Experiment

This week marks the second anniversary of starting this blog.  There have been 105 posts so far and in that time, my babies have continued to grow and change.  I, too, have continued to grow and change.  When I started this blog I wasn’t sure why I even started it, except to try something outside my comfort zone.  Something that would push me to think about things a little differently – to create a personal rhythm to my week.  Something to create structure where there was none, except that which relates to the growing of children. This blog was an experiment.  It pushed me to try to answer these questions:

“Is there anything that I am doing this week that inspires me?”  

“What am I thinking about now that will be difficult to remember later?”  

“What can we do to keep exploring?””

There have been weeks when all our family could manage was to stick to the routine and get by.  But then there were the weeks when I found a little extra creative energy to photograph a food dish that I was preparing for my family and wanted to share with you.  There have been the weeks where it felt extremely important to mark the changes or joys happening that very minute.  Or, those weeks that I thought about a project I was curious about and actually did it.  Probably the most satisfying element of the blog has been when it has re-connected me to people in my community.  Over the last few years the blog has held me accountable to my creative self and I have loved that.

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Holding a Memory
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Artichoke Spinach Lasagna
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Serious Kale
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Giant Floor Pillows
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Homemade Cocktail Bitter

 

Gus and I just took our first trip away from the babes.  This felt big.  This felt huge.  It required so much planning and as we were leaving I wondered if the trip was actually worth all the work.  I was worried about what kind of disaster would occur while we were gone.  And I couldn’t stop thinking about the kids for the first few days… but eventually we relaxed.  The grandparents that stepped in for us did so with gusto and everyone did so well.  The whole thing was such a great experience and we are so thankful for the support.  We had such a good time remembering that this whole party started with just the two of us ten years ago.

Lately, I have found my attention drifting towards a new creative project.  I haven’t been posting here as frequently and I have been wondering whether the blog’s useful life is over.  In some ways, it has served its purpose.  It helped to re-awaken a curiosity in me and learn the value of taking time for myself to try things.  This blog was started to track my progress on the path to reacquaint myself with who I am as an individual and who I want to be in the next chapter.  Our trip reminded me that I have a bit more work to do on this path of discovery and separation.

In the future, it is likely that my passion projects will be shown on a different space entirely, so stay tuned for that; but whether it is on this blog or somewhere else, I am committed to continuing this work of experimenting, exploring and discovering.  I hope you’re with me!

Through a Different Lens

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This past week was Spring Break for our crew and we were lucky enough to have some fantastic family time with my teenage nieces.  My kids think that these ladies walk on water and as a mom, I feel so lucky that they still want to spend time with us!

While together, I spent a lot of time thinking about what it is like being a teenager these days and what advice I would give my “sixteen-year-old self”.  My children are about a decade away from these would-be lessons, but my nieces are living through these complicated years right now.  They are growing up to be strong, intelligent women and I feel so very proud of them.  Still, being their aunt, versus their parent, makes me think that if I share a few things I’ve learned along the way, maybe they will tuck these thoughts into a pocket for a day when they need them.

It will all work out.  I don’t mean that life will play out the way you think it will. Let me tell you here and now that it won’t.  But that’s actually probably for the best. Life will continue to roll on regardless of what college you choose, whether you attend the dance, or make the game-winning shot.  What feels like your entire world today, will be a line in your heart’s memory book. These current dramas will fade as time goes on and tomorrow’s math test (or whatever is causing you stress or pain) will ease with time.  I promise you this.

Be Brave.  Being young is wonderful and also really difficult (and pssst… this is true for almost everyone).  When I think back to how much time I spent worrying about what people thought of me and whether I was good enough in high school, I feel exhausted.  Start trying to find your own voice today and trust that it is good enough.  Fitting in isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.  Be yourself and learn to love that person.  Being who you are can mean feeling different, but as they say, different can be extraordinary.

Be kind.  There is just no reason not to be.  This lifelong skill is one that pays back tenfold.  There were high school friends of mine that understood how to be nice to everyone and not get sucked into the drama.  Although I cannot claim to have known this important lesson at the time, those are the people that I think had it all figured out.  I am really happy to say that I am still close to a few of my high school friends and know that these friendships are different than others in my life.  Long-time friendships are like sibling relationships – even though your paths do not always take you in the same direction, these are people who know who you are and where you come from.  And there are times when this is important.

