McKevitts in Maui: 2015

We just got back from an amazing, week long trip to Maui. B and I both agree that it was probably the best vacation we’ve ever taken as a family. We went into it with very few planned activities or expectations other than to disconnect from social media (me!) and email (B!) and enjoy the time as a family and get as much beach time as was humanly possible. With B traveling for work, I am fiercely protective of our family time, and this week with just our five was exactly the refresh break we needed. Sometimes, in the hub-bub of everyday life, the things you have to do: the kid shuttling, the meal cooking, the house cleaning, the disciplining so that you don’t raise hooligans, can lead you to forget that family life is, at it’s core, supposed to be fun. I realized during this trip that this was our first trip that was purely us five. We’ve traveled a decent amount with the kids and always made vacations out of all of our trips, but often our vacation destinations were driven by seeing people we knew places, even if we stayed on our own. But anyway, back to the trip.

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You can pretty much break our trip into two parts: the travel, and everything else. Let’s just touch on the travel quickly. Flights from Denver to Maui were absurdly expensive, we were kind of thinking they’d be lower since August is not Hawaii’s busy season, but nope. Due to the fact that the flights alone are usually what we budget for our annual vacation, and also not knowing if it would be better to have a quick layover to break up the sitting or do it all in one swoop, we didn’t splurge for the direct flight from Denver to Maui (lesson learned: splurge for the direct flight).  So, on the flight out, we left Denver at 5:45 am and had a quick layover in Phoenix, before taking a six hour flight from Phoenix to Maui. The flights were torture. I’m not a great flyer. I’m not an anxious person usually, but flying brings out a certain level of anxiety that I’m not used to. Suddenly everyone on the plane is not to be trusted (I’m the same way in movie theaters now, too…to the point where we just don’t go to movies anymore), and take-off and landing tie my stomach in knots. But this isn’t about me. The big kids were awesome. We generally don’t allow technology for flights, but based on the fact that we’d be flying for 8 and a half hours, we broke our normal rule and downloaded as many Stella and Sam Sprout episodes to B’s iPad as we could. I also bought a few little dollar store activities, and the kids slept for about 2 hours of the Maui flight. It was a long haul, but the big kids didn’t complain once. Peter, on the other hand…made a name for himself. As soon as we took off from Phoenix, Peter fell asleep in the Ergo – he’d been awake for 5 hours at that point since we woke him up at 3am.  He woke up an hour later, and I distracted him for a good hour with stickers. And then we reached sheer exhaustion but the toddler doesn’t want to sleep point. And I would say that Peter screamed on-and-off for two hours of our 6 hour flight. To the point where the next morning (at 5:30am) when I was on the beach with my time confused youngest two, a man stopped and said “Peter! I remember you from the plane. I’m not the least bit surprised that you’re awake at this hour.” At least he had a good sense of humor.

But the beauty of  Maui is that the second we were in our rental car, the flight portion was behind us. We stayed on the Northwest side of the island. I grew up going to Maui for Christmas with my Dad’s side of the family and we always stayed in Kaanapali, and this time we were a little further North towards Kapalua. It was so fun to be back in a place that some of my best childhood memories are tied to with my own family. I think that’s what made this trip so special to me – exposing my kids to something that was a huge part of my childhood. But also, exploring a place I knew with my husband and seeing it through different eyes. It’s so neat to see how your view of the world changes as you’re exposed to new people and things.

So anyway, Maui. We mostly played at the beach and in the pool, with a couple little activities mixed in. Or room had a full kitchen, so we ate breakfast and lunch or dinner in the room and ate out one meal a day. We’d wake up (early…because…time change) and hit the beach within 30 minutes of being awake. We found a sweet beach early on that has a huge reef about 300 yards out, so it protects the shore from huge wave breaks and makes it the perfect, safe place for little kids to play in the ocean. I forced B (seriously – had to force him) to play golf at Kapalua on Monday, and that was the day I took the kids to the protected beach. We had the best time floating, building in the sand and pretending that we were a family of fish. The next day, Tuesday, I decided we should all go to Kaanapali beach. That beach is truly beautiful and the quintessential sandy beach, but the waves were intense. Tom, Nell and I all got knocked over and tossed by a huge wave as we were exiting the ocean: I realized the tides were getting a bit high for my comfort being in the water with a 5 and 3 year old, so we body surfed a wave in, and as I was carrying them out of the water, the undertoe combined with a huge wave behind it and we were thrown under, tossed around and landed on our backs (me still gripping the kids with all my might) with B and random strangers running at us to help. It was one of the most terrifying experiences of my life and from that time on, we decided to play it safe and stay at the little wave-less beach.  We redeemed Tuesday by eating a delicious lunch over the ocean at Koa’s Seaside Grill on Front Street in Lahaina. Delicious food, and gorgeous views.

