Summer Moments I’ll Miss

It’s so hard to believe that it’s the middle of August. Just a few months ago, summer loomed ahead like it would be some endless, stressful experience that would drag on and on. Instead, it flew by in a seemingly quick blink of the eye. While in years past, I was looking forward to the routine of the new school year, this year, I admit to feeling rather nostalgic- and it isn’t even over yet! Some of my favorite summer moments that I’m going to miss this fall are really those things that you just don’t have as much time for with the hustle and bustle of the school year, sports, and all the activities that are coming soon. Such moments as:

Lazy mornings with big breakfasts

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I know many people are awesome at putting together big, elaborate breakfasts on school mornings. However, I’m not the world’s best morning person, so breakfasts are usually waffles, bagels, etc. with fruit and yogurt (or some similar variation) on mornings during the school year. During the summer, there’s more time and the kids (usually) sleep later, so it gives me the opportunity to make them big breakfasts in the morning- instead of for dinner (a school-year dinnertime staple).

Exploring more of Texas

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We just moved to Texas earlier this year, so the area is new to us. With a variety of travel, my sister’s wedding, and other activities this summer, we’ve only been able to explore so much. While we definitely strive to do and see more new things this fall, it’s always harder with school, soccer, gymnastics, etc. are in full swing. We had so much fun checking out the cowboy scene in downtown Fort Worth (even in the Texas summer heat).

Being able to just swim 

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While I anticipate being able to use our pool a lot longer into the fall than many areas in the country, the time available to do so will rapidly dwindle. Just like our day trips and exploring activities, swimming will be precluded by all that is involved in the school year. Not much wears out the kids (and me!) like a day spent swimming. Having our own pool instead of the neighborhood pool for the first time this year has been amazing- especially with a baby in the house. It also helped my daughter come so far in her swimming in just one season- amazing to watch!

I’m definitely looking forward to many aspects of fall, and all of the things to come. But I’m also a little sad to be seeing summer coming to an end. What moments will you miss from this summer?

Ice Cream for Dinner

Each week, we have a plan.

We’ll eat early, we’ll be done in plenty of time, we’ll plan ahead.

And then, each week comes around and we never do.

It’s such a simple request, really. A fun thing that most summer memories include. I always have the best of intentions on making it happen- and yet, I always seem to fail.

The week always begins with so much- so much chaos, so much to be done. Work to be accomplished, cleaning to be handled, fun to be squeezed in.

Next week, I say. We’ll have dinner done, errands run, and have the time we need. I make a list, I make a plan, and still something happens to thwart our efforts.

Finally, I was ready. I planned ahead. Everything was done, work was put away, dinner was early. We knew we’d be ready when the time rolled around, because we were starting dinner early that night. To add to the fun, we were even eating outside. The table was set, swimsuits on, and we were all ready to pick up our food.

All of a sudden, we hear a noise. We freeze, looking at each other, thinking no, that can’t be right.

Again, we hear the noise, getting a little closer, a little louder, until its unmistakeable.

Caught in a moment of indecision, I looked down at their faces, faces that fell so far downI wasn’t sure I’d be able to perk them back up. I looked at the dinner I so intentionally prepared to be eaten early, so determined to make this week right. As I glanced back at them, I realized that spontaneity and fun is what summer’s supposed to be about.

So, I reached into my bag and handed over the cash we had set aside. I followed their excited laughter and chatter out front, across the street to where the truck awaited. I joined right in their giggles over the melting mess that they enjoyed, while their dinner sat untouched beside us.

It’s only summer for so long. They’re only little for so long. So sometimes?

You just have to have ice cream for dinner.

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Seventh Generation Twitter Party! Join me for #7GenBabyFest

As most of you know, life has been busy with a new baby over here. For some reason, all of my kids have been born in colder months- November, February, and now the end of October (hmm…). While I don’t mind not having to deliver in the hot sticky summer, the cold weather inevitably brings an issue with each baby- what products to use on their skin?

Each of them seemed to be dryer than the first, and selecting products to bathe and use on them in the first place is enough to send any mother into nervous breakdown-mode. What’s safe, what isn’t, what do I need to know, WHICH ONE DO I USE?

Luckily for you, Seventh Generation and The Motherhood are hosting a Twitter party to discuss everything you need to know about ingredients, scents, packaging and labels on baby personal care products like shampoo and lotion.

