In My House

Books: Dear Child

I took a significant hiatus from blogging over the past few months. I did a lot of reading during that time. One book I recently finished was the thriller Dear Child by Romy Hausmann. A young woman is kidnapped and found years later, but is it really her?

The book has tones of both Gone Girl and Room. In fact, the cover bears that praise written by another author. Having read and liked both of those, I will still say Dear Child is even better than those books. It has richly developed characters, many twists and turns, and delves into the psychology behind the various characters.

(Image from amazon.com)

Some pieces of a father’s love for his child and what it would be like to have that child go missing are absolutely heart-wrenching. Hausmann’s writing offers the perfect amount of description of a creepy cabin in the woods, a child’s naïve observations, and the strategic thought process of a captive woman hell-bent on escape. Read this one!

In My House

Four!

We welcomed our youngest daughter’s fourth birthday with not one, but two celebrations. It felt like the right thing to do given all the cancelled plans, sadness, and disappointment 2020 brought for so many of us. So while we were celebrating our spunky four-year-old, we were also celebrating the fact that we were celebrating something. Does that make sense?

First we had a small party with a few friends and family members at my parents’ house. Of course the theme was pandas, and my mother did not disappoint with the super adorable panda cake. My daughter insisted on eating a piece of cake entirely covered in black frosting, and I wasn’t even about to say no.

Then we were off to Washington, D.C. for some history lessons, a chance to see real pandas, and, of course the American Girl Store. I have been an American Girl fan since the 1980s and having never been to one of the actual stores, I was in heaven. The panda viewing didn’t pan (pun intended) out due to the National Zoo still being closed until mid-May, but we still had a great trip.

If there was ever any doubt that I married the most patient guy in the world, my husband endured almost three hours in the ever-so-pink two-level store and bistro without so much as batting an eye. It was over-the-top girly gloriousness. That’s the only way to describe it.

We ate lunch followed by a dessert of pink and white birthday cake. The girls’ dolls had their hair styled and nails painted. Then we shopped. If you think American Girl dolls don’t have cat litter box complete with fake kitty litter, a scooper, and plastic cat poop, you’re wrong. Of course that’s one of the items the birthday girl chose.

Happy birthday to this sweet, stubborn, funny, panda-loving girl. She makes our family complete. We can’t wait to see what the next year brings.

In My House

All 50 by 40: West Virginia

My quest to visit all 50 states was hindered a bit by the antics of 2020. Like many people, I canceled several travel plans during that year. After a lot of careful consideration (and vaccination) my husband and I decided we were ready for a family adventure.

We flew into Washington, D.C. and decided on a day trip to Harpers Ferry, West Virginia for some hiking, exploration, and of course history lessons. Harpers Ferry National Historic Park sits on the confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers. Abolitionist John Brown was active there, and the area is full of historical facts.

Our daughters enjoyed going in and out of the old buildings. We hiked along the river at the foot of the stunning Blue Ridge Mountains. We saw a lot of turtles, too, which earned the area extra points with the girls.

I would love to come back to this area in the fall. I can imagine the beauty of the foliage then. To be honest, it just felt so good to explore a new place again.

The weather was gorgeous and crowds were light the day we were there. We took in a lot of history in Washington, D.C., too, but Harpers Ferry was definitely a highlight of the trip. That John Denver was right.

One state to go! I’m planning to cross off Michigan later this year, which will be two years ahead of schedule for this goal. Stay tuned for that.

The Updated List

Michigan (I have been to airports, but that doesn’t count)

In My House

Six!

Last weekend we celebrated my oldest daughter’s sixth birthday with a My Little Pony celebration at Storybook Island. My mother made the adorable cake, and we had a nice, albeit scorching hot, afternoon with family and friends. It felt good to experience that joy.

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In a year that has had so many downs, my girl has been a light in our lives. She exudes joy and energy. Despite the changes to our school year, she completed kindergarten like a champ, and is excited to dive into first grade.

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Our girl is kind, social, and enthusiastic. She loves her friends, her sister, and science. She finds joy in the little things in life. I hope she never loses that excitement for life.

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In My House

Three!

My youngest daughter turned three a few months ago. What was supposed to be an art class party with friends became a small gathering of family at my parents’ house. It was still a good day celebrating my dear baby, but I held off posting about the day for the reasons I wrote about here.

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Now, as we prepare to celebrate my oldest daughter’s sixth birthday this weekend, I have been reflecting on these important festivities. After a lot of thought, not posting about my youngest’s third birthday seemed wrong. So here are some (very belated) photos and thoughts.

I have posted about each and every one of my daughters’ birthdays. The posts serve as a reminder of how special parenthood is, and how (cliché-alert) quickly those little ones grow. Not only are their birthdays fun for them, but they mark two of the most important days in my life.