On Wednesday, we woke up and headed straight to Baby Beach with B so that he would see that not all the waves were terrifying. And once B saw Baby Beach, that was our home base for the rest of our vacation. We had several people at the hotel with kids our kids ages who had similar big wave experiences ask us if we had found a beach that was good for little kids, and B told everyone about Baby Beach. I said, “Good thing we’re leaving in a few days, our secret little spot is going to be so crowded now that you’ve told everyone about it!” It truly was like a hidden gem that we had all to ourselves for most of each morning – which is funny because we found it by googling “Best Beaches for Kids in Maui”, but maybe not everyone googles? After spending the morning at Baby Beach, we headed back to our hotel and I rented a standup paddle board for 24 hours. The first day was really rough on the ocean outside of our hotel, but the second day was beautiful and we had a blast.  Wednesday night we went to the Maui Nui Luau. I warned B that they can be a little hokey, but it’s a neat way to see a bit of Hawaiian tradition and culture. It was indeed hokey, but it was fun, the food was good, and the kids thought it was the best. Which truly, is all that matters. In the future, we’d probably skip the luau, but if we did do it again, we’d probably choose a different one.

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Thursday was sort of a repeat of Wednesday – we woke up, went to the beach where B and I took turns snorkeling while the other stayed with the kids, swam in the pool, did some stand-up paddle boarding, and then went to Whaler’s Village and ate dinner on the beach at Hula Grill. Peter was not the most enjoyable at meal times this trip. He’s in a phase where he doesn’t eat much, and he’s squirmy. So B and I were passing Peter back and forth to try to keep him from ruining everyone’s meal. I’m sure we looked like a hot mess. When we were done, our server came over and said, “All done? Well, today is your lucky day. Another table has picked up your meal.” He told us that the table had already left, and we’re pretty sure it was a couple that was sitting behind us who at one point picked up a crayon Peter had thrown on the floor. B and I were both dumbstruck, and honestly felt a little guilty, but then we told ourselves, “They wouldn’t have done it if they hadn’t wanted to, and we’ll just have to remember to pass it on someday”. We laughed as we were leaving and I said to B, “They either saw us and thought ‘Man, those two are in way over their heads, let’s buy them a meal.’ or they said, ‘What a sweet family, don’t you remember when our kids were that age, let’s buy them a meal.’” We’re hoping it was the latter, but something tells me the first one might be more realistic.
Friday we woke up and went to breakfast in Lahaina, then went to our favorite baby beach. We spent the morning splashing, floating and sand playing. After naps we went back to Lahaina and had the most delicious Hawaiian Shave Ice at Ululani’s, then did a little bit of shopping and went to see the Banyan tree. It was our last night in Hawaii, so we ate dinner at the hotel overlooking the beach and watched the sunset and schemed about how we could extend our trip by another week.

Saturday we did our traditional wake-up, hit the beach and play. We came back and showered and did final packing before checking out of the hotel, then headed to the East side of the Island to look around. We ate at lunch at the Flatbread Company before heading to the airport. We decided that based on Peter’s age and phase, this was not the trip to eat at Mama’s Fish House, but we will be back someday, hopefully with a less scream-y Peter in toe, and then we will have our delicous fancy meal.

 

The flights home were long and made us ready to be home. So maybe that’s why you do it – so that once you’re on the flight, you feel ready to be home and not sad to be leaving Hawaii again. It was a red-eye flight with a layover in Dallas (yes, that’s past Denver. I told you the flights we got were awful. Next time, direct it is.) Peter screamed for about an hour, but did fall asleep for the part of the flight where everyone else would want to sleep. I didn’t sleep, and during that time Peter was crying and I was trying to settle him, I got plenty of evil looks from a not very pleasant newlywed bride. But what can you do? We’ll never see her again, and someday, maybe she’ll be traveling with a 17 month old and I hope that people treat her more graciously.

