Five Favorites Link Up: Non-Toy Presents

Today I’m linking up with The Big White Farmhouse for Five Favorites.

Tomorrow is Pippin’s fifth birthday, and I’m also trying to polish off my Christmas shopping before Roo debuts, so I’ve got gifts on my mind. I thought I’d share five gifts I’m excited about giving this year (or the kids receiving from other family) that Are Not Toys.

  • A party. My oldest kid is only five so this is still a pretty early family tradition, but I’ve been moving toward fewer birthday presents and instead doing a low-key birthday party for each kid. That way I feel like I have the latitude to buy outrageously overpriced Octonauts napkins or whatever (which Pippin loves), and they don’t wind up with more stuff — just memories. I guess when they’re older they can opt out of the party for a really cool Lego set or whatever, but we can cross that bridge when we get to it.
  • Wool long underwear. How cruel is this gift? But seriously! Merino is expensive, and it makes a big difference in our ability to get outside in the cold months. This year, this is Scout’s baselayer, which she’ll receive for Christmas.
  • Fancy rain boots/rain jackets. We all know the popularity of galoshes in the preschool set, and a good pair can run in the $20-30 range — not a casual sum in my kids’ wardrobe budget. They also, because of their (over)use don’t usually make it into hand-me-down bins in my circles. But give my girl a pair of cherry red boots or my boy a policeman rain jacket (like my parents are doing for his birthday), and they’re over the moon.

  • Police gear. For Christmas, Pip will receive traffic cones and police bike gear. I hope this will help get us all outside as outlined in the Police Preschool precepts. I guess these are kind of toys? But them living outside and performing a specific activity makes a difference to my mind.
  • Art supplies. Nothing too fancy this year — just an infusion of PlayDoh, but in the past we’ve done glitter glue, Kwik Stix, twistable crayons, watercolors and paint smocks to great (and only semi-destructive) acclaim.

Do you love posts like this, that give you gift ideas that won’t add to the toy pile? They’re a weakness of mine. I particularly liked the suggestions here, although they’re mostly for kids older than mine.

 

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7 Quick Takes: 7 Weeks Into Police Preschool

I’m linking up again with This Ain’t the Lyceum for a 7 Quick Takes to celebrate having finished seven weeks of Police Preschool.

  1. Pleasingly Flopped Field Trips
  • Bees: Pippin mostly just played with our friends’ Duplos and gobbled up their cherry tomatoes. Still a fun evening!
  • Ducks & Doughnuts: It poured rain, but everyone got a doughnut and Scout chased ducks to her heart’s content, so I’m counting this a win.

    • Eggs: Pippin was afraid of the chickens, but Scout loved collecting an egg and was rapturous about eating it next morning.

    • Frogs & Fish: See below.
    • Goats: Unbelievably hot, but both kids relaxed into it a little more. It may have been the influence of the goat owner and her kids, folks I know from the homeschool co-op.

2. Saint Stories. I have a friend with an amazing stash, and she’s been way more helpful than the library, frankly. Every week I add more books to my “Homeschooling Maybes” Amazon list, but because of her, I haven’t had to spend a fortune on supplementary readings — does anyone know a good site for child-accessible stories on the saints, when I can’t find a picture book version?

3. Outside Everyday. I kind of hate this right now, and the kids did at first, too, but are now gaining steam. If we have a playdate for the day, I count that as the outside time, as long as they’re out a bit; if we don’t have a playdate, we just head down to our neighborhood park, and there are usually kids there to recruit onto the police squad. I am not a great all-weather person and the kids definitely resist on rainy days, but especially when they’re really playing happily and I can just sit and watch and maybe read a bit, I know it’s the right thing to do. On the days we miss, I definitely notice it in their behavior.

4. Poetry. Our current favorite is The 20th Century Children’s Poetry Treasury edited by Jack Prelutsky. Pip particularly likes funny ones and riddles, but is occasionally fascinated by more…poetic…poetry, like the selections this collection has on bats. Any recommendations for us?

5. Letters. I have Pippin write a letter to a friend whose name starts with the letter of the week each week, and I love it, and mostly he does, too. “Write” is pretty loose here; he usually signs his name and scrawls the recipient’s. Sometimes he decorates with stickers, usually with police cars. Sometimes the recipient writes back.

6. Rosary Updates. So, he’s kind of hooked at looking at art associated with the day’s mystery on my phone, and it’s kind of disruptive, though it does lead to good conversations about how religious art works, why there are varieties, what medium the artist used, etc. My tentative solution is to cut him off when he turns five next week, and we can just look at the art in a book we have of rosary art, or he can color.