#7GenBabyFest Twitter party details

When: Thursday, December 13, 1-2 p.m. ET

Where: We’ll be on Twitter – follow the #7GenBabyFest hashtag to track the conversation. You can see the details and RSVP via this Twtvite: http://twtvite.com/7genbabyfest2

Hashtag: #7GenBabyFest

Prizes: Seventh Generation will give away five total prizes. Four of the prizes will be gift baskets containing full lines of the Seventh Generation baby care and home care products. The final prize will be a baby massage class in the winner’s area. Winners will be chosen randomly from among participants who respond correctly to trivia questions.

Hosts: @theMotherhood, @CooperMunroe, @EmilyMcKhann

Other info: Seventh Generation’s website: http://www.seventhgeneration.com/

EVEN MORE FUN!

 

Following the party, you can also participate in an Instagram contest with Seventh Generation!! Beginning December 14, take an Instagram photo to illustrate how you practice natural parenting, tag @SeventhGeneration and use the #7GenBabyFest hashtag.

7 winners each day for three days will receive a Seventh Generation Baby gift basket. If you win, you’ll be contacted via Instagram with a request to share your mailing information.

Can’t wait to see you there!

3 Things I Didn’t Expect About Having 3

I still sometimes can’t believe I have three children. It seems that more often than not, most people have their kids closer together- somewhere in the realm of 1 1/2 – 2 years apart. Me, on the other hand… well, I needed time to recover! I actually wanted my second to be that distance from my first, but we had the hardest time conceiving her. Once she came, we realized just why we needed our bearings! This time around was a discussion for a few years coupled with a crazy lifestyle. But, since we were finally settled back in Georgia (or so we thought…) we decided we wanted another. After a year of grueling health issues for me, we were beyond blessed to welcome a new little boy this year.

Life has been interesting ever since. After a somewhat traumatizing post-birth experience, we are trying to juggle the holidays with a new baby. Even more interesting are the things I just didn’t expect the third time around.

There’s still no sleep

While he sleeps much better than my daughter ever did, he’s the biggest cuddler I’ve known- he loves to be held! Since this is the last time I’ll get these baby snuggles, I try to embrace the moments- even the longest exhausting ones. I’m not entirely sure if I thought I would have a few tricks up my sleeve for the first couple exhausting months by round three, but… not so much. Luckily, we’re coming up on week 7 here (SEVEN), and we are evolving into a bit more of a routine.

The amount of time it takes to get out the door

Seriously, I added one, not ten. But it seems to take about ten times as long for us to get out the door- and it’s not even just the baby! With the oldest being 7, he is forever remembering “just one more thing”. My 3 year old daughter (almost 4), forever brings an entourage of stuffed animals, purses, and accessories- “just to leave in the car”. Meanwhile, I’m throwing my nursing cover, a few diapers, and a change of clothes into one of my larger purses (with a stocked diaper bag that I throw in the trunk and rarely use) and bucking the baby into the carseat. By the time this is all accomplished, I’m exhausted- and I haven’t even started the car.

How much my family would grow

 And in so much more than numbers. Watching my kids with their new baby brother is one of the most amazing things I have ever experienced. It is truly astonishing to watch their own relationship as the older siblings evolve into an entirely new level. The usual bickering has often become playing together, or let’s go do this as mom’s busy with the baby. Or they will suggest that we all play a game together instead of waiting for us to insist on family time. Don’t get me wrong, the bickering is still alive and well, but there’s also an added dimension to each of my children now that our dynamic has changed.

Yes, this is one of the best pictures I have with my kids. They photograph much better than I do! How have your family dynamics adjusted over time? 

 

When Mom’s Away: 3 ways I know my family missed me

This past week, I attended Blissdom, a huge blogging conference with over 700 women (and a handful of men). I left my husband and my kids for a few days (I left Wednesday and returned Sunday). After the initial feelings of freedom, I also wrestled with the usual mom guilt of leaving my kids. I really don’t know if that ever gets easier, but at the same time, a few days away can really help you refocus and rejuvenate from the usual routine. Attending this conference was amazing for me, and I have so much to share once I can sift through it all and make some plans. But one of the best parts of my conference was coming home to my family.