 

So what would we do differently? Direct flights. And we’d stay an extra week. Here’s a video I put together of our trip:

 

Nell’s Big Girl Room

I just posted that I’m not really blogging anymore, but then I was clearing out the camera card before our vacation and realized I had pictures of Nell’s room that I could share. The shelves in her room aren’t styled (and probably never will be), but you all can overlook that, right? Last time I showed you Nell’s room, I had a 3 year old (enough said) a 1 year old and a colicky, refluxy 1 month old who screamed 20 hours a day. I can’t believe I pulled that blog post together. 16 months later, I have a sweet, helpful 5 year old; 3 year old (still enough said) and a wild 17 month old.  And I’ve given up on “pulling” any kind of blog post together. So how ’bout some quick pics and a few words here and there instead?

I bought a Jenny Lind bed off of Craigslist last month, and that was the impetus I needed to get Nell’s room whipped into shape. The bed was in great shape and I decided to keep it walnut – I love an old piece of furniture in every room, and I love a little bit of real wood tone in every room, too. With the bed came a vanity. It was in really bad shape and needed to be refinished, and I didn’t really like it. So I figured I’d chalk paint it and if still I didn’t like it, I’d sell it. And what color did I paint it? Raspberry pink.  Remember when I said there’d be no pink just because I had a girl? Yep. Feel free to laugh at me. I’ve embraced pink. The mirror on the vanity bounces light around her room nicely, and Nell loves her “pink desk” – she calls it a desk, and I don’t think my three year old needs to know anything about makeup and vanities, so we’re rolling with it.

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painted jenny lind

My approach to decorating kids’ rooms is similar to my approach to the rest of my house – I keep the walls and bigger elements neutral and pretty classic and always include an antique or two (usually in their natural wood tones) in each room and then I have fun with the less expensive pieces. I don’t do theme rooms for kids in the sense that they have a theme comforter, themed artwork, and decals on the wall, but I bring their personality into the rooms in colors and the occasional art piece. Nell LOVES pink – I tolerate it. So, she has a quilt with some raspberry in it – a more tolerable shade of pink for me, but the quilt has lots of other colors that we played up throughout the room. The navy especially helps balance the raspberry for me, and ties Nell’s room in nicely to the rest of the house.  Nell’s bed and furniture are all old and I tend to like more of a mix of old and new in furniture, so I made sure that the patterns in her room were bright and colorful and modern to help keep her room from feeling heavy. Bright white roman shades on her windows also look clean and tailored and keep the feel of the room light.

 

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Confession: I never actually sewed the cover for Nell’s window seat, just wrapped the fabric around it – as you can see in the photo above. It’s on my list of things to get to this Fall.

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So, that’s our Nell’s room. It’s one of my favorite rooms in our house. It’s also the only room in the house that has any pink in it. I must be going soft :) . Tom’s room is my current project – I’m updating his gallery shelves and tweaking the layout a bit to be more functional for our kindergartner. Unbelievable.

Summer

B asked me the other day, “So, do you blog anymore?”.  Uhhh, I guess not, huh? The truth is, these little people of mine are growing like weeds – they demand (and deserve) all of my time and energy, and so no, I don’t really blog anymore. When school rolls around this Fall, I might have time to upload pictures from my phone and camera to recap all we’ve been up to and share some of the updates we’ve made to the house over the last few months, but for now…just checking in to say hello, and then run to get sunscreen on faces for an epic sprinkler run. Happy summer friends, enjoy the rest of it!

The State of the Exterior: Summer 2015

I didn’t think I’d blog about our landscape progress because year one of any landscaping project isn’t that exciting in picture form. Plants take about 3 years to really establish their root system, so by the time Nell’s in Kindergarten, our yard is going to be awesome! But, in the interest of having pictures to look back on and documenting these projects we love, I thought I’d do an “in the beginning” post. I mentioned a few months ago that we hired someone to help us come up with some plans for the front landscaping – I don’t know plants. I know what I like when I see them full grown and in bloom, but in terms of just knowing plants, that is not my gift. The problem is that I did have a vision for outside, but I couldn’t articulate it well – so we decided to hire a landscape designer that our friends used to give them a long-range plan rather than piece it together little by little.  We didn’t want a complete overhaul in terms of the landscaping – I wanted to leave rock beds where they were, etc – but the landscaping at our house was pretty dire and short of just planting some stuff and seeing how it did, which B is okay with but I don’t have patience for, hiring an expert to just give us a cohesive plan seemed like the best use of our limited time.

