Hi! And goodbye! I'm moving (virtually)

our daughters (cousins!) jumping into a big cold lake

Hi there. It's been a loooong long time since I've posted up here...  In case you are interested, I am jumping into something new and moving my online home to this new site where I will sporadically post about various adventures in painting, family, and whatever else may randomly come to mind, when I remember to do so. (I know, I've made that sound tempting).

I speak for both Melissa and myself when I thank you so much for being a part of our lives for the past few years. Your comments have made us laugh, stimulated thoughts, and supported me through my random, stumbling self-improvement projects and various maternal crises. Thank you so much for being a part of our lives and for never judging us. Thank you for reading my rambling run-on sentences and for letting me tell you weird stories about my children. Thank you for enjoying Melissa's gorgeous photographs, furry clay creations and clothing designs with me. Thank you for teaching us so many things and sharing your insights and your favorite books. We feel amazingly blessed to have connected with a community of such tremendous women.

Thank you, thank you, thank you.



Favorite things

The other night a small group of friends came over for a favorites party. Have you heard of these? Everyone brings five of their favorite thing (under $5, or homemade) and after putting your name five times into a bowl, you draw five names of other people - and you bring their favorite thing home with you. So you come with five of your favorite, and go home with five new favorites. Get it?

(le diner)

So much fun. I love learning details like this about friends. A sampling of the favorite things people shared: a great bar of dark chocolate plus organic chapstick; mini colored enamel colanders; bags of pink lady apples; homemade lemon sugar scrub; stationary for writing thank you notes; packets of homemade cards with a great pen (nothing is better than writing with a good one!); and basil + tomato plants with an amazing recipe for a summer no-cook spaghetti sauce (which I can't wait to try).

I brought - 5 small packets of loose leaf herbal tea from Teavana, packaged in muslin bags with a tinier bag of sugar cubes inside. (The citrus lavender is my most favorite flavor but the wild orange blossom is pretty great too).


Summer reading: updated book list for kids

Vincent Van Gogh, Still Life with Three Books, 1887

Only two weeks (!) of school to go for my kids. I'm starting to plot our summer plans and a big part of that is summer reading. Awhile back we collectively came up with a list of favorite children's books that I'm re-posting, with lots of updates. 

As you add your comments I will incorporate your recommendations into the list. (Please tell me what category you think the books you add should fall in.) And since my oldest is 11, I'm especially looking for ideas for him - he's at that awkward not-quite-a-teen-not quite-a-little-kid juncture. Any favorites appreciated!

{List after the jump - it is long!}


I've been a little obsessed with making paper flowers over the past couple of months. It is the perfect quick thing to do with your hands that doesn't require too much thought and I love how delicate and stretchy crepe paper is.

our flower chandelier

our fancy animals

Great instructions for making paper flowers are on Martha Stewart and Oh Happy Day (btw, Oh Happy Day contains a treasure trove of other ideas for what to do with your paper flowers. Many, many festive ideas!).

Happy mother's day this weekend!


capturing a family

(all photos, Monika Elena)

If you have read this blog for any amount of time you might remember seeing the photography of my brilliant friend Monika Elena. She's been featured on Design Mom (be sure and click the link there - such beautiful portraits), LMNOP, and La Petite Magazine. She's shot for Dagmar Daley, Wovenplay, and tons of other gorgeous kids' clothiers (look at these she took for Noro Paris - they are insane). We have been lucky enough to have her take our family pictures once in Sacramento a few years ago - and then in a crazy great stroke of fate it turned out that she was in Maryland the summer my sister Ann got married in Virginia, and she was able to shoot my sister's wedding (the pictures are so romantic). Monika has a relationship with beautiful.

If you live in Northern California/Sacramento area, Monika will be here from the beginning of July through mid-August!!!! Schedule her now - she'll fill up quick! In my opinion investing in beautiful family pictures is a tremendously worthwhile thing, something you will have forever. And Monika (in addition to being the nicest person you will ever meet - which helps if like me you are camera- sensitive :) ) is just extraordinary. See you in July, Monika!


Sister Boot Camp

This week my 8 and 5 year old girls are grounded, for fighting.
(They look so idyllic in these pictures.)
But fight they do.
So we are having sister boot camp this week.
I mean business.
That's right, I'm calling in the big guns.
Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle. Forced viewing of Little Women.
(Save us, Marmee, with your pacifist ways!)
I'm so desperate that I might even be forced to adopt some kittens, because kittens make everyone love each other.


Mean or magnifique?

(such a concerned baby.)

Bonjour friends!

Since we last talked, my two year old has become so very... two. And even though this is my fourth time raising a toddler, the irrationality caught me off guard all the same. I noticed that I was spending a lot of time attempting to bargain with her. Situations like this, for example: daughter thrashing on floor of the room, while I waved two diapers (different colors) frantically around, pleading, "which one? pink or white?" hoping her anger over needing to have her diaper changed would subside by being given a choice. Or: "If you let me buckle you into your car seat" [instead of acting like I'm asking you to sit on a lit bonfire], "you can look at this book, or this one!"

