speak English. Second, they are incredibly helpful. We had perfect strangers genuinely helping us find the right bus stop, or give recommendations for good food. Third, while Irish life is different from ours, it isn't so different that you feel like a fish out of water. Finally, as a young family the Irish really make life easy. We got bumped to front of lines, people offered bus seats and general kindness was shown even when our children were less than well behaved.

Travel with Littles: The girls did remarkably well with traveling. We were so proud of them! This was the first flight for Pickle and the first remembered flight for Sweet Potato. They trooped along walking most places, tried new things and only on occasion complained. While we were eager to experience the city, we did buffer our days with predictable bedtimes, baths, and meals. We also took one day to chill at our house mid-week. After a delightful breakfast out, we returned to do some laundry, nap, read, and watch Strawberry Shortcake. Taking time to pause allowed us to regroup and make the most of the remaining days.

And for those of you who are wondering how we kept them entertained in flight, while the plane had movies (Sweet Potato did watch on the way home) we didn't take any electronic devices for the kids. They had old fashioned paper, crayons, and a small box of legos. We read books and explored airplane bathrooms. While we had some hairy moments, they were caused because of little bodies wanting to move, not because we left the favorite iPad game at home. So for all of you parents who want to travel but are afraid you need to take loads of technology, leave it at home. It isn't necessary! Our experience abroad and on family road trips has taught us that if we, as the parents, set the expectation of no/little technology our kids happily follow along.

New Beginnings: Before we had returned, we had already decided where our next trip is going to be and when. We have definitely started a culture of travel (international and domestic) within our family and we couldn't be happier. We didn't have a flawless trip, but because we weren't out to conjure we also didn't get flustered when things went a little lopsided.

From a planning standpoint, overnight flights worked best for the girls and I would definitely recommend a seat (despite the cost) for a child nearing age 2. Poor Pickle did not like being a lap child on the way home. Sweet Potato frequently asks when we are returning to Ireland and at one point thought we had moved to Dublin. I've always heard how resilient kids are, but seeing it in my own children has made me even more adventurous.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Family Update and the February Crud!

Winter decided to come late this year to our little patch of earth. After a very uneventful December and January with snow, we've had a fairly active February. Super cold temperatures, a little snow, wicked wind, and rainy/icy yuck have even the winter hearty (me!) wishing for spring! To cap off our cabin fever, we've been down with the February Crud.

David had fluish symptoms for several days; Sweet Potato had/has goopy eyes, a wicked cough, and runny nose; Pickle had the toughest time with a nasty head cold that ended up as an ear infection. She has the distinctive honor of being the first child in our family to take an antibiotic! Thankfully, Kristin missed the worst of it, but is recovering from caring for everyone else! We've all been loading up on the Vitamin C, probiotics, and diffusing/applying essential oils. Our favorites have been: doTerra's Breathe (no more nasty Vicks for this Mama!) and Chestal by Boiron.

This month we also tried, quite spur of the moment, a grand experiment that has phenomenally flopped! We moved the girls into the same room. In my head this was supposed to work well. They would help each other go to sleep. They would have early morning company. They would be happy and we would all sleep! The reality is our girls need a break from each other. They play all day together. We learn and eat and explore together. Come night-time the last person they wanted to be with was each other! The dislike manifested itself not in bedtime tantrums, but naptime fiascos and daytime meanness. As soon as the weather is warm enough, I'll be painting the old nursery and Caroline will get a new room (again). My goal is to have her settled by mid-March. We'll see if the weather cooperates!

Interestingly, one outcome I did not anticipate is that keeping one bedroom clean is harder than keeping two bedrooms clean. Despite eliminating excess, our bedrooms are too small to allow for each girl to have their own space. The end result is loads of little bits being jumbled together and all of us frustrated because nothing is ever where it should be!

