Dear First House…

We sold our little bungalow in Portland and moved to a little town in Washington, right along the Columbia river.

I am both excited about this new adventure, and absolutely heartbroken to be leaving Portland. I have lived here for ten years, and it was the first place that I have come to truly feel is “home.”

We have lived in many different places in this city: dorms, tiny one-bedroom apartments, a townhouse, a house on the east side, and a couple of other houses in North Portland. But this house is the first one we owned and I really felt like I put roots down here. It was the first place where I could paint everything whatever color I wanted, and every purchase seemed like a long-term investment.

And so, an ode of farewell to our first house.

Dear Little First House,

So many memories here. First steps, first DIY projects, first books read.

Your living room is legitimately one of my favorite places on earth. Somehow always cozy, relaxing and inviting. The host of game nights and book clubs and coffee dates. You’ve provided beds for many guests, held countless movie and pizza nights and been the site of staying up way past bedtime far too often. Even as I write this, you are empty, except for me, and yet I can hear the echoes of all the good things that have happened here. Laughter, games, so much music. There’s no where else I’d rather be discussing life and what it means with the people I love.

Your dining room looks so pretty, with the table all set for Sunday brunch. High tea is just as fun here as anywhere. I hope the smell of blueberry scones lingers for a long time. It was here that I looked up and realized that our cherished antique table was surrounded by four happy, giggly children. I looked at Steve and we knew – our dream of a table surrounded by laughing children had come true. Also, you had the best lighting for my cakes and dessert creations, and for that, I thank you.

You didn’t have much storage, and I’m okay with that. You helped me realize it was okay to let go of things to make more room for people. You also had a double oven, and that made up for basically every other flaw.

You started out an old house and let us infuse you with new life and personality. And I think we did a pretty good job. I will always remember this place to fondly, as if you were always bright and sunshiny. And you had so much great lighting. On and this was the best place to wait out a winter storm. I loved the sound of the rain pounding on the rooftop and the wind howling outside, while I was tucked inside a warm blanket.

You were the perfect canvas for gallery walls of children’s art and vintage travel posters. You looked beautiful all dolled up for Christmas, with the snowflake wall and the mantle of glittery trees and nativities.

This was the place our children were happy. Where they were happy to be themselves. Where we played so many records, and even danced so hard to Adele that now she is all kinds of scratched up. Here we have crowned queens of Arendelle and made baby cribs into ships on the high sea. Here we have heard so many ukulele concerts and performed so many musicals.

We have eaten too many Heavenly Donuts and Little Big Burger and not enough Louis’ Pizza or Tienda Santa Cruz.

Leaving the house and seeing the view from the Bluff everyday – it never got old. I loved it especially in the spring, when the sky was still grey, but everything was alight with pink cherry blossoms and overflowing greenery. And you were just so close to Sauvie Island and the magic of summer days spent picking berries and picnicking in peach groves.

And let’s not forget the hydrangeas in summer. I wasn’t very good at keeping them alive in the heat, but they sure were beautiful.

I’m so glad I was here for this winter, when we were buried in snow. You sure looked darling in Christmas lights and snowflakes. And that beautiful mint door of yours really popped in all that white.

Goodbye little house. May you be as good to your new family as you were to us. <3

Things I Love About Olivia (6 Years Old)

This little lady of mine. This six-year old. I love her so much. I love her laugh and her sparkling grey-green eyes. I love her funny jokes that don’t make any sense. I love her light step and the way she bounds through life with an unmatched energy and charisma. There are so many more things to love about her at this age. Here are just a few of them:

  1. She lights up a room. There’s a word for this kind of girl: bubbly. Whenever I take her anywhere she tends to meet every stranger, tell them everything about herself, exude confidence and camaraderie, and leave everyone around her smiling. Just the other day I took her to Starbucks for her birthday outing (Starbucks is her favorite place because of the pink cake pops, obviously.) Within minutes, half the restaurant was engaged in talking to her about her plans to see Swan Lake with mom and how it was almost her birthday and someday she is going to be a ballerina, too. Her laughter fills voids in a way that continues to echo even after she has gone home or gone to bed.
  2. She loves to be a big sister. This past year I have seen her ooh and ahh in a special way over Archer in all his newness. From the beginning, she seemed to have a special connection with him. He was the most calm when he was in her arms. She loved to sing to him. And now she loves to play with him and chase him and he lights up at the sound of her voice.
    And she and Henry have a special friendship. They are always inventing games together. She loves to show him things. I am often surprised by things Henry knows how to do, and he always tells me, “Livvy taught me.” Today we stopped by Olivia’s classroom and she took great pride in getting him some breakfast, showing him how to make a journal entry and letting him do all the other morning check-in activities that cool Kindergarteners like to do.
    And she and Ellie stay up way past bedtime every night. Talking and reading and giggling. We had to make a rule that they could only sleep in the same bed on weekend nights because they just like each other too much. I hope that’s always the problem they face. I often see them together, in ballet class, at recess, silently reaching for the other’s hand and holding tight. I think some of her confidence comes from knowing she has Ellie in her corner.