front landscaping progress 2 The first summer we lived here, B pulled out a dead creeping juniper shrub to the right of our driveway and he planted a few plants that Home Depot had left over at the end of the season, and we called it good for awhile. The next year, I bought some Endless Summer hydrangeas at Costco and planted them in front of the garage, but it became clear quickly that the crab apple didn’t provide them with nearly enough shade from the hot afternoon sun.   Over the winter, two pitiful shrubs on the left side of our driveway that we never really loved finally gave up the ghost, so we decided that the blank slate we were left with was the perfect time to bring someone in to give us an overall plan. And now we’re putting it into place.

 

Working with the landscape designer was so easy. She came over, chatted with me about my style and preferences, and then came in for a cup of tea. I told her I’ve always called our style “Urban Cottage” but with a Colorado twist. She totally ran with it, giving us shrubs that produce hydrangea like flowers but that will do much better with our hot West facing Colorado exposure. She suggested great perennials that over the next few years will spread over our rock beds and create 3 season interest and help to soften all that rock in front of our house, and she gave us some great recommendations for compact conifers that will help block some of our neighbor views and add greenery year round without growing too big for our front yard.

We’ve planted all the perennials the designer called for, and are now waiting on trees and a couple of boulders. I fear we’ve missed our window of opportunity for the summer, but we’ll see what the weather forecast brings because I know that getting the trees in will make the biggest difference and I would rather not wait until Fall. The first year of any perennial is always unimpressive, but I can tell already that when everything matures we’re going to have a great, 3 season landscape.

landscaping progress

I’m most excited about the part of they yard in front of the garage (above). Those shrubs will get pretty tall and grow into each other. They have gorgeous bright green leaves and pretty white flowers and I am already in love with them, but I know that I’ll love them more as they grow. I’m excited for the smaller perennials  to get bigger and lend some color throughout the summer. There’s another portion of this rock bed that’s planted bordering our neighbor’s yard, but the plants are so small it’s not noticeable from the street yet.  We’ll have a smaller scale evergreen in the back corner next to the garage to help soften the view of our neighbor’s house from the front, and a great boulder or sitting rock in front of it. I can’t wait.

front landscaping Here’s a look at the entire front yard. To the left of the new shrubs will go that compact evergreen I mentioned and the sitting rock, and there are already some perennials planted even farther to the left, but, again, they’re not much to look at just yet.  To the right of the driveway is a small garden where that dead creeping juniper bush was. It was unpleasant to look at, and we’ve planted perennials in there as well that just need some time to grow, but will add an ornamental tree to add some height to that side of the yard just as soon as we can track down the one we want. We have grasses for year round interest, and I’m feeling a little bit impatient, but the planting process is so fun that I think that helps. Back next to our neighbors’ fence on the right side of our house we will add a small hedge of narrow trees – that height and greenery will be awesome.

Eventually, B and I would like to have the cement strip between our driveway and porch removed and add a garden in there to break up all the concrete (funny because the original homeowners took out a garden there to add the cement – not the best for curb appeal, but practical for backing out of our side garage), and when the kids are older we’d love to add a porch railing. We talked about doing that last year when we painted, but decided against it for this stage of our lives. Our kids are little and they need us frequently, and it’s so nice to be able to see the kids riding bikes on the sidewalk from the porch and get to them in a second if someone falls.

So, that’s the state of our outdoors for now. I’ll be sure to post an update when the little tiny trees get planted. So that 3 years from now we can look back and see where we started :)

On Raising Best Friends

I was sitting at swim lessons on Tuesday between two moms of 2 and a half year olds. Now, that in and of itself should say enough. Those mamas are in the weeds. Two and a half is a freaking nightmare. I can say this through the rose colored glasses of someone who just made it through the 2 and a half year old crud, is enjoying a sweet period with my technically still two year old and is a week out from 3…which, if memory serves me correctly, is worse than two if at all possible. Anyway, parenting two year old girls is another story for another day. This is about raising best friends. So, I’m sitting between these two moms I’d never seen before waiting for Tom’s lesson to start, and they are dealing with the two and a half year old crud. One of the moms had her three week old with her, too. Her two and a half year old was sobbing and kicking and screaming and refusing to go into the pool.  I could tell that she was seconds from tears. I wanted to give her a hug and a margarita and babysit her kids for a few hours.  Instead I said, “Would it be helpful if I held your baby for a minute?” She looked at me – I’m sure sizing me up to make sure I wasn’t crazy – and then said, “Thank you. Thank you so much.” and handed that sweet newborn to me.

