This week I made a chili for dinner using ground venison from last year and for flavor, italian sausage. I used Melissa Clark’s recipe from her Dinner cookbook, Black Bean and Pork chili, and I didn’t have the fresh sage, but everything else was simple. The ground venison broke down into textured bites and the sausage stayed together in delicious lumps. There is something special about the way tomatoes from a can of diced tomatoes will hold their shape as soft red monopoly houses. We had it for dinner the first night with grated cheddar cheese, tortilla chips, and sour cream on the table. We also had leftovers of Ina’s sour cream cornbread, a slice of which you can place in the middle of your bowl and drape the chili around the edge, like a moat around a safe castle. The second night I had extra black beans which I kept separate, because of course some would rather have a pool of dark black beans instead of a bowl of complicated multi-textured chili. I didn’t know who would prefer which though, and I was curious to see that nearly half of us chose plain black beans over the chili. This worked out perfectly as we had enough for four bowls of chili and two bowls of black beans. Small economies like this are not the most important thing, but I end up keeping a tally of them in my brain anyway. (Wednesday Chef has the recipe written up.)
I can’t decide if the youngest is a greater eater because we never notice what she eats, or if in fact she is not a good eater and I just haven’t realized it because I never notice how much she actually eats. She doesn’t complain about the food and I don’t ask her if she likes it. Sometimes while she is telling us something–at dinner this is usually asking to “do the forms” by which she means “share your rose and thorns,”–I idly notice that there is still plenty of food on her plate. But then my attention immediately flits to something else and I move on. Somehow she became the 3yr old who asks if “they have salad?” at the airport, and for “the black sprinkles” of everything bagel seasoning on her avocado toast, and wants to know what I’m eating and if she can try it.
Earlier in the week I made a really rich but not particularly flavorful chicken stock and used it to make tomato soup. I asked the 11yr old to slice onions for me while making the soup. After that she could go back to her reading, but I said, “Any interest in opening the tomato cans for me?” And she said, “Yes I love opening cans.” Which was something I didn’t know.
I always make the same tomato soup, a very simple version from Martha Stewart originally I think, with sliced onions and garlic cooked down in butter for awhile, whole tomatoes added and cooked for a bit, and then about equal parts chicken stock added and the whole thing blended until the red color is lighter, more golden, from the onions. Unfortunately most of the children did not want the tomato soup (which I could swear on my life they loved this past fall), they wanted the chicken stock on its own, the supply of which had been greatly reduced, indivisibly.
We did end up going outside every morning after breakfast every day since I last wrote, and it has been remarkable. It has involved getting everyone out of bed earlier than we are accustomed to (around 7:30) and coming down for a briefer breakfast. There have been statements, made from pillows, such as “Not a walk today I hope?” and, “Well I don’t think I’ll come.” But after walking out the door, we’ve found new things to notice every morning. It’s been in the twenties and thick sheets of ice have formed on all flat surfaces, but once outside we quickly realize that it’s not as grey/cold/dark/ as it looked from the inside. All of us feel emboldened by this success so far.
Here are 23 very particular ideas of mine for this year. It is worth writing these down because, as Gretchen Rubin observes, studies show that we are far more likely to accomplish or be satisfied with our goals if we write them down.
Here we go…
1. Getting outside first thing in the morning with the kids. If there is a time of life we can do this, it is would be when homeschooling! Getting outside first thing has never been a priority for us, but admittedly it did happen more easily when we lived in a tiny apartment. This year, it’s a priority. Check out these these fun free downloadable trackers for hours spent outside together (I’m not going to use these, just do it on a lets-go day-by-day basis).
2. Drinking more mugs of chai tea in the winter months. I love a spicy chai tea, with its light shoosh of caffeine and warm simmered milk. There are so many chai options in the world, always room to enjoy another! Ones I’ve enjoyed in the past are dona, Bellocq, and Chai Wallahs of Maine.