  3. She loves to twirl. She loves to dance. Every moment of every day. If her feet aren’t dancing, her heart is. Her ballet teacher often asks her to demonstrate the jetes (leaps) because somehow she just instinctually knows how to do them. When we went to Swan Lake, she spent every intermission jete-ing to and fro in her white dress, pretending to be the swan princess. “What’s her name again, mom?” “Odette.” “Yeah! I’m Odette!” She is also very into arabesques. The other day she said, “It’s good that we have two hands! Otherwise we wouldn’t be able to give hugs! Or do arabesques! Or hold the dustpan!” All important things, I think.
  4. She is blossoming so much in school. Her reading has taken off, and she takes so much pride in being able to express herself through writing. Reading her journal entries at school makes me laugh, and I love seeing what she thought was important enough to write down. Ellie is also a big fan of writing, and when she got a new notebook and Olivia got something else, she made it clear that she also wanted a notebook because she has lots of important things to write. Her teachers adore her. And who can blame them.
  5. She is eager and enthusiastic and always willing to try new things, as long as they don’t involve a lot of walking. We’re going to have to work on her stamina a bit.
  6. She is so delighted by simple things. A good dancing song. A great spinny dress. Sparkly shoes. New markers. A great snuggle with a special stuffy. She is easily contented and quickly at home wherever she goes.
  7. She has such a kind and gentle soul. She comforts friends who are having a hard day. She is the first to offer her favorite remedy – band-aids – to anyone who is hurt. She always wants to show people what she’s doing, write special notes on any scrap of paper she can find, and lavish love on those around her.
  8. She has big plans. A couple of months ago she wanted to be a baby doctor, as long as she could have a baby of her own, as well. Now she’s thinking more along the lines of water ballerina (synchronized swimmer). She also has plans for us to travel the world together and will often refer to,”When mom and I go on a trip all around the world…”
  9. I love being “glasses girls” with her. I know it’s not trendy anymore to match with your kids, but everyone knows I will match with her just as long as she lets me. The glasses are our bond. I always felt out of place as a child, being the only one in my family who wore glasses. I’m glad she and I are in it together.
    Since the moment she was born, I’ve always known there was something very familiar about her. It has always seemed like I’ve known her for a very long time. More than anyone, she looks like me and my family and I love to see our past and future in her eyes, in her still-small frame, in her hopes and dreams.
  10. She still loves to snuggle. She will still crawl into my lap even as she is getting so big and long. She loves to give hugs. She loves to love. When asked what she wants to do, her response is usually something like, “Never un-snuggle with mama.”

It is a beautiful and terrible thing to see her growing up. Beautiful because she is truly a wonderful human being. Terrible because it is all happening too fast. She lost her first two teeth this year. She started Kindergarten. She learned to read. She grew like a weed. Six. Six? Can it really be six years? I don’t know why it is that with her especially it never seems like there is quite enough time. That before I’ve caught my breath there she is, reading a whole book by herself. There she is, another year older. There she goes out into the world.

My prayer for her is that she will always feel this confident, this delighted with life. That she will always love her family the way she does now. That she will always snuggle under the covers, telling her sister secrets. That she will always love dark parties and spinny dresses. I pray that she will always have a heart of compassion for those around her who are hurting. That she will always offer a smile and a helping hand. May she always be kind and generous with her love. May she always write love notes and jete her way through life.

Oh Livvy, my love. I’ll keep you forever and ever.


Riomaggiore, Cinque Terre, Italy

A couple of weeks ago, I had the opportunity to travel with my sisters to Italy to meet our brother, Chad, who is studying architecture in Rome. Getting there was more of an adventure than I would have liked, which leads me to the following PSA:

Your passport has to be valid for 3-6 months after your intended return date or they will not let you on the plane to a foreign country. You may be asking “Why then do they have expiration dates if the passport isn’t valid for 3-6 months prior to that?” I don’t know. But now you know: get your passport renewed.

And so we had to leave one sister stateside to get her passport renewed and meet us later in the week in Rome, and after a canceled flight and a huge delay that led to us missing our first night in the Cinque Terre, we finally made it to Italy.

Throughout our trip, we were very grateful for the kindness of strangers, friends and friend of friends who helped us navigate, kept the baby entertained on long train rides, let us cut in line, offered us free hot chocolate and showed us where to get the best pizza and gelato. Even though parts of it were much rougher going then we anticipated, any time you get to spend in Italy is pretty magical.

So first up, some reflections on our time in the Cinque Terre. Oh how I wished we hadn’t missed our first night here. It was so beautiful and peaceful. Although it seems kind of silly to fly half way across the world to visit the coast, I don’t think there’s a coast nearby that is quite as picturesque. See for yourself:

A view of Corniglia from the sea.



I’m so glad our Airbnb host recommended we take the ferry to visit the other villages of the Cinque Terre. We stayed in Riomaggiore, which is wonderful because it is nice and quiet. But getting to see the others from the sea and visit each of them for a couple of hours was a great way to maximize our time there. If we had had another day, we would have spent some time walking the trails between the villages or laying on the beach. 

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A view from Monterosso, the only place from which you can see all five villages
Sunset on the harbor in Riomaggiore, as seen from our balcony.





I used the Solly Baby Wrap to carry Archer around with me everywhere we went. I loved that it was pretty and comfortable. You know, everything you need for traveling with your baby!



A striped church in Monterosso. Basically, the best church ever.






What else can I say about Cinque Terre? It’s great. You should go sometime. The food is all good. The views are incredible. It’s wonderful. Oh, and I really liked that we made the most of our week-long trip by having some quiet downtime here and some fast-paced exploration in Rome. It was the perfect combination.

Oh baby.



Archer has grown and changed so much and so quickly. He is already definitely out of his newborn phase and so I find myself pouring over these pictures taken by Becca from his first days home with us. (He was five days old when we took these pictures, and now he’s four months old and I’m just getting them posted now because #newbaby #summer #noschool and #busybusybusy).





I already miss his little balled fists and fishing baby lint out of them every morning. Maybe it’s weird, but I just adore baby lint. Now his hands are wide open and reaching for puppy noses and they don’t get so linty anymore. His toes are still linty, though, so I’ll be content with that for now.

I already miss when you could just wrap him up in a ball and set him anywhere – the bench of a coffee shop, the sofa, the church pew, and he’d just stay there, fast asleep. He is still a great sleeper and we’re so lucky, but now he’s too big and sprawling to be perched just anywhere. Now he sleeps in his own bed in his own room all through the night and for most naps, too. Which is of course good in its own way, but still.





(^^^ These pictures of Steve and Archer? I die. So lucky to have them both.)

