The Gift of Taking Time to Get Outside and Play

Some of my most treasured memories are those that involve getting dirty, getting wet and getting intimate with the outdoors as a child.

I can still remember summer days spent splashing in a creek while my dad fished crawdads out from the murky, twig-strewn water and let me see the creatures up close and personal. I can remember my parents taking me by the hand and spending hours walking the paths that encircled a lake near my childhood home, stopping to feed the geese and marveling at all the leaves and greenery around.
I can remember my father finding animal tracks made in the mud around our garage and pointing out whether it was a raccoon or a skunk. I can remember digging through piles of gravel in our side yard, on the quest for uncovering fossils that I kept safe in an old tackle box my father handed over to me when he spotted in me a budding archeologist.

These memories were simple gestures that my parents fostered in me during my earliest of years. They were nothing extravagant, and yet they meant the world to me, and still do. Those days spent losing time in the outdoors gave me an appreciation for the world around me that can’t be found just by seeing pictures of the natural wonders on a computer screen or watching a documentary on the television.

No, the soil that sifted through my fingertips and the treasures I discovered with my own hands brought this world of wonder to life for me in a way that still shines bright for me today: With my windows thrown open, I listen to the crickets and the cardinals chirping outside, a melody that Mother Nature orchestrates daily. When I’m feeling stressed, I lace up my sneakers and take a stroll through a leafy part of my neighborhood, where the sights and sounds are a balm to my soul. When I want to truly connect with someone, whether it’s my spouse or a friend from years past, I invite them to take a walk or a picnic on an open, grassy plain where words can flow just as the wind blows ‘round.

All this stems from those early days lost in nature’s reverie, a gift that my parents gave to me as a young girl as they encouraged me to get outside and get lost in the beauty of this world. It’s that same gift that I hope to pass along to Claire, starting even now, as I take her outside to let her play (sometimes multiple times a day) and let her discover and adventure and dream in the great outdoors.


My Favorite Baby Items: Nursing & Feeding Must-Haves

When I was building my baby registry while I was pregnant with Claire, I poured over different people's lists to see where I should spend my money as well as where I could skip. (If you want to see what made it onto my original baby registry list, check out this post.) Even now, I love seeing what other parents recommend for their children.

So, I thought, as I'm looking back over Claire's first year, I'd recap some of the items we got for Claire that have been the best hits. I'll be sharing these favorites (the things I'd buy over and over again) in a series of posts over the next couple of weeks, divided up by category. (You can see all the posts in this series of my favorite baby items.)

Earth Mama Angel Baby Natural Nipple Butter: I tried some other kinds but this blew them all out of the water. It's more expensive, but there's a reason for that! I haven't even used half the tiny tub, it was so effective.

Nursing Tank a la Undercover Mama: I didn't want to have to buy a new nursing wardrobe, so I ended up DIY-ing two of these nursing camis (thanks to this tutorial), which I have been using ever since. This way, I can keep my normal wardrobe (although I now stay away from dresses or tops that have belts, but that only eliminates a handful of options) and still be able to easily (and discreetly!) nurse. (Notably, I never had any luck using a cover to nurse her.)

Sassy Wonder Wheel: Once Claire was in a high chair, we needed to start using toys to entertain her so that she'd stay up there long enough to eat. This toy attaches to the tray with suction and then you can spin it and there are balls inside that rattle. Claire liked it a lot at first, but now she's pretty used to it, though we still have it fixed to her chair.

Freshfoods Cook-n-Blend Baby Food Maker: This little gadget is so helpful if you're interested in making any of your baby's food. I use it all the time to make batches. I love that it's an all-in-one device so that you can steam the food and puree it without dirtying multiple containers. And it works so well. It steams quickly and purees foods smoother than any food processor I've used. (In fact, if I'm just making a small batch of anything that I need blended up, I often opt for this instead of my big processor!)

OXO Tot Baby Blocks Freezer Storage Containers: I love these little containers! After making a big batch of baby food, I'll freeze helpings in an ice cube tray. When it comes time to pick out a new "meal" for Claire, I'll pick a couple of the frozen foods, drop them in these containers and then pop them in the fridge. They're a perfect size for the size of meals that Claire likes to eat, so they don't take up space or feel wasteful. Plus, they're really sturdy and have held up great.

Medela Breastmilk Bottle Set: This came with my breastpump and it turned out to be the only kind of bottle Claire would take. (Of course, I had bought bottles specifically for breastfed babies and she still preferred these!)

Dear Claire: 13-Month Update

(I've been writing monthly updates to my daughter, Claire, documenting all the changes that come with the passing weeks. You can catch up on past letters here.) 