3. Keep knitting with the kids. In December Lux and I started knitting next to each other on the couch, and then suddenly Joan and Alma were also interested in learning. It felt easy and fun (as opposed to two years ago when we tried and it just didn’t work). The most relieving part about it is that we had absolutely no ambitions for how good or bad it was going to look. I hope we can do some more of this during the inside months.
4. Get this book and learn more about Classical music.
5. Settle on cycle of ten dinner meals that we all love and get the kids integrated in helping me make them on a daily basis.
6. Settle on simple and clear lunch options and daily snack options so the kids can start making their own lunches and allowed snacks without asking me. This one is inspired by Jodi Mockabee’s book (which I did get for Christmas!).
7. Reengage with my sense of style. As part of my general re-emergence from early motherhood (which I feel ended March 2022 when Esme turned three) I feel that I’m sort of grasping at my personal style these days. I ruthlessly paired my closet down to tops that could get stretched and stained, and I haven’t had more than a few pieces of clothing that I actually love for a long time. I’m ready to spend some time (and ahh…money) figuring this out again. I may try a subscription service like Nuuly for a few months, just to experiment.
8. Learn to make homemade yogurt. At last we have a great reliable source of raw milk! This will be fun to try.
9. We had a better garden last year than we had the year before, and now I have even more ambitions for this year. I’ve dialed-in some vegetables that we love that grow well, and am ready to try for our biggest harvest yet.
10. Another gardening goal: plant a sage section. Sage grows easily around here and wouldn’t it be fun to have enough sage to lop a bundle of it off and make your own smudging sticks?
11. Work on my teeth. Sigh…I’ve been putting this one off for awhile. It’s going to be expensive and slow and probably painful at times; and it would be just so easy to ignore! But I have two fake teeth and bridges that are a little over twenty years old and need replacing. And one central tooth that died awhile ago and is steadily turning permanently yellow. I have gum recession, and I need braces to ever-so-slightly realign my upper jaw. It was really easy to delay when I was pregnant/breastfeeding but the time has come!
12. Thank Joe consistently for all the things he does for our family. Some of them are how he always has new songs for us to listen to, how he takes project ideas and turns them into actual things in the world, how he helps me clean the whole house on days when it just has to happen, and how he patiently helps the kids do things I hate like measure stuff and cut straight lines. I also want to make a point to say these things in front of the kids.
13. Work on my book! I’ve been going through all my private writing from the last ten years, and I am teasing it into a concrete piece. I have a goal of trying to send out small selections to writer friends for their perspective and critiques. I feel squeamish about committing to a timeline, but a goal of sending one email with attachments once a month seems doable, I think?
14. Use a sticker chart to encourage my writing just like Catherine Newman does.
15. Make some plans with Joe for a dream kitchen renovation. We have lots of ideas for improving our kitchen, but an actual plan feels a long way away (to say nothing of a mood board). Just want to start pulling together concrete ideas. I’m convinced there is no more important room in the house.
16. Visit my friend Ashleigh in Mississippi.
17. Make a mood board for a writer’s cabin in the back field (and I could imagine more than one out there, if any daughters eventually wanted one!).
18. Savor my babies. I have an oldest who loves to talk and celebrates the moments of conversation we have alone together. I have two middle kids who pop up to give thanks and hugs for things that they are excited about. And a youngest who loves to snuggle, giggle and read together. It’s a noise overload every day and the moments are often a blur, but such a stage of life!
19. I must quote at least two from this brilliant collection of goals by publiclibraryquilts: “We are loving our wholesome hobbies. We are planning lots of books we might never write & that’s just fine.”
20. Get away with Joe for two weekends. Could be a long way away like an island off the coast of South America, could be close like a hotel just around the corner.
21. Memorize more Bible verses as a family. Believe it or not, one of the children suggested this one to me!
22. Find 6-12 clean wines (ideally biodynamic) that don’t bother me with headaches or heavy hangovers. You can subscribe to services that will do this for you, but I know my local grocery has good affordable options, I just need to figure out which ones they are, and then only buy those ones.
