First Day and Everyday

Pickle

First grade starts next week.

First grade for my kind, freckled thinker who is finding his voice, and up at night pondering the merits of inboard motors.

He will be fine.  What choice does he have other than to be fine, to navigate his life on his own, at least a little bit, and figure out the way of the world through the small, significant, triumphs and heartbreaks of childhood.

The skinny-legged boy with the too-big backpack (aren’t they all?) will walk into school and I will drive away.  And get a coffee.  And drive to work.  I will not worry.

I am ready for the big moments.

I am ready for first steps, lost teeth, first days.  I am ready to watch them glide away without training wheels, to sound out books on their own, to tie their shoes.

My tender heart catches when I least expect it.

When the biggest helps the littlest with his shoes.

When the middle uses a big word I haven’t heard her use before.

When the wobbly toddler gait all of a sudden becomes smooth and coordinated.

We may mark the time with first steps and first days.  But it is those tiny changes, the ones we almost don’t see, that add up to people, our people, growing a hair’s width every night.  Our little people whose lives slowly and beautifully start to become their own, separate from us.  One millimeter, one second at a time.

In the cool dark, the clock ticks and they sing our bedtime songs with lyrics of their own.  And then a quiet pause as they drift away into dreams that are theirs alone.

 

 

Things I Love Thursdays – Baby Shower Edition

Baby Showers!  I’m nearing 40 so, alas, my baby shower attendance has dropped off a bit in the last few years. Sadness.  Hopefully I have a few left to attend.  Here is a list of a few of my favorite baby shower gifts to give (and get!).

L.L. Bean Boat and Tote

This is one of my very favorite gifts to give.  They are made in the good ol’ U.S. of A and last forever.  Know baby’s name?  Add a monogram!  Or perhaps add just the last initial.  I have a large collection of these bags and use them for everything.  They have served as diaper bags, luggage, and grocery bags.  I use them daily.  My favorite is the large tote with long handles (to go over shoulders when arms are full of baby and baby things).  I do have a zippered version, which works well for travel.

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Nightlights

I always get an inexpensive pack of nightlights for new moms and dads.  These are really helpful when you are groggily nursing at 4am, and they are usually an afterthought.  Middle of the night diaper changes are jarring enough, low light makes it a little easier.

Nightlights

 

Books

Now that my littlest is in size 3T (sniff!) I am certainly drawn towards those adorable tiny clothes.  But new parents get lots of clothes at showers, so I usually try to give them something else – books.  Also, I am a nerd.  I pretty much think books are the coolest.  I usually try to give a small collection of the titles that were kid tested and kid approved at my house.  So many are available inexpensively on Amazon.  And many come in a variety of formats – board books for younger children, hard cover for keepsakes, and soft cover for when they are a little older.

Engine

 

Zoo

 

words

 

jack

 

bear

 

Clothes

Yes, I know I said I tend to avoid giving clothes, but I love these Hanna Andersson sleepers so much I sometimes just have to gift them.  They are a bit pricey, but the quality is always excellent, and the cotton really is the softest.  We own a lot of Hanna Andersson at my house and not one piece has ever worn out – even items that have been handed down three times.  So pick up one of these adorable sleepers in a gender neutral pattern, and know that it will last through kid after kid after kid and wash after wash after wash.  I like the footed ones for babies, and the footless ones for toddlers.

Sleeper 1

 

village

 

After the shower…

Anything personalized makes a great new baby gift.  Sweet gifts include personalized blankets, birthday blocks, and framed birth info (check Etsy for tons of choices).  And of course, gift certificates to local restaurants are great, too.  With a new baby, sometimes take out is a life saver!

Chamois Stroller Blankets from Pottery Barn are lovely, useful and not too expensive.

Chamois Stroller Blankets from Pottery Barn are lovely, useful and not too expensive.

 

Keepsake Birth Blocks by Smiling Tree Toys

Keepsake Birth Blocks by Smiling Tree Toys

 

As always, no affiliate links.  I have linked these items for your convenience. 

 

Things I Love Thursdays

A few happy Things I Love on this first Thursday of August…

Pengoloo

Penguins

 

A game I never mind playing!  Pengoloo is a memory game made of hysterical little penguins and their colored eggs.  The game is easy to understand, fun, and fast!  It is loved by all three of my kids.  And we’ve given it as a birthday present in the past and it has been well-received. Only negative? The eggs are a choking hazard so stick to playing with kids who are 3+.