7. Doubling the Fun. So, I know I’ve got it easy right now. Homeschooling baby steps: no newborn (coming soon!), only one child in school, the child only in preschool. I took a friend’s school for Police Preschool recently because Pippin begged me, and it was fun, but utter chaos. Two kids, two months apart, and their skills and interests are so different — Other Kid isn’t writing yet, but pays way more attention during the Rosary and is much more agile on the playground. And everyone had fun on the playground, and going on a walk to look for frogs and fish, but then I lost my keys, and they got to solve a Real Detective Mystery and help me find them as I waddled grumpily along. (#thirdtrimesterhomeschool)

Happy Michaelmas, y’all!

7 Quick Takes: Catholic Minutiae Edition

I’m doing something a bit different this week for Friday and linking up with Kelly at This Ain’t the Lyceum, who I had the pleasure of meeting last Saturday. Also, there’s been virtually no cooking this week because THERE IS STILL NO KITCHEN SINK.

  1. Last weekend I got to attend the Catholic Women Blogger Network conference a couple hours away, which I thoroughly enjoyed even though I have so much trouble remembering the acronym that I spent the day trying not to say it. It was like two-thirds professional conference and one-third retreat, and had a pregnancy-approved number of snacks. Highly recommend.
  2. I’ve been veiling since Ash Wednesday and the best thing, overwhelmingly, is that the Eucharistic minister always has a strong suspicion based on correlation that I’m going to receive on the tongue. So in my awkwardness I somehow get to feel less awkward?
  3. The worst thing is how the veil likes to slither off my head, like all the really cool big Scunchis of the ’90s. Any fellow baby-haired women have tips for making it stay put?
  4. Last weekend we attended the back to school Mass at the college Catholic student union and it was packed to the gills and I could have cried for all these sweet baby college students trying to do the right thing and start their college lives off right. Could have cried, but I was too busy trying to keep the kids from imploding. (What is it about folding chairs that are so tempting for kids in church?!)
  5. Number one piece of advice if you don’t want to hold a wriggling toddler in Mass: Marry the captain of the high school wrestling team. Plan ahead, ladies.
  6. I love our home parish, but a couple weeks ago we attended a different Mass time and there was actually organ and Pip whispered, “Why is there Christmas music?!” So I guess you could say the weekly music isn’t quite to our family’s taste. 
  7. What do you do if one of your kids says he doesn’t like church? When he first lodges a complaint, I calmly acknowledge it, say I didn’t love all the parts of Mass when I was little, talk about how it’s something Jesus asks us to do and we do it because we love him, etc. If he brings it up again on the same day I just don’t acknowledge it and soldier through. Anyone have tips?
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Writer types at the blogging conference, photo credit Rosie Hill

What’s saving your life right now?

Each winter, Anne at Modern Mrs. Darcy puts together a list of What’s Saving My Life Right Now and encourages others to chime in as we slog our way through the dregs of winter. I joined in last year, and here’s my list for 2017, in no particular order:

  • Confession. I’m still not making it as often as I laid out in my 30 After 30, but as I attend more often, I feel like I gain the grace and energy to carry on.
  • Possum Radio. There’s a student radio station here that has recently been knocked off the air for FCC indecency violations, so instead they just play bluegrass all the time, and it’s great. (I am old.) Seriously, though, the bluegrass reminds me of the beauty of this little pocket of the country, even as I drive through landscapes that feel bleak and barren.
  • Bulbs poking up. This happens at least six weeks sooner here in the Shenandoah Valley than back in Western Massachusetts, and always gives me hope.
  • Vitamin D3 gummies. My midwife said they might help with seasonal affective issues, so I gave them a try. They probably don’t do anything but I get to eat midwife-recommended candy by myself in the bathroom first thing in the morning and that helps by itself.
  • Scout saying “thank you” 1472x a day. It’s the best.
  • Pippin books. It’s like I can’t read to him enough, and as this is one of my very favorite aspects of parenting (vs., saying, washing the hair of protesting children or pretending to drive a firetruck), this is a pretty sustaining development when we are quarantined with our third cold of the month.
  • Man in the High Castle. I am kind of at Lost levels of confusion, but J and I are still so drawn in.
  • Other moms. Ooh, my. If I thought I was the only one limping a bit at the moment, things would be so much harder. And knowing I have that fall back help — a quick meeting at the park when the sun appears, switching childcare when the doctor can no longer be avoided — makes all the difference.
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This is when I really need the Mount Holyoke bulb show.

2016 in 12 Pictures

While perusing the heart’s overflow I came across her post on 12 photos for 2016, and while we are well on our way to February, it’s my blog and I’m the boss of me and I wanted to do it anyway. After all, I don’t use this blog for general family/life updates much, so this post can be a glimpse into the big picture for our clan in 2016.

January

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Dear friends got married just after New Year’s and we traveled up to NYC to celebrate with them and Pippin’s godparents. Scout wore a silly bow.