Dear Claire,

Here are the latest updates in this budding little life of yours over the past month:
  • You have started blowing kisses, especially when you see daddy.
  • You can wave “hi” and “bye.”
  • One of your favorite games is to go up to a photograph and say, “Who is that?” You especially love Grandma’s gallery wall where you point at pictures of yourself and your uncle and ask that over and over.
  • You also love to ask, “What is that?” when you see something you’re interested in.
  • When you see something you like, you often will say, “It’s a ball!” (Everything is a ball.)
  • Your appetite has slowed and you’ve rejected a lot of the foods you formerly loved, so I’ve been trying to experiment with new ones to keep you eating enough solid foods. Lately, you’ve been enjoying oatmeal, peanut butter, hummus, almond milk. And you still love rice cereal, chips/crackers/pretzels, and bananas, so long as we let you feed them to yourself.
  • You still nurse a handful of times a day, and I love those moments with you.
  • A favorite little game you like to play is walk up to someone and start running in place, in hopes that we’ll do it back to you. Then, you start back up and we do it simultaneously. You love this!
  • You went to your first baseball game of the season and loved all the action!
  • Also, the weather has turned nice and so you’ve been playing outside when it’s warm enough (it has been unseasonably cold this spring!) and have loved getting to walk around in the grass, discover rocks, pull up leaves, and otherwise get to adventure!
  • If we ask you for a kiss, you’ll lean your head in toward us so we can kiss you. It’s so adorable!
  • You are now up to 8 teeth: 4 on top, 4 on bottom. The last two came in at the same time this past month, but you bore it like a champ. I think you’re teething right now, because you have been drooling a lot lately, but you never let me look in your mouth so I usually don’t realize you’ve broken anything until it’s well through.
  • For the past month or so, you’ve been taking one long nap around lunchtime, usually for 2 to 3 hours. Nighttime you usually go to bed around 9 or 10. If you accidentally fall asleep in the car, that throws everything off, but we have learned to roll with the punches around here, so I don’t mind. We can always get back to the swing of things tomorrow!
  • Much to my joy, you are starting to get a little more interested in books, finding them and opening them up and looking at their pictures. You’ll sit still long enough for us to read a couple of pages before you take it away and insist on playing with it on your own. We still don’t really read on a daily basis but I’ve been trying to incorporate it more.
  • You still love to dance and clap and anything music-related. We may not read daily, but we sure do make time to dance and sing multiple times a day!
  • You also are our little opportunist who gets into all sorts of things that you know you’re not supposed to. It’s like you have radar, when a certain door opens that we otherwise keep locked or closed. You make a beeline to try to get in before it closes and see what damage you can do. If we aren’t careful there will be grocery items or Q-Tips or office papers strewn all over the floor in just a matter of minutes!
  • Your hair just keeps getting longer and longer—and, consequently, crazier and crazier. If I stretch it out in the back, it can reach down your back a couple of inches (but typically curls up to look like a bob), and your bangs are past your nose. I try to keep your bangs pulled back, but you pull your barrettes out so more often than not, you’re peering out at the world through a fringe of bangs!
  • You love your family and squeal with joy when you see one of us return after being gone for awhile. It is utter joy that makes us feel so loved. On the flip side, you still hate when we leave you. Consequently, I’m still hanging out with you in the nursery at church during the service!
  • You’ll walk along beside us, holding a finger. If I hold it out, you’ll come running up and grab it to walk with me. If I ask you to come, oftentimes (but not always!) you’ll come.

Finding a New Home

Life as of late has been lived indoors, thanks to the off-and-on cold and/or rainy weather that the Midwest has been sending our way. (There's talk of snow flurries this week. Talk about a welcome home!)

But it seems fitting, this drive to the indoors, because right now we’re in the throes of house buying and are actually under contract on a house right now. It's been an exciting time, as we could see ourselves staying in this house for quite some time.

There's plenty that I'd like to do to this home (it currently is a mess of tans and decorating projects gone bad, including faux-bois on the kitchen cabinets and kids' painted handprints in the bathroom), and so I find myself researching all sorts of DIY ideas and paint colors and furniture purchases and a myriad of other things you can monitor along with me on Pinterest.

But the best thing we love is the location, which is in a part of town that's woven with walking paths and a pool just down the block and lots and lots of families littering the neighborhood. And it's not far from my husband's work (10 mins), church (5 mins), or our families (20 mins). I didn't know if it was possible, but things are starting to come together, it seems...

We are pacing ourselves in the process, trying to keep the future firmly in mind (along with the reality that life with a toddler naturally limits a lot of remodeling or redecorating) rather than get whisked away by pretty hardwoods and freshly renovated kitchenscapes. It can be quite the balance to strike!

I find myself having to remind myself to hold things loosely, that phrase that I feel as a banner over me now. I look at the stained floors and the pretty hues and I tell myself to calm. I look at the ridiculous wall paint choices or the cramped closets and I tell myself to calm. It is just a house, but I know the Lord cares about it for us all the same. I trust that he will guide us, as he did the first time around, to a house that will—in the end—suit us perfectly, as our first did for the year and a half that we lived there. And then when we needed to leave it behind, it sold without a hitch. The Lord saw us through that and I trust him to see us through this next one.

So I hold these things—the hopes, the hitches, the possibilities and the problems—loosely. I am learning this process slowly. I am being taught to practice at it constantly. But what matters, is that I am learning. And I am loosening this grip of mine.
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