Pumpkin Muffins (recipe adapted from Smitten Kitchen)

I do admit that I am usually anti pumpkin food stuffs.  And it isn’t fall.  But these are easy (one bowl!) and tasty.  My kids adore them (because, really, like most muffins, they are basically cake).  Smitten Kitchen is brilliant – I’ve loved every recipe I’ve tried (except the gingerbread, but I think that was more about me and less about the recipe, but I digress…)

Make these muffins.  I cut the sugar down to 1 cup, and eyeball the pumpkin amount.  I also eyeball the spices.  And the muffins are always great.  The recipe is really forgiving. I’m going to try making them with a 50/50 white/whole wheat flour mix in the next few days.  I bet they’ll still be great. Added bonus? These keep beautifully for a few days, unlike some muffins with fruit in them that get soggy on day 2.

Ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 1/3 cup canned pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling)
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice (I usually just use cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger)
  • cinnamon sugar

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 325 and put muffin tins in a 12-muffin pan.
  2. Whisk together the first 4 ingredients.
  3. Add all remaining ingredients except the cinnamon sugar and whisk ingredients together.
  4. Fill muffin cups 3/4 of the way full.
  5. Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar.
  6. Bake for 25-30 minutes (mine are always done at 25).

Enjoy these August days – eat as much ice cream as possible and run in those sprinklers – it’ll be back to school soon enough!

Leisure Time

Once a year my husband heads to Maine on a Friday morning with all three kids. This means that when I get home from work on Friday night, I get the house all to myself for a glorious 12-14 hours.  Sure, I’ll be sleeping for 7-8 of those hours but the other 5 or 6 hours?  I can do whatever I want!  And those sleeping hours?  They will be uninterrupted! (Except maybe by the confused cat, wondering where the rest of her noisy family is.) And the waking hours?  No one asking for anything (except maybe the hungry cat)! No one needing dressing, changing, wiping, feeding or any of my attention!  OH HAPPY DAY!

She loves Prime.

A photo posted by Cate Simms (@sarkytartlet) on

 

My mind spins with all of the possibilities!  I will make a plan!

THE PLAN:

I will…

… go to Target on the way home, or maybe Whole Foods, or maybe Trader Joe’s!  I never go to Trader Joe’s! I will get their margarita mix!  And some onion bhajis!  And croissants! And flowers!  And mango babka!

Image from Trader Joe's. Click on photo to go there!

Image from Trader Joe’s. Click on photo to go there!

… swing by Starbucks for an iced tea! That I won’t have to share!

… stop by my regular grocery store to pick up some items on my list! And wander slowly through the aisles, contentedly humming along to the piped-in grocery store music! And I won’t buy goldfish! Or yogurt in a tube!

… go home, preheat the oven and make this chocolate cake! While listening to 80’s hits and dancing around the kitchen!

Smitten Kitchen's Everyday Chocolate Cake. This is her photo - isn't it gorgeous?! Click on the link to visit her site - it is one of the very best!

Smitten Kitchen’s Everyday Chocolate Cake. This is her photo – isn’t it gorgeous?! Click on the link to visit her site – it is one of the very best!

… clear some toys from the toy room while the cake is baking!  Finally get around to moving the toys we are keeping into the newly-finished basement!  Prep some toys for donation! Good deeds! Tax write-offs! Less legos to step on!

… clear some of the 5,000 photos (I’m not joking) off of my phone!  Back everything up to the Cloud, my laptop, and my external drive!  Add photos to my family photo share site!

… figure out my Amazon Fire TV stick!

… unpack my suitcase from my Midwest trip! Do a load of cold delicates that is just mine!

… go out and get a steak or something decadent, and sit alone, sipping a cocktail (or two!) and reading!  No picking up pieces of cold, slimy mac & cheese off of the floor when I’m done! No rushing through dinner! No asking for the check when I order the entree!

Yes, please.

Yes, please.

… put on my PJs and watch a movie of my choosing, with an R rating, from the seat of my choosing, on my own couch! While eating cake!

… sleep a glorious 8 hours! Wake slowly! Drink an entire cup of coffee while it it still hot! Take a walk then a long shower using all the hot water I want! Eat a piece of chocolate cake for breakfast! No need to set a good example!

… swing by the farmer’s market for raspberries! And tomatoes! And veggies! And anything else that strikes my fancy!

… pack my bag for the journey up to Maine! Listen to podcasts on the way! Stop at my favorite outlet in Kittery! Make it up to see the kids at lunch, feeling fulfilled and refreshed!

THE REALITY:

I will go home, put on my PJs, and order Thai take out.

I will then realize I have to get dressed to get the Thai food, throw on a sweatshirt (in July), and hope I don’t run into anyone I know who is out and being social and fun on a Friday night.