So, things settled down, the kids all got in the pool, and Nell and Peter were playing near me and scavenging for snacks in the pool bag. Meanwhile, across the room from us, two brothers were kicking the sh*t out of each other. The moms flanking me and I all turned to look – it was hard not to look. In the midst of this, Peter stood up to go scavenge for other people’s snacks and Nell followed him, kissed his blonde head and picked him up saying, “Oh Pete McGete. You are a sneaky snacker, ” then she toddled back to me with Peter in her arms and pulled out a toy for him to play with. And the mom that didn’t have a newborn said to me, “She’s so helpful! Is it because she’s a girl?” I thought and said, “No, my son is my oldest and he’s an amazing helper, too.” And the other mom, still wearily glancing in the direction of the brothers who were still fighting and then looking through the window at her son, she asked, “How did you teach your kids to be such nice friends?” I laughed and said something self-effacing like, “It has nothing to do with me, we just got lucky.”

But I think, in reality, it probably does have something to do with me and B. And telling this sweet mom that I did nothing to encourage the relationship my three kids have wasn’t helpful to her. At all. So as I drove away from swim lessons that morning, I was thinking about it. My kids are best friends. If you ask them who their best friends are, they name each other. My kids fight, of course. Nell knows how to pick at Tom, she knows just how to get him. Tom frequently doesn’t care about anything until Nell has it and then a battle can ensue. Peter can do no wrong in their eyes right now, but that day will come to an end soon. But here’s the thing about the fighting: We don’t tolerate it. There’s no “Siblings, what can you do?!” around here or “{shrug} Boys will be boys”. B and I treat each other and our children with respect, and we expect our kids to do the same.

I think that’s what it comes down to, respect. Not just respect of your elders, but respect of your peers. And as adults, respect of children. My kids inspire me every single day. They also make mistakes every single day, but so do I. An expectation of mutual respect is the key to how our family works. We share toys, but we also respect each person’s private rooms. We laugh and dance and cuddle and play, but we also allow kids to take time for themselves when they need it. Because sometimes kids just need to be left alone. We speak kindly around here and we speak with love. This starts with me and B. Now, that doesn’t mean I don’t yell from time to time when I’ve just had it – there was a lot of yelling when Nell was 2 and a half – but every time I do, I regret it immediately. It’s not how we speak, and I would never tolerate my children yelling at me or each other, so it’s unacceptable for me to yell at them.  So during those rough patches when I catch myself yelling? I walk away. I slow count to ten, I say a Hail Mary, and then I come back and I apologize to my kids. Because they need to see how you apologize. They need to know that everyone makes mistakes and that everyone can redeem themselves with kindness. And they need to learn to forgive. And when they mess up? They need to apologize, they need to redeem themselves with kindness, and they need to see you forgive them, too.

My children are not perfect, fights happen. I am far from a perfect parent, but I do my best to be better everyday. When fights happen or things come up, B and I are consistent in our discipline. In our house, don’t tolerate physical violence – it’s an automatic time out. My kids are hitters as toddlers. I have a wise friend who swears that you get either a hitter or a biter – obviously to different degrees depending on the kid, but I think she’s on to something with that. Anyway, my kid are hitters. Starting at about 15 months, they try out hitting as communication. It’s exhausting. I can’t tell you how many flights of stairs I’ve climbed taking a hitting toddler to their crib. To that end, we don’t use physical touch to discipline, either. I can’t spank a child as punishment for hitting…the idea that I can hit but they can’t confuses me, so it stands to reason that it’s confusing to them, too. We speak with loving but firm voices when a child is in trouble, they have time outs in their rooms until they can be kind again, and then we move on. We don’t dwell on the negative. If the kids are having trouble getting along – pestering each other for a toy or not speaking kindly, I send them to their rooms to have some time apart. Not time outs, just time apart.