One day in the midst of this exhausting process I remembered an article I read awhile ago that talked about how we give small children far too many choices, and that parents need to have more authority with less apology. I agree with this concept 100% although I can't even begin to tell you how engrained in me is this choice-giving habit. (Before I had kids, I took a couple of child development classes where that seemed like the main theme - empower your kids to cooperate by giving them choices. Do you remember learning that too?) So, I said, very firmly: "Wren. My angry baby. Sit down in your high chair. Now." And, do you know what she did? She meekly said, "otay," and obeyed. In truth she seemed a little relieved. Why did I forget that I was the one in charge?

So this whole thing has kind of been going on in my mind, and then this morning I came across this blog post about french mamans, which led me to this article, and now I am officially fascinated by this discussion. How do you incorporate appropriate levels of authority and discipline into your homes? To what degree are you firm? (and can you be specific in the how's because this (being firm) is hard for me and I want to be more convincing to my wee children.) How do you teach your children to be polite and respectful? Discuss, please.


Carpe Diem

A friend and I were laughing the other day about how it's kinda annoying to be bombarded so constantly with the message of "being present" whilst engaged in mothering young children. Sometimes I feel like my present-ness is precisely the problem (I'm thinking of an incident that occurred 52 minutes ago involving the 5 year old, a cookie, and a very long time-out). This article from the Huffington Post has been making the rounds and I thought it was spot-on. Kairos is a word and concept I hope to remember.

But that being said, I do appreciate the occasional gentle reminders I periodically encounter that help me to embrace the very worst moments within this time of my life (which to clarify, I am enjoying :) ). My cousin Emily sent me a copy of an adorable children's book, Oscar, which describes a bunch of bad and true things the author Amber Tayler's son did - like burying her jewels in the backyard during a game of pirate (so bad) and pouring milk in the grandma's purse (again, so bad). The book is told from the child's perspective and after describing the awful thing he's so innocently done, he follows up with statements like "I had to remind Mom to use her quiet voice" and "I had to remind mom we should love all of God's creatures." So cute and if you think about it very touching.*

What have been your worst parenting moments, a la Oscar? I never tire of hearing the naughty things little ones do.

*when the child is over the age of 7! :)


Dusting off the old brain

Hey there! So I've been seized once again by the January desire to dust off my old brain, dull from the comfortable routines of carpooling and errand running and negotiating. I found a free online class that I am here committing to finish . The one I chose, about Mark Twain and Harriet Beecher Stowe, is good for me because it doesn't involve reading tons of books (just 4 short-ish ones) but I foresee that it will push me out of my reading comfort zone and make me think a little (I can tell you that I would never normally pick up Uncle Tom's Cabin for some light reading). Here's the site if you are interested in seeing all the great free online classes that are available. The list keeps getting bigger and bigger.

So! If you, like me, need a little Huckleberry Finn in your life this winter, take the class too, and we can discuss. I'm hoping that as an adult reading these books by my own choice I might get a little more out of them than when I read them as a distracted note-writing high-schooler (although, come to think of it, constant distraction is still a main theme in my life - which I totally blame on this dude

and this lot, now)


Happy New Year!

Hey! I hope you had a great Christmas. We had a lovely time, and now it's time to take down Christmas here, do a bit of cleaning and get onto the New Year! But first I want to say that I have been thinking about how I have come to rely a great deal on your insights and advice as we've discussed parenting, books, home & hearth, etc. Thank you so much for sharing a little bit of yourself. I really feel like if I knew many of you in person we would be great friends (in addition to real-life friends who pop in here, of course). So thank you! This blog has kind of evolved into a tool for self-improvement for me and I appreciate your opinions, ideas and support so very much.

See you in the New Year. It will be a great one.


Christmas Nativity

I've only put out like 60% of our Christmas decorations this year, mainly because most of the time when I think about it, the garage seems like it would be too cold and at this point that ship has probably sailed. :) But we did manage to finally make our nativity movie yesterday, which is total chaos but so fun. Here's the link if you are interested (it's six minutes).

Have a great day!


Wabi Sabi: Christmas

This December my goal is to worry a lot less about how Christmas looks, and more about how Christmas feels (I am so easily distracted by pretty). And if that means that I let my naked toddler eat the candy off the advent calendar bottom two rows on day 5, so be it.

Here's a great quote from Janene Baadsgaard:
"Like wishing for the fancy images in the women's magazines [or beautiful websites], we often look in all the wrong places for that elusive something that will finally make our life complete. If we make Jesus Christ our dearest friend, we don't have to search any longer. That first Christmas night long ago had a simple cast of characters - a mother, a father, a child. Yet there is nothing in the entire world that can surpass the mission of that tiny babe born on that holy night. Jesus triumphed over sin and death, and because of those gifts we can face anything that comes our way with faith and hope. A picture-perfect Christmas is a tinsel illusion. Coming to Christ creates a rich reality."

Isn't that lovely? Just the re-focus that I needed. I hope you have a great day. Merry Christmas!