Lately

I’ve been single parenting for the past ten days.  To say I’m a little burnt out would be an understatement.  My husband arrived home Wednesday evening after the kids had already gone to bed.  They were ecstatic when they woke up to discover that their dad was home.  I slept in a bit and then…

benchI’ve been single parenting for the past ten days.  To say I’m a little burnt out would be an understatement.  My husband arrived home Wednesday evening after the kids had already gone to bed.  They were ecstatic when they woke up to discover that their dad was home.  I slept in a bit and then came downstairs to get Vijay ready for school, and upon seeing me coming downstairs, he said to me rather casually, “I wish you weren’t home, mama.”  My heart broke.

I know what he meant- in his 4 year old way he was trying to tell me that he wanted to be with his dad all day.  He wanted to be in “dad zone” where there are no rules, and meals don’t include vegetables, and the day is made up of “special treats.”  But after ten days of nothing but home cooking, snuggling under blankets to read books, epic cookie baking, trips to gymnastics, the library and the children’s museum, and countless hours playing trains in the playroom, I felt like I deserved more.  This is the hard thing about motherhood- it is often thankless.  Do I know that my kids adore me?  Yes, of course.  I have two very affectionate, sweet boys who are usually wonderful about showering me with love, but they are also toddlers, and they often don’t know how to properly voice their feelings and frustrations.  Many times, their frustrations get aimed at good ole’ mom.

I am hoping to reboot this weekend, perhaps visit the farmer’s market and take a Bikrim yoga class or two.  My husband has a babysitter lined up for tonight so I’m looking forward to date night.  I’m also finishing up my latest home project, which you can see taking shape above.  Since the boys are now sharing a room, I’m turning Vik’s old room into an office for my husband (mainly to get his damn computer off the kitchen table, which drives me crazy).  I was so pumped to find that beautiful, six-foot bench for sale on craigslist for $100.  What a steal!  The rest of the room came together with things we had laying around the house including pillows and rugs from our travels abroad.  I’m planning on sneaking in a few hours to watch Fixer Upper, my new obsession, and work on my latest knitting project.  As much as I love my boys, I need a break.  And perhaps they feel the same.  A weekend spent in the “dad zone” might just be the very thing we all need to reboot and refresh.  See you on the flip side!

Brothers

Two weeks ago we moved Vik’s crib into Vijay’s room.  The boys have been asking to share a room for the past few months, and with everyone having established solid sleep habits, we decided to give it a shot.  It has been one of the sweetest things I have witnessed as a mother.  Once I…

brothersTwo weeks ago we moved Vik’s crib into Vijay’s room.  The boys have been asking to share a room for the past few months, and with everyone having established solid sleep habits, we decided to give it a shot.  It has been one of the sweetest things I have witnessed as a mother.  Once I tuck them both in, I often stand outside their door for a few minutes and listen to their conversations, which mostly revolve around potty humor.  It usually takes at least two or three warnings before they finally settle in and fall asleep- first they have to chat, then they toss things from the bed to the crib, occasionally we hear the patter of little feet as Vijay sneaks out of bed to grab more books or retrieve a pillow he tossed at Vik.  When they hear us coming up the stairs to tell them to quiet down, they dive under their covers and hide, giggling non-stop.

The truth is that these boys have a special relationship.  It’s as close-knit as I’ve seen between siblings, and I think that is due to two things: being so close in age and always being together.  It’s also due to their personalities; Vijay loves being a big brother and has never, not even once, displayed signs of jealousy towards Vik.  He seemed to understand as soon as Vik was born that his job was to be an older brother, and take care of him.  He takes that job seriously.  Vijay started school this past fall, and only attends two mornings a week.  So other than that, the boys are always, always together and have been since the moment Vik was born.  I’m not great at organizing playdates or meeting up with other moms- we kind of make our days up as we go.  We are always out and about, at the children’s museum, library or gymnastics, but it’s always the three of us, which means the boys have become their own best friends.  Things will be changing soon enough as Vijay’s school days ramp up next year, and Vik starts preschool.  My emotions are running high these days as it feels like we are nearing the end of an era.  I’ve been at home with the boys for over four years now and that might be changing in the near future as well.  Things are shifting- it is all good- but I’m holding on to this time we have together, appreciative of every moment, even the frustrating and tiring moments.