On the way out, I will realize we are out of cat food but skip the grocery store, lest I run into one of those social, fun, productive acquaintances. This means I will have to listen to the cat loudly lament the terribleness that is dry food (disgusting death nuggets, stupid human!) for the rest of the evening.

I will half watch The Great British Bake Off (go Ian!) while playing Plants v. Zombies until my eyelids droop at 9pm.

I will wake up to pee twice, and to a meowing cat three times.  And I will wake up three more times for no good reason, other than that I’m really used to sleeping next to my husband.

I will leave early to go to Maine, because I’m inexplicably up at 5:30am and have no coffee or half and half in the house, because I anti-socially skipped the grocery store.

And I’ll drive straight through, because I should.  And because Maine is awesome.  And so are my kids and my husband.

And lobster.

First Mate #nofilter

A photo posted by Cate Simms (@sarkytartlet) on

 

Things I Love Thursdays

July is very nearly here!  Summers really do fly.  And even though our routine is pretty much the same – I still work full time and my kids are in camp/school/daycare – somehow summer feels more magical than it ever has before. I love it.

A few favorites I’m getting around to sharing.  This time I’m sharing some of my clothing favs.

Alice + Ames

These dresses are just my favorite.  They do cost more than I’d usually spend but they are well made, the colors/patterns are beautiful, and the fabric has just enough stretch so that the dresses are super comfortable (according to Plum, at least).  The best part? THE TWIRL!

Twirl girl.

A photo posted by Cate Simms (@sarkytartlet) on

 

Note: the selection online is currently pretty limited – I believe they are due to restock soon.  In the meantime, I’ve been eyeing this mustard dot Sunday dress…

mustarddot1

 

Keen “Bug Shoes”

Pistachio (almost 2 1/2) needed a second pair of closed-toed sneakers to wear at school so I got him some funky Keens with bugs on them.  He adores them! They have held up beautifully and they’re really cute, though they do look slightly clownish with their big green toes.  The only negative is that the tongues are thin canvas and need wrangling every time we put them on.

8634_magnet_bugs_3q

 

Mini Boden Dinosaurs

A while back Mini Boden launched a line of clothes for girls that feature dinosaurs.  They are adorable – and I’m so happy when I can get Plum something that doesn’t feature a kitten, some sort of food product (so much ice cream and candy on girls’ clothes!) or Elsa.  She has the shirt, but I may look around and see if I can find a dress on sale somewhere (supplies at the Boden website seem limited).  RAWR!

16GSPR_31966_GRY 16GSPR_33415_DIN

 

In other happy TILT news, the strawberry Vans I got for Plum a few months ago have become her favorite pair of shoes.  Though I need to give them some TLC since they are now brown.  I’m considering replacing them, or perhaps getting her a new pair in rose gold leather.  Because 1. leather doesn’t get quite as dirty, and 2. every gal should own at least one pair of gold shoes.

vans

3423577-p-MULTIVIEW

Happy 4th to all!

 

(PS – As always, links aren’t affiliate, they’re just there for your convenience.)

Mother’s Little Helpers

Though I do make an effort not to over complicate or over schedule our lives, life can still be pretty hectic sometimes.  There’s just a lot to remember and a lot to do to manage a household, parent, work, make it all work.  I’m certainly not the most organized, or the most motivated. Example: yesterday I ate some Oreo Thins and took a nap instead of prepping meals for the week and organizing the toy room (a task that desperately needs to be done – we’re drowning in Matchbox cars and Duplo blocks!).  But I have found some tools and things that help me get stuff done, so I thought I’d share them.

 

Stuff that makes my life easier/more fun/less complicated…

I’ll start with the most obvious: my husband.  He’s amazing.  I’m also very lucky to have supportive family nearby and a kind and moderately flexible employer.  I am so grateful for all of these.

My crew on the move.

A photo posted by Cate Simms (@sarkytartlet) on

 

A shared calendar: My husband and I use a shared Google calendar.  We use an app called Tiny Calendar on our phones to access it there, too.  I could just use Google Calendar, but it didn’t work on our phones when we needed it 4 years ago, so we ended up with Tiny Calendar.  So I stuck with it.  I like it.  Admission: our calendar is color-coded, but only a little bit.

tc

A housekeeper:  For the cost of dinner out for 2 (with an adult beverage or two), I can get my house cleaned beautifully.  We hem and haw over this luxury.  Because it IS a luxury.  And it is not something we do all of the time. But it makes a huge difference in my stress level.  I love having my entire house clean at one time.  Someone once told me that when it comes to house upkeep and maintenance, you can pay with your time or you can pay with your money.  At this point in my life, though I am certainly capable and willing to clean my house (and I do!), my time is precious.  I’d rather spend three hours on Sunday with my children picking strawberries, or playing at the park.  So we occasionally pay to have the house cleaned by a professional.  I never feel like it is money wasted.

16989150

Grocery list app:  There are several out there, but we use AnyList.  Mostly we use it for groceries (duh), since we share the shopping and cooking duties but you can make all sorts of lists.  Each week, my husband and I add items to the list from our phones and when one of us shops, we can use the list and cross things off with a touch.  We have a list of favorites that are easy to add to the weekly list, and updates are pretty much made in real time. Often I’m adding things to the list while he’s on the way to the store.  Very handy.  We also share a more general “to do” list using this app.  Very helpful when things get busy, or when we’ve got to pack to go away.

alist

Shutterfly app: This is a little glitch-y and imperfect in my experience but for the most part is a good way to make sure that the photos I take with my phone actually end up somewhere other than just on my phone.  The app is on my phone and my husband’s, and photos get uploaded to one account, so everything is in the same place.

sfly

Chatbooks: I really love this app.  It links to my Instagram account.  Once I’ve reached 60 new photos, Chatbooks prints them into lovely 6×6 inch books ($8 and free shipping!). My favorite part is that you can set up subscriptions – so the lovely little books ship out automatically to grandparents and special people in your life. There is NO extra work on my behalf.   Win!  I also love that the books are customizable – the photo of my kids painting the walls of the shower au naturale isn’t really Instagram-appropriate, but it IS adorable, and I can add it to my Chatbook before my book goes to print.  I order the slightly more expensive hard cover edition as a keepsake for myself, and let my kids enjoy the soft cover ones.  Use my code to get your first book free: CYKKMXVK.

cbooks

Amazon Subscribe & Save: This is useful with small kids and saves on trips to Target (which always cost at least $75 more than planned).  I set up to send diapers and wipes on a monthly basis and there are some other household goods we get less frequently.  It is a time saver for me.  Prices typically end up being comparable to my local Sam’s Club.  I suspect I’d love the Dash Button too, but I’m reluctant to commit. Plus, I’m a little concerned that my kids would find the buttons and we’d end up with 45 packages of paper towels.

subs

 

Stuff I’m working on…

Who has advice on the best way to deal with all of their iPhone videos?  I do back up to the Cloud, my computer and an external drive, but I’d love to put them in a format for my family to enjoy. Advice?

I’m going to try to devise a way to keep in better touch with people who are important to me beyond Facebook.  I’ll let you know how I do!

 

PS – No affiliate links, they are just provided for your convenience.

Just a Tiny Bit Magic

He thumps quickly into the bedroom, breathless and scared.

“Mom, I had a scary dream,” he says, voice shaky.

“Oh honey, I’m sorry.  What was your dream about?”

“There was a bad man with white eyes who made me go to jail,” he says, crawling up into my bed and into my arms.

“That sounds very scary.  But you’re safe.  No one is going to take you to jail. You’re safe,” I repeat.

He sighs, his body relaxes, but his heart still pounds.  We snuggle in the pre-dawn light. I can just hear the birds starting to sing.  After a quiet few moments I ask, “Are you ready to go back in your bed?”  He nods.

“Will you carry me?” he asks, voice low.  It is a rare request.

“Of course,” I say as I pick him up and he wraps his thin, strong, spidery limbs around me.

I place him in bed, pull the covers over him, kiss his head and return to my bed.

Three minutes later I hear his footsteps again.

“Mom, I can’t get the pictures out of my head, can you erase them?”

I nod.

He climbs into my bed, and I reach up to rub the back of his head.  I brush his hair from his eyes, and massage his scalp, mumbling as I go, “Yes… got it… right there… this should work.”  This is the nightmare erasing ritual I created a few years ago, based on an improvisational parenting moment (aren’t they all?), based on an idea I had given my little sister post-nightmare, 25 years ago.  It is perhaps a bit dishonest, in the same vein as kissing away the hurt.  But it is a version of the mother/child pact that has probably existed as long as there have been mothers and children.  Moms make things better.

Someday, he will understand that I don’t have the power to erase anything.  That I can’t really fix very much, that I’m not even “just a tiny bit magic” like he thinks I am now.  He will realize that the world can be big, and mean and complicated.  Perhaps he’s started to figure this out already.

But tonight, in the dark, I am his mom, and I have the ability to fix it.  I can heal, I can help, I can calm.  And I can make the bad dreams go away.  I do not take that loving trust lightly.

“That’s better,” he whispers.  And this time, we hold hands as I walk him back to his room and warm bed.

Comparing our eyes.

A photo posted by Cate Simms (@sarkytartlet) on