And he is just so, so sweet. He loves to giggle and I swear that when I say, “I love you” he says it back, or at least mimics the sounds so well. He loves to chat before bed and gaze up at with me with his big hazel eyes. He seems to know that talking before bed is a tradition in our house and he’s not missing out. He loves to be kissed and sung, too. And really only gets upset if he thinks that maybe you’ve forgotten him. Or if he’s hungry or tired, you know, the usual.





And speaking of the usual, Steve likes to say that he thinks Archer is the most perfectly average baby alive. He loves all the typical baby stuff – swaddling and bouncing and shushing and pacifiers. Not all of our other children have been so easily soothed.






For our last baby, his infancy is going by just too quickly. I’m in no rush for him to be independent just yet. So I’m soaking up the middle-of-the-night feedings when we lie curled up together, his tiny feet kicking my stomach and his hand reaching out for mine, unsatisfied until he is grasping my fingers. I’m reveling in his bedtime routine and our little cooing sessions. He’s going to be so big so soon, so I’m trying to just hold him a little extra tight these days.



P.S. All photos in this post are by Becca of Lady and Gent Photography. Becca and her husband, Kevin, specialize in taking amazing wedding pictures, so if you’re in the market, be sure to check them out. You won’t be disappointed.

Archer at One Month Old

One month in and we’re determined to keep him.


Archer has been pretty great, and has seemed fairly content to join the craziness around here. When his siblings pester him too much he just falls asleep out of annoyance – which is a great coping skill, if you ask me.


The big kids have lots of things to say about him. For one, they think he cries a lot. (He doesn’t, really). And when he does cry, they’re quick to problem solve. “He made a bird face! That means he’s hungry!” // “He’s crying because he wants his pacifier/blanket/toys/etc.” And my favorite, from Henry, “Maybe he’s crying because his umbilical cord is out.”

And they really like to think that he is talking to them. Ellie today said, “Archer said his first word! He said “Oh”. For real. I didn’t even make him do it!” And when Olivia heard that “Oh” she said, “He is trying to say “Oh – Oh – Olivia! He is trying to say my name!” Again, we clearly have a very advanced baby.


I mean, doesn’t he look so smart and sophisticated?


He’s still a little yellow, but he has the greatest smile when we can coax it out of him. It takes over his whole face. I hope he’ll be a very smiley baby. And thankfully he’s already gotten his nights in order. He usually sleeps from about 8pm-2am or so, eats and then goes back to sleep. Even if he does wake back up a time or two before the morning, he is happy to just eat and snuggle back to sleep. Which is good, because, well, he’s the fourth kid.

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Dear Archer,

We love you so much and we’re so glad you’re here with us.

I hope you’ll always love adventure, and also be content to enjoy the simple pleasures of the every day.

I hope you’ll always be snuggly, and you’ll love to learn, and that you’ll tell us all kinds of funny stories.

I hope that you’ll live up to your name. An Archer is a defender – a champion of those who are in need. An Archer protects, is valiant and courageous and stands up for what is right. May you always be a protector of the weak, a friend to the forgotten, a lighthouse of hope and a safe harbor. May you be a guardian of the sacred, and advocate for those who have no voice.

Holding your tiny self in my arms is overwhelming sometimes. I have so many hopes and dreams for you. I have fears and plans and so many things I want to be sure you know. I feel so responsible for teaching you those things, and worry I won’t be everything you need me to be. But baby, I’m going to try my hardest.

This world you were born into – it’s a terrible world, and a beautiful one. May you be someone who adds to its beautiful. Who encourages and loves. Who lights up the room with a smile. May you be strong, yet gentle. May you be brave and compassionate and fearless.

You’re one of a kind. Thank God you’re mine.

I’ll love you forever and ever.

Love, Mama

The Best Time of Day to Have a Baby

… is 5:45 pm.


Archer James Waters was born at 5:45 pm on May 7, 2016.

Since Henry was also born at 5:45 pm, I think it must be a great time to be born because you are all excited and awake for a few hours, everyone meets you, you eat and look around and wonder about things for a while, and then when nighttime comes, you are ready to sleep. A nice, long sleep. And you get your days and nights right from the beginning.

Ha! As if anyone has any control over what time of day their baby comes! But if you did, I would suggest 5:45. Two babies in a row, and it’s worked out quite nicely.


Anyway. It’s already been four weeks since our baby came out! We sure like him a whole lot, even if his arrival has meant a crazy month of new baby and visitors, etc. etc. Sometimes those visitors make us delicious food, though. And the food is so good and it is so nice to not have to cook that you start thinking, “I’ll just keep having babies so these people will keep feeding me.” Seems like a great long-term plan.



Monkey feet!

Archer is the sweetest. He is (so far) a pretty contented baby. He hiccups all the time, just like he did in utero. Which is fun. He also doesn’t like having his feet messed with, another carryover from his time in the womb. And he has the sweetest little bottom lip quiver. I don’t really know what it’s about, but it is cute.

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His brother and sisters adore him. Olivia said, “We are just the luckiest kids in the whole world to get a baby baby baby brother like Archer Bear.” And when he was just brand new she said to him, “Oh Archer, one day you’re gonna grow up and you’re gonna laugh and you’re gonna say funny things that are gonna make your sisters laugh.” And on that note, whenever he does make any little noises they like to say things like, “He said Mama!” or “He said hi to me!” He must be a very intelligent, very advanced baby. But I guess we already knew that.


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When he starts to whine a little bit they rush over and start singing to him. Ellie likes to sing, “Oh stop you’re crying it will be alright. Just take my hand, hold it tight…” She also likes to say that he is just like baby Tarzan because for one so small, he seems so strong. And also, Tarzan is the long-lost brother of Anna and Elsa, and she and Olivia are just like Anna and Elsa! (Do my kids watch too much TV? Or is Disney just that good? We may never know.)



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Olivia likes to sing, “If you ever awake in the mirror of a bad dream…” She is probably the one who wants to hold him the most, and is the most content to just sit with him for a while. He usually gets antsy before she does.

And Henry wakes up early every morning to come climb into bed with us saying, “I want to snuggle wis the baby.”


He is such a sweet and snuggly little guy. We sure love having him around.


And I love those moments where everything is quiet and calm and it’s just his short breaths on my neck and the lingering smell of his hair. His sweet little voice when he coos at me and his bobbly head trying so hard to look up and around. The fuzzy lint I find clenched in his tiny fists. His little bowed legs that fit perfectly against his belly so he can be all tucked up. His sleepy, content hints at a smile.

Everything is right in the world when a new baby is here.

Kids’ Capsule Wardrobes

I’ve talked a little bit about capsule wardrobes in my posts about renewing and simplifying our home. There are all kinds of formulas out there for how to create the perfect capsule, but I think these are kind of silly, unless you specifically love the exact style of the person creating those formulas. There are many different versions and methods for the capsule wardrobe, but essentially they all come down to these ideas that have been big game changers for our whole family:

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  1. You wear your favorite clothes all the time! Yay! If you think about it, you probably already do this a lot. Or you only wear your sub-par clothes out of guilt. It’s so great to have a closet full of clothes you love, instead of a bunch of clothes you only kind of like or want to wear. I could give tips on cleaning out your closet, but there are lots of those around. Try here and here. Mostly, it’s important to give yourself permission to let go of clothes you really don’t like. And then you won’t feel compelled to wear them.
  2. You keep your clothes very minimal, around 35-40 pieces, not including things like underwear, socks, and jewelry, although these should be minimal, too.
  3. You dress for your body type and personality, and not based on the latest trends. I read this article on Audrey Hepburn, my personal style goddess. She had iconic style because she dressed for her taste and her body type and not for the constantly changing trends.
    You probably already know what looks best on you – it’s the clothes you reach for time and again. And, if you’re like me, you’ve felt compelled to try trends that just don’t quite work. Let them go and be content with what you do know makes you look and feel your best.
  4. You curate a wardrobe where everything works together, all pieces essentially interact with each other and if you do buy something new it is based on a hole in your wardrobe – something that would really fill it out and is not an impulse buy.
  5. You choose your weapon: meaning that, of course, we all want to have fun. I definitely don’t want to be stuck wearing all neutrals for the rest of my life. Nobody does. Except maybe French people. But even they throw some color in there every once in a while. Anyway, the idea is to go bold with just a few things. Have just a few statement pieces that are really impressive and then keep the rest more-or-less basic – at least in it’s ability to be versatile with the other things in your wardrobe.

I have really loved having a capsule wardrobe for about a year.I think my favorite thing about a capsule wardrobe has been really finding what makes me feel confident. I have discarded the clothes that don’t fit me, so when I do pick an outfit, I feel more like it’s me, and less like it’s something I’m wearing just because it’s currently trendy. It feels good to look at my closet with excitement instead of guilt every morning. And I love wearing my favorite pieces again and again.

I’m not super strict about it, but I follow the basic guidelines listed above. I’ve made some mistakes, but I’m learning. And having a capsule means that every day I am wearing something comfortable, that I feel great in and was easy to assemble because there aren’t infinite choices (although there are still plenty!). For my husband, he had a wardrobe full of clothes that didn’t really fit but that he felt obligated to wear. We donated probably half of his closet and now for work he has three pairs of pants and 7 shirts, all of which fit very nicely. It never seems like he isn’t well dressed because he is simply wearing things that fit him well. So I doubt anyone notices that its not hugely varied. In fact, he has received more compliments on how he is dressed lately. Choosing our clothes has become a lot more about fit, durability and long-term usage, as opposed to sales or trends. Realizing you have enough with a limited amount of clothes makes it easier to wait for the perfect shirt to come along, instead of buying several throughout time that don’t quite work.

Because I love the capsule wardrobe so much, I have made sure my kids have one, too. And it works really well for us. For one thing, packing for trips is insanely easy, because I just pack whatever is clean. And it all works together, so I don’t have to be worried about this shirt goes with this bottom and these shoes only go with this outfit. Ugh. No. I don’t have time in my life for that. Packing lightly is easy, too, because of the versatility. You don’t have to pack so many separates to create all these different outfits. In fact, on our four-day trip to Canada a few weekends ago, the kids each carried their own clothes in a backpack. We rode a ferry to Victoria and then had a several-hour block on each end of the trip where we would need to carry around all our things because we didn’t have access to the condo we rented through AirBnB. A capsule allowed us all to pack lightly, so that carrying a backpack of everything we needed for 4 days, was totally doable – even for the two-year-old.

Laundry is also way less daunting. I do it about as often as I did before, usually once a week, or with 3-4 loads spread over a few days. The number of loads is the same because I wash by fabrics: whites, lightweight fabrics, and heavy fabrics (jeans/the boys’ clothes mostly) and towels and linens for the house. The amount of laundry is, however, significantly less. Getting it folded and put away is a no brainer. And I wash the clothes when we are out of clean ones, not because all that remains is plaid shorts and striped tees or a closet full of odds and ends that don’t work together.

Feb-4229I’ve thought about how to share this information, and thought of photographing and formulating their wardrobes, but the thing is, our capsule wardrobe doesn’t matter. You don’t have to copy it at all. It’s just the idea that has been really freeing for us. But our capsules won’t look the same as yours, and they shouldn’t!

For our girls, their dresses are their statement pieces that offer the most variety. Dresses are great because I feel like we get a lot of use out of them – the girls wear them with undershorts in the summer, or with leggings and sweaters in the winter. (Dresses also last longer through sizes. As the girls get taller, their dresses get shorter, but with leggings we can still get 1.5-2 years of wearing them before they get passed down.) They have lots of fun prints and colors in their dresses. And then all the leggings, sweaters and undershorts stay in basic, neutral colors so that they mix and match with everything. Essentially, it means there is no wrong way to make an outfit, which is nice for our mornings. I don’t think anyone in our family is really a “morning person”, so removing one more stress-inducing decision from the lineup has helped us streamline without feeling rushed.

Henry’s capsule wardrobe follows a similar idea, but obviously involves jeans and tops. For simplicity’s sake, the pants or shorts are all without pattern – although I do pick fun colors for his summer shorts. They are just colors that coordinate with all the tops he has. And his jackets and vests are also in simple colors that coordinate with all his tees and shirts. I used to feel like dressing a boy was harder than dressing a girl because they seem to end up with more odds and ends somehow, but having chosen to stay away from patterned bottoms has made it a lot easier. So far, the way we’ve paired down is to have 4-5 weather appropriate bottoms (shorts for summer, pants for winter) and 7-10 weather appropriate shirts, plus a few pullover sweaters and jackets in the winter. Because let’s face it, he doesn’t care about variety. He’d wear his Captain America shirt every single day if it wasn’t in the wash.


If you want to build a capsule wardrobe for kids, here are my tips:

  1. Keep it simple. It’s okay to have patterns and colors, but do so in a thoughtful way. For instance, patterned leggings, while super cute, may not be practical. Opt for bottoms that are in solid, basic colors and stick to patterns and prints in your tops (or be creative and do it the other way around with patterned bottoms and solid tops- but picking just one makes it easy).
  2. Shop only on occasion, and with intent and purpose.
    One of the things I have loved so much about the capsule wardrobe, for myself and my kids, is that it requires less shopping. I spend some time picking out everything they’ll need when they need a new size or maybe around the beginning of the school year. If it’s carefully thought out, it’s essentially complete and I don’t have to worry about it until they need another size. Of course they might get something new for a special occasion, and leggings might need to be replaced, but for the most part, what they have works for the entire year. And having a complete wardrobe makes it easier to pass up all the impulse buys waiting for me in the Target kids’ section. I also have a more concrete idea of what I’m looking for when I do shop sales or consignment, which eliminates buyer’s remorse when I get home and realize I don’t really like what I just spent money on.
  3. Keep shoes to a minimum, too. With all the shoes I’ve tripped over in the last few years, this one speaks right to me. Think about what your child really needs. And then get only one of each kind of shoe: athletic, dress, waterproof, sandal. (Although I will say we usually break this rule with waterproof because we live in Portland and even I can’t subject my children to only wearing the same boots every single day for 9 months out of the year – they usually have two-three pairs of boots, one neutral, one statement and one in-between.) In the summer they have one pair of play shoes. These are the shoes that can get dirty and trashed to the maximum and I don’t care. These aren’t the same as their church shoes. With only one pair of shoes to trash, we end up with fewer ruined shoes – and therefore more pairs that can be passed down to the next sibling or consigned, or, at very least, I don’t feel bad having to toss multiple pairs of gross shoes.
  4. Rotate seasonally. I like to make sure the winter coats are put away and the sweaters and rain boots get a little breather in summer. This might not be important to everyone, but I do enjoy looking into a closet full of just the things that are appropriate to wear right then. Plus, when fall comes again, it’s exciting to pull those things out and feel all excited about something “new” without having to actually buy anything.
  5. Just say “no!” Say no to buying clothes mid-season just because they’re cute. If you receive a gift of handed down items from a friend, keep only what you want and need. Hand the rest down to someone else or donate. Don’t buy clothes on sale that you wouldn’t consider paying full price for. Unsubscribe from sales alert emails. It’s just temptation you don’t need in your life!
  6. Finally, take back the internet. This goes for kid and adult wardrobes. What I mean is, use your Pinterest boards and search engines to your advantage. If you’ve ever had a “Style” or “Fashion” or any other kind of board on Pinterest, for you or your kids, look through it again. Delete everything that no longer appeals to you. In all likelihood, you’ll be left with a certain overarching style. Think of the words that come to mind as you’re scrolling through. “Classic.” “Simple.” “Statement.” “Athletic.” “Colorful.” Whatever words jump out at you are indicators of a good place to start when creating a capsule wardrobe. These are the kinds of things you are consistently drawn to. So keep that in mind as you plan and maintain a capsule wardrobe. You’ll end up with far fewer, “This isn’t really me” purchases. (P.S. If you’ve unsubscribed from all your deal emails, and are ready to make a thoughtful purchase, you can always Google “_______ coupon” as in “Gymboree coupon” or “Target coupon”. There are several sights that keep coupon codes up to date, so you can still get a deal on your purchase, without being bombarded with hundreds of sales alerts. Win/Win.)

The important thing is to be thoughtful about what you bring in to your home. You don’t have to dress your kids any certain way, but simply the way you and they feel most comfortable. When we choose to be thoughtful in our consumption, and to help our children be thoughtful, too, it is teaching them to be conscientious about the world around them and the space they are maintaining. My hope is that by teaching them these things now, this practice of thoughtful consumption will carry on into their teenage years when they will certainly have a lot more to say about what they wear. (Oh the horror that awaits.)

Things I Love about Henry (3 Years Old)

Henry. My boy.


Would you just look at that sweet little guy. He’s so great in so many ways that I find myself at a loss for words about him sometimes. But I’ll try to come up with at least a few.

He’s very imaginative. He and his sisters are almost always pretending to be someone else. And they are always telling us who we are in their little make-believe-land. Once I was driving the kids and my sister back into town and we were stuck in traffic. Georgia and I were chatting and Henry said from the backseat, “Mom! You’re being Bullseye. I’m Woody and Olivia is Jessie.” I said, “Okay.” And he said, “No! Bullseye doesn’t talk! So you can’t talk!” Throughout the entire drive home, whenever I would talk to my sister he would pipe up and tell me that Bullseye doesn’t talk. And when he is pretending with his sisters they give each other stage directions and feed each other lines. So there’s a lot of repeating.

He also told me the other day, “Mom, my name’s Tuesday because Tuesday is the dad and I’m being the dad.” Me: “Okay. Hi Tuesday.” Henry: “No you can’t talk because you’re dead. Because you’re being the grandma and the grandma is dead.” // And the other day he said to Olivia, “Let’s play Home.” and she said no, so he said, “No, pretend you said yes.” And she did. So then they started playing Home. If only it were so easy for them to pretend to do the things I ask them to do…

He also like to pretend he is having a baby. He sticks a stuffed animal up his shirt and when I ask when his baby is going to be born he says, “Not yet!”, because, poor kid, he might think that is the only actual response to that question. He has been asking when our baby will come out for so, so long.

He can’t wait to be a big brother. We have been telling him that first it was going to be Olivia’s birthday, then his birthday, and then the baby could come out. So when I said, “Henry! It’s your birthday, today!” He asked, very excitedly, “And now the baby can come out?” To which he again got his, “Not yet” reply. Though it doesn’t keep him from coming up with plans for the baby like how he is going to feed him and bring him toys and blankets and throw balls with him. When his socks or shirts are getting too small he tells me, “This is too small for me. Let’s give it to the baby.” He also has lots of ideas about what the baby will say. So I’m wondering how disappointed he will be that the baby will be born a helpless infant and not a talking, walking playmate.

He has named the baby “Dark Vader”. And when we finally broke it to him that the baby’s name probably won’t be that, he said, “Well, can we name something Dark Vader?”

Feb-4748He’s got the fake smile down. Which is somewhat heartbreaking because his real smile is one of the best things in my life. But it is hard to capture on camera these days. Feb-4751 Feb-4780

He’s very observant of the world. He has always been fascinated with language and talking. It seemed to take him forever to speak, but when he finally did, it was apparent that he didn’t want to talk until he kind of knew what was going on. He’s not one who likes to learn by trial and error, but more by watching and watching and then attempting. This has continued as his language has grown and expanded over this past year. He had very few things that he said incorrectly, but when he did, I was careful to not correct him too quickly or it would vanish. Because I love the cute ways he would speak incorrectly. Things like “Look Mama! I a bird! I flying!” And once when Steve was changing him, Henry was wiggling all over the place and Steve said, “Oh you are such a child sometimes!” He replied, “I not a child. I just me!” When he is presented with new words or ideas, he has to think them out. Another time Steve was helping him out of his sandy swim shorts and said, “Henry, you’re all sandy.” Henry looked down as the sand spilled out and said, “I not sandy. The house is sandy!”

And his observations of the world continue:
“I feeled the marshmallows. They were warm. And fuzzy.”
“When you have some rocks, you water them. Wsssshhhhhh! Feel better, rocks?”
“Daddy licks his hands, so I want to do that. When I stick my tongue out, that’s how I lick.” He has lots of these explanations of the world. When he says something he thinks is funny he’ll give us an instant replay of it.


And sometimes he gets in funny moods where when you ask him to do something he says that he hates doing that. Mostly naptime and sitting at the table and regular kid stuff. But sometimes it’ll be things like, “I HATE laughing!” Or if you ask him to smile for a picture, “I HATE smiling!”

He loves to help in the kitchen. He got an apron for Christmas and likes to help with the stirring and the taste-testing, of course.

He’s a snuggle bug and he won’t go to sleep without someone singing to him. Whether it’s mom or dad or Auntie Mal. And he loves our weekly coffee dates with Aunt Georgia.

He loves his train tracks and cars and dump truck and Dinotrux. But not D-strux, because he is mean. He also loves rain boots, his Captain America shirt and hats. Also his “carmonica” (harmonica) and “Queen Car” (Lightning McQueen) and his favorite stuffies are Woggie and Sir Ostrich (and I’m not sure if the ostrich has been knighted or is being confused with siracha sauce).


He looks up to his dad. While Steve is building the fence, Henry is also busy hitting the posts with his plastic shovel and refusing to play with his sisters because he is building. He also likes it when he and daddy wear bow ties together. And I like it, too.

He’s a sweet kid. So sweet, in fact, that I worry his little brother has a pretty big ideal to live up to. But at least the little baby will have a great example of how to be super nice and cute.

(On a side note, can I just say that I don’t like the whole potty-training thing? And not because of the actual process. It has gone pretty well for us, the usual hiccups and extra laundry have been anticipated and it’s fine. What I don’t like is that it seems to me to mark the loss of innocence. When they potty train, they are suddenly responsible and in control and in charge of something all on their own and I’ve always observed a very marked change in my children when this comes along. They are no longer a baby, and they know it. With Henry, it was hard to let go of that babyhood. He’s been a pretty cooperative little person, and all of a sudden he realized he could say no and refuse to do something. Not that he’s never said no before, but there’s this look in his eyes that says, “I’m not a baby anymore. You can’t make me.” It starts with him pointing at a framed picture in his room and saying, “These letters says no moms allowed in here.” And before I know it, he’ll be telling me he doesn’t need tucked into bed or stories read.

Motherhood is partially about loss – first of your expectations, then of the things your child does that you have come to love. With every new and wonderful thing your child learns and experiences, they lose their dependence on you. I don’t mean that it is just continually sad, because believe me, freedom from diapers is like so. awesome. No regrets there. But I’ve been observing a lot of the changes in my children and how they are growing and it catches me by surprise. And sometimes I haven’t mentally adjusted to their new needs – their needs for some independence and space of their own. They are becoming more and more their own people. It is beautiful and wonderful and I love it. But there is a part of me that is struggling to let go. To let them go confidently into the future I am trying every day to prepare them for. )

Back to Henry Bear… we love him a whole lot and we’re so glad he’s a part of our family. We wouldn’t have it any other way.

Traveling With Kids: Victoria, B.C.