The boy’s room is a work in progress- it’s very simple, just Vijay’s bed, Vik’s crib, a small shared dresser, and a bookshelf.  I’d love to get bunk beds once they are big enough- I know they’d have a blast with that.  But for now…it is perfect.

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P.S. For those of you in other parts of the country flaunting pictures of blooming trees and bright sunny skies, I’m going to need you to cut that out.  Here’s a little snapshot of what we’re enjoying here on the East Coast.  I know….life isn’t fair, but do you have to rub it in?  🙂  We had another epic snowstorm last week, though this weekend the sun peeked through and started melting the snow.  Though we’ve got a long way to go until spring.

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First Day of School

Oh my goodness you guys, this picture is everything.  My heart bursts open in a million pieces when I see it.  A million, trillion pieces. This is my boys to a T.  That is Vijay’s nervous smile, while Vik is just super excited thinking he is going to school along with his brother.  The socks…

_MG_4597Oh my goodness you guys, this picture is everything.  My heart bursts open in a million pieces when I see it.  A million, trillion pieces.

This is my boys to a T.  That is Vijay’s nervous smile, while Vik is just super excited thinking he is going to school along with his brother.  The socks and Crocs look is 100% my boys- nothing but high fashion around these parts.  Vijay loves shirts with construction and the phrase couldn’t be more fitting- “One Man Wrecking Crew.”  I wish I could tell you every detail of his first day of preschool- it was one part tragedy, one part comedy.  But we all made it through mostly unscathed, and I have to say, Vik and I had the best little mama/son date during the time Vij was at school, though he kept asking about Vijay.  “Vijay crying?” he kept wondering.  He was very worried about his brother.  Today was the second day of school, and my husband rode with him to school.  They made it halfway, then I had to pick them up because Vijay was tired and needed a snack.  Oh these boys…they are too much.  I’m sorry if this post is a jumble of thoughts- I am running to pick up Vijay from school, and packing for Squam (I leave later today), and I am still processing all my mother emotions.  But I wanted to stop in and wish everyone a wonderful weekend.  I hope the first week back to school was smooth for everyone, or at least a bit smoother than ours.  We’re getting there, though!  It’s a process, right!?  Right??

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Vik Turns 2!

Here’s the thing about Vik- we could have simply given him a lollypop and called it a day, and he would have been pleased as punch (I mean, do you see that smile?).  But really, where’s the fun in that!?  This past week we threw a blow-out birthday bash here at the cottage in what…

_MG_2646Here’s the thing about Vik- we could have simply given him a lollypop and called it a day, and he would have been pleased as punch (I mean, do you see that smile?).  But really, where’s the fun in that!?  This past week we threw a blow-out birthday bash here at the cottage in what is now becoming an annual event.  The neighborhood kids began asking us about the party the very first week we arrived- I guess it made quite an impression last time around!

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_MG_2617And so we made sure to really outdo ourselves this time around- with a big ole’ monkey pinata, finger sandwiches, lots of tiny homemade chocolate cupcakes, party games, and face painting.  Our poor kids- one day when they are forced to have a small, reserved party they are going to be all, “Is this what you call a party?”  Indeed, we have spoiled them rotten.  But you only turn two once, so why not live it up!

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_MG_2573In addition to the splendor of Northern Michigan that I am always raving about, we are so blessed to have grown up spending summers on this particular lane in this particular small lake town.  Our lane is a tiny unpaved road, with about 12 cottages- and up until a couple years ago when a new family bought a place here- we were still considered the “new kids on the block.”  And that’s after 20 years of having a place here!!  Most of the cottages on our lane have been in the same family for three- four generations.  That means that everyone here grew up spending summers together, as did their parents, and grandparents.  I get a bit misty eyed when I see the new generation of kids- mine included- running wild through the yards, popping into different houses to play, sharing snacks, and learning to water ski.  It’s my greatest hope that they all grow up together- spending summers at their grandparents, and year after year, helping my precious little Vik ring in a new year in style.