In other news.... Pickle's language is exploding. She's saying words and signing constantly. It's awesome to hear and see. Her favorite words to sign are "baby", "Daddy", and "cookie". Her favorite words to say are "apple", "baby", and "Poppa!". My favorite word to hear her say is "purple". It's amazing how well she says it! Pickle continues to be the "Clean-up Kid". She is regularly found throwing things away or wiping floors with paper towel or a wipe. She remains fascinated by shoes--particularly other people's.

Sweet Potato continues to prove she is a girl of extremes. She can go from extremely helpful to extremely stubborn within nanoseconds. However, whenever she chooses to be sweet and kind and loving, she exhibits these characteristics without abandon and full of enthusiasm. The same is true when she decides to be disobedient, but we'll focus on the positive, right?

We've recently discovered that Sweet Potato can read! While we are definitely encouraging this ability, we aren't pushing it. We're letting her grow into reading at her pace, which basically means we read aloud all the time but aren't "teaching" reading formally. What I currently find baffling is that she will fairly consistently read words like "clock" or "snuggle" but struggle with "the" or "not". Clearly, this area needs more practice but we are having fun with the daily delights of discovery of what she is capable of accomplishing on her own!

As for David and I, we're just trying to stay one step ahead of the girls. We're greatly enjoying sharing more experiences as the girls age, and relishing in their continued independence. David has a busy year ahead as he runs

the library single handedly and teaching a class on game strategies. Additionally, he is participating in a grant program that has him traveling nearby three times this year for almost a week each time. He's excited for this professional opportunity and we girls are excited to do super girly things while Daddy is away! Kristin is enjoying being at home and is excited to plan kindergarten for Sweet Potato! The biggest job on her horizon is helping move the yarn shop to a new location over the next month. It'll be a huge endeavor, but one that is exciting. Plus, now her commute will be cut in half, from 6 miles to 3!

Friday, January 9, 2015

Our Family in the New Year

It's 6:10 am. I've been up since 3:30 am --crying baby who is now peacefully back asleep. I'm on my second cup of tea. There will be many more as the day wears. Dinner is in the crockpot and I have a decent handle on what lies before me. This new year I have been making a conscious effort to stick to routine. Should be easy for my personality, but alas, motherhood has eroded the finer edges of my core traits. Overall, this is a good thing, but there comes a point where laziness needs banishing.

Our family is well. The girls are growing and from my humble opinion thriving! Sweet Potato is mastering new school lessons like a champ, frequently asking to "do school", and living the life with a vibrant imagination. Each day we become more aware of her growing up. She is a delightful girl with a sensitive spirit and loving heart. We are doing our best to protect and nurture that. No small feat in our society! Pickle is teething. She has also started to demand her own way. It isn't pleasant and we are all eager for her to return to her sweet [spunky] self. She loves keeping up with big sister and has a very nurturing spirit. We have nicknamed her "Clean-up Kid" because she will frequently see a spot on the floor, grab a towel and "clean". Talk about making my heart melt!

The Christmas season was quiet and full of good, quality memories. We ate too much, indulged our guilty pleasures in many areas, sat a while with family and learned more about ourselves. Part of that learning, combined with end of the year reflections, helped rejuvenate me to reclaim elements of "me" that have gotten slightly side-tracked. Nothing horribly neglected, just a gentle adjustment needed.

So we started this new year with a few family and personal challenges. We are joining Nourishing Minimalism in moving (or attempting to move) 2,015 items from our home in 2015. I'm happy to say we are over 200! This challenge is less about moving stuff out, as we are fairly good about that already, and more about being away of what comes in.  We have also committed to reading nightly as a family and playing more games. It sounds silly, but we need to be more intentional in these areas because we value them, but other "needs" kept pushing them to the periphery.

Personally, I have set some exercise goals as I need more movement in my life. I also have some personal spiritual goals. There are a few books I want to read and a good deal of scripture study I desire to pursue. Last fall, I was part of a Precepts Bible Study and thoroughly enjoyed it. While, babysitting has become an issue for the next session, there is a part of me that is relishing in the idea of continuing the study, but more independently. Yes, it allows me to indulge my research self without worrying about getting "behind" or pursuing something in which the class isn't interested. Lesson learning: This season is about making the most of what you have. It might not be perfect, but you can still pursue and enjoy things even if unconventionally.

Another personal goal is to drastically knit down my yarn stash. I've been meaning to do this for a while, but lately I've been knitting like a crazy person. In true type-A fashion, I have set myself some deadlines for projects. In conjunction, I'm using my knitting and stash to make more gifts rather than purchasing items. I'm having fun and loving the thrill of projects completed, smiles at receiving something personal, and less yarn in the house. Of course, my reward for making progress and eventually getting my stash to the size I desire will be more yarn, but long gone are the days of just buying for buying sake.

Additionally, a girlfriend and I are also loosely following this guide for 52 weeks of decluttering. For us, it's less about decluttering and more about maintaining. Since we've already downsized in many areas, these challenges are completed much more quickly. It's a great little boost for my list making self! By the way, I'm hiring myself out for organizing/purging needs. My parents have long said I should do this, and while the "going rate" is a hug and a handful of chocolate chips, a few of you are actually taking me up on the offer. Which is both surprising and super cool! I love seeing someone taking control of their space and creating a home which enables them to pursue the true desires of their heart.

In a nutshell, that's us. Life is good, our hearts are filled with love and contentment is the air we breathe.

True contentment is a thing as active as agriculture. It is the power of getting out of any situation all there is in it. It is arduous and it is rare.
~ G. K. Chesterton

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Learning: Contentment in the unexpected corners of my home

Note: This post has been sitting in draft form since May. Time to publish. :-)

Over the past month two small things have occurred in our home with monumental effect to my soul.
  • I rearranged our master bedroom.
Two small, seemingly inconsequential things have created a domino crash within my spirit.

Our Bedroom
Since moving into our home nearly 8 years ago, I've never been satisfied with our room. At first it was the paint color, then the furniture, the lighting, the windows, the narrowness/dimensions, the impossibly small closet, blah, blah, blah. Even after choosing minimalism, I never felt at peace with that space. This is probably most evident by that fact that we haven't had curtains in that room for over 6 years!

David was away the end of April, and I decided to rearrange. Or at least try. Past experience told me that I'd probably be disappointed, but I figured it was worth a shot. Allow me to insert this one aside, I am the queen of self-challenges. Over the past several months, we've been working hard to downsize our combined wardrobes to fit in our little closet and one dresser. The goal further included the storing of all our clothes meaning that nothing would need to be stored seasonally. Before David left we had downsized and nearly eliminated a dresser! While he was gone, I completed the task and managed to only store some bulky sweaters. Score!

With just one dresser, a potential room configuration that made the room look wider versus narrow became apparent. I was thrilled. Delighted. As I sat in my "new" room I suddenly realized how much I loved it. As in, over-the-moon-why-did-I-wait-so-long love. All the frustration was gone and a horizon of new possibilities lay before me.

The Nesting Place
I purchased The Nesting Place shortly after rearranging the master bedroom. It was an early Mother's Day gift to myself. I pretty much devoured it. Myquillyn writes about decorating not for perfection but from a place of imperfection and peace creating. She shares her personal story of housing dissatisfaction and coming to terms with building her nest out of what she had at hand. I'm not entirely sure what enticed me to buy the book. Yes, I have perfectionistic tendencies, but I'm learning to find balance between being a naturally tidy person and not becoming anxious when the bathtub has a scum ring.

Still, as I read her book, I felt my core relaxing. I started noticing things in our home that I could change. So giddy with the joy of our new room, I had taken to sitting in our room to read, which is where, with The Nesting Place in hand, I started to dream anew. I've wanted to repaint the walls for a couple years, but I saw the time investment, the taping, and the fear of what if I picked the wrong color (because frankly I was currently living with the wrong color)!?! With Myquillyn's words lingering in my h
ead, "It's just paint." I decided to go for it. And not only did I paint, I started shopping my home for things we already had to decorate. I completely let go of perfectionism when I had David hang our antique mirror on it's side-- even though there is a clear top and bottom. I still need to source curtains, a lamp and some bedside tables, but you know what? I LOVE IT!