23. Every month, try to make granola, Heidi’s cashews, and sprouted almonds. All delicious and nice to have around.
pretty fresh-start-feeling art by Rebekka Seale
I spent an evening chasing the titles of the books I read this year. I thought there were a myriad of apps tracking this for me, in addition to my library accounts, and perhaps Amazon kindle had my digital rentals as well? But: no. None of them kept up! What are internet cookies* for anyway?
Anyway, I went about looking for signs to recall what I was reading—email mentions, texts, photos, Instagram stories. I wondered if I had read 30 books this year (nearly, somewhere around 28). Then I wrote them all down on a piece of paper in a journal. Foolproof!
Here are some of the books that passed the attention gauntlet, and won their place in my hands and flighty mind for the duration of their pages. They were all great, or I wouldn’t have finished them.
Going to take my Marie Kondo moment and say: Thank you books, for being part of my year.
More than a few peculiar memoirs this year, mostly because I fell completely for Anne Truitt’s four books that are edited journals about her life as a sculptor and doting mother. I loved the way she cataloged work as a sculptor alongside housekeeping, being a single mother, and life. I loved learning from how incredibly hard she worked at the work, even when her art was not selling or getting critical reception. I loved entering her mind at different ages and stages in her life, from her 40s. These books inspired me in my own writing, because the way she wove daily life together with meta-aspirations is exactly the type of writing I love to do.
For those of us who grew up hearing Elisabeth Elliot on the radio, hearing about she and Jim from church mission culture, or simply reading her books, the book Becoming Elisabeth Elliot was an incredible read. Through extensive journal excerpts and letters (so many letters!) the author documents how Elisabeth became one of history’s extraordinary persons, through her devotion to God and the moral framework she believed in.
The Candy House is on a lot of the best books of this year lists. It’s a surprisingly easy read about a future where people upload their memories to connect with one another, written from nine (maybe? I lost count) different intertwining perspectives. Like another of her books, A Visit from the Good Squad, it’s written with this light spirit and is somehow pleasant and funny while tussling with this dark sci-fi premise. Note you do not need to read Visit from the Goon Squad first.
Similarly light yet deeply thoughtful, the sci-fi books Station 11 and Sea of Tranquility were two of my favorite books of the year. If you read Station 11, you then get to watch the hbo series which has amazing costumes and fascinating twists on the original plot.
In April Joe and I went to the warm white sands of Canouan island for my older brother’s epic 40th birthday party. The hotel, Soho House, felt like a gorgeous open air home run by an invisible benevolent being, and the lobby had small piles of chic worn beach reads for the taking. There I found The Wreckage of My Presence a hilarious memoir about mothers, being a mother, and love in general. So happy and SO sad at times. Don’t want to give too much away, but it’s an amazing read, terry clothed beach lounger not required.
I picked up Lessons by Gisele Buchen at a summer used book tent sale, the type with cardboard boxes lining tables setup over lawns and under tents. Somehow I finished it just as she and Tom Brady divorced. Sad timing! I enjoyed reading about her modeling career and all her hard work inspired by her parents’ faith in her. If you read the book you learn she values family more than anything, so I can only imagine how heartbreaking that divorce was.
At one point this year I did a send-a-book chain on Instagram. I have no idea how it worked out for the 40ish people who signed up but I did my best to maximize the system by mixing up the names instead of putting them into one-chain pyramid with me at the top (as most chain letters are structured). Through that I received 8 books from strangers and really enjoyed 3 of them: Panchinko, Untamed, and The Color of Water. I loved The Color of Water, it was astounding how his mother had shaped their family, and how much he admired her, while he was also honest about how difficult his childhood was.
In January we knew we were going to Paris and Croatia in the early summer, and some reading was influenced by that. Joe and I both loved An Editor’s Burial which is a collection of stories that inspired Wes Anderson while he was writing The French Dispatch screenplay. Arguably his inspiration is better than the actual film; An Editor’s Burial is filled with gems. For Croatia I read Balkan Ghosts, a fascinating collection of essays about the different Balkan countries. And Lea Ypi’s Freedom, about growing up in Albania (which bizarrely is directly across a slim sea from Italy, but seems a world apart).