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Thoughts on the Journey

Last night I picked up a book I recently borrowed from the library, Magical Journey, An Apprenticeship in Contentment by Katrina Kenison.  Who knows where I happened upon the book review- I’m always jotting notes when I see interesting books in magazines, in the bookshop, here and there- but I remember being intrigued enough to…

_MG_8487Last night I picked up a book I recently borrowed from the library, Magical Journey, An Apprenticeship in Contentment by Katrina Kenison.  Who knows where I happened upon the book review- I’m always jotting notes when I see interesting books in magazines, in the bookshop, here and there- but I remember being intrigued enough to add it to my library queue.  Perhaps this particular note, which actually led to action was a bit of divine intervention.  This book feels like it was written for me personally, though its author is at the other end of the mothering journey, while I’m just beginning mine.  Katrina has two sons, now grown, and she writes about redefining her life once her sons leave home.  The pages are laced with such wisdom, such valuable reflection on how we give of ourselves as mothers, and how mothering shapes our identity so strongly.

She begins the book with a quote from M.C. Richards, which reads “All the arts we practice are apprenticeship.  The big art is our life.”  This quote rang so true for me, in where I’m at in my life.  I don’t have dreams of grandeur.  I want a life filled with mothering, gardening, faith, cooking, knitting, sewing, reading, and copious amounts of family time.  I want my life to be my art, so to speak.  When I am gone, I would be perfectly happy if I was remembered by only a handful of people, but to those people, I was their world.  Especially my boys.  If I go down in their memory as the best mother ever, my mission here on this earth is accomplished.  But there is life outside of mothering, and I love that Magical Journey reminds us of that…one day, God willing, our children will leave home, and then we will be left with ourselves and our marriage.  Neither of these can be neglected for the sake of the children, not oneself, or one’s marriage.

Katrina writes, “The little boys whose lives once seemed to consume mine are young men now, their bedrooms silent and empty as shrines.  The communal rhythms of eating and sleeping and being in our household were disrupted as my sons became adolescents and then vanished altogether when, one after the other, they left home.  There are no more muddy footprints to mop up, no piano recitals or big games to attend, no book report to proofread when I’d rather go to bed.”

This struck a chord with me.  I am not busy in the traditional sense- running to meetings, juggling a family and full-time job, working 80 hours a week.  I am busy wiping tears and building blocks, reading bedtime stories and changing diapers, making snacks and digging in the dirt.  The boys play so well together, but can’t be left alone for more than minutes at a time.  I do indulge in knitting while I watch them play, which feels like stolen ” me time,” but mostly, from the moment I open my eyes, I am “on.”  Sometimes the never ending cycle of laundry/ cooking/ dishes/ cleaning does threaten to overwhelm me, but I can’t imagine the opposite.  No little clothes to fold, no mouths to constantly feed.  Hearing Katrina write of a quiet house reminds me how lucky I am to have a house filled with laughter, muddy footprints and sticky little fingers.

I’ve often thought, as I know my friends do too, that once the kids are in school there will be some breathing room to my day.  “I can’t wait,” we say to each other as we pass the afternoon hours at the playground for the umpteenth time.  But I can wait, I’ve realized recently.  Vijay is turning into a young boy before our very eyes, sprouting up and thinning out, the baby chub gone seemingly overnight.  He speaks with insight and humor that leave me astounded at times.  “Vik is feeling crabby and out-of-sorts, mama,” he told me yesterday.  “He just needs a nap.  Don’t you worry.”  We have chosen a preschool for him next year, but him and I are both hesitant to let go.  We travel as a merry band of three during the day, and I can’t imagine how much Vik and I will miss him next year when he begins school (even though it is only two mornings a week).