There is no perfect.  There is no easy.  We live in the age of Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook and it is difficult to remember that what people post to these sites is not the whole picture.  When I was young I was striving for the fairy tale.  But truly, there is beauty in simply surviving and getting through difficult times.  Later you will look back (like I am doing now, as cheesy as it is) and realize that those really, really tough moments were actually the times when you were growing into the person that you are now (or will become).  Also, remember that what goes on the internet, stays on the internet and not everyone needs to know every detail of your life.

You are loved.  You are loved.  You are loved.  Rebellion is a necessary step of gaining independence and separating from the family.  It feels uncomfortable, but it is so very normal.  No one expects you to follow all the rules, but try not to break them all.  That might just drive your parents legitimately insane.  Despite all this discomfort, trust that there is still love.  In a few years, it might even be possible to see your parents as human beings once again.

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For some reason this post feels important for me to write, because right now I feel like I can remember some aspects of what it felt like to be a teenager.  I don’t know if this will always be the case, especially when I have teenagers of my own.  But I want these kids to know that there is so much on the other side.  I am watching, from a distance, how they are navigating the choices that are in front of them and, wow, it feels overwhelming.

What would you tell your teenage self?  Is there a piece of advice you wish you had known then?  Please share – we all benefit from looking at this awkward and wonderful time of life through a different lens…

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Progress

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We are in transition over here at the Poole House…

You may have noticed that the posts are slow in coming since the new year and I must admit to being a little overwhelmed.  You see, we’re living among the mortals again, without household help.  Our amazing, wonderful, splendiferous nanny has moved on to greener pastures and is in the process of becoming a teacher.  We couldn’t be happier for her (and her future students)… but… life is different now.  Although Andrea worked for us part-time (read Love Note to Our Nanny), she made life with three kids and creative ambitions feel possible.  Aside from my husband and children, Andrea has been my absolute favorite person for the last two years.  I even brought her flowers a few times to express my affection and gratitude.  Amazingly, what started out as a short-term commitment turned into a symbiotic relationship that went on much longer than expected and blossomed into a lovely relationship.  We all miss her.

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Households are an intriguing thing.  Although we all universally cook, clean, do laundry, and play, we do it in infinitely different ways.  I don’t know how often it happens that one shares the intimate details of life inside the home with others.  Even close friends of mine don’t know how often I mop (rarely) or which direction I prefer my silverware to go in the dishwasher (up).  Do yours?  By inviting another adult into our home, I was able to share our best practices with someone and learn better ones.  As I reflect on the last two years and what it was like incorporating a stranger into our home, I realize that I have learned some important life lessons:

  1. Our nanny is one of the hardest-working people I have ever met.  Life will be good to her, for the express reason that she understands that good things take work and discipline.  She reminded me that it is important to simply put one foot in front of the other and do the work.
  2. Sometimes good enough is just that… good enough.  Personally, I can get a little mired down in the details, obsessed with getting something perfect.  That trait doesn’t work particularly well when running a busy house.  Keep on moving…
  3. Finish what you start.  Something I watched Andrea do is start and finish tasks.  With three children it is easy to get distracted (read: all the time).  This means that many projects are started and left half-done, leaving the house a disaster and me completely overwhelmed.  By trying to finish what I start (putting away laundry, chopping an apple, or making lunch), the house stays ordered and I stay focused.
  4. It was wonderful to have someone here to remind me to take a quick break for myself.  Sometimes I can forget this fact and become overwhelmed by all there is to do.  I need to remember this more than anything else.  A quick walk or run always helps regain my sanity.  A day at the spa may not be realistic right now, but taking just 20 minutes to clear my mind always makes me feel better.
  5. Be Brave.  Do the thing that scares you (for example: starting a new career, teaching yourself to sew or simply asking someone for help) and trust that things will work out as they need to.  I don’t think I would have been nearly as brave over the last couple years with all my crazy ideas and projects if I hadn’t had Andrea as a cheerleader behind the scenes.  Remember to be your own cheerleader.

