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.

 

 

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

 

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.

Magical Moments

I am cuddled in the wing chair with my littlest, he is winding down for bed, begging for just one more book.  We are snuggled in, chatting about our day.  He is 2 and he has a lot to say.  I tell him how much I love him, how proud I am of him, I tickle him a little to hear his gravely little laugh.  He reaches up and touches my nose gently.  “Mama?” he whispers.  “Yes, Pistachio?” I coo back at him, in love with him and the tender moment we are sharing.  “Poopy butt,” he whispers – not because he has one, just because he is 2,  those are funny words and he knows how to say them.  I laugh.

Long weekend snuggles.

A photo posted by Cate Simms (@sarkytartlet) on

After a long weekend of fun, activities and probably too much sugar, my oldest is weary.  We have brushed, flossed, chatted, read books, and he has had the 4 million after dinner “snacks” he requires.  (Seriously, the nicer and more complete the dinner, the more they feel the need to gorge late night on the contents of the fridge.) “Tomorrow is a school day,” I say, peeling back the duvet on my bed, to lead him to his.  He groans loudly, overtired and forever complaining about the 20 foot walk from my cozy bed to his.  “Let’s go, Sweetie, it is late,” I say, leading the way.  I’m surprised when I feel his thin arms encircle me from the back.  He hugs me – hip level – and sighs “Mama, I love you.”   And the unexpected, nontraditional hug from my grumbling little guy makes my Mother’s Day the best one yet.

Comparing our eyes.

A photo posted by Cate Simms (@sarkytartlet) on

I’m perpetually exhausted, but oh what fun it is being mom to these amazing people.  It is tiny moments like these that make my heart pop.

One of my favorite views. And the reason we probably need a king sized bed.

A photo posted by Cate Simms (@sarkytartlet) on

You Get What You Need

I want a cup of tea.

Not herbal. The real stuff. With milk and sugar.

And I want someone to make me popovers.

Which I will eat warm with a little butter and cinnamon sugar.

 

I want someone to wash my duvet cover and then put it back on my comforter. Because if we’re honest with each other, that is a four-person job.

 

I want a week to declutter, shuffle and reshuffle, purge (stuff, not vomit – though both usually make you feel better), think about writing something, nap.

 

I want dinner to be done, meals planned. But really, I want to do that stuff myself.

I want a bedside clock for my husband that isn’t the brightest clock on the planet.

I want the socks paired.

Oh the socks.

 

I want not to worry about the four RSVPs, camps, birthday party to plan.

I want to be grateful that I have parties, camps, birthday parties to worry about.

I want new work shoes that I don’t have to break in.

I want to use the hours between 8:30pm and 10:30pm wisely at least once a week.

I want to figure out how on earth to spend more time being and less time doing.

 

I want to cook every day. Walk every day. Sleep more. Pick up less. Read to my kids more. Explore more. Love more. Give more.  Fight more for the things I think are worth fighting for. And sit on a blanket on the grass in the sun.

 

I want to spend more time doing silly and creative things, and less time wondering what could have possibly spilled on the floor to make it that sticky.  I want more time with my kids. I want more time with my husband. I want more time by myself.

I want more time having grown-up conversations. With wine. I want more music in my house. I want less dust. I want my kids to eat less yogurt.

 

I want more dancing in my life.

 

And I want the thank you notes to write themselves.

 

A happy home. ❤️

A photo posted by Cate Simms (@sarkytartlet) on

Things I Love Thursdays

A few of my recent favorites…

1. This post from Like Real Life, one of my favorite mommy blogs (though dangitall, there has to be a less condescending term for a blog that is mostly about parenting and written by a mother).

“It is not all a pleasure, although there are many moments of pleasure. It is not all fun even though there are plenty of fun moments. It’s that all those moments, whether a pleasure or a pain add up to something. It’s an exhausted, messy kind of happiness, like finally crawling up the stairs to bed at night and seeing them sleeping, breathing slowly, their soft little fingers twitching in a dream.”

This speaks to me as a parent, and just as a person.  All our moments add up to something.  They add up to a life.

*******

2. This Side Table. I have no idea why I love this, but I do.  It won’t go with anything in my house, but I don’t think I care.  (There is a good chance I just used my husband’s credit card to order it. It was on sale!  Merry Christmas to me!)

Sterling Lighting Hexagon Frame Side Table image from Houzz (click on photo to go there).

Sterling Lighting Hexagon Frame Side Table image from Houzz (click on photo to go there).

*******

3. These customized library totes for kids by SixpencePress.  Because I am a big dork.  I’m contemplating getting these for my 3 dumplings for Christmas.  We love books.  And we love our library.  They’ll be psyched about getting a personalized tote bag instead of a My Little Pony, or 2.5 foot tall Imaginext Ultra T-Rex, right? Who needs toys when you’ve got totes?!

Little Boy Explorer Library Tote by SixpencePress. Click on image for link.

Little Boy Explorer Library Tote by SixpencePress. (You can choose the hair color you want!)

 

Little Reader Bookworm Library Tote by SixpencePress.

Little Reader Bookworm Library Tote by SixpencePress.

*******

4. My final favorite is this quote by Charlie Chaplin:

You need power only when you want to do something harmful. Otherwise, love is enough to get everything done.

You tell ’em, Charlie.

Image from Charlie Chaplin Official Website

Image from Charlie Chaplin Official Website

 

(As always, links are for your convenience.  None of them are affiliate links.)

A Thousand Words

My children love to play with my iPhone.  This is a normal kid thing, I’m sure.  They mostly like to play games. Pickle likes the build-a-robot game and Plum prefers a game with a loud annoying monkey.  (Which reminds me that I should delete the annoying loud monkey game.) Pistachio likes pushing the button until Siri asks him what he wants.

The other morning Plum was using the camera mode in a Toca Boca game.  She was having so much fun demanding that we “SAY CHEESE!” that I switched the phone over to camera mode and let her have at it.

I adore the results.

The is something so lovely and refreshing seeing the world, her world, through her eyes, and at her level.  Coming soon to a gallery near you…

IMG_4309

Brother Little

IMG_4305

Oatmeal

IMG_4304

Breakfast

(null)

Brother Ghost

IMG_4301

Bowl

IMG_4299

Tablecloth

IMG_4262

Cat Door/Eyes

IMG_4236

Legs

IMG_4227

Gate

IMG_4224

Cat

IMG_4286

Where Toys Go to Die

IMG_4283

Brother II

IMG_4274

Finger Brother

IMG_4270

Dad

IMG_4269

Dad II

 

When Pickle was 3.5 we got him a camera for Christmas, but it was a silly, unwieldy, children’s camera.  I should have sprung for the real thing.  I think this Christmas Plum will get her own.