I love the early sunlight streaming in next to my pillow, the birdsongs late at night, the breeze ruffling our sheets, the calmness and cleanness of our space. Our room finally has a sense of welcoming peace.

Pulling it Together
I've never considered myself a discontented person, but these last few weeks have taught me a great deal. For starters, I love our home. I love the natural light, the crispness, and the "smallness" of it. I adore the worn and weathered mezuzah on our doorposts. I love having neighbors who we can help when an emergency french braid is needed or mid-afternoon walk is required to burn energy. Yes, there are lots of things I'd like to change, but I finally don't feel as though these "imperfections" are defects to our home.

All this shiny-new-release-of-contentment has led to a rather big decision. We've decided to stop looking for a new house. Yes, all these years we've kept our eyes open. Walked through 100s of homes. Dreamed about new layouts, better configurations, etc. We've held off on projects because we don't want to overprice our house. We've watched market values rise and fall and level out all while holding our breath. Now, in seemingly a blink, we're done.

Will we one day move? Perhaps. But at this point, that's a long way off. Our little home affords us such luxury. Luxury not in square footage or even ideal layout, but in finding beauty in the imperfectness of it all. Joy in the natural wonders our home allows us to experience, like brunches with co-workers, mini college reunions, memorable family gatherings and a chance for life to grow and bloom amongst the cracks.
"People always think that happiness is a faraway thing," thought Francie, "something complicated and hard to get. Yet, what little things can make it up; a place of shelter when it rains - a cup of strong hot coffee when you're blue; for a man, a cigarette for contentment; a book to read when you're alone - just to be with someone you love. Those things make happiness."   
from A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

The Great Unloading, Part 2

Okay, so after a brief re-evaluating (and my minimalist need to move this stuff out of my house!) here are the final lots. FREE! First come, first served. Many of these items were bought but have since lost their purpose for me. So I'd love to pass along to someone who will use them! 

If you see something you want, please let me know. Because after this I can't promise it's fate. 

LOT #1: Price-- FREE

  • Ultra Alpaca   Color 6262 Lot 801  3 skeins + 1 balled skein never used
  • Mini Mochi Color 105 Lot 75   1 skein + 1 gently used ball (read: I started to knit and decided nope never gonna finish and frogged!)
  • Claudia Hand Painted Yarns Fingering Weight  Lichen 1 skein
  • Namaste Oh Snap! Bag (one medium and one small) The large one is missing. Sorry!
  • Blue Knit Carry with Top Grommet

LOT #2: Price-- FREE

  • Ocean Breezes Knitted Scarves inspired by the Sea by Sheryl Thies (Book)
  • Interweave Knits Spring 2007 (Magazine)
  • Jane Austen Knits 2011 (Magazine)
  • Knit Wear Spring 2012 (Magazine)

LOT#3: Price--FREE

  • Large Swift from Joanne Fabrics
  • Dream in Color Groovy Alpine Flurry Jan/Dec. Dream Club from a few years ago
  • Dream in Color Starry Midnight Derby Note: This is a very early starry and the metallic isn't as "bright" as the current version

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

The Great Unloading, Part 1

It's official. I'm de-stashing my stash. I've got a host of randomness from bags and yarn to a few other knitting "essentials". Over the next week or so, I'll be up loading pictures. If you want something, let me know. First come, first served (thank you time-stamp). Prices listed include all items in the photo. Some items will be sold as groups. If you live far away, please know shipping will be extra. Everything has been stored in my smoke-free, pet-free home.

So let's get started....

Namaste Zuma bag in Gray. This is a discontinued style.

Namaste Buddy Case in Lime. Discontinued style. Similar to their Better Buddy.

Sky Yarn by Tahki Stacy Charles (Ravelry link) Original price: $7.50

Debbie Bliss Donegal Luxury Tweed (Ravelry link) Original price: $10.00

Hikoo's Caribou (Ravelry link) Original price per skein: $7.25