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Despite the change in plans, our girl rang in age three in her true purple-loving style. My mom made the adorable Minnie Mouse cake and we dined on pigs in a blanket and fruit salad. We love the baby of our family. She loves purple, watermelon, her blanket, her sister, Minnie Mouse, and Daniel Tiger. She is often serious, sometimes silly, and always set in her ways. Happy belated birthday, dear girl.

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(Photo by Green Owl Media)

 

 

In My House

When It Feels Like We Can’t Celebrate

The last few months have been a dark place for most of us on at least some level. We have struggled with loss, we have watched loved ones experience discrimination, and we have coped with a new level of uncertainty. It has been hard.

So with all of this happening, does that mean we are no longer allowed to celebrate the good? That question has been on my mind as I have held off posting pieces I would normally post on A HOUSE WITH CHARACTER. I refrained from posting about my daughter’s third birthday. I started, then axed a post about a recent camping trip, and I decided not to even go there with a post about fun patio items.

My blog has always been primarily light-hearted. It’s a hobby for me and an escape from my busy job in health care administration, which, let’s face it, hasn’t been all sunshine and rainbows over the past few months. Social media can be a cruel place. When it is all doom and gloom, we can start to feel guilty about posting simple pleasures.

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Call me crazy, but I love reading those posts about the simple pleasures in life. I like seeing people make S’mores with their family on a Friday evening. I want to know people are still whipping up a delicious cocktail to enjoy on the patio. I even want to know if you got a good deal on the perfect summer hat.

This doesn’t mean I don’t care about politics, divisiveness, and all the serious issues impacting our society. I care deeply about others. I want to make a difference in my community, and I want to be a good wife, mother, and friend.

The simple pleasures in life give us the fuel we need to do the hard stuff. So work hard, contribute to your world, and process the fear and uncertainty. Then turn all that off and celebrate a new scented candle, a flower garden in bloom, or a summer night under the stars.

 

In My House

Putting Away the Backpacks

Confession: I have left my daughters’ backpacks on their hooks in our entryway since March 13. That was the day school was abruptly closed throughout our state due to COVID-19. First it was closed for one week, then two, then the remainder of the school year. The presence of the backpacks made life seem somewhat normal, almost as if my five-year-old and three-year-old could return to their school and pre-school classrooms at a moment’s notice.

For many reasons, I just could not bring myself to put away the backpacks. It felt like admitting defeat. I did not want to accept the fact that my daughter would not set foot in her kindergarten classroom again. I would no longer volunteer in that room on Monday afternoons, or pick her up at the end of a day filled with learning and discovery.

Finally, yesterday, I took the backpacks down. My oldest daughter’s kindergarten year ends next week. What would’ve been a pint-size graduation ceremony at the high school theater filled with a lot of hugs, will instead be a Zoom pajama party with stories read by their amazingly dedicated teacher. I am grateful for the supportive adults who have found ways to make something special out of a difficult time.

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(Photo by Alyssa Crawford Photography)

In all honesty, taking down their backpacks, unpacking them, and putting them away in the closet made me sad. I looked at the blue glitter adorning my daughter’s backpack, indicative of her innocence and excitement, and I felt disappointment for her. She has continued to be her happy, enthusiastic self through the changes of the past two months. She has completed her school work with fervor, and has looked forward to the weekly Zoom meetings with her teacher and classmates. Yet she has started to ask more frequently when she gets to see her friends again. She misses going to the grocery store with me and attending church on Sundays.

I am not here to wallow in what feels like the loss of something important, but I do want to acknowledge how many of us are feeling as we close out the school year. College athletes are missing their spring seasons. High school seniors are missing prom and graduation. Kindergarteners won’t get to hug their first teachers good-bye, and every age in-between is missing out on the last day excitement that always fills the air.

We can be a little sad, but we should also be proud. We should be proud of our students for being so brave when their worlds have been turned upside down. We should be proud of parents for taking on roles of educators in ways most of us haven’t before. We should be proud of teachers for adapting to the situation and supporting students and families in an extraordinary way.

In the end, we will be better after all of this. I pray it will be safe for our students to return to their classrooms this fall. When they do, it will be a joyful occasion. Hopefully some good has come out of this challenging time in the form of newfound gratitude for our teachers, our communities, and our health.

As for my soon-to-be first-grader and me, we have started looking online at options for a backpack for next school year, partially in an effort to remain optimistic, and maybe to remind ourselves that this time of isolation will not last forever. Backpacks will once again find a place on the hooks in my entryway. When they do, I will appreciate the sight of them with all my heart.

