i was thinking today about what really makes up the daily life ellie & i share right now -- at sixteen months, our days are so very different than they were even a few months ago. there are a few constants in our days & as i try to simplify & surround her with beautiful, simple, natural things there are some very clear favorites for this sweet girl. here they are!
1. we read a lot through out the day & i have so many favorite books, but as ellie forms her own opinions & has books she seems to love to read over and over and over (and over!) again -- this book, trains go, is one of our tried and true loves. i think it will be my new go to one year old birthday present -- the sounds, simple illustrations & things to talk about on each page are just so wonderful. (thank you nana!)
2. the great outdoors. we are truly outside every day -- usually multiple times a day. rain or shine, cold or hot, we find a way to explore. often it's our own backyard (on hotter days, i fill a big cooler with water & she has some simple buckets, shovels, cans that she fills over and over) or the nearby park or some other place we just stumble upon. i find there's nothing more grounding for both of us than just stepping outside. when the day is dragging on or we just feel off, we set off to be outside. i've also found when we travel it's one of the things that settles ellie into a new environment fastest. we took a wonderful weekend trip to north carolina this weekend and literally went to a park five times in three days (!!) -- we made new friends, did familiar things like the swings & slide and discovered new things to climb on. i also find i'm better about talking less (goodness knows i could be quiet more often) and letting ellie try to new things -- we both just settle into being in the great outdoors.
3. this wonderful table & chairs. i'm trying to do small montessori activities with ellie each day -- i went to a montessori school as a child & the methodology just makes sense to me -- it fits with my natural approach to motherhood. (if you're looking for a wonderful book to begin, this is my favorite -- thanks margaret!) i've found this table is our best investment we've made in things for our house for e. we begin each day coloring and working with play dough or animals here each morning. we often eat snack here -- stove top popcorn, trader joes organic animal crackers (so, so good!) or some blueberries. we just invested in two more chairs because we so often find ourselves with three or four of us who'd love to have a seat. this one is so well made & beautiful -- i just love it.
mamas, what are your favorite things these days? i feel like i've finally gotten perspective on being a first time mom -- you really don't need much, but some beautiful, practical, we made things go a long way -- and then get outside! :)
my parents recently bought a farm in a beautiful part of virginia. we'll be making our inaugural visit in a few weeks & i just know how deeply i'm going to love this place. how much a part of our family narrative will be rooted in time spent there.
i've been trying to figure out the perfect housewarming gift to take and though my parents aren't coffee drinkers, i know they're eager to welcome lots of coffee lovers into their home (including me!). i've been looking at these two coffee makers and trying to choose between them -- i'm curious, have you tried either the bodum or the chemex? there's something about the simplicity of this place, how leisurely i'm hoping mornings will be there (although my favorite 16 month old likely has a different pace in mind...) that i like the idea of making coffee this way. my parents will be heating up the kettle for tea any way, so we could share the ritual.
any other favorite coffee makers? morning rituals matter so much to me. i'm so grateful for your advice sweet readers!
p.s. do you have a favorite grinder you use?
two weekends ago, ryan & i were able to head back to pensacola for a weekend away, just the two of us. it was an incredibly important trip for us -- a chance to go back and touch a rock in our lives. pensacola was where ryan was stationed when we got engaged, where we lived for the first year of our marriage -- the backdrop for a really significant three years in our story.
we hadn't been back since we moved to virginia & being there felt, in so many ways, like going home for us. the familiar sights, sounds, views were all a balm for our souls. we ate in the restaurants, took the drives, walked the beaches, went to the church, told the stories and wandered the target aisles of that season of life. we did the ordinary things we did all the time when we lived there. it reminded us just how solid of a foundation we forged there. it reminded us of all the things we were intentional about & how much care we took in laying the cornerstones for our little family. it also allowed us to get some perspective on how far we've come, how different our lives are now.
one of my the poignant moments was when we were driving down scenic highway, a road we used to live on (my dad said it best when he wrote us a letter after a visit saying that "all marriages should begin on scenic highway" -- it was a really incredible place to begin our lives together) -- we were talking about the major hats each of us wears right now. -- for me wife & mom, for ryan husband, dad & pilot. we were talking about how all of those were relatively new roles for us, but long, long anticipated for each of us. ryan has wanted to be a navy pilot his whole life, we've both had a sense we wanted to get married & start a family for as long as we can remember.
but like most things in life, what that actually looks and feels like has been unexpected. i always seem to want to live with one foot in whatever is the next season of life, i've longed to be just a bit older, a bit further along. time & time again, when i finally arrive in that moment, it's different than i anticipated. and what always catches me off guard is that it's never hard in the ways i expected it to be hard. so, i find myself flailing a bit, feeling unprepared, rushing off to try to fix things or make them better. but now this moment finally feels like i'm beginning to do what i've long needed to do -- to settle in. here's what i mean -- it's unnatural for me, the type a doer, to really rest in a season of life. to rest in whatever discomfort and hardship might be there & to really yield that it's exactly where i'm supposed to be. the good, the bad and the ugly is the moment i'm intended for.
