Oh, hey, summer! How are you? Again, I’m pretty happy to see you. We have lots of good plans for you and I’m so excited to get started.
Oh, hey, summer! How are you? Again, I’m pretty happy to see you. We have lots of good plans for you and I’m so excited to get started.
Today you’re five. Today is one of those thresholds. You are entering a whole new stage of life. Five is a big year. Five is kindergarten, loose teeth, reading, school buses, bikes with pedals, new friends, long days away from home, writing. Five is big.
Yesterday you were four and you were still a small little child. Today you are five and you look like a whole new girl to me. I have to be honest and say that my heart hurts a little bit when I look at you. You are a well-spoken, creative, brave soul. Not much of that little baby from five years ago remains. Your legs are long and strong. Your fingers are precise and careful. Your eyes are clear and focused. Your voice is loud and determined. You are five.
You are growing up quickly and it makes me miss my baby. But, Alma, I wouldn’t change it for anything. Those baby days are gone, but I’m so happy about five. I’m so excited to see all those things happen this year, but you will always be my baby.
My wishes for you this year:
Alma, my little love, have fun being five.
All my love,
The day after Thanksgiving is my favorite day because everyone catches up and starts getting ready for Christmas! Overnight it becomes socially acceptable to listen to Christmas music, and it’s okay to deck the halls with Christmas cheer. Finally.
This year we went to Northern Lights again. We made the trek with Jesse’s folks this year. We found a perfectly lovely Fraser Fir that was tall, and sparse, and green.
Jesse, with some help and encouragement from the girls and his dad, cut down our tree. It has a much thicker trunk than our past trees, and Jesse had to work quite hard to fall it.
I love this rainy, muddy, sunny, chilly annual adventure. I figure that since we live in the place where most the Christmas trees are grown, it’s worth it to go to the source and get the freshest of the fresh.
Because, just look at the sweet memories we are creating.
Back home we got the tree all decorated. When we were done, there was a pretty solid ring of ornaments right at Harriet and Alma height.
And adding the star to the top is a family affair. I love the magic of this moment, every single year.
We also got to visit Santa after church on Sunday. I seriously love this Santa (except that this year, he told the kids he’s just a helper… I was fully committed to teaching our kids that he was the real deal, but, whatever…).
I think this was the first year both girls have happily gone right up to him and jumped into his lap.
We went, of course, with Rory and Poppy. Poppy was a little unsure about the whole deal.
We wrote our letter to Santa and put it in the mailbox. Then a talking tree – Doug Fir – came up and made us all a little uncomfortable.
But, hey! It’s Christmas time! It’s Advent! Let’s be jolly!
One thing that Evynne Hollens does very well is inspire. She is such a positive person, and I appreciate how she puts out so much love and light into the world. When she does covers, she chooses songs that are uplifting, empowering, and inspiring. Her next cover is no different.
If you’ve been following her, you know that she’s been on a princess kick for a while. In fact, she’s releasing a new CD of her covers of the princess songs (and a new CD of her other covers) very soon! I think this all started – or at least sped up – when she released her Evolution of the Disney Princess video on YouTube. It has over 10 million views (WHAT?!).
I don’t want to spoil what song she’s covering this time, but I will say that she came up with the perfect idea for the video. In the video, we’ll get to see her as a few of the princesses, along with smaller versions! The song is perfect for a bunch of four year old princesses – with their energy, silliness, sass, playfulness, and imaginations.
I helped Evynne organize a group of seven little princesses to all go to her house and film the video. It was like a bomb of adorable exploded in the Hollens’ studio. I mean, really. Look at this little Princess Parade, heading into the studio:
It was so fun to be a part of the filming. Both Evynne and Merlin, her talented cameraman (and sometimes drummer), were so wonderful with the kids. They gave amazing directions and really seemed to be enjoying the hilariousness of directing seven 3-5 year-olds.
Ashland definitely got in on the direction. Or maybe he was the lighting tech. I’m not sure, but he was there and he was super helpful!
Each of the princesses got a chance to be in front of the camera. Alma went first because that’s the way she is. She is certainly my daughter, that is obvious. While the other girls were, perhaps, a little unsure of what to do, Alma just jumped right in and started hamming it up for the camera. No stage fright here.
Harriet, on the other hand, was a bit more reserved (which is hilarious since she was Elsa, the most fierce of all the princesses!). She was also the youngest. She sort of just sat there, or stood there, and shook her head. I’m interested to see what Merlin got from her, and how Evynne will edit it. But, just look at those boots peeking out of her Elsa dress. That’s so Harriet.
