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Afternoon, and the going is peaceful, breezy, and fine. Our garden and potted plants continue to bud and bloom—and the enchantment seems limitless.

Bill introduced Katie, Eric, and me to original episodes of The Lone Ranger. Katie and I were humming William Tell Overture, and the next thing we knew we were involved in the origin story of the masked man. Eric has some sniffles today, but he seemed to watch some of it. What is it about little boys and rangers/cowboys/sheriffs that is just so cute? I started imagining Eric trick-or-treating as The Lone Ranger one day….

Katie and I had an opportunity to read several more chapters of On the Banks of Plum Creek this morning. She very much wishes to see a prairie, and she was very concerned about the impending blizzard. This has been the kind of book for her where she asks for “just one more chapter” at bedtime, and I am happy to oblige her. We both love the book and time cuddling and reading together. I love the values in the book, and I find Ma to be an inspiration: her unwavering faith in Pa and her family’s ability to survive even lean years, her work ethic, her encouragement of education, the way she never complains and keeps her focus on her family. It’s those farm values again. What a beautiful way of life to share with Katie and to remind us of how to prioritize our time according to value even in our modern lives.

For an easy afternoon of play, I made Katie her “potion tray” again. I’ve blogged about this before: it is an easy solution to those times when I notice her start to rifle through the pantry and spice drawer.

Today’s potion tray: glitter, rainbow sprinkles, raw sugar, a bullion cube, cloves, