The Emerald Girl

The Emerald Girl

casual. classic. curious.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Being Mom

Pic by Meghan Klein.
I always dreamed of having a family.

I did not always dream of being a mom. Not sure what the disconnect was there except that I obviously have one.

To say that being a mom is the biggest challenge of my life is an understatement. I think that all moms, the ones that dreamed of being moms and the ones that did not, would likely agree.

At points throughout the day, on those days when I find that I have been correcting and disciplining all day, I just wonder who the heck I am. I am not this person. I like to have fun, I like to dance, I like to be carefree and adventuring. Raising kids is certainly not (for the most part) all of those things. Your life really does change when you have kids. And it has to, for sure, if it didn't, you wouldn't be raising kids to be kind, hard working, respectful of others, loving, etc.

I did want to have a family. I wanted to make holidays and birthdays special, I wanted to have fun traditions, I wanted to have family photo albums, I wanted to eat dinner around the table, I wanted to have a school schedule and kids that bring home art projects, I wanted to experience the seasons of the year and of life with my family. No matter how great my childhood was, I wanted to create a life for my family filled with all of things that I thought would make a perfect life and give my kids the life I always wanted. I think all parents feel that way.

When I was pregnant with Jack, I remember telling people that he was not calling me mom, he would call me Jen. I wasn't going to be some mom. I can't help but laugh thinking about it. As introspective as I can be, I can't quite figure out the disconnect there. I still feel it. But the kids call me "momma".

Being a parent: challenging, soul shaping, rewarding. In that order.

If you're into personal growth, have kids. There will be a million opportunities to dig deep within yourself, to stretch beyond limits you knew existed, to have a life not solely focused on yourself, to learn what it is to lay down your life for another. (I'm writing this at night, at home, alone, while my husband is at work and the kids are sleeping and in another world I would have been partying it up at Capitol Hill Block Party. At least I also enjoy writing. And now I want to cry. What the heck.)

Did I mention yet that I love my kids? Or that I know I'm living my dream life? And my family photo albums sure are pretty. And that all of these hard days are necessary pieces of the puzzle.

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Thursday, July 20, 2017

A Night in Bellingham

If you followed my Instagram Stories then you know that last week Matt booked a surprise suite for our little family at The Chrysalis Inn for a night. Matt's summer schedule is always crazy and we are not able to travel at all for the most part and we never know more than a few days in advance if he will have a day off at any given point so when we knew he would have two days off during the week, we both wanted to get away for a night. He booked the place without telling me where it was which made for an exciting little road trip.

The drive North is just about 1.5 hours. For those of you not familiar with Washington state, Bellingham is 20 miles south of Canada which surprisingly makes the drive from Seattle to Canada approximately 45 minutes quicker than the drive from Seattle to Portland.

The Inn looks out directly across Bellingham Bay and has a stunning view of the sunset. Having kids, I am not often out of the house and able to watch the sunset on these warm summer evenings since bedtime is 8pm for the littles. We mostly ate food and walked along the long stretch of pier on the South Bay Trail. Mexican food, burgers and gelato. As an added bonus, since we stayed during the middle of the week, our room was a Sweet Suite, which meant we had a complimentary basket of sweets to devour while watching a movie after the kids went to bed. Long live my sweet tooth!

When traveling with kids, if not booking an AirBNB, a suite is really the best way to go. Bedtime, ideally, is made so much easier if they have their own room. I say ideally because, ideally we shouldn't have fed our kids gelato 15 minutes before we wanted them to go to bed and then maybe we wouldn't have fought for 2 hours to get them to bed before 10pm. I should've just given up and tried again later but my selfish desires to have 3 hours to relax with Matt to myself were persistent and angry and was darned sure to not give up, to conquer, alas, I was conquered and then I left the room to clear my head and walk to pier alone while the sunset. It was gorgeous. All in all, the trip was exciting, we got to explore a new town and spend time together which is really all the matters.

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Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Summer Sweet Peas

Sweet Peas sell at Pike Place Market for $5 a bunch - quite a steal! Because of this it is quite easy to buy multiple bunches to make a nice statement piece for the home. I love buying bulk of one type of flower - one color or more - rather than buying a mixed bouquet (though still pretty). Having a single type of flower on display is more pleasing and catching to the eye.