Sometimes it can be difficult to spot when progress has been made in life.  The reason for this is progress usually happens slowly – in inches, versus leaps or miles.  As I look at where we were two years ago when Andrea joined us (overwhelmed with a new baby and two busy preschoolers, not knowing which direction was up) and where we are now (three busy kids, but able to breathe), I see all sorts of differences.  Before, we were barely sleeping and there were days when I felt all I was doing was holding our little baby and nursing.  Now, I have two kids in school most days and we sleep through the night (some of the time).  Before, the kids needed help with every little task.  Now, I have a son in kindergarten that can tie his own shoes (sometimes).  Before, we were late everywhere we went.  Now, our schedule feels more like a normal routine and we arrive to places generally on time.  Believe it or not, this is progress.

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I believe that it is the human condition to always want more, to barely notice when progress has been made.  But it is important to congratulate ourselves on small victories as they happen.  We made the choice to have a nanny during a terribly chaotic time in our family.  We were lucky enough to find a wonderful person to assist us.  We have emerged from that crazy time, and we are whole.  I can’t think of a better investment in our life than that.  We are now moving into a different kind of crazy and that will require some practice.  As I said, we are in transition.  It feels like we are in new territory with too much too do and not enough hands to do it.  And right now, this transition feels like two steps backward… but, my hope is that eventually all this practice will look like progress.

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(images of inspiration courtesy of Pinterest)

Redefining Tradition

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It is Christmas Eve and I am struck by the realization that the feelings I have today are not what I imagined they would be.  As I mentioned last year in A Holiday Pledge, sometimes the fantasy of the holiday season can be very different from reality.  When I was a teenager I imagined Christmas with my future-family, joyfully creating our own traditions.  But truly, I envisioned reviving all the traditions I had loved as a child when the holiday was still filled with magic and mystery.  This fantasy didn’t take into account that I would (hopefully) one day have a husband with his own ideas of what holiday tradition means.  It also didn’t take into account little people and their changing whims.  There are certain traditions I adhere to because they are important to me – santa photos and the nutcracker ballet, for example  But I picture my children when they are older, thinking back to their favorite traditions and I realize how little control I have over this.  They will love elements of their remembered holidays and most likely the things they remember will have little to do with the holiday we tried to “put on.”

My grandmother hosted Christmas Eve dinner every year of my youth.  It was always a beautiful, formal evening that I believe we looked forward to as children.  It was filled with delicacies like yorkshire pudding and homemade fudge.  Before dinner, my sister and I poured over every gift under her tree, quietly calculating how many presents were for each person.  I remember that we couldn’t wait for the formal meal to be over, so that we could move onto presents.  Dinner always took way too long for our tastes and we would become squirmy and anxious.  We couldn’t wait to unwrap my grandmother’s carefully selected and wrapped gifts.  This event signaled the beginning of Christmas and my sister and I adored it.  Since my grandmother’s death a few years ago, my husband and I have tried on new traditions such as dinner parties and caroling with friends, to varying degrees of success.  This year, we’re going to take the kids to church.  Every year feels like an experiment, a little of this, a little of that, all in hopes of creating a new magic combination.

Part of my realization today has to do with the fact that my experience as a child, must have been different from my parent’s or grandparent’s experiences.  I wonder now if my mom felt stress during those dinners, praying that her kids would behave?  I wonder, amidst our glee, opening our presents, if we ever thought to say thank you?  I wonder if my grandmother was too exhausted to enjoy herself after preparing such an extravagant meal, or if she was just happy to have her family around her table.

Today I had a plan that the kids and I would go to Swanson’s Nursery for their reindeer festival, a tradition that we have enjoyed in years past.  We hadn’t fit this event into our December yet and today is obviously the last day to go.  But, it turns out that the kids would much rather stay in their pajamas and watch the Cat in the Hat Christmas special.  This year, on this day, I have decided not to fight it.  I don’t want my children’s memory of  holiday traditions to be of their mom fighting them to go to one more holiday event.  I wonder what they will remember?  Will it be the events we attended year after year?  Will it be watching cartoons in their pjs?  Will it be that year we went to church?  Will it be making gingerbread houses or eating them?