I was at the library with the kids a few days ago, talking with another mom, and I said something along the lines of “Now that I am out of the baby years…”  A man standing near us started laughing.  “It looks like you are still in those baby years, if you ask me,” he said with a grin.  But I feel like we’re moving out of them already.  Everyone in our house sleeps through the night, eats solid food and 3 out of 4 of us use the toilet (there is a statistic I never thought I would be so damn proud of!).  In a way I can’t imagine starting over again- the nursing and sleepless nights, the 9 months of pregnancy followed by mind-numbing exhaustion.  Then again, I can’t imagine that those years are behind me already.

All this to say…the Magical Journey is such a gift.  It is the first book I’ve read in a while, but it is so full of wisdom, especially for us young mothers, that I simply had to share.  Have a beautiful spring weekend.

My boys

My boys…brothers. I haven’t really talked about what that means to me, to be raising two boys, so close in age that occasionally they are mistaken for twins.  Vik is long and lean, quickly catching up to Vijay in height and weight.  He’s already in 24 month clothing, which means the infamous firetruck sweater (which…

2013-10-14_0001My boys…brothers. I haven’t really talked about what that means to me, to be raising two boys, so close in age that occasionally they are mistaken for twins.  Vik is long and lean, quickly catching up to Vijay in height and weight.  He’s already in 24 month clothing, which means the infamous firetruck sweater (which Vijay wore precisely one time, after I sweated and cursed over it for months!) fits him perfectly.  He’s too little to protest, and so he is wearing it as often as possible!

It is absolutely amazing to watch their personalities take shape, and to watch the sibling bond begin to take root.  Vijay adores his little brother, often crying when Vik has to go down for his nap, or to bed early.  “Where’s my baby?” he asks.  Of course when Baby is around, they fight over toys, and bop each other on the head with balls and blocks.  They take soapy baths together, propelling their trucks through the bubbles and froth.  They roll their soccer ball back and forth at the park, Vik clapping his hands each time it rolls his way.  “Don’t touch my things,” is a common phrase as Vijay learns that playing with Vik means sharing with Vik.  He’s always trying to give him the lamest toys, and hog all the great ones for himself.  After a while, he realizes that it’s no fun, and releases a few of his toys for Vik to play with.  Occasionally they hold hands across the aisle from their carseats, or when we’re walking in the double stroller.  “Baby’s holding my hand, mama,” Vijay beams.  After a minute, Vik yanks his hand away and returns to sucking on his fingers.  It is these moments that my heart nearly breaks in two.

I often wish I had a crystal ball to see into the future…will they always be close?  Will they be the kind of brothers that give heartwarming toasts at each others weddings?  Will they support and nurture each other as they find their own talents and strengths, or will everything be a competition?

It is hard enough trying to raise kind, generous, loving children, but considering how to raise siblings to be loving, supportive brothers is a challenge.  My husband often jokes that he wants three sons largely because of Legends of the Fall.  I agree, minus the sibling rivalry, jealousy, revenge, drama and rage.  Basically we just want our boys to ride wild through the mountains, hunting grizzly bears and bathing in clear streams.  Is that too much to ask?!

Oh my boys…brothers…my dreams for you are so great.

Piece of Cake

Since returning home from Michigan, my days have been whirlwinds of activity.  I am in the midst of two large work projects which have taken me away from the boys for long stretches of time.  I miss them terribly at first, then I get into the work zone and the day flies by.  It’s not…

Since returning home from Michigan, my days have been whirlwinds of activity.  I am in the midst of two large work projects which have taken me away from the boys for long stretches of time.  I miss them terribly at first, then I get into the work zone and the day flies by.  It’s not until I get home that I realize how much I missed being with them throughout the day…and I want to know every detail; what did they have for lunch, what playground did they go to, were they both on their best behavior, what books did they want before naptime?

To make up for the chaotic week, I took Vijay on a special outing, just the two of us.  While Vik napped at home with my husband, Vijay and I headed to the farm.  Four Town Farm is this absolute gem that I had totally forgotten about.  I had gone a few years ago and been amazed by their U-cut flowers…to rediscover this place was such a gift.