February

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It snowed, both a blizzard in January when I was solo parenting (J was in Florida!!!) and again in February. Scout and I were over it.

March

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We celebrated Easter with friends. Scout was over this, too.

April

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I hesitate to include this shot among all the beauty and cheer — and I have happy pictures from April, of course — but this was a big part of 2016: both Pippin and I learning how to navigate his big feelings. Sometimes that required snacks, and sometimes that required humble apologies, and sometimes that required standing outside the car waiting for him to calm down so we could go home.

May

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My parents and I took the kids to Wakulla Springs, which is and ever has been one of my happy places.

June

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Scout turned one, my childhood best friend made her a beautiful smash cake, and, unlike her brother before her, she deigned to eat cake.

July

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The CURLS in summertime humidity. WHY DO I LOVE THEM SO MUCH?

August

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Like lunatic people, we drove eight hours each way with two small children to spend two nights with J’s brother and sister-in-law when they had a last minute chance to vacation in North Carolina.

September

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This boy. Oh, my heart. One thing I’ve noticed going back through the year’s pictures for this post is how much he grew in 2016. His sister’s developmental leaps were showier, but he turned into a real kid last year.

October 

A JMU student with a nice camera took this photo for us, not me, but it’s my favorite October snapshot. For Halloween, Scout was Little Red Riding Hood and Pippin was “just ketchup.”

November

My little drool monster love bean finally started walking after Halloween, when it really would have clarified her costume.

December

We celebrated Christmas in Tallahassee wishing we’d packed something other than boots.

Snug Places I Love

My parents were visiting this week and I kept telling them that though we’ve lived in this house for about six months now, we haven’t really lived here very long because we were gone five weeks this summer and one this fall, we battled about a half dozen moderately awful illnesses from ear infections to not-flu to worse, and, you know, two mobile, destructive children.

I kept telling them, but mostly I was telling myself. I know I said I wouldn’t rush to “finish” the house, but that’s hard to remember with pictures still unhung even as the dog hair drifts grow lush and bold, creeping out from behind furniture to flaunt themselves. (We call them “dust bonnies.”)

So I appreciated Nell’s recent piece over at Whole Parenting on places in her home she loves. She points out that pregnancy is a particularly difficult time for her when it comes to loving her house, as she notices all its faults without the energy to correct them, and I remember that being the case for me, too, but babyhood and early toddlerhood frankly aren’t much more productive. So I went looking, on a hushed recent afternoon, to find the spots I already love in our work-in-progress home.

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We just moved Scout into Pippin’s room this week, and not everything’s hung and we’re just using the pack-n-play until J can take apart and move the beautiful crib the kids’ Uncle Tom made them. But the room is so sunny and sweet and I love to imagine the kids becoming friends between its fresh white walls.

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I bought this pillowcase on a whim recently from Amazon and I am completely embarrassed by how much I love it, but relieved to learn J is a big fan, too. Why is it so funny? It just is. (Witness all the beautifully illumined dust bonnies in the bottom right of the photo.)

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When my parents visit, they always help me knock out a lot of house projects with their superior knowledge and child-chasing abilities, and one of those things was getting stuff hung in my office. The counters are still a wreck (and thus not pictured) but I’ve loved getting to choose things for the bulletin strip J made me a couple years back.

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And a final shot of some desk stuff, including an engagement photo; a photo of one of my best friends and me when we were in Montreal five children ago; a banner another best friend helped me make for Scout’s first birthday; a picture from my parents’ wedding and a bunch more whimsical but very sentimental junk.

How do you focus on the good spots in your house without feeling crazy frustrated at all you can’t yet tackle?

a #BISsisterhood introduction

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I’m chiming in today with my own answers to the Blessed Is She introductions. I can’t wait to meet you all!

What is your favorite religious text or book?

Heaps! Game changers, at various points in my life: Mere Christianity in high school; Pascal’s Pensees and Lost in the Cosmos: A Last Self-Help Book in college, then Gilead post-grad and Operating Instructions: A Journal of My Son’s First Year as a new mother.

Which virtue do you find yourself working on the most throughout your day?

Fortitude! It’s a challenge pacing myself through a long day with the kiddos and having any time or energy left for my husband, or for making things. It’s so easy to get overwhelmed, and once I am, I get cranky, and yelly.

What keeps you Catholic?

The bigness of the Church. Even as a little girl, often bored in the liturgy, I was enchanted thinking that people all over the world were saying the same words at the same time, and that hundreds of years ago, people whose lives I could scarcely imagine were doing the same.

Do you have a motto / quote / saying you live by?

Right now: “You just have to be kind.” If I mutter it enough times during the day, surely it’ll sink in?