First book of last year was a re-read that I could read every year for the rest of my life: Circe by Madeline Miller. Last book of 2022 was Essential Labor: Mothering as Social Change an absolutely beautiful and thoughtful book about the kinds of care we have around us, and what we offer one another. I would recommend it to anyone, mother or not.
*Speaking of cookies, I couldn’t decide how to best hyperlink these books. Most of them are linked to Bookshop, which has a nice interface and is a place you could buy the book. But realistically what you need, as a reader, is a hyperlink where you could add these to a to-read list and get them from your library. I’m not sure where you should do that. I think goodreads is stuck in the mud–despite knowing everything I’ve read for years now, they do not give me any good recommendations. So I’m on the hunt for a new book tracking app–I think the space is realllly ready for a cute enthusiastic app that makes you want to read and helps you keep nice lists! Right now I am trying out the app Storygraph.
A really nice panettone with sugared almonds and fancy chocolate flecks. For having toasted with butter and hot coffee on December mornings.
A one year’s subscription to Floral Observer: a thoughtful quarterly snail mail newsletter about gardening and noticing the nature you’re with.
A bottle of bourbon and a couple of oranges to go alongside.
Pearl stud earrings because they make your cheeks glow.
A sweatshirt that says Oysters.
Merino pants by Babaa, so warm, so comfortable, about as timeless as sweatpants can get.
A massage and a half day alone to go with it.
A subscription to great coffee.
A pretty ceramic ornament for a special photo.
Special tortillas. Tim from Lottie + Doof recommended these last year and I sent them to a friend as a very successful random weekday gift. Yummy and nice for everyone to enjoy.
Cozy hand knit slippers from Ukraine–could order a whole bundle of these!
A countertop herb garden for everyone who likes snips of basil in their eggs throughout winter (is that all of us?). I have one and I like to grow only herbs in it, but one cherry tomato plant would be pretty cute as well.
A warm and crisp merino sweater, from Sezane, with collar buttons.
A set of four perfect Hermes perfumes, garden-themed and petite so they can experiment.
Chime in with what you’d love 🖤
I am enjoying watching Jamie Beck publish her book of photography and reflections, An American in Provence. Jamie has always been a vivacious spirit on instagram, honest, encouraging, and clearly very driven by creativity. A reviewer was quoted as saying Jamie’s book makes her the “Peter Mayle of today,” a crisp comparison. Mayle’s stories about France were edited for entertainment value and were somewhat cliche, but their spirit of fondness and optimism was at the heart of his success. Jamie’s photographs are posed and edited and firmly romantic, yes, but she seems to nudge the reader into relishing the beauty as much as she does.
(The book designer hand wrote the manuscript to use in her designs–a pile of handwritten pages never fails to catch the eye.)
Jamie shared her ambition to publish a book with her Provence work on her blog back in 2018 on a list of resolutions. It’s a long list of goals and ambitions and it’s really fun to see, four years later, her celebrating this accomplishment. There are many things on that list she likely didn’t accomplish that year, or the year after, or ever. But she bravely wrote them down anyway and even shared them to encourage other creatives in their work.
This is just a post to celebrate all this.
Below: I doubt photographs like this are in her Provence book, but this is a great example of the sumptuous surreality that Jamie often does in her work. Playful, always lovely, somewhat startling.
In a video discussing the images from the James Webb telescope, Bill Nye remarks “My grandparents did not know there was relativity. It wouldn’t surprise me if in 10 or 30 years there is some discovery about dark energy and how these things interact that will change everything.”