We do a lot together as a family. We are fiercely protective of our family time. We don’t pack our days with classes and outings and activities and play dates – those are special occurrences, not the norm. We spend a lot of time just playing at home or outside. We go for bike rides. We cheer for each other when someone does something for the first time. Or for the hundredth time. We read books and play games and have dance parties and play pretend. We eat dinner together at night and we talk about our days. And we enjoy it – all that time together, we look forward to it, we laugh, and we have fun. Simple as that.

I’m the youngest of 3, and I remember my mom saying to my sister, brother and me when we would start bickering, “You are each others’ best friends. You three will know each other longer than anyone else you will ever meet, so why on earth would you treat a stranger on the street better than you treat your brother and sisters?” That has always stuck with me. I cherish the relationships I had with my brother and sister growing up. They’re the ones who knew me as a bratty, tattle tale 8 year old and loved me anyway. Sisters let you sleep on their couches for two nights in college when you break up with your boyfriend and are heartbroken, and brothers tell you to get off your sister’s couch and go back to class and that everything will be okay. We all have grown-up lives of our own now, we’ve all had our great days and our terrible days, but I know that anyone of us would drop anything to be there for the other. We have, and we will continue to do so. Because we’re built-in best friends – we’ve seen each other at our best and at our worst, and we love each other anyway. Having grown up with that, I want that for my children. So we work hard to foster it.

So what would I have told that sweet mom at swimming lessons? I would have told her that she’s doing just fine. That two and a half is tough, and that moms who survive it with a newborn in tow deserve a medal. And then I would have told her that our kids are best friends because we respect how important their sibling relationship is, and kids follow their parents’ lead.

Purging and Organizing Books

This category was the one I was most looking forward to because I knew it would be the easiest. Contrary to Kondo’s findings in her reserach and day to day practice, I do not horde books. I have very little emotional attachment to books after I’ve read them, and I honestly don’t buy many books to begin with. I use the library or download an ebook if I have to buy a book. The few hard copies of books I do buy, I usually pass onto friends or my mom, and they do the same, so no book stays in our home for long. B is very similar – he mostly checks books out from the library or reads on his iPad, so we really didn’t have a book problem. What kind of English Lit major am I? For our garage sale last month, I went through our crawl space and pulled out the box of books we moved with us. We hadn’t touched them in two years, so they all went in the garage sale. I found all of my pregnancy and first year of a baby’s life books and boxed them up with some hand-me-downs for a friend. So when it came time to Kondo my books, I had about 10 to my name. I got rid of 7 of them. I have three books. So I moved onto paperwork.

 

But every time I walked by the kids’ rooms, I had a nagging feeling that I’d cheated. While I hope that my own tidying will spill over into the kids clothes, toys and books, my intention going into this was to simplify MY belongings. It’s hard for me to decide if a toy or book brings my kids joy. And if I have one criticism of Kondo’s book, it’s that it’s not totally applicable to moms. It’s perfect for single or married women with no kids. But I think there are just somet hings you save when you have kids. Does the bouncy seat in my crawl space bring me joy? I have great memories of all three of our kids bouncing in it, but it’s never brought me joy. But, I’m keeping it, because I have friends who are having babies, and when they come to visit, it’s nice to not have to bring a few things – so the booster and bouncer seats, the pack and play and a small box of baby toys will stay. Does the stack of Curious George books in Thomas’s room bring me joy? Goodness, no. I can’t stand that monkey and his irresponsible Man With The Yellow Hat. When is that man going to learn that you can’t leave that damn monkey alone? For the love. But the kids get a kick out of George. So I left their things alone.

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But, honestly, their books were out of control. And I knew that by not touching them, I was cheating. So Saturday morning, B and Tom were at the golf course, and Nell, Pete and I were playing in Nell’s room, when I decided to take a look at her book situation. I pulled every book off her shelf and then brought every book from the boys’ rooms into her room, resorted them according to whose room they belong in, and then made a pile of books we never read to donate. And I was surprised by how many I knew the kids had no attachment to without having to ask them. Many of them I’d considered parting with but didn’t out of fear of parting with something someone special had given the kids. But the gift was given, it was appreciated and acknowledged and loved, and now it’s time to move on. We can’t hold onto everything forever. There were plenty of books we just had duplicates of or that never clicked with our family, but we know they’ll click with another family. So, I trashed the trashed books and donated the rest, and now the kids shelves are manageable.