If you're local to Seattle and are able to visit the Market maybe you've also noticed the new(ish) signs. I'm not sure how long they have been there but above each flower vendor, the sign says that they grow the flowers in Washington and how long they've been at the market, many over 20 years! It's really incredible and I love supporting the local farms that have been part of the market since I was a kid.

My trip to Pike Place Market was short and sweet this weekend. It usually is to be honest, I live so close that it's easy to pop down, grab what I want and leave. Especially on a sunny, Saturday in the summer. The place was packed! Police were everywhere which surprised me until I walked a couple of blocks south right into a peaceful protest marching up the street. Thankfully, Matt was able to turn our car around quickly while waiting for me so that we could easily escape the traffic disaster down 1st Street.

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Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Al Fresco Dining in the Backyard

Sometimes staying at home with the kids means really long days and the last thing I want to do is stand in the kitchen working on a hot meal or clean up multiple dishes. Al fresco dining is the one of the easiest ways to go and doesn't really require everyone having their own plate. I suspect we'll be eating like this at least once a week to savor these warm nights.

This weekend a tried a couple of new dishes that would be quick, simple and easy to clean up.

Watermelon Limeade

Peach Caprese Salad (with a twist)

The Watermelon Limeade was so good! My 5 year old will not eat watermelon but he gave this a try and loved it. I made a second batch which we poured into popsicle molds and will be enjoying all week. I'd says that's a win-win.

My twist on the peach caprese salad is that I never actually eat the basil so I didn't bother putting it on and I completely forgot to buy balsamic vinegar when I was at the grocery store so we went without. Though I did make this exact dinner the very next night (again, with kids I do what's easiest) and the second time I added the balsamic vinegar and to my surprise the 5 year old loved it!

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Monday, July 10, 2017

The Summer Kit

Since I'll be on Summer Break for the next two months, I'm reveling in the luxury that is time and peace of mind as well as basking in the warm sunshine. Although I have already set in motion the plans to amp up the healthy living via food and exercise, I have no intention to stop indulging in the little things that make me happy.

I've picked up reading magazines again since my hiatus from social media this past winter. I love the feel of the smooth pages and holding the inspiration in my hand. Magazines also feel limited in the since that the inspiration is not unlimited (which is often the case when seen on screens where you can scroll page after page on and on). This bounded inspiration is not overwhelming and tends to leave me feeling motivated and enthusiastic rather than bogged down and insecure in the world that is often social media.

Lady Yum is hands down my favorite macaron shop in the Seattle area and they just opened a new shop downtown. Their branding is superb but the macarons are the perfect amount of chewy and sweet. I can easily devour a box of 15 to myself in one sitting. Luckily, they do have a punch card so every ten 15 packs you buy, you get a free one!

My new shades come from Nordstrom BP. I love the pink shade and they're big which frames my face nicely. At just $12, it really is the perfect pair for me since I have 2 kids who tend to break and lose my things. A bridesmaid at a recent wedding I second shot with Taira Marie was wearing them and I'm so glad I saw them since the last pair I bought from Anthropologie already has damage on a lens.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Joggers in the Rose Garden

These pants are officially my new favorites. Admittedly I was not into the joggers when they first started popping up all over the place but when I saw this chambray printed pair, I thought I'd try them on and I wasn't disappointed. They don't bag in the butt and are slim through the leg. The elastic waist is quite comfortable. I wore them first on our trip to Whidbey Island last weekend and they are great for wearing around the house. I love the relaxed fit and feeling like if I eat one too many desserts in the day I won't start to feel uncomfortable around the waist.

The Woodland Park Rose Garden is in full bloom and I hope to get another visit in soon before the last petals begin to drop. The colors are spectacular as are the scents. It really does feel fit for a queen.

Monday, July 3, 2017

Talking to Strangers

Politeness is the key to any conversation. At least when you're an introvert, sometimes shy, and you're meeting new people. Remember to be kind. When you are kind & polite you don't have to worry about someone having a negative impression of you.

