back porch · books · five things · good life · Tennessee

Five Things

tennessee

Hello! Happy Friday!

Hey, how’s your summer been? Overall, ours has been pretty good. I feel like we had a nice mix of structured camps, travel, and weeks of nothing. We’ve been gone for the past few weeks visiting family in Tennessee, and it was awesome. I forgot how GREEN everything is in the summer there. I have gotten so used to our “golden” (read: brown) hills of California that every time we got in the car there, I exclaimed, “Look at that hill! Look at those trees! Look at all this nature!!” I took so many random photos from the passenger seat (see above).

This is our last Friday before school starts, so we’re gearing up to get back into our structured routine. Here are a few things on my mind this week:

biltmore and garden

1. Biltmore Estate. This past spring, I ordered this book for BB. It’s a mystery novel set at Biltmore in Asheville, North Carolina. We spent a couple of weeks’ worth of afternoons reading a chapter or two out back on the daybed. I pulled out an old guide book about the house that I had saved in my scrapbook from the time I went with my class in 4th grade. He loved looking at the pictures of all the rooms and reading up on the history and construction of the property. After we finished, BB spent his own money to buy this coffee table book about the history of the house and more details about its rooms. I loved Biltmore as a child, and I loved that he fell in love with it, too, so Husband and I planned a surprise trip there while visiting our family in Tennessee. (It’s a little over an hour to drive from my hometown to Asheville.) BB’s excitement at being there was contagious. Every room we walked into, he shared facts he had gleaned from his books. “I see the Napoleon chess set! That’s the Winter Garden! There’s the secret door to the Smoking Room!” At one point, he went off in search of a docent because he had some questions.

“Is the 4th floor completely closed off?” he asked. I smiled knowingly at the docent, fairly certain that there were only 3 floors plus the basement.

“Yes, you’re right, the 4th floor is usually closed to visitors. It is mostly made up of servants’ quarters like you will see in the basement.”

BB nods knowingly.

“But if you do the rooftop tour, you will be able to see a few of the rooms on the 4th floor.” Wow. I was so impressed with my boy, not only that he knew so much more than I did, but that he so confidently went to her to ask his question. How did he get so big? (BG had fun at Biltmore, too, because she got to see a horse, pet some chickens, and eat ice cream at the Creamery.)

2. “As long as you don’t forget your breath, anything is okay.”  I have thought about this short video about one hundred times since I watched it, which means I have technically meditated about one hundred times as well. Love this wonderfully simple approach.

3. The Land of Stories. Speaking of books, my mother-in-law bought this one to read with the kids while we were in Tennessee. It’s a fun story that kept the 7-year-old and the 4-year-old (and the 38- and 36-year-old) engaged. On our trip to Biltmore, we listened to a few chapters of the Audible version, read aloud by the author, Chris Colfer (of Glee fame). The voices he does for each character are a wonderful addition to the story. We’ve continued reading it aloud after we got home, but we’ve had to edit it a bit. (In one scene where Goldilocks confronts Little Red Riding Hood about something that happened in the past, there are a few words our kids don’t know and that I REALLY don’t want to explain to them yet.) All in all, a fun page-turner that all of us look forward to reading after dinner each night. (And this book – another one set at Biltmore – is up next on my read-aloud list. Have any of you read it? I’m hoping it’s a good one.)

the biggest human temptation

4. This quote.

5. Made me chuckle.

The Olympics! We didn’t even really talk about the Olympics! What’s your favorite competition to watch? I love diving, and I always watch it equally amazed at their skill and terrified they are going to hit their heads. (Having seen Greg Louganis do it, I can’t unsee it.) It’s been fun to see my kids’ interest in the games for the first time. I’m looking forward to a low-key weekend of watching a few events, reading, and finishing up the last thing on our Summer Bucket List. Whatever you are up to this weekend, I hope you have a good one! Thanks for reading!

 

Being Mama · five things · good life · Kids

Five Things

Hello! Happy Friday!

molly

It’s been a hard week around here. We said goodbye to our sweet cat, Molly, last weekend, and we’re all still feeling the sadness. I realize I’ve never told our Molly stories here on the blog, so I’m working on a post to share the good, the bad, and ugly. (Spoiler alert: The bad and the ugly weren’t the cat, bless her heart.) Look for that next week.

In the meantime, here are a few things on my mind this week.

rain fish

1.Children need to be bored in the summer. I fully believe this – it was how I grew up – but every summer, especially that first week when we’re all tripping around, trying to find our rhythm (read: being grumpy), I question if I should have signed them up for more camps. But once again, BB and BG have shown me that they thrive on loose structure and lots of unscheduled time. Our new “routine” consists of them waking up, eating breakfast, and then wandering off to play, making up wacky games, devising fantastic creations (like “Rain Fish” in above photo), dressing in elaborate costumes and acting out crazy scenarios, the latest being something called “Junk Collector” in which every single item in BB’s closet is placed in the middle of the floor and BG comes to shop. I think it might actually involve real money changing hands, but I’m trying to stay out of it. They are both engaged in hours of play and are rarely ready to stop when it’s time to run an errand or head off to swim lessons. It’s been pretty amazing, and their friendship has bloomed. (Now, don’t get me wrong, it’s FAR from the land of milk and honey – there’s some bickering and tattling and crying and all the things that come with having siblings – but mostly it’s been good. So good. For all of us.) Please remind me of this next year during that first week of summer when I feel like we’re all about to lose our minds. (Also, on a related note, read How We Summer (this week…)

2. How to parallel park. I have always prided myself on being REALLY good at parallel parking, but this has been a game changer. I have impressed Husband on more than one occasion with my new speed and precision.