One of the central essences of my being right now is the many selves, and the fact that all the selves are not entirely transparent with one another. As a stay-at-home mom it is paramount that I pick projects carefully, though they vie so eagerly for my attention, promising just a bit of work to complete them and the resulting feeling of accomplishment that can sometimes feel so far away when raising up little humans. Overcommitting would have huge consequences to our household—the food gathering with attempted economy, the food preparing with attempted taste, the procurement of needed clothing, the care and keeping of said clothing, the physical engagement of reassuring little bodies as they go about their growth, tracking health and wellness and adaptions to schedules and commitments as needed, noting talents and interests and finding ways to foster them that are affordable and fair to the rest of the family, the constant attempted organization:”a place for everything and everything in its place,” following up on bills, insurance, appointments, registrations, the various gifts, notes and acknowledgements needed to remain in good standing in one’s community, and if one wants to travel—the tickets, reservations, visas, itineraries…
But I need to commit to some things as my brain will fret if left to only engagement within the household, or worse, household plus a cursory engagement with national news learned via headlines and editorials. So I have these other whole self interests. My blog. Keeping up instagram documentation here and there. Reading a lot. Being involved in leadership at my church and my local library reminds me I am indeed interested in how organizations grow and change. Helping as much as I can at our homeschool weekly co-op. And then taking on projects for myself, like trying to write better, and more often. Physically tiring workouts three or four times a week, in thirty minute increments. Reading books from spiritual thinkers in attempt to keep my mind open to the work of God. Learning to garden. Trying new recipes.
When I say the selves are not entirely transparent with one another, I mean that I don’t try to explain all of my interests to anyone from one of these parties mentioned above. Sometimes I catch myself explaining something I don’t really want to explain, a fraction of the pie that I’d rather leave under the darkened tin for now, a bit of dark energy related in some way to the whole movement, but undefined for now. I don’t think all of this is unique to my spirit. I think we are intuitively woven to have many selves. I think we resist the very suggestion of being a replicable cog. Hence the exuberant human spirit of rebellion: I will not be what you expect. But, I will be much of what you love.
Seasonal psa: As of September 26, it is Poetry Unbound season. Listen in at your next podcast opportunity.
Three years ago the Atlantic published an article entitled “Was Shakespeare a Woman?” I read the essay while tucked into bed with two pillows and a blanket after a long day. A day when I found the bathtub strewn with hair after a child’s quick dip, the towels (all of them??) forgotten on the floor. A day when I had not said very interesting things and very interesting things were not said to me. Mostly I had repeated myself, and gazed off absently during circular story telling.
Reading the essay, I fell for the theory–well articulated and curiously substantiated–as into a hammock after a long day’s work. It only took one read for me and I was laying back, swinging within it, gently back and forth between the what and the if. Holding it in my mind as a possibility seemed to shift everything.
I told my daughters about the idea over breakfast the next day, and then referenced it in the weeks to come. Referenced the idea of a woman who had penned brilliant things and never received any credit for it, but watched the work be received, and maybe held their reception in her heart. Almost immediately there was a reason to reference it: while researching a paper on Laura Ingalls Wilder, Lux and I learned that there was substantial proof that her daughter Rose significantly rewrote her mother’s manuscripts to achieve the storybook-like, moral-and-simplicity focused style that is consistent throughout (arguably the very style that sells the books). In addition, Rose left journal entries that seem to show she felt unseen by the success that poured out onto her mother’s shoulders.
The points of proof that really pulled me in to the female Shakespeare theory? 1/ The fact that Shakespeare’s daughters didn’t learn to read. How could someone who invented Katherine Minola, “the shrew,” not have his female children educated? 2/ The way in which the plots seemed to understand and elevate complicated, rebellious females, even as rebellious complicated females had so little status in society. 3/ Winkler’s argument that Shakespeare left almost no documentation showing he was anything beyond an actor.
Months later, I thought to go back and look up what the reception of the article had been, outside of my personal tale of discovery. Caustic. Refuted. The Atlantic printed five subsequent rebuttals.
Okay. She probably wasn’t Shakespeare. He probably was. Did it still matter? I had floated on the boat for awhile, and seen things differently, revised a version of history I had taken for granted and took a closer look at what any of it meant to me anyhow. Felt refreshed by the whole thing. Wanted to re-read Shakespeare, actually.