My day job involves staring at a computer screen from the comfort of my own home (or a coffee shop if I'm feeling like I need to get out of the house). Although I work with people, most communication is through email. Twice a year, the company I work for hosts a party for its consultants and clients. While I love a good party, the idea of going to a professional party where I know almost no one is draining but I force myself to go every time. Eventually it'll get easier, right?

In any event, here are a few things that I have realized along the way:

Politeness Goes A Long Way
Smile, say "hello", shake hands. Or hug. I am not a hugger AT ALL but when you can tell someone wants to hug just do it - it won't hurt you. Pay attention to body language. If you sense that someone you are speaking to wants to leave the conversation, let them. Give them an easy way out by saying, I'll let you get back to whatever it is they were doing or say that you're going to get a drink. You don't want to leach off of the one person that you know - it's not their job to be your crutch. (This rule of course does not apply to good friends or your date).

Be Interested
Ask people easy questions about their life. Listen. Ask more questions. People tend to hint at things when answering questions (without even knowing it) and those clues help lead to follow-up questions. For example, if someone says they've lived in a certain neighborhood for two years that means they have recently moved - ask where they moved from or how they're liking the new 'hood. Asking people questions puts them at ease and it takes the pressure off of you. You don't have to think of something to talk about and you create an opportunity for them to talk about something which in turn takes the pressure off of them to search for something to talk about as well. Being interested will give you something to remember people by and will help you in conversation the next time you see them because you can build off of what you already know about that person.

Be Interesting
Believe it or not your life is interesting! (I'm really talking to myself here). Over the last year or so I've been training myself to give a little bit more when answering questions about myself. Talking about yourself can be extremely uncomfortable however, when you give more, you are not only giving the other person an opportunity to be interested (as previously mentioned) but you are creating an opportunity to connect and giving the other person a reason to remember you. Instead of saying you live in Seattle, say what area and why you love it or what area of Seattle is your favorite and why.

When you feel like you've talked to enough people, leave. Seriously, the first party I went to for the company I work for right now, I got all dressed up, met my boss in person for the first time, turned right around and left. As I've slowly virtually met more co-workers, I've stayed longer, little by little and I'm still leaving when I feel I can't put out the energy out any more.

PS Hope everyone has a very American 4th of July!!!

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

My secret to seasonal allergy relief

Holistic health makes the most sense to me but I've never been into essential oils. They sound too hokey-pokey and too good to be true. But I wouldn't be writing this blog post if I hadn't had a change of heart.

My older sister, also into holistic health but more so than I, began using essential oils for seasonal allergy relief a while back so when I texted her for natural remedies to sooth my itching head a month ago and her response was an essential oil concoction, I was hesitant but also desperate. After a series of quizzical texts, I relented and drove down to PCC to pick up the oils. I downed the drops of oil in some water and to my great surprise and delight, a couple minutes later, I felt immediate relief. Two days ago, my husband, who is much more skeptical than I, was about to get some clariton when I insisted that he try this essential oil blend. His quick relief from heavy allergy symptoms sealed the deal for me and is the reason why I decided to share. Summer is after all a season of allergies.

Essential oils can be pricey but they last a long time because you only use a drop or two at a time.

Here's the recipe for seasonal allergy relief:
1 drop Peppermint
1 drop Lavender
1 drop Lemon
Mix with a shot glass size of water and swallow.

I often take this first thing in the morning during heavy allergy time and if I'm feeling really bad I double the dose (2:2:2).

Disclaimer: I am not a doctor. This natural remedy has worked for me and my family. I don't give this to my kids.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Planning a successful summer

My job gives me the unique ability to take off large chunks of time from working without technically "losing" my job. Starting mid-July I'll be taking the rest of summer off - adult summer break! Wahoo! Of course, I'll still be pursuing my creative endeavors with photography and this blog but I'll have no other responsibility aside from my family. It's also unique to my job that I haven't been able to officially take any time off in the past 18+ months to vacation so words can truly not express how excited I am to take a break.