A few months ago, Steve and I were thinking about doing a babymoon, or in some way, one last hurrah before our next little one arrives and all that gets more… challenging. At first we thought we’d go just the two of us, but we realized that our three oldest are really at this golden age for adventuring. They’re good at listening and following instructions (i.e. not wandering off into the street or just disappearing somewhere), and they love to adventure and try new things. We wanted to soak up one last family vacation just the 5 of us, before a new little one comes along that, at very least, requires more equipment to travel with.

Having loved our trip to Victoria last spring, we decided to take the kids there. It was a place we know we enjoy, but have already explored, so if we didn’t actually get out much, we wouldn’t be heartbroken. Plus, you have to take a ferry to get there, and ferries are pretty magical. Of course, we got the more magical ferry experience on accident. We planned to drive to Port Angeles and take the Coho Ferry across, about a 45 minute voyage. But after booking our AirBnB apartment (non-refundable), we discovered the Coho was out of commission for the week of our trip. WHAT!!!??!?! I guess I wasn’t aware you could just not have a ferry running. So in a panic we had to discover other options and were fortunatley able to find a ferry that sailed from Seattle and was over a 2 hour journey. More expensive (=less fun for adults) but more time on the water (=more fun for kids).

The Victoria Clipper, sailing from Seattle, presented another issue. It only sails once a day, at 8 am from Seattle, and at 5 pm from Victoria. Which meant that we would have some time on the bookends of our trip in which we would be without a place to keep our things. So we decided that instead of the adults carrying a larger suitcase, each person was going to have to carry their own backpack. We packed only the bare essentials and headed off.Feb-4305^ Daddy and Ellie on the Victoria ClipperFeb-4338^ Our first stop: the fountains outside of Parliament

Feb-4361^ So much of Victoria was under construction, but the cherry blossom trees were in bloom!
Feb-4371^ Naptime was an important part of the day. Being 7 months pregnant, I had no complaints about this.
Feb-4429^ I think this will always be one of my favorite pictures. Love these boys so much. 

Feb-4579^ When we decided we’d be taking the kids, we knew we’d end up spending more time in the condo then if it were just the two of us, so we decided that the view and feel of our AirBnB was important. I’m so glad we chose this one. Gorgeous views, easy access to everything we wanted to see and do. And the hostess had a record player that got very, very loved as the weekend drew on. So loved, in fact, that now we have a record player of our own.
Feb-4477^ Side note: These windows had such amazing light… I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to make Steve snap some pictures. AHHHH. I want to live in this apartment forever. Not even joking. And with the way this election is going…Feb-4892
Feb-4826^ Before our trip, I gave Olivia the option of choosing to have a birthday party or to go to Afternoon Tea at the Empress Hotel while we were in Victoria. She chose Afternoon Tea, so we did just that. It was pretty magical, and they even gave her an edible “Happy Birthday” sign. Such fun when you’re almost five years old.Feb-4927^ Here they are with their backpacks on our last day. We had a five hour chunk of time to kill, so we wandered around the city, ate some waffles and some fish tacones (that’s a cone-shaped taco in case you were wondering), watched the boats and sea planes and picked up our stash of hot chocolate and coffee from Murchie’s (because they make our favorite). The kids did pretty well carrying all their own things, so I think we’re ready for a family backpacking-through-Europe trip. Feb-4936a

Feb-4937^ We gave each of the kids an allowance for the trip. They could spend it on whatever they wanted, but once it was gone, it was gone. Olivia saw a sparkly mermaid doll on the Victoria Clipper so she saved her money the whole time in order to get that on our return trip. Ellie picked a journal and pen from a stationery store that she loves. Like a lot. When we took a breather outside of Parliament on our way to board our ferry, she got right to work on her journal, writing important things like, “I love my sister Olivia because she plays Anna and Elsa with me.”

In the end, I’m so glad we took the kids with us for our babymoon. There were some moments when I had to take my expectations into check and remember to be flexible. Fortunately, Victoria is full of the nicest Canadians, so we always felt welcome. The kids are already begging to go back, and they can’t stop talking about that ferry.

And now we’re off to make scones and drink tea, in anticipation of becoming ex-pats. Cheers!

P.S. For some of our favorite places to eat and explore in Victoria, see this post. 

Things I Love About Olivia (5 Years Old)

Olivia. Liv. Livvy Bug. Girl-Girl. We love her a whole lot.Feb-4610

Feb-4637There are so many things to love about this girl as she grows and changes and becomes her own person. She certainly has a dramatic flair, and yet she has a tender heart of compassion and kindness for everyone around her.Feb-48571. She is always practicing using big words. I frequently hear things like, “Oh. Peeling this orange is so exhausting.” or “I was just like panicking and panicking. The sun was too bright when we went out for recess!”
And I love hearing the way her mind latches on to things and tries to make sense of them out of context, like those big words. Or when she told me a couple of months ago, “My birthday is close to June’s birthday.” “Who is June?” I asked. “You know. He made the whole world a better place?”  “Oh! You mean Martin Luther King, June-ior.” “Yeah.”