3. This is mesmerizing.

constant kindness

4. This quote.

5. This cracked me up.

What are you up to this weekend? At this moment, we have zero plans, which sounds completely awesome. I just finished this book and want to find another one right away – any suggestions? Have a good weekend!

31 Days · Being Mama · Color · Fall · five things · good life · Halloween

Five Things

photo 1

Hello! Happy Friday! It’s been a little quiet around these parts, but only on the blog. Life has been busy and crazy and FULL and wonderful for the last few weeks.

If you’ve followed along for a while, you know that I usually do 31 Days this time of year. I decided in September that with my schedule, there was no way I could make it happen. This was just not my year, but maybe next year will be. So what have I been doing? Here are a few things that have been on my mind this month:

1. Rummage Sale. The first weekend of October was our preschool’s HUGE Rummage Sale.

photo (4)

In the week leading up to the sale, we transformed the MPR into collection central, with thousands of items being donated by the school, church, and local community. Over 75 volunteers worked long hours in preparation for this fundraiser, and it was a HUGE success! As in years past (see here and here), it was a CRAZY week of hard work, hilarious moments, exhaustion, and so much fun! I love the Rummage Sale, and I love being able to help raise money for scholarships and for aides for students with special needs. Another great one in the books!

Sunapee, HN

2. New Hampshire.

I just got back from a trip to New Hampshire. Adopted California Mom has invited us for years to join her in the fall when she goes to visit, and this year, Husband said, “Yes, you should do it!” And so I did.

It was my first visit to New England, and I am smitten.

photo 5 (3)

Now, I happened to be traveling during the fall foliage peak, which was definitely a highlight. I mean, I’m from Tennessee – I’ve done REAL autumn before – but this was unbelievable.

photo 3 (2)

I’ve never seen colors like this before.

New Hampshire in Autumn

We would be driving along, chatting away, and I would stop mid-sentence, forgetting my words to see another blaze of color before me.

photo (3)

Aside from the natural beauty, I feel in love with the people (so friendly!) and the houses (such character!) and the pace of our days (calmer, simpler). As BB and BG said every night on the phone, “I can’t WAIT to visit New Hampshire!”

photo 4 (3)

3. Contrast. This word kept coming to me as we walked and drove among the beautiful color-changing leaves of New England.

This may sound silly, but I’m not a big evergreen fan. I am all about deciduous trees, but I don’t love the conifers. (It might have something to do with the painfully sharp needles that drop into our yard from a particularly unattractive one. Petty, I know. I’m not proud of this.) I realized, however, that the beauty of the changing colors was in part amplified by the contrast of these trees against their evergreen counterparts. A forest full of yellow trees would probably not take my breath away the same way one brilliant one does in a see of dark green needles. It’s the contrast that brings out the beauty. It provides a different perspective.

photo 4 (2)

The same is true about my time away. I love my kids fiercely and madly, but there was something wonderful about being away from the morning rush and the dishes and the laundry and the bickering. There was space to reflect and dream and plan. And I began to miss them – miss them dearly. Their phone conversations made me laugh harder and smile more easily. And when I returned, there was a level of patience that I haven’t known in several months. I was renewed and refreshed in a way that could only come from stepping back, from having time that wasn’t focused solely on them. Now I know it won’t be like this forever – my patience will grow thin and my nerves will feel a bit frazzled again – but I hope next time I will remember the difference the contrast made, and I will make time to give myself some margin so that I can once again return to them with a new perspective.

New Hampshire

 

4. That which is temporary. In addition to contrast, the changing leaves also stood as a reminder of things that are temporary, and that even those things have been filled with beauty, though fleeting. It reminded me of this mesmerizing video I saw a few weeks ago, and how there are things in our lives – even our lives themselves – that are not meant to last forever, but that have meaning and purpose anyway. It has helped me to remember to focus on the small moments, because they, too, are filled with significance and beauty.

5. Costumes. I haven’t done any sort of project in weeks, but I’ll start working on Halloween next week. This might be our last year with a theme (I said that last year and the year before), but for now, we’re all going to be superheros. We will each have a different superpower, and the kids and I worked together to design the symbols for our costumes. I’m pretty excited about it (you know I love Halloween) and am looking forward to showing you what we came up with. (Check out a couple of other past costumes here and here.)

As I was scouring the web for ideas on masks, I came across these. Aren’t they amazing? They are downloadable – you put them together yourself. I want to hang this one on the wall.

Move over, puzzles – I think I just picked up a new winter hobby.

What are you up to this weekend? We have family photos scheduled, a soccer game, and a fundraiser to attend. It’s western-themed. Which means I get to dress up. You know I’m excited about that. Also hoping to squeeze in a nap and some reading. Hope you have a fun weekend!