you see, i believe deeply ryan is who i'm supposed to go through life with, that he is meant to be a navy pilot & that, for now, my primary responsibility is being his wife & ellie's mom. this life -- especially being a military wife & all this life entails -- is incredibly unexpected for me. & i have days where i look around and think "how the heck did i get here?!!" but in an honest moment --- i know, deep within my soul, this is EXACTLY where i'm supposed to be. i've always spent so much time trying to make things better, even perfect; to improve, to ace the test -- and now i'm learning that's a fruitless task -- there's always going to be imperfection, uncertainty, discomfort. i'm missing so much by trying to barrel through the difficult things instead of seeing them as connected to all the good around me. that both the incredible blessings in my life, and the hardships, are working for my good -- so that i can be more loving, more kind, more empathetic, more generous, more authentic. when i fight this, i waste so much energy on things that in an honest moment, i know are completely beyond my control & not mine to "fix." i miss opportunities to dig in with people i care about, to really listen, to care for, to see the growth that i so badly need.
ryan & i were telling each other the moments when we knew we were beginning to settle into these hats we each plan to wear for a long time -- like how it's not odd to ryan anymore that i have his last name or to talk about his wife or daughter -- it's a part of his identity. we also were talking about where we know some important growth still lies ahead. i was telling him about this evening i'd had with some really dear friends. they'd kindly come over for dinner because ryan was gone for training and ellie was going to bed really early. i was reading with their four year old after dinner and they were on the floor stacking blocks with their one year old -- i looked over and saw how content they were. there was no sense there were more productive things they could be doing or that there's some place they'd rather be on a friday night or that stocking blocks with a one year old was monotonous. it was clear that this how they do life -- this is where they invest their time, their patience, their love. they've been married for seven years & parents for almost five years -- it was so clear to me how much they'd genuinely settled into those roles in a really beautiful way.
i think so much of entering parenthood is about yielding to how much it will change who you are and how you've always done things. and i've fought a lot of that -- i've thought that there was some way i could avoid changing how i view a productive day, or how i like to structure my time or get things done. the example i always use (which is kind of silly, but explains it) is that i have always been a morning shower person. ellie changed that completely -- mornings are sacred time for us. we share a bowl of oatmeal, i drink my latte while we build towers or color. & then we're usually off on an adventure or to see friends. i pull my hair back, pull on some clothes and we head off. when i need to shower is after i've put her to bed, i crave the chance to decompress, to reset, to settle into the time i have before i head to bed. it sounds ridiculous, but it's been so humbling to see all these silly things i've had my security or identity in just go by the wayside -- to realize my own selfishness and security lurked in the oddest places. & that the world keeps spinning when those things change or adapt or get redefined. in fact, often life is even better.
& so i'm settling in -- not pretending all of this is comfortable, but resting that this is where I'm supposed to be. these are the people i'm supposed to be doing life with. these are the circumstances i'm meant to navigate, the people i'm meant to love on, the growth i need. and that when i look around, there is so much to be grateful for. blessings abound. this past saturday morning, ellie & i were in our backyard. she was in a fit of giggles as she rolled over this gigantic red ball. i watched her chase bubbles across the yard -- and then get distracted by something she found in our grass. finally, we sat in silence as we drew with chalk while the sun warmed our backs. i looked up at the bright, blue sky & thought -- this is exactly where i'm supposed to be right now. i'd longed for that morning all my life and hadn't even known it.
photo above taken while we were in pensacola, nothing convinces me more of how i need to settle in than standing by the ocean.
most nights, after e is asleep, ryan & i head out to the porch. with some beers, we watch the sunset & breathe & talk about life. usually the sun has been down a long while before we head back in to do dishes or fold laundry or catch up on modern family/the mindy project/nashville. one evening, i grabbed my camera to try to get a few shots of my handsome husband -- as you can see, he takes very seriously having his photo taken for t&f!
it's the perfect time of year to pass long hours on the porch -- just warm enough, no bugs, perfect for a candle or two. the other night, i heard an ice cream truck! i think the inner kid in me is thrilled i can chase it down. i grabbed ryan's wallet & literally sprinted, high school track style, three blocks to catch it. ryan was laughing pretty hard when i came back, arms raised in victory, with the goods...
sorry it's been a little quiet around here, there's been a lot going on for our little family. here are a few things i'm loving -- back soon with some more regular posting.
these are incredible lifetyle family photos.
this pullover sweatshirt from gap is my new favorite thing ever. i even wore it on a date night! i have it in navy & am excited to snag a few other colors when they go back on sale!
have any of you gone shampoo free? my hair has been so frustrating since pregnancy/childbirth, i'm willing to try anything.
this home was completely inspiring to me -- it captures so much of what i hope to do with our home. a welcome place for curious children; beautiful, simple design; so many deeply personal touches.
this heartfelt letter makes me so excited for the days ahead with ellie.
baked potato grilled cheese? sign me up!
have a wonderful day, friends!