2. She likes to tell everyone, everywhere all her plans. On our trip to Victoria we stayed in an AirBnB condo on the 7th floor. Every elevator trip she was sure to tell everyone in the elevator everything about her plans. How she was going to go to High Tea at the Empress Hotel. And how we were on our way here or there. At the end of the trip, we ended up on the elevator again with someone who we had already shared with. He asked her, “So, how was your High Tea?” And she seemed genuinely shocked. “How did you know about that?” Because you tell everyone everything. That’s how.
While Ellie is the real strategist of the trio so far, Olivia certainly makes plans, too. For her birthday I gave her the option of having a birthday party or going to the aforementioned High Tea. She immediately chose High Tea. And I think she was quite pleased with her decision, which made me very happy. I love experiential birthday celebrations. I think she’ll probably remember the experience and how special it was much more. Our day together was full of so many special moments. The girls were dressed in their fanciest dresses and we were served three tiers of treats with our tea. Olivia loved that there was a “Happy Birthday” sign made out of white chocolate for her to eat. And they could see our ferry, the Victoria Clipper, from the hotel, which was also very special. Getting to choose her special day made her feel so grown up and important.
She also likes to plan things for school. She’s had her show-and-tell planned for weeks. And the other day she told us, “It’s Happy Hats day at school so I need to wear a happy hat.” We had never heard of this event, so were pretty sceptical, but she seemed so sure, so we let her take a hat, but said Daddy would bring it back if it wasn’t really Happy Hats day. When she arrived at school, proudly sporting a blue felt cloche with a flower, she was suddenly downcast. “I really thought everyone would be wearing happy hats!” Turns out, she just had the day wrong, so she still got her Happy Hat day the next week. 


Feb-47073. She’s the best sister. (Henry wouldn’t really cooperate for these photos, but she loves him, too.) I love to hear them play together. Ellie is getting to the age where sometimes she leaves to play with another friend and it is so hard on the little ones to be left behind. Everyone’s just happiest when they can all be together. And it works out nicely because there are usually 3 central characters in most of the storylines that they like to make believe they are a part of. Current obsessions include movies like Home, Tangled and Frozen (still). I guess Henry doesn’t have enough sway yet to get them to play DinoTrux with him. Speaking of which, they love to quote all the lines from these shows. They only get to watch movies or TV on the weekends, but they certainly seem to have a knack for soaking up the lines.
The other day we were talking about how it’s time for her to learn to pedal a bike since she’s been doing such a great job on the balance bike. After some back and forth on the subject she declared, “It has a low probability of success!” (-line by Oh from Home)

4. She loves to sing. And she usually sings very well. Although sometimes she gets the lyrics wrong, which only makes it more adorable. They’ve been obsessed with Home lately so she is always singing the songs from that. My favorite botched line so far is, “I keep falling. I keep falling for you. Like the rainfall. Like a candy bar.” (Instead of canon ball. But hey, I’ve fallen for a candy bar before, I understand the sentiment.) And she can sing a heart-breaking rendition of “When She Loved Me” from Toy Story. Gosh, we’re going to be raising some dramatic kids.

More fun lyrics include: “It’s the circle of life. And the moon destroys it.” and “I’m like a shooting star. I can’t go far.”

5. No matter how big she gets, she’s never lost her love of cuddling and being touched. She loves to get massages from Aunt Mallory. And when I asked her what she wanted to do on her special day of no school she replied, “Never un-snuggle with mama.” That made my heart happy. There’s a lot of love of adventuring and doing in this house, but I love that this one always reminds me of the importance of just being. Of just holding each other. I feel so rushed sometimes with our crazy schedule that it’s hard to carve out the time to give her the space to just never un-snuggle, but I sure do love that she is so vocal about her need for it. She is the one who reminds us to slow down and enjoy being present with each other.

Before her first day of preschool I asked her if she wanted to get a new outfit for her first day of school. “No,” she replied, “I just want to stay home and pick flowers and make ‘Liv and Mama’s Famous Pasta Sauce.'” So of course, we did just that. I love that, given the choice, she will always choose the more thoughtful, more intimate option. She doesn’t need many things to be happy, she just likes to enjoy people and being loved on. I hope that when I grow up, I’m just like her.

6. She is so compassionate. She always notices other people and their circumstances. When her siblings get in trouble and maybe lose a toy or go to a time-out, she is the one who gives them her own special stuffed animal, or goes to check on them in time-out to see how they are doing. She has great concern for anyone who isn’t feeling well or needs some extra love. When Henry visited her classroom and took part in Pre-Kindergarten for the day, she gently showed him around her classroom, showing him how to sit criss-cross-applesauce with his hands in his lap at story time. She let him sit by her to paint and read him a story. She’s not bossy, but rather invites him in to everything she’s doing and makes him a part of the class. Which is the same thing she does at home. She’s the perfect bridge between Ellie and Henry, creating the atmosphere where all three can get along contentedly. Feb-46887. She is so funny. She is always cracking us up with her jokes and funny comments. And this funny wide-eyed look she likes to give when she’s goofing off. She is usually pretty enthusiastic about life and whatever it is she is doing. I love that duality in her, a love of adventures and silliness, combined with a perfect contentment to just be at home, doing nothing but spending time together.

And she has some pretty funny things to say: “Henry! It’s a special day! You get to sit by me!” //  “My childhood was a long time ago.” // On our way to the car one day she sneezed and then said, “Mom, I’m allergic to my brother!”

Feb-4789And finally, An Interview With Olivia:

Favorite Color: Pink and purple.

Favorite Animal: A giraffe. Because they like to gallop.

Favorite Toy: Jessie. And also the phone. And my Rapunzel toy.

Favorite Stuffed Animal: Talentod, Sea Sparkle and my kitties. And my foxy pillow. Because my foxy pillow is snuggly.

Favorite Food: Sushi!

Favorite Song: Hello and all the other songs by Adele.

Favorite Activity: Snuggle.

Favorite Memory of the Past Year: Going to High Tea and eating the birthday sign and the chocolate cup and all the special treats. Going to Murchie’s and sharing the special treats around in the circle. We went on the ferry and I loved that part. I like when we went to the lake house and swam with my flower floaty.

Who is your best friend?: Amelia. I like playing with her.

What do you want to be when you grow up?: A doctor. A baby doctor! And then I’ll check your baby!

What are you looking forward to about being 5?: Playing with my kitties. I don’t want to go to kindergarten. I’m not ready for it.

Anything else?: I like to eat ice cream and pizza! And I like in Canada when I saw lots and lots of water fountains.

She’s the best. And I’m looking forward to another year learning from her and laughing with her and snuggling her. So glad she’s ours.