In general, stereotypical housewife activities make me a little stir-crazy (mostly just the kid wrangling part) so choosing not to work and to stay at home can seem a little daunting. Everyday will be practice in putting off my selfish desires (like say, to not get out of bed in the morning) to be there for Jack and Morgan, to show them love and to soak up their joy. In the ever complex life that we live in, I'm excited to reset and get on track in a few key areas.
Meal Plan
Being that I am not a person of the kitchen, meal planning and making meals does not come easily to me. I did not grow up cooking but I did marry a man who did and who does make 98% of all the meals we eat. However, since he will mostly not be home for dinner during the summer, I plan on taking on the bulk of the responsibility. Now I've tried this before and have yet to be successful. It usually ends with the kids and I eating sliced apples and popcorn for dinner. Summer is young and it's only June and already I've made dinner a couple of times a week for the last few weeks. It's little successes like this that add up over time and keep me motivated.

In order to be successful, Matt and I can meal plan together. For me, simple meals work best. We've committed to Taco Tuesday. As cliche as it is, it really is easy to do and adds some much needed structure to the dinner process. Another change, will be that I am doing the grocery shopping as well. Since I won't be working, this should be rather easy to do on a mid-Monday morning. The key to my success in preparing meals will be having everything I need on hand along with our meal plan.

Since I will be taking on more responsibility in the kitchen, this will allow Matt time to go to the gym right after work (instead of coming home to make dinner and then going). This is exciting to me because then we can all be together as a family for the evening instead of Matt leaving and the kids being in bed by the time he gets back.

As for me, I'll be exploring the great NW outdoors and taking many walks to soak up the sun and burn the fat from my thighs. 😛 So far, I'm off to a great start not eating sweets after I put the kids to bed and that counts as fitness too!

This category is tough but I'm feeling optimistic. It can be excruciatingly hard taking care of kids all day but I'm hopeful that removing the "work from home" priority will give me the ability to be present for my kids and not juggling competing priorities which always ends in people yelling (mainly me). I'm planning on arts and crafts, parks, play dates, summer time adventures around the Puget Sound and spending time with family.

When you're taking care of kids, it's important to have activities to break up the day and to pass the time. There is nothing more dreadful then bored kids. They whine and complain and inevitably start doing something to totally annoy you. Going into this summer break, I'm bringing a refreshed mind and a tiny bit more patience to just enjoy this time for what it is.

It's so easy to get behind on deep cleaning parts of the house in the daily grind of the work week and weekend but I know if I had more of a schedule the bathroom would never smell like someone peed all over it (perks of having a 5 year old boy). I am so mentally prepared to be the boss of this summer and make it the best yet. Yes, effective and timely house cleaning will make this one of the best summers yet 😬. It'll be important to have a weekly and monthly checklist for myself and checklist for the kids. Hopefully setting these good routines on summer break will set my family up for a successful fall when we transition back to school and work.

Here's to getting my ducks in a row and to being flexible when they don't line up perfectly!

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Summer: The Idyllic Season

For me, summer is the quintessential season of parenthood. It's when all the magazines take the family outdoors and depict playful gatherings amidst backyard BBQs. The classic appeal of the good old American flag shining brightly in the warm sun provides patriotic charm on whatever it adorns.

Summer is the time to take a break for strawberry pickin', blueberry pickin' and flower pickin'. The days are long and the nights are warm (kind of). It's the season I always imagined when I thought of being a parent. The time when friends and family come over to dine al fresco, twinkling lights hang above the patio and the kids stay up late eating popsicles while running around the backyard. A time where everyone's worries and cares float away into the night sky. It's the best time of year.

The stores are stocked full of yard games, picnic accessories, red, white and blue and summertime favorite treats, like s'mores and firework oreos. Target and Pottery Barn surprise and delight my wild, backyard summer fantasies. I love walking through the seasonal aisles of target. And the summertime kids clothes are spot on. After all, the real fun in parenthood is often times getting them dressed in the morning.

This summer, the real challenge for me will be in accepting the fact that my life and my family are real. We are not the perfect pictures in magazines. While I daydream about taking summer off work and spending the time with my kids and how we'll bond and laugh, I know that every day will have struggles because life with 2 kids under six always does. My patience is thin but I'm aiming to be still just a little bit longer so that instead of reacting to my heightened level of annoyance, I can act out of love and perhaps yield a better outcome if not at least my peace of mind.

Cheers to a warm and welcome summer! May the season bring berries, Americana decor and friendship.