After my donate pile was made, I put the books back on the shelves in rainbow color order. Because I’m a little crazy. That lasted until rest time, but at least the books are more manageable, and I know that the books we have left are ones that the kids truly love. Plus, with birthdays two weeks away, I know those shelves will get filled right back up.

3 Year Old Girl Birthday Gifts…Help!

Alright everyone, I’ve got the boy stuff down for the most part for now, and because Thomas is the oldest, he usually gets all the “equipment” – bikes, etc – and they are passed down to Nell and Peter for his birthdays. Which is making coming up with gift ideas for my Nell for her 3rd birthday very tricky. Soooo, if you have any awesome suggestions for a 3 year old girl, I would love it if you leave them in the comments! And I’ll be sure to update you on what we go with after her birthday.  Thanks, friends!

The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up: Clothes

I’ve never been a naturally organized and tidy person. I don’t live in squalor by any means, but papers pile up, toys often sit out a few days, and don’t even get me started on the laundry situation. But here’s the thing: while this tidiness doesn’t come naturally to me, it’s something I crave. I want orderliness in my home. I don’t want my home to look un-lived in, by any means, but I don’t like the piles. I just, quite honestly, have been to lazy to handle them and lacked a system for putting things away. For awhile now I’ve been feeling compelled to completely pare down my closet – I’ve considered a 30 pieces for 30 days challenge and other similar methods. Last month as we were getting ready for our garage sale, I went through my closet and pulled out about 20 items that I haven’t worn in years. A few things sold, the rest ended up being donated after the fact. But when I saw this segment from The Today Show over the weekend about The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, something just clicked. I immediately tackled the kids’ drawers – Nell’s pajama and pants drawers didn’t close with the current “stuff them in the drawer as fast as I can” method of putting laundry away I was using. So I took a couple hours on Saturday morning and just put their things away nicely. I purge the kids clothes regularly and really don’t go overboard on their clothing amounts, but they needed to be tidied. After tackling B’s drawers on Sunday – just organizing, it’s up to him to purge when he’s ready, I felt compelled to learn more than the Today Show segment taught me, so I downloaded the ebook.

 

And can I just say? I’m inspired. The first step is clothing. I get that – it’s easy. I was ready to dive into linen closets and my file cabinet, but Kondo said clothes first, so I’m following the rules. The clothes I kept less than a month ago got drastically cut because they didn’t bring me joy. I would pick up an item and ask, “Does this spark joy?” And more often than not, the answer was no. I told myself I wasn’t allowed to feel guilty. I’ve held onto things just because of their JCrew or Boden labels when they were never perfect for me, or they aren’t current enough to look good anymore anyway. I have two decent piles – one of recent purchases to go to consignment, and the other to go straight to our local charity on Wednesday.  B saw the picture I posted to Instagram while he was out of town and called me and said, “Em, you wear a lot of the things in that pile.” I said, “I know, but they don’t bring me joy. I wear them, but I don’t feel good in them.” Pretty sure his mind is boggled.

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My favorite part was putting things back – in the past when I’ve decluttered my wardrobe, I’ve been great about getting rid of things, but lose steam at the putting things back phase. I’ve always hung everything that can possibly be hung because I hate folding, and things get lost in drawers. But Kondo’s stack clothing vertically method is brilliant, and I can see how I will love this and keep it up.

The few remaining hanging items in my closet:

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Just look at all the hangers that are empty now that I’ve folded my tops:

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So much organization and room in my workout and sports gear elfa drawers now:

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And all of my t-shirts. I’m still perfecting the folds on some of these items, but for the most part, they’re good to go:

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So, part 1 is done. I’ve purged every single article of my clothing in my house (again, B and the kids are a different story – I’ll help keep them organized, but B’s clothes are something he needs to make decisions on, and the kids clothes are already in pretty good shape from seasonal sorts and purges). I kept only the things that spark joy, and I can honestly see how I could keep this up. Firstly, I have a lot less clothes now, so laundry piles shouldn’t be as daunting. But with a system in place to handle the things that I do have, and a true love for those items, I think this just might work. I’ll keep you posted. Next up: Books.

 

 

Spring…Or Something Like That.