It was really interesting to be there, in the studio, where the Hollens film many of their videos. It all felt so exciting – the lights, the background, the music, the energy. The kids had a great time cheering each other on and playing around.
One of the highlights of the day was when Evynne would transform into various princesses. The girls would sneak up the stairs to try to catch of glimpse of Evynne as the princesses. I’m fairly convinced that the moment she came downstairs in costume each time, the girls thought it was the actual princess. They called her by the princess name, and an awed hush went over them. ‘Ariel’s’ mom even said to me, “Why did I pay so much money to meet the Princesses at Disneyland when I could have just come over to Evynne’s house?” So, Evynne, if this whole YouTube business doesn’t pan out, you have a future in doing Princess Parties! Ha!
I’m excited for this epic show-down between the pink and blue Sleeping Beauty dresses. Actually, they were very civil, but it got a bit tense there for a second.
One of my favorite moments of the day was when Merlin was telling the girls and their families the plan, and it was chaos. Everyone was playing with Ash’s toys and there were little brothers running around. Alma was so overcome with her enthusiasm that she just ran up to Merlin and gave him a big hug, despite the fact that she barely even knew him.
We all had such a fun time working on this video with Ev and Merlin! Thanks to Olivia, Elizabeth Grace, Eibhlin, Marie, Hailey, Harriet, and Alma – all the little princesses – for helping out! Thanks to Evynne Hollens and Merlin for including us! I’m sure the whole squad of little princesses will remember this day for a long, long time.
This Green Faced Witch and this Queen Elsa (who’s really Harriet) would like you wish you a very Happy Halloween!
Here’s that Green Faced Witch looking extra spooky with a mean face and a real, decorative broom. I made her dress using a pattern for the Wizard of Oz wicked witch. I really wanted her to have an old-fashioned looking dress, and this pattern was perfect! The spider web fabric makes it extra spooky and extra fun!
But she doesn’t want you to be too scared. She’ll rip off her hat and say, “It’s me! It’s Alma!” in case you look too spooked by her green face.
There was no question that Harriet wanted to be Queen Elsa for Halloween. She’s pretty obsessed, and this hand-me-down from my cousin’s daughter was perfect! She’s quick to point out that she’s ‘Just Harriet” if you call her Queen Elsa. She doesn’t want there to be any confusion.
Here she is freezing everything, but not really since she’s not really Queen Elsa, she’s just Harriet:
Now let’s just hope for a dry evening so we can get some good trick or treating in!
reading Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.
knowing it would be so much better live, or in a fully written book.
wishing I could fly to London with tickets to the play in my hand.
listening to my Autumn Playlist on Spotify.
feeling nostalgic, which is apparently my Autumn mood.
wanting to be more creative, more consistently.
cutting all the felt into all the shapes and letters.
preparing to sell felt things at a bazaar next month.
watching all the Friends reruns on Netflix.
getting excited for Halloween.
looking forward to November, when I practice 30 Days of Gratitude.
thinking that I might start a few days early.
feeling like we all need more gratitude in our lives right now.
imploring that we can just vote early and get this shit-show over with.
reading and watching way too much about the election.
fearing the worst.
hoping for the best.
enjoying the colorful days and dark nights.
stopping to watch the leaves.
choosing to see the beauty.
reminding myself that playing with the kids is what I should be doing.
Wow, it’s been a while since my last book report! I don’t know how this got away from me. I’ve certainly been reading. Here are some quick reviews of what I’ve read so far in 2016.
10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help That Actually Works–A True Story by Dan Harris. This was a book club book, and I have to say I wasn’t impressed. It was about Dan Harris’ on-air “panic attack” and how he changed his life afterward. First of all, Dan Harris is completely unsympathetic. I just didn’t care. His public humiliation wasn’t very humiliating (watch the video… seriously… nobody would have noticed his flub). I mean, it’s great that he became 10% happier, and tamed the voice in his head. Good for him but frankly, I don’t care.
Less is More by Kimberly Hill Campbell. I really liked this education text book. You can read a full review of it here.
Maus and Maus II by Art Spiegelman. This is another one of those books that I read at least every couple years. My brother gave me this book for Christmas the first year he was in college. It’s an incredible Holocaust biography graphic novel where the Nazis are cats and the Jewish people are mouses. I got to see Art Spiegelman speak a few years ago in Eugene. If you’ve never read these books, go do it. They are genius.
Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel. Has anyone not read this yet? Such a horrific, heartbreaking, hopeful story. Without spoiling too much, this book is about people before, during, and after a pandemic flu that kills almost everyone. Station Eleven jumps around in time and between characters, presenting the story in an engaging, masterful way. Seriously a wonderful book that is hard to read, but impossible to put down. I love this kind of story about possible futures, but I hate reading about huge disasters because they totally stress me out. The cool thing about this book, is in the end, it isn’t a disaster book. It’s a book about relationships, art, human spirit, and strength.
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling. Whenever a new Harry Potter book would come out, I would reread all the previous ones. That means I’ve only read the final book one time, and I figured it was time to read it again. But I can’t just read the last one, that would be crazy. So I started the series. Unfortunately, the middle school where I was working didn’t have the second book in stock (and it’s the only one I don’t own because it’s my least favorite), so I stopped after the first one.
Cinder and Scarlett by Marissa Meyer. We read Cinder in my book club, and I read Scarlett on my own after I finished Cinder. These are cool young adult science fiction books set in a dystopian future. They are really interesting and have strong, brave female characters who only get a little bit sidetracked by love. They are predictable to my discerning adult reader’s mind, but I can see how they would be amazing and surprising to a middle schooler. There are more in the series, but I haven’t gotten around to reading them yet.
Empathy Exams by Leslie Jamison. Another book club pick. This one is a book of essays by a narcissistic, mediocre, millennial writer. I kept checking to see if the book was actually written by Hannah Horvath from Girls. I have to admit that I really did like a couple of the essays – the first one especially – but there were a few that were almost painful. There are so many metaphors the book almost flew out of my hands and into the wall, fracturing into 40,000 paper cranes flying back to the Iowa Writer’s Workshop.
Image Grammar by Harry Noden. Another book report to renew my teaching license. This is a good book about how to incorporate figurative language into writing. Maybe Leslie Jamison should read this to be reminded of the importance of doing this in an artful way.
10 Things Every Writer Should Know by Jeff Anderson. Yep, another text book. The ten things are pretty obvious, but the author did a good job giving strategies and materials to teach these things to students.
The Boston Girl by Anita Diamant. I really liked this book. It was well written, in a way that was unpretentious and relatable. It told the story of a Jewish girl growing up in Boston right after the turn of the 20th century. She is present for women’s suffrage, labor reform, and all those other amazing things that happened in the early 1900s. I loved Addie and loved how she was a strong girl who stood up for herself and made her own way in the world.
The Red Tent by Ania Diamant. After reading The Boston Girl, I was ready for another book by Diamant. The Red Tent is now one of my favorite books. This story of motherhood and womanhood is so important and beautiful. We all know the story of Jacob, but I’ve never even thought to stop and wonder about his wives or his daughter Dinah’s story is eternal and beautiful and connects us all together in a way that Joseph’s never could. I don’t even really have words for how this book made me feel. You know how, when you finish a really good book, you close it and feel sad that it’s over. This book devastated me when it was over. Dinah’s story was so tragic, but the last two pages destroyed me with hope and love and connection. I took a photo of the last two pages so I could always have them with me.
Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff. Book club! I have to say that the discussion about this book might have been the best ever. There were so many things to say – so many observations, questions, ideas, reactions. I still don’t know if I liked the book. I mean, it was really, really good, but I’m not sure if I liked it. The characters were completely unlikable, even though they were presented as perfectly adorable. It was an interesting story with lots of twists and turns and it makes me happy for my beautiful simple life. I’m glad I read it, and I would recommend it to other people. I just have a hard time with unlikable characters.
Secret Daughter by Shilpi Somaya Gowda. I got this book through an Instagram hashtag. A woman sent me the book along with some fabric, and I sent it on to another woman with some of my fabric. The book was a good, interesting story with painfully stiff dialog. It took me a while to get over the dialog and the writing style, but the story was sweet and sad and will stick with my for a while, I’m sure.
Cold Tangerines by Shauna Niequist with reflections by Debbies Grable and Gibson. Here’s another self-indulgent book of essays. My mom and aunt read this book together a couple years ago, and sent their reflections to each other after each chapter. My mom put all those reflections into a book and I read that along with Cold Tangerines. I have to say that my favorite part of the experience was reading what my mom and aunt had to say about it. I learned about how they see the world, and that was more interesting and powerful than seeing how Niequist sees the world. I didn’t relate to her very much at all, but I found new ways to relate to my mom and aunt.