3 ways I know my family missed me 

My house was CLEAN.

This was amazing. The toys were picked up, the playroom was (kind of) put together, and our bedroom was freshly painted. My husband truly went above and beyond, and even enlisted the kids to help! I imagine many of you are like me and this is a rarity. And one to be treasured.

My kids didn’t bicker once. 

I’m still in a state of shock over this one. When I came in the door, after they threw themselves at me, they each sat on one side of me on the couch, clinging for dear life. Typically, my kids bicker for where they’re going to sit, who gets to be on which side, who is kicking the other one… the list goes on and on. But last night, there was an hour of perfect harmony. Talk about Bliss!

My husband made dinner.

When we were first married, I did not cook. I had been a single woman who worked, went out, and loved takeout. Who needed to cook? Of course, as the years progressed, we added children, and my husband’s work days extended, it became apparent someone had to feed this family. It turned out that it had to be me (when can kids cook anyway??). Anyway, once I took this task on, my husband forgot that he knew how to cook. Seriously. But last night? I had a full meal waiting to eat when the kids went to bed, so it was a mini-date on top of it.

 

Sigh. It’s good to be home.

Porch Swing Stories: In These Small Moments

I am so excited to bring you my first guest of Porch Swing Stories. A few months back while searching for inspiration for my blog, I had a conversation with the lovely Nichole of In These Small Moments. Not only is she an extraordinary writer, but she is an inspiring person I am so thrilled to call a friend. Read on for the first installment of many, many Porch Swing Stories- and one that will surely be a favorite. 

Of course I hold my four-year-old daughter’s hand every day.

I take it into my own when we cross the street, when I help her out of the car, when I lead her into her bedroom for nap.

As I do with all of the things that I hold most dearly, I had memorized the feel of her hand in mine, the bits of chubbiness left over from when she was a toddler…a physical reminder that she is still, in so many ways, my baby.

Last night, as we went upstairs to begin our bedtime routine, she reached for my hand and something was different.

Her hand slipped into mine so smoothly and I was struck by the way it felt so lithe.

Her fingers wrapped almost completely around hand and I was amazed by how long and lean they’ve have gotten.

How did I not notice how her hand is no longer plump, but is now that of a young girl?

Where did the chubbiness go? When did those toddler creases thin out?

Had I blinked? Had I been distracted by all of the big and little responsibilities and endless business that fills our days?

The zillion trips to ballet class, Target, and the grocery store…the endless to do list…they have crowded out this change inmy daughter.

Noticing this change makes me wonder what else have I missed. What has slipped past me, unnoticed?

If I could summarize my wish for the upcoming year, it would be to be more present.

And last night, as I held Katie’s hand, I was reminded of the weight of that committment.

Because what could possibly be more important than that?

Don’t miss any of Nichole’s posts at her blog in these small moments or over at Babble Kid Scoop! Interested in sharing a Porch Swing Story? Email me at ashley {at} myfrontporchswing {dot} com.

Winter Perspective

The other morning, I was helping my son to get ready for school. To say I’m not a morning person is pretty much the understatement of the century. (I’m still not entirely sure why a 6 o’clock is necessary in the morning.) However, my six year old bundle of energy wakes up happily and is ready to face his day, chattering away over his breakfast. As we head outside to wait for the bus, I realized that once again, mommy forgot to heat up the car.

Oops.

So, bundled up, we headed out to the bus stop. Before I make it sound like we were hiking ten miles in a never-ending snowstorm, I should clarify we were heading two houses down to the corner. And it was 32 degrees outside.

Anyway, as we were walking, my son asks me why it’s so cold. Granted, as I find anything below 60 to be on the chilly side, I agreed with him. However, the fact that we had spent more than six months in Alaska- starting with the longest, darkest, coldest day of the year- coupled with the fact that we would see temperatures hit 60 that day in December, I had to laugh.

Grumbling about what was so funny, my son gave me a look that clearly said he thought I was nuts. So I said to him, “Don’t you remember last year? When you had to wear about ten layers of clothes to school that you peeled in and out of each time you went outside? We had to wake up an extra ten minutes early just to load you into your gear. After we dressed you in layers, we had to get the snow pants on top of your regular pants, snow boots over thick wool socks, then layer on your hat, gloves, neck warmer and coat.