Looking back, I wonder how much of my reaction to the theory flowered from the fact that I felt like an unseen Shakespeare? Perhaps mid the tawdry cycle of toasted bread slice crumbs, hair scattered across the bathtub, order, sorting, emails, missed voicemails, forgotten appointments, and trafficked errands; beyond how convincing the argument was–I was drawn to the idea of the credited one, the one history chose and raised up, as being the poseur, and the hidden one, the one who left nothing behind, being the genius.
Conspiracy theories have turned sour in the United States on the whole. Between people claiming that Sandy Hook parents weeping over their lost children were actors, to a pie slice of the population claiming the recent presidential election was fraudulent, to people declaring that airplane contrails are in fact malicious chemtrails, the mood has shifted. There was a time was when contemplating a conspiracy theory meant you had to learn more about something in order to have a theory about it in the first place.
Despite this sour turn, conspiracy theories will continue to flourish in my own heart, because they create the brilliant spark of a feeling that you know better. Some think that, but you know this. As Winkler writes in the essay, “The idea felt like a feminist fantasy about the past–but then, stories about women’s lost and obscured achievements so often have a dreamlike quality, unveiling a history different from the one we’ve learned.” I’d loved the suggestion of the mystery, the shape of a cloak within a dark doorway, the invitation to believe that maybe we don’t know absolutely everything about how history had happened.
Note: the Atlantic’s paywall is quite jumpy–you only get three free articles. Use your first click on Winkler’s essay. It is also available to read in the book 2020 Best American Essays.
Film photo finishing off a roll on a disposable camera.
In April I announced to my sister-in-law that this summer was going to be be my summer of structured pieces. I’d be wearing mod mini-skirts, shift dresses and fitted cropped pants with fitted tops. A couple weeks later, I found out I was pregnant and all of that went out the window! My summer wardrobe quickly turned into the summer of flow-y dresses and breezy linen everything. Being pregnant is an interesting experience (on every level) but also on a style level. It requires ultimate flexibility, something might look great one week and then you can’t even get it half zipped two weeks later. You can’t buy a dress for a wedding you have next month because you have no idea what will fit you. Your favorite go-to pieces are off limits and you kiss denim good bye for the foreseeable future. It’s a good practice in releasing control which is the ultimate lesson of parenthood (or so I’m told), very little control over very few things. (Editor’s note: this is a guest post by my sister Joanie! All links are affiliate.)Being pregnant teaches you to view your body with a degree of separation, to let it do its own thing without over analyzing every ache and pain. To take a step back from the hyper-vigilance with which we view our bodies for most of our lives, trusting the process and letting it grow and expand as it pleases. My appreciation for style and good clothes is still very much present. I’ve taken to texting links to my sisters and friends of things I would have bought but now they should. I’m one of the many that’s happily watching J.Crew return to form with their new creative director and jumping at things that I think might work on my 22+ week pregnant self.We’re still in the mega sale area. First it happened because of Covid and retailers trying to boost sales and now it’s the economy and consumer spending on the decline that’s causing price cuts left and right. Whatever it is, the buying is good right now and even in my pregnant state, I haven’t forgotten about all your style needs!
I love this sweater and you can’t go wrong with any of the colors but I’m going to give my top pick the the ivory one. And judging from the comments, size down!
This one is very much giving me the same vibes as the overpriced Jenni Kayne sweaters that people seem to love to drop $300 on. It’s under $50 with the sale right now!
We’re going to be seeing a lot of ribbed, fitted dresses this fall which I fully support. Make sure to order the right size, you don’t want it to be so fitted that it’s see-through when you bend down. I love this one.
By now you all know how I feel about a colorful jacket for fall or winter. And with the current sale climate, now is your time to strike! Love the deep pink on this one. I recognize that I’m linking a $700 coat but it’s Max Mara which is a life coat and if you ever wanted to sell it, they really hold their value.