My mind wanders to how the future will unfold and what will become important and lasting to them.  This all feels like it is out in front of us, still something to be defined and refined.  Truly, it is probably happening before our eyes.

To me, I guess the most important tradition is that we are together.

From our family to yours, Merry Christmas!

Helping Hands

“Brown paper packages, tied up with string, these are a few of my favorite things.”

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I don’t know about you, but much of my holiday preparations (and life preparations) happen after the kids go to bed.  It is a proven fact that our mornings go more smoothly if lunches are packed and ready in the fridge and if clothes are laid out the night before.  Similarly, my process for getting ready for the holidays often happens after the littles are tucked snug in their beds.  I shop online and wrap presents while watching shows with my husband at night.  There is a part of me that loves doing things this way.  It save me the hassle of wrangling kids in stores.  It keeps me from getting worked up, as these things definitely take longer to complete with kids helping.  I also really love wrapping presents and making our gifts look beautiful.  There is beauty in Christmas magically appearing in all it’s glory on Christmas morning, but unfortunately my kids have been missing out on learning about the magic of giving.  Which truly is just as magical as Santa and the reindeer.

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Christmas is all about giving.  That can get forgotten in the haze of lists and sales and parties and shopping.  But if we stop for a minute and think about the joy we feel inside when we have truly given of ourselves and see someone else’s pleasure, that’s what it’s all about, right?  In an effort to streamline my life, sometimes my kids miss out on seeing the beauty of all these preparations – the love that goes into giving to others and spending time and energy selecting or crafting something special.

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I spent some time this weekend with our oldest two kiddos learning to wrap gifts together.  One was responsible for folding and the other was in charge of tape.  Sam likened it to origami and paper airplanes, which of course it is a close cousin.  It was fascinating to see how they were really excited to help and be part of the preparations.  I remember learning to wrap gifts from my mom and dad.  I have always loved the process of it.  I remember feeling respected and cherished during those package wrapping lessons.  By about ten years of age, I think I became the official package wrapper of our family.  And although I’m sure I went through loads of paper and tape, I loved the feeling of having such an important job.  I felt so connected watching the recipient open those lovingly wrapped presents.  In my rush to be efficient I forgot this… until now.

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Bean Boots and the Bus Stop

We have stood at the bus stop for approximately 59 days so far this fall. Give or take…  For the foreseeable future the bus stop will be part of our everyday life.  Four of us (mom and three kiddos) trek outside each morning at 8:34, no matter the weather.  As a stay-at-home mom of babies, there was little need to get outside – we could stay cozy inside on those rainy, nasty days, drinking hot cocoa and reading stories.  Now, we all go outside with our kindergartner and wave him off, wishing him a successful day away from us.

Sam has transitioned just fine to riding the bus, the element I hadn’t thought about was bus stop style.  Whereas in years past, I could throw on some Uggs for the quick drive to preschool, suede is totally impractical for the muddy, rainy days of Seattle (of course as I write it is a gloriously beautiful, sunny, clear and cold day!).  Anyhow, on those rainy days, I have been challenged to find the “just right” footwear for our quick, daily trip out into the elements.

I have a hypothesis.  It goes something like this… The people who are happiest in their environment (whatever that may be), have figured out how to dress for it and be comfortable.  We moved to Seattle 11 years ago (Gasp! I can’t believe it has been that long!) and since then I have been trying to figure out how to be most comfortable in this mild, yet damp place.  Hunter boots and Patagonia jackets have been successful steps towards Seattle comfort in varying degrees.  But this week I think I figured it out.  Eureka!!

There is an L.L.Bean tradition in our family that goes back to my husband’s Maine roots.  We named both our dogs after this particular northeast retailer, respectively Leo (after Leon Leonwood Bean – L.L. Bean) and Ella Bean.  As we have made our life on the west coast, this is a small nod to our extensive roots that exist on the other coast.  When Gus and I first got together I became obsessed with the L.L.Bean Tote, .  Every summer when visiting family back east, we would get a new one with some new monogram.  Eventually our home reached a saturation point on those totes, but they are used heavily to this day and are still one of my favorite gifts to give.  My newest L.L.Bean passion is for the classic Bean Boot.  I think it was created specifically for the PNW Bus Stop.  I just ordered a pair of the classic 6″ style and I couldn’t be more excited for them to arrive (and for the rain to begin again so that I can give them a try)!

Men's Bean Boots by L.L.Bean, 6"Women's Bean Boots by L.L.Bean®, 8" Gore-Tex/ThinsulateMen's L.L.Bean Boots, 10" Gore-Tex/Thinsulate

I found a fun Bean Boots guide on The College Prepster.  It gave me the courage to add these to my Bus Stop look!  I went with the classic 6″ – which pair would you choose?  Maybe add them to a holiday wishlist and let Your LL Bean Boyfriend know that these could make your winter “just right”!

Moccasins | They’re great for slipping into on lazy mornings and wearing with patterned socks when it’s cold. 

Gumshoes | These are a great pick if you’re not sure what size to get. They’re low. And easy. A great medium between the 6″ and the mocs. 

6″ | Perfect for slouchy socks and tucking into skinny jeans. I like that these are definitely made more for the elements

8″ | If you’re in a snowier climate, you might consider the higher boot. I personally think the six inches feel more comfortable and hit my leg at a better point, but you definitely get more pant coverage with the eight inchers!

You may be familiar with Your LL Bean Boyfriend on Tumblr.  It was created by a fellow Mainer, Liz Pride and is hilarious.  She pulls photos from the LL.Bean catalogs and creates dialogue with them as though it is your ideal man saying something dreamy.  It is something Gus and I particularly enjoy, because of these L.L.Bean connections and history.  Pretty brilliant actually.

"I just chopped more wood for the wood pile," Patrick said. "If we get snowed in, we’re prepared."

I just chopped more wood for the wood pile,” Patrick said. “If we get snowed in, we’re prepared.”

Before I’d even woken up, Liam had already raked the yard and was in his workshop refurbishing some chairs for his parents. I brought him out some coffee to reward his hard work and he took me into his arms. “You’re all the reward I need,” he whispered. 

Before I’d even woken up, Liam had already raked the yard and was in his workshop refurbishing some chairs for his parents. I brought him out some coffee to reward his hard work and he took me into his arms. “You’re all the reward I need,” he whispered. 

"Let’s go check out the foliage by the river trail," Mitchell said. "We can pick up some apple cider doughnuts to take with us too."

 “Let’s go check out the foliage by the river trail,” Mitchell said. “We can pick up some apple cider doughnuts to take with us too.”

I see now that Liz is doing a female take on the award winning, Your LL Bean Boyfriend, with Your LL Bean Girlfriend…”She’ll serve you pancakes with the maple syrup she tapped herself. Can’t beat that.”  I think these Bean Boots move me a couple steps closer to fitting the profile of Gus’ LL Bean Wife… Here’s hoping!

Happy Fall!

PS:  If a buyer from L.L.Bean reads this, please know that my LL Bean husband would do practically anything for you to make Bean Boots in a size 16.  Pretty, pretty please…

Anthem

Some days I need an anthem to keep moving.  To get that chin up.  Or, to deal with bad attitudes all around… Often, P!nk’s infectious lyrics and bold beats are just the ticket.

We were lucky enough to attend P!nk’s live performance last night.  She was in Seattle performing her Truth About Love Tour.  As I have mentioned before (Life Lessons on the Playground), I really respect P!nk’s ethos of feminine strength and her no-nonsense  attitude.  Her music often inspires me to be my own best person… and lately, to stop taking cr*p from unthinking people.

P!nk’s concert was fantastic.  She is a fabulously talented performer that grabbed the audience from the first note and didn’t let go for two hours.  I had heard that her concerts are part-rock concert and part-cirque de soleil-esque theatrics and she did not disappoint.   She spent much of the concert in the air doing amazing trapeze-type tricks while also singing her songs beautifully.  It was a high energy, emotionally-charged rush that was just what I needed after a long week.

Here are a few snippets of the concert.  It won’t do her justice, but might give you just a little taste of the fun we had.  In the last clip of “So What” you can see that she literally flies right over us!  It was really a fun time!