Do you remember all.that.snow. on the ground… in your clothes… the hills you played on, how cold and wet you would get before coming in to be toasty and dry?

Or how about the fact that soup was a favorite snack after a long day, to warm you through. How we put on the fireplace each morning, and again each evening?

Do you remember going to school while it was still dark and coming home as it got dark again? How excited we got when we finally saw a bit of a thaw.. in June?”

By this point, I figured my son had long since stopped listening to me, simply nodding along in that way that six year olds seem to master. To my surprise, he looks up at me through a smile.

“Yes, mom, I remember all that. I loved to chase my friends in the snow, and my favorite was when we built forts. We loved when there were lots of sticks, too. It was nice when I came home out of the snow, because that was cold. Playing in the snow with my friends was so much fun.” He pauses.

“But mom?”

Looking over at him, laughing at the difference in our memories, I ask “Yes, honey?

Very seriously, he responds, “I know I said I was cold, but please don’t make me go to Alaska again.”

Out of the mouths of babes…

Memories Captured: Christmastime 2011

I am so excited to join in the sweet linkup hosted by Galit from These Little Waves and Alison from Mama Wants This.. Memories Captured. Since I adore Christmas time, and especially being back in Georgia, our Christmas Festival seemed the perfect memories to capture..

From pigtails and pony rides…

 

To big smiles and huge slides...

From hot apple cider and lots of sibling fun…

To visits with Santa showing the holiday’s begun.

From sibling bickering and fights to exciting outings and events, my children’s unique personalities shine through. 

My 6 year old son, filled with compassion and support, conviction and a penchant for argument,

My 2 year old daughter, loving as always, sweet as can be when not full of sass and attitude.

For all the blessings my husband and I get to enjoy this holiday season, nothing compares to these amazing creatures we get to call our own.

Participating in two excellent links!


Happy Thanksgiving!

Wishing you and your families a happy Thanksgiving. I’m grateful for all of the great friends, connections, and opportunities blogging has shown me the past couple of years. I’m even more grateful for the time I’m able to spend with my family. Wishing you & yours the best this holiday!

~Ashley

The Holiday Comforts of Home


This post is sponsored by Tempur-Pedic, the brand millions of owners trust to deliver their best night’s sleep every night. Enjoy our Buy 2, get 1 free pillow offer now and give the gift of custom comfort to someone you love.

The holidays are once again approaching quickly- far too quickly, in fact! In the midst of endless sales, holiday shopping crowds, meal preparations and traveling families, the craziness of the season can quickly dwarf the enjoyment for many people. But despite the craziness, I still look forward to the holidays each and every year.

After my son’s first Christmas, we stopped traveling for the holidays. Between spending most of our time in airports and the endless stress of traveling, we decided we wanted to enjoy the season more and spend it at home. We treasured the holiday comforts too much to not enjoy the time. Having been in five states since he was born, and moving six times, it became even more important to maintain traditions each year.

To us, holiday comforts begin with tradition. One of the most significant traditions is when we begin the holiday season. We start the day after Thanksgiving with bringing out our Holiday decorations, bin by bin by bin. Revealing the holiday decorations that we have amassed through the years- and states- makes us smile while bringing our memories forward. Buying a new ornament each year is one of our treasured traditions, as well as telling the stories behind them.

As the decorations begin to fill the house, we begin our stories of “Remember When…” Remember when we go this ornament at the tiny little store in Virginia? Remember how we rushed to the store before it closed to not forget our yearly tradition of new ornaments on Christmas Eve in Florida? Remember when we were snowed in during our Christmas in Alaska and snuggled by the fire for hours, our kids in our laps?

Each year brings new things to do, new challenges to face. We have spent many years making a new place home just before the holidays, though that is now in the past. This year will be our first Christmas in our new home back in Georgia. We will string up the lights, put out the decor, bake the time-honored cookies. We will play the music, prepare the food, set up the tree. We will continue our tradition of new ornaments, hanging them delicately, one by one. But the most treasured of holiday comforts will be the stories we share amid the holiday tasks- reliving the memories we made while making new ones. Nothing can top that.

Comfort is the perfect gift for everyone on your holiday gift list, so be sure to take advantage of Tempur-Pedic’s Buy 2, get 1 free pillow offer! I was selected for this sponsorship by the Clever Girls Collective.