8:23 – I want to remember these girls and the cuddles in the mornings. Now that they share a room, it’s more likely that they will stay in their beds, or at least their room, and chat and play before they come into our room. We do all, usually, end up in bed together for a few minutes.
8:47 – I want to remember how the girls love to play with new things. They made this goo the night before at a Science Fair at the university and were really excited to play with it first thing in the morning.
8:56 – I want to remember this view, with the gorgeous yellow birch, the flaming red dogwood, the landscaping growing up and getting bigger. The junky car that’s been parked across the street for a few months, I’m happy to forget that, if only it would go away.
9:03 – I want to remember how great it feels to wake up to a mostly clean kitchen. I never want to do it at night, but it’s always worth it in the morning.
9:08 – I want to remember these autumn breakfasts. Oatmeal with frozen blueberries for them, tea with orange oil for me.
9:14 – I want to remember how Harriet says “hot cococo” for hot chocolate. I don’t want to remember how she threw a huge fit because I gave it to her in the wrong cup – I’ll just choose to remember that she eventually accepted the cococo in the Santa mug (the one she usually wants).
9:25 – I want to remember that this was not a normal day for us. My To Do List isn’t usually a bunch of chores around the house. We usually actually leave the house. I don’t usually spend the entire day cleaning the house. I do want to remember how good it feels to clean up our messes and be able to have such a wonderful home to take care of. I also want to remember how using the essential oils to clean the house makes it all so much more fun.
9:48 – I want to remember how the girls are actually eager to help me these days. Harriet loves to help me cook dinner. Alma likes to help with the dishes, dusting, and sweeping. I’m working on giving them daily and weekly chores.
9:52 – I want to remember these eggs and these chickens. I love that my chores include getting eggs, taking out food scraps, and giving them water.
10:07 – I want to remember the corner of our kitchen where things build up. Art projects from school, mail that needs attention, empty shoe boxes. These are the things that show our busy existence. I especially love when this corner of our kitchen gets sorted and put where it all goes. That was my job this day.
10:12 – I want to remember how these girls play together. They use their imaginations and really work well together. They used these boxes as houses, horse stalls, tunnels, who knows what else. I also want to remember Harriet’s love for her new boots and her tutu.
10:25 – I want to remember the imaginations in these girls. They had a full conversation between these two candlesticks.
10:31 – I want to remember these candlelit meals and snacks. Candles, while eating, are pure magic.
10:49 – I want to remember the love and care that goes into keeping a house. These wood floors shine thanks to me and my care for them. And essential oils.
11:56 – I want to remember these plates and the little hands that made them. I want to remember these peanut butter sandwiches – honey for Harriet, homemade strawberry jam for me and Alma.
12:59 – I want to remember all the sewing. I haven’t sewn in a couple months, so it feels great to get back to it. I finished Alma’s witch dress, fixed my sweater, and got started on Harriet’s much needed big bed quilt. I love giving my girls quilts so they can always be wrapped up in my love – and a tangible representation of that love.
2:03 – I want to remember how much I love Christmas and how much I love making good things for our family. These blend perfectly when I use Christmas Spirit oil (Orange, Cinnamon, Spruce) in my homemade hand soap.
3:13 – I want to remember how Harriet is the queen of the pout. She will sit down and pout, or just stand in the middle of the room and pout. Here, Alma is her horse who ran away. The pout went away once the horse came back.
3:20 – I want to remember these colors and snacks. Pink and honey for Harriet. Blue and jam for Alma.
3:52 – I want to remember these slow, cloudy days when I don’t get around to taking my shower until well into the afternoon. And my old Cal Young tie dye t-shirt that I use for my hair after my showers.
4:15 – I want to remember these days of forts, and make believe, and reading corners.
5:31 – I want to remember how our friends came over, bringing us a fake Christmas gift for an upcoming music video, and how it was fun to wish them Merry Christmas in October. I also want to remember how they all came inside and hung around for a little bit. Surprise guests and good conversations fill my bucket in a big way. Even if I forget to take any photos. Especially when I forget to take any photos.
6:11 – I want to remember this season and the comfort food that it brings. This was a baked potato bar, using lots of things we happened to have on hand.
6:18 – I want to remember “Come Lord Jesus, be our guest; let this food to us be blessed. Amen,” and how Alma and Harriet say “Come Lord Jesus, be our guest; let this family to us be blessed. Allmen.”