 

 

 

In My House

What I Hope They Remember

While driving today, I listened to a psychologist on NPR talking about how although we as parents might be stressed right now with all the uncertainty surrounding COVID-19, we would be surprised what our kids will remember from this time. She said the odds are actually quite high that their memories will be good ones. She said one of her teenage clients told her via a Zoom visit that he was enjoying his time at home because his parents had sat down and played board games with him.

Could it be that our kids actually like a little simplicity? For the past month, I have been so focused on the upheaval of our usual routines and the loss of the remainder of my oldest daughter’s kindergarten year that I have struggled to recognize the blessings that have come our way. Yes, I recognize the really big blessings like the health of my family and my continued employment, but I often struggle to recognize and appreciate the simple blessings of day-to-day life.

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(Photo by Alyssa Crawford Photography)

Vacations have been canceled. School is taking place at home. I miss a lot of things. I miss picking my daughters up from school and daycare. I miss taking my oldest to ballet class. I miss lunch dates with friends and making travel plans.

Still my young daughters seem to find excitement in the simple things. When they’re not arguing over which color of cup they want, children are exceptionally good at finding the positive in life. They are able to remind us to make time for joy, even in the face of uncertainty.

So when we look back on this time of social distancing, wearing masks, home-schooling, and oh-so-many Zoom meetings, I hope my daughters remember the good. I hope they remember our nature walks around the neighborhood, breathing fresh Black Hills air and collecting pine cones to make homemade bird-feeders. I hope they remember extra snuggles and movie nights with homemade popcorn and M&Ms.

I hope they remember the countless books we have read together when there’s nowhere to go and nothing much to do. I hope they remember riding bikes in the driveway in the afternoons. I hope they remember laughing at the little chipmunk that likes to hang out in the bushes outside the dining room window.

I hope they remember feeling safe and happy in our home. I hope they remember to keep appreciating the simple things, long after they’re grown. More than anything I hope they remember how much they are and always will be loved.

In My House

Lost, Have, Do

Like almost everyone in the world right now, I feel like 2020 has been a year of loss. I lost my two grandmothers in January and February. I barely had a moment to pick myself off the ground before major changes started happening due to COVID-19. It is difficult to process everything that is happening, and I certainly have almost no answers about anything. Still, I’m sharing what I have been doing to cope. I am mourning what I lost, appreciating what I have, and doing what I can do. I hope that when we are on the other side of all this, we will have a newfound grateful spirit and our priorities better in line.

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Lost…
I think it is important to keep a positive outlook, but I find it impossible to do that without first acknowledging the pain of this ordeal. It’s OK to be scared, angry, and disappointed. Sometimes the losses are super major and painful, like that of a beloved grandparent. Sometimes they’re more on the petty-side like canceled travel plans. Acknowledging the disappointment of the minor losses is important, too. It’s OK that high school seniors are bummed out about missing prom and graduation, and they don’t need older generations diminishing that feeling.

Have…
For many of us, what we do still have has tremendous capability to overshadow the painful part. I have an amazing husband, two wonderful daughters, and a schnauzer who sleeps on my legs every night. I have books and now more time to read them. I work with tremendously smart, brave, and caring people in the health care field. We all still have sunsets, the smell of rain, fresh-brewed coffee (if that’s your thing), and heavy metal music (that’s mine).

Do…
There are few things I feel in control of right now, but I have a short list of positive actions to keep me in the right frame of mind in the coming weeks. They are:

• Send at least two hand-written notes a week.
• Try to laugh every day.
• Spend at least 15 minutes a day reading something positive, funny, or enlightening.
• Remind myself daily that this won’t be forever.
• Find ways to continue regular runs despite the gym being closed and weather being questionable.
• Pray, pray, pray.
• Hydrate.
• Love my husband and daughters with a new-found appreciation.
• Stop all media after 7 p.m. (Advice from one of the aforementioned super smart doctors with whom I work.) Instead of scrolling through CNN right before bed, watch a movie with my husband, read to my children, or even catch up on DVR’d Jeopardy episodes.

In My House

Pantone 2020 Color of the Year: Classic Blue

Pantone’s 2020 Color of the Year is Classic Blue. It is described as “a timeless and enduring blue hue elegant in its simplicity.” I have started gravitating toward blue a bit more than ever before. I recently had my dining room and kitchen painted light blue (more on that later). Here are a few fun favorites.

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1. The pattern of this reversible quilt set makes it a perfect centerpiece of a master bedroom. (Bed Bath & Beyond). 2. These blue pants would really dress up a neutral top.(Loft) 3. Polka dots make this children’s dress so classic and cute. (Primary) 4. This pea coat is the perfect combination of two shades of blue. (Anthropologie) 5. These glasses are so pretty and would make a great gift. (Kate Spade) 6. This accent chair would be a perfect pop of color in an otherwise neutral living room or guest room. (Target)