Colorado is a weird place in the Spring. We have beautiful January days – 70 degrees when we’re outside in barefeet and tank tops. And then there’s February, which is normally dreary, followed by March, which is drearier still. But by April, we usually start to warm up. And we did, a bit – we had some nice April days. But for the most part, I feel like we haven’t really had Spring here in Colorado this year.

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We worked with a landscape designer to get a front yard plan done in March with the intention of planting in April, but April didn’t let that happen, and now we’re half way through May and we’ve had chilly, wet days. I’m not complaining at all – we need the moisture and it will be hot soon enough.

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But this morning, Nell and Pete and I planted flowers in the front porch planter. Last night, our new patio furniture was delivered. Because, it’s time. It’s time for some color. It’s time to eat outdoors.  It’s time to stop waiting. Hopefully Memorial Day weekend will give way to good planting weather for the rest of our front yard, but I’m thrilled to have taken the first few steps to Spring…although at this rate, we might have to skip straight toward summer.

Our Favorite Books

I recently posted about the books I’d read recently for book club, but the majority of my reading is in the picture book category…with some recent forays into chapter books with Tom and Nell, though those have not been the most successful and I need recommendations in the chapter books for young kids department. When I was pregnant with Thomas, one of B’s mom’s best friends (got that?) gave me a bunch of classic board books with a note that said “A read to baby is a loved baby.” I’ve never forgotten that. Since the moment we brought Thomas home from the hospital we read to him every night. I hate to admit that Nell and Peter didn’t fall into the bedtime book routine as early – partly because B would take bedtime books and tuck-ins with the older kid(s) while I fed and put the baby-of-the-moment to bed, but such is life after the first baby, eh? In the last six months, Nell has really started to love books as much as Thomas, though, and Peter is carrying board books around the house with him. I love it.

I tried to pick books that Tom and Nell love equally for this list – Nell enjoys her Angelina Ballerina books, Tom loves his football books, but our favorites are the ones the whole family loves.

favorite picture books

If I Built a Car by Chris Van Dusen. This is hands down my favorite book right now, and “If I Built a House” and a few other Chris Van Dusen books will be making their way to our house for Tom’s 5th birthday. It is clever, it is fun, and paired with the right building material (Magnatiles or Magformers with wheel bases), we’ve got hours of creativity.

The Day The Crayons Quit - This was the book we gave Tom as his “Something to Read” last year for Christmas and it was an instant favorite. It’s illustrated by Oliver Jeffers, who has been a longtime favorite author and illustrator of ours. Which leads me to:

Anything by Oliver Jeffers, but we are especially smitten with Lost and Found and its sweet story of friendship. Though truly, I’m not sure you can go wrong with one of his books.

Duck and Goose. We’ve had this one for years, but we read it multiple times a week. Especially when the book picker is trying to postpone bedtime because it’s a bit longer than many picture books – Duck and Goose, Charlie the Ranch Dog and the Day the Crayons Quit are top choices on nights when the kids are trying to stretch the bedtime routine out a bit.

Caps For Sale - This is an oldie, but a goodie. We love this one. We especially love stamping our feet and shaking our fists when the peddler yells at the monkeys. Books with the McKevitts, man. It’s a good time.

Pete the Cat – Any Pete the Cat, but I’m partial to I Love My White Shoes over the Buttons one – though we own both and the kids love them equally.

One Dog Canoe – This is a fun book – my mom has it at her house and we have a copy at the cabin, so I’ve refrained from buying a copy for our house, too, but Tom and Nell always have me read it to them over and over when we’re at a One Dog Canoe house.

My Father’s Dragon – This was our first chapter book, and it was a good one. I read it just to Tom, and then we moved onto Mr. Popper’s Penguins…which we have yet to finish because I’m not in love and the kids don’t seem to be, either. But My Father’s Dragon was a quick, fun first chapter book.

(*As always, I don’t use affiliate links, so these Amazon links are just for your convenience.)

 

I have a ton of books saved on a wish list for Tom’s and Nell’s birthdays, so hopefully by the end of June we’ll have even more favorites to add to our list. I will say that I tend to feel a little “Womp womp” about some of the “girl” books we order for Nell recently – so I’d love recommendations for truly charming and adorable illustrations and stories. And chapter books – we need some more chapter books over here.