Have we talked about loafers being the shoe you need for fall? I can’t remember but it’s true. It’s going to be a loafer heavy autumn out on the streets. I know Rachael just bought these, which I love, as her fall shoes. Also down with the preppy penny loafer and I think they can be worn in many different ways, and also these Gucci look alike as a sleek option. Woven leather is typically more of a summer shoe but I like them worn into fall. These feel very elegant (recommend in the cognac color).
And what about pants? You know I’ve been preaching the pleat front pant for awhile now and I’m not stopping anytime soon. It’s time to break away from your denim and try some trousers. There is an abundance of good options. A big YES to these. If I wasn’t pregnant I’d already own these, they’re so good.
We’re moving away from dainty jewelry and fully embracing big earrings and lots of necklaces. Pearls are having a big moment and this pair is great. And I have no idea how this is still in stock, at this price.
Thanks Joanie! If anyone has a autumn birthday coming up, I think some of these would really make lovely gifts
I had the nicest Mother’s Day. I wanted to get up before the older girls wake, like Joe and I usually do, and have our cup of coffee outside when everything is still quiet. Yet I am a big believer in the breakfast in bed parade–there’s something formative about it–so I did go back to bed with my kindle so they could still present the breakfast that Joe made. [Scrambled eggs, plus I made this King Arthur cinnamon bun box mix the night before, let it rise overnight outside (crowded refrigerator) and then put it in the oven in the morning when I was down early–delicious.]
At some point in the day I reflected on Mother’s Days of the past when I genuinely believed that I would in some way feel more treasured and special than I did on other days of year. Lauded was probably the word I was looking for. This expectation was entirely the wrong way to approach the day because it disabled me from enjoying the tiny special things that came about, distracted as I was in seeking my Greater Meaning. These days, I’m more interested in whether our daily patterns are working for us and if they aren’t, it’s better to see that and fix it than wait for a special day to declare something isn’t working.
a kitchen I like to think of as at rest. Source long lost and not findable with google images.
And yet the memes about how sleep is all a mother wants still hold of course, and being allowed to sleep in, by the subversion and removal of whatever child typically disrupts the sleep first, is still by far the cheapest luxury available to the partner-giver. Why there is still a child disrupting sleep and why I’m not in a routine of waking up before this child is just one of those things. You move the high water mark and the water rises higher anyway.
For the record, the pursuit of breaks and time to reset is one of those tangible acts with intangible results that can be very effective at solving many states of child raising fatigue. A couple hours away have allowed me to return to my tasks, just as constantly circular as ever, feeling ready to engage them again. I can still recall the refreshment from when I asked Joe to stay the girls by himself for the whole day, while I went out. I went out to a long lunch by myself and then walked around like a loner and was just silent for hours. Do I like to be silent, as a person? Not really, I’m an extrovert. But it was THE thing I needed at that moment and asking for it and receiving it was transformative before I returned to the week ahead.
Taking breaks is one of the things you hear mentioned frequently by those looking back on their child-raising years. People remark that if they could have taken breaks better, it would likely have been possible for them to enjoy their children more. The idea being that most people absolutely love spending time with their kids and innately long for them to never grow up, but it’s the other things in the room that keep the adults from experiencing that truth on a cell, soul level.
But the questions are: how to decide on the break you need based on the refreshment you seek and how to go about getting it. And beyond this question, there is the sentiment that it is important to share with your children what you are doing for yourself and why you are doing it. Sometimes the postcard of “Mommy is going away for awhile” can look picture perfect, and that’s what we’re avoiding here. It should look ruthless and lonely. As a writer my intentions are also haunted by the vision of presenting children with an inexplicably closed door–this foggy memory seems to crop up often in the recollections of writer’s children.
In parenting over the years I’ve learned it plays better to share your fullest self to them from the beginning–the one that wants a break for fifteen minutes, a nap, some time with her own book, to finish her lunch without getting up for something, who forgets to and then remembers to trim her fingernails, who confesses “I don’t like reading this book aloud,” and “I’m all done playing that game but we can sit next to each other for awhile” right alongside “I can’t wait to read this together,” and “You make the best drawings of bunnies.” It’s like the plot of you can be a complete story to them this way, instead of random chapters left out. This is in the same way that it works best to introduce manners and chores as quickly as their consciousness invites it. I write that as someone who did not do it and had to introduce it later. As we sort out ourselves in the safety of our home, we’re giving them tools/stepping stones/foundation blocks (pick your metaphor!!) to sort themselves.