6:49 – I want to remember the chaos that falls at bedtime. It is a constant battle to get them going in the right direction to get their teeth brushed, jammies on, and everything else that needs to be done when there are so many other things that they’d rather be doing.
7:03 – I want to remember the calm that settles when we’re all in our bed, reading a story before they head to their own beds. A few final cuddles and they race to their room.
7:04 – I want to remember how the girls need just a little bit more chaos before they can settle into their beds and eventually fall asleep.
I want to remember the time that Jesse and I get after the kids are in bed. We watch shows, get stuff done, clean up a little, read books, and eventually fall asleep ourselves.
Today is a beautiful, cloudy, chilly, gray day. My favorite, and perfect for the first day of Autumn. It’s time for a To Do list and some adorable photos of last Autumn.
Also if you’re interested in how our Spring/ Summer To Do list ended up, I updated it here!
I’ve been working on eliminating the toxic chemicals in our house for a few years now. I started thinking about all the toxins we come into contact with during the day – shampoos, conditioners, soaps, detergents, dish soap, floor polish, the list goes on and on and it’s really overwhelming.
Things have really changed this year, and I’ve been able to eliminate so much in the past few months. It all really kicked into gear when I got my starter kit of essential oils from Young Living. Not only did I get the oils to just make the house smell good, but I’ve also started making my own shampoo using four simple ingredients, I can mop the floor with no toxins at all, I make my own sugar scrub that I use for shaving and exfoliating, plus so much more.
My favorite thing I’ve done, though, is eliminate the toxic chemicals that I was using in my laundry. It’s really intense when you think about how much our laundry, and the chemicals used, can affect our daily life. We are constantly wearing clothes that were washed in the chemicals, sleeping in sheets with chemicals, washing our faces with washcloths, drying off after showers, etc, etc, etc.
I found this website: The Environmental Working Group, that breaks down things and grades them based on the chemicals and toxins in them. I found my old laundry soap, the one that I bought because it was supposed to be chemical free and natural (the one I bought to wash our diapers, the things that are closest to our baby’s skin) – and it had a D grade. That isn’t good.
Now I make my own toxin free laundry soap and I’ve been really happy with it. It has simple, natural ingredients, that when individually entered into the EWG website come up clean. Here’s another surprise: Borax scores really poorly, in face it scores an F. This is something that a lot of people put into their homemade laundry soap but it has concerns for reproductive health among other things. So, I skip the borax.
My recipe is super easy and lasts a long time.
Just grate the soap, add the rest of the ingredients and store in an airtight container. I use 1-2 Tbs per load. For the essential oils, I like to add Purification, Lavender, whatever smells good.
Another huge contributor to chemicals in laundry are those stain removers. We’ve always had a bottle of that on the shelf and the amount of perfume has always bothered me. I looked up the kind we’ve used and guess what – D. It may get the stain out, but at what cost? A moderate concern for respiratory distress, asthma, developmental and reproductive problems and cancer. Doesn’t seem worth it to me.
I have another solution. I bought Young Living’s Thieves Laundry Soap a couple months ago, but since I’m cheap and love a DIY, I only use it as a stain remover. I just take about a tablespoon of the laundry soap, rub it into the stain and throw it into the washing machine (sometimes I let it soak for a bit). I don’t even add more of my homemade soap because a 1 Tbs of the Thieves Laundry Soap is all you need for a whole load of laundry, thus that tablespoon is doubling as stain remover and laundry soap. That’s music to my deal-loving ears. Also EWG hasn’t graded Thieves yet, but I went through the ingredients list and most things are A and a couple are B, so I’d guess it’s around an A-, which is way better than the D I was using before.
Want proof that this method works? When Alma got her head wound and my shirt was covered in blood that set up for days, the Thieves took it right out. Blood. Gone. Harriet’s favorite jellyfish shirt, covered in soaked in, dried hot chocolate:
And after treating it with Thieves Laundry Soap and washed like normal:
So, there you have it. Go to the EWG webpage and enter in your laundry detergent and dryer sheets and stain remover and decide if you want to keep using them.
I love this toxin free laundry soap and that I’m not leaching toxic chemicals into our clothes and towels and sheets. I love that my clothes get clean. I love that we’re saving money.
Oh, here’s a bonus! If you sign up for Young Living this month (September), not only will you be getting a diffuser, eleven bottles of essential oils, lots of other good stuff, but they’re also throwing in a bottle of Thieves Laundry Soap. There’s really no reason not to try it now!