For Vijay, it was all about the scissors.  That was the best part of the trip…snipping away at the flowers with his very own pair of shears.  Of course we came home with a random bouquet and most of the blooms clipped way too short…but it was such a fun way to spend time with my little guy.I’ve noticed a shift as we’re heading into the threes…and I have heard from many mothers that the threes can be more challenging than the twos.  Vijay is a stubborn bugger…and as his skill sets grow, so does his insistence that he does everything himself.  He is less patient with his baby brother, and much less gentle (I think he is just dying to have a wrestling/ sparring partner).  He insists on wearing his pajama’s most days, and only wants to eat chocolate chips (not even in cookies, just plain chocolate chips).  As I juggle his demands with those of Vik, who is now crawling, and walking when holding onto furniture, I often find that neither of the boys get my full attention.  One eye is on Vik, who is an accident waiting to happen, and my other eye is on Vijay, who knows just when to make trouble.  That’s why solo outings are so important to me…I get to devote all of my attention to just one little guy.  And after juggling two, one seems like a piece of cake.  I often find myself thinking, “How did I ever think having just one was hard?”  But it is all in what you know, I suppose.  Perhaps one day we’ll have a houseful of young’uns and we’ll look back and think…two was a breeze 😉

Vik’s 1st Birthday Party

On our last full day in Northern Michigan we celebrated Vik’s first birthday…and on the actual day he was born!  We have lived on this little dirt lane of ours for twenty summers, and most of the surrounding cottages have been in the same family for generations.  We have grown up with our neighbors, and…

On our last full day in Northern Michigan we celebrated Vik’s first birthday…and on the actual day he was born!  We have lived on this little dirt lane of ours for twenty summers, and most of the surrounding cottages have been in the same family for generations.  We have grown up with our neighbors, and now there is a new generation of little ones.  We all gathered to celebrate our little Vik, and it was the sweetest party.

We kept things simple- pretty decorations, finger food, little cupcakes, a pinata, face painting and bubbles.  The tree house also provided endless entertainment- the kids attached a small cup to the pulley and spent most of the party passing cupcakes and treats up to each other.

Perhaps the biggest source of joy was the pinata.  I followed this tutorial, and it was very easy, although a bit time consuming.

Everyone kept asking us if this could be a yearly thing…and oh, we hope it can be!  There is really no better place to party than on our gorgeous lake, with old friends and adoring grandparents.

Happy birthday dear baby boy.  You have added endless amounts of joy to our lives.

Immunity- Let’s Boost It

As I lay with my feverish baby this weekend, nursing him and stroking his hot little forehead through the night, I had one thought- “I am done with SICKNESS.”  I think the reason this winter was so difficult had to do with the fact that we were sick all the time, which is something I…

As I lay with my feverish baby this weekend, nursing him and stroking his hot little forehead through the night, I had one thought- “I am done with SICKNESS.”  I think the reason this winter was so difficult had to do with the fact that we were sick all the time, which is something I have never really experienced.  I’m used to be healthy as a horse.  However given our near sleepless existence, it’s no wonder our immunity has suffered.  One of the boys would catch a cold, and inevitably, the entire family would pass it around and around for the next month, until the next virus attacked, and the cycle would begin again.  It was pretty brutal.  It has me thinking about our immunity, and how we can start boosting it in preparation for next winter.  I have been doing some research, and consulting with everyone I know in the health profession (both modern medicine, and homeopathic).  I thought I would share a few ideas that I have come across to help boost immunity, and I’m hoping you will share your wisdom (I’m no health professional, so take this with a grain of salt).  I can’t take another winter like this past one…so here’s hoping we hit on the magic bullet:

Some of the things we have incorporated into our lives lately:
1. Vitamin C: Anything and everything you can do to boost your vitamin C intake- freshly squeezed orange and grapefruit juice, pomegranate juice, vitamins and tea.  I have been brewing a special blend of sun tea (pictured above) that is high in vitamin C thanks to orange peel, hibiscus, nettle and lemongrass.  The boys love it served over ice, with a straw, of course.  We also brewed buckets of Farmacy’s Sinus Tea this spring…and it is amazing!
2. Neti Pot: Although the boys are too young to use this (oh what a battle that would be!), I have been incorporating the Neti Pot into my nightly routine, flushing my sinuses before bed.
3. Zicam: I have had so many people recommend Zicam, which you take the minute you start to feel a cold coming on.  I was living under a rock this past year, so I hadn’t heard of it…but you can bet we have it in our medicine cabinet now that I’m in the know!
4. Honey: Buckwheat honey, manuka honey, and raw, local honey are all touted to be health superstars, boosting immunity and fighting off the bacteria that lead to sinus infections.  I put a hefty tablespoon in my nightly cup of tea, and in our daily smoothies.
5. Fermented foods: Kambucha, yogurt, sauerkraut, pickles…it’s all good.
6. Elderberry Syrup: Elderberries have been used throughout history to treat a whole host of ailments, and they are proven to be immune boosters.  I have been adding Farmacy’s elderberry syrup to smoothies, and our sun tea.
7. Essential Oils: I talked a bit about how I use essential oils here.
8. Juicing, and Smoothies: I love any and all green smoothies and juices- and they are just so good for you!  I’m eager to try this immune boosting smoothie (chia seeds- they are my new thing!), though I would try to sneak in a few greens.
9. Exercise: I’m working out with a trainer twice a week now, and I can already feel a difference in my energy levels.
10. Turmeric: When I feel a cold coming on, I make a strong cup of turmeric tea- just hot water, and 2-3 teaspoons of turmeric (it’s not easy going down, but turmeric contains manganese and potassium, which stimulate the immune system, and it has been proven to aid in digestion, and protect against cardiac disease…so for all of that, you can choke it down!).

*Obviously- drinking a ton of water, and eating a mostly plant based diet is a great place to start.  We do our best, but there is always room for improvement.  I am always evaluating our eating habits, making changes for the better, and experimenting with what works for our family.*

Ideas we’ll be trying next winter:
1. The Ultimate Cold Cure
2. Oil Pulling: Sounds weird, but it “is an ancient Ayurvedic technique, touted by yogis as a natural way to strengthen the immune system by killing toxic yeast that makes its way from your stomach to mouth while you sleep.”  Worth a try!
3. Herbal Cold and Cough Care
4. Lysine: I don’t know much about it…but I have friends that swear by it.
5. SLEEP…yeah right, wishful thinking 🙂

Anything you’d like to add?

Blooms

Spring…everywhere we look, there is beauty.  I love seeing the seasons through the eyes of my boys- Vijay passes under a flowering tree and he simply says, “Happy mama.”  He knows how the flowering trees lift my spirits.  He loves to collect fallen petals and branches, and take them home in his sweaty little hands…

Spring…everywhere we look, there is beauty.  I love seeing the seasons through the eyes of my boys- Vijay passes under a flowering tree and he simply says, “Happy mama.”  He knows how the flowering trees lift my spirits.  He loves to collect fallen petals and branches, and take them home in his sweaty little hands to be tucked into a vase on the dresser in his room.

Vik took his first bike ride yesterday, strapped to the little seat on the back of my husband’s bike.  He loved it, although he has already proven to have a different sort of spirit, far more gentle than his rambunctious brother.   He prefers to observe, his big brown eyes soaking in all that we encounter, whereas Vijay was always one for action.  But biking, sitting back with the wind in his hair, and the sun on his cheeks…that appealed to sweet Vik.

With each warm day, we find ourselves outside for longer adventures, soaking up every ray of warm sun.   Bedtimes have been pushed back as we enjoy leisurely walks around campus after my husband comes home from work.  Dinner is a picnic, eaten under the flowering trees.  And my camera is once again my constant companion, capturing every bloom in sight.  Oh spring…you are a balm for my winter weary spirit.