Rag & Bone
(A style guest post from Joanie. All links are affiliate where applicable.) I’ve been traveling a lot lately and I almost exclusively travel carry-on only unless it’s an 8+ day trip. Packing in a carry-on, especially when traveling to cold places, like my recent trip to New York, forces you to make cut throat decisions about what’s coming with you. You can pack one jacket and two pants and a couple of sweaters and you’ll still be sitting on your suitcase begging the zipper not to break. Packing and unpacking frequently has me visiting my closet often. Going through hangers pulling out pieces that might work for that dinner event I have and maybe also for walking around the city during the day? Only pieces that can pull double and triple duty are allowed on the trip.
The thing about taking a carry-on is realizing that you can invent many outfits with a few good pieces and also, at least for me, realizing I/we are way over stocked in the closet department. That my wardrobe would probably feel more exciting with less in it. Which makes me start to ponder what would be in my perfect closet? The 10-12 pieces that would be foundational. It’s fun to think about because if those pieces really work they’ll do a lot of the heavy lifting and give you a great base to get dressed from every day. But, those pieces have to really work. We’re talking about only keeping things that really hit the mark. A lot of dissatisfaction with my or your wardrobe comes from sorting through lots of things that sort of work but don’t really and so they leave you in that spot of “UGH, I hate all of this.”
So let’s be cutthroat and think about if we were building a wardrobe with only 25 pieces in it what would be your 10 biggest players? This of course changes all the time. We dress differently depending on our life circumstances – where we work, what phase of raising children we’re in, how we feel about our bodies, the weather, etc. So make your list for this phase of your life, this moment, what you’d love to wear right now.
I’m using my pieces wisely and starting with a crossbody bag. Of all the bags I own a crossbody is 100% my most used. It has to be on the small side so I can dress it up or down and I think I want it in a color to freshen things up. I current everyday bag is yellow and it goes with everything. Love the color on this bag.
Denim plays a big role in my wardrobe. If I have to stick with one piece it’s going to be a dark wash, straight leg jean that I’ll have altered to hit right above the ankle bone. It’s the perfect length to wear with socks and boots or with flats or heels. My current favorite is Agolde Riley High Rise.
T-shirt is the next big ticket item. To be worn on their own or layered under jackets and sweaters. I’m a lacausa girl through and through when it comes to tees. Their t-shirts are perfection, all of them.
I know I’ve mentioned my love for blazers several times but they really are heavy hitters. I’m partial to Vince when it comes to them. Most of their stuff is cut every so slightly oversized and it makes for a great fit. I have this one and love it (true to size). If you haven’t joined the blazer club, I think now is the time! Also, into the cut on this one button option.
Shoes is going to have to be two pairs, one heeled boot and a flat. For the flat, I’m either going with these Gucci lookalikes or these Freda Salvador sandals. And for the boot, Everlane stopped carrying my favorite boot of all time but I do love this Rag & Bone option. That color goes everything including all the neutrals.
If I could only wear one pair of sunglasses until the end of time it would be Persol. They are by far the best sunglasses I’ve ever owned. They are an investment but if you wear them everyday, 100% worth it. Get polarized lens, it makes a big difference!
And finally, a great coat or jacket. I’ve talked about this many times but we leave outterwear out of the conversation far too often. It is virtually what you wear all winter long. People often don’t see what’s going on underneath your coat so make it count. Buy a colorful coat and wear it out on a February day, people will smile at you, I promise. This one is so 60’s chic and I love it. If you wear a leopard coat out into the world, you will make friends. And I’m willing to wager that we’re about to see a lot of varsity jackets popping up this year (and I’m not mad about it!).