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)

In My House

2020: Make Time

Happy 2020, everyone.

Was anyone else as excited as I was to take down the Christmas decorations and get back into normal living?

Every year despite my best intentions to maintain some sense of routine, healthy living, and normalcy during the holidays, I’m left feeling I have fallen short in that field. I even Google-searched “self-care during the holidays” a few times during this past December.

Don’t get me wrong, we had a wonderful holiday season with family and friends, but there’s something about routine and the fresh start of a new year that calms my soul.

So this year I’m not making resolutions, but I am committing to getting back into the routine of regular exercise, self-care, and saying no to the things that don’t matter in order to make time for the things that really do.

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Time to rest: For me, this means getting good sleep (at least most nights) and taking a break to read for at least a few minutes every day. On especially busy and stressful days at work, it also means prying myself away from my office to go for a quick walk and decompress.

Time to just be: It’s safe to say that most of us feel over-scheduled at many times in our lives. Instead of taking pride in being the busiest, we need to allow ourselves and others to say no to requests once in a while without the inevitable guilt-trip.

Time to volunteer: This might be a bit in contrast to that last one, but I still think volunteering and community involvement are hugely important. The key is prioritizing and not saying yes to every single opportunity.

Time for self-care: Many of us are guilty of letting our own health and happiness fall by the wayside in favor of caring for others. It’s difficult to prioritize self-care, but how can we care for others if we aren’t properly caring for ourselves? For me, this means regular exercise, spiritual connection, and an occasional mani/pedi.

Time to hydrate: This is kind of a strange one, but although most Americans have easy access to healthy drinking water, many of us go through life dehydrated. I am leaving my refillable water bottle on my desk at work as a reminder to keep downing the water.

Time to play: What is life without a little fun now and then? Whether it is going to a water park with my daughters, a date night with my husband, or even just taking a moment to play tea party with the fam, laughing and being silly is good for the soul.

How will you make time for what is important in 2020?

In My House

Mama, Let’s Look at the Tree Together

Lately in the evenings my two-year-old daughter has a request around bedtime: “Mama, let’s look at the Christmas tree together.” So almost every night we spend a few minutes, just the two of us, in a room lit by only sparkling white lights while we admire the variety of ornaments.

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She giggles as I throw out names and descriptions of the ornaments, asking her to locate them on the tree. “Where’s Buzz Lightyear?”

I point to a ceramic baby carriage with “2017” engraved on it and she knows it is hers from when she was “tiny.” (She still is tiny.)

I smile as she recognizes and kisses an ornament that features a photo of my beloved late grandfather who she never knew, but would absolutely have adored her.

It’s no secret that Christmas time has a tendency to exhaust me. I do not think I am alone in that. Although I love the meaning of Christmas, traditions old and new, and the time with loved ones, I also thrive on minimalism, organization, and routine, none of which the holiday season seems to feature in abundance. These simple moments like enjoying the beauty of the tree through the eyes of a young child, are the moments that matter most.

In My House

Gifts That Give Back

In this season of giving, what can be better than a gift that, when purchased, also provides a charitable donation? Here are six gifts that give back. Happy shopping.

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1. Toms are a favorite of mine because they’re cute and comfy, but the company also provides a pair of shoes to a child in need for each pair of shoes purchased. The company does a variety of other charitable work as well. (Toms) 2. These adorable animals are a bit pricey, but every purchase helps battle childhood hunger. Each animal has a name, birthday, and favorite quote. (Cuddle + Kind) 3. These colorful stackable bracelets make a great gift and benefit a variety of great causes. (Pura Vida) 4. Kohl’s Cares stuffed animals each come with a book and purchases benefit the local community. The price point is usually between $5 and $10, making them a great inexpensive gift. (Kohl’s) 5. Each bottle of One Hope wine purchased benefits a different charity. (One Hope Wines) 6. A portion of the purchase of these celebrity-designed spatulas goes to St. Jude Children’s Hospital and No Kid Hungry. I have purchased a few of these. They are sturdy and can withstand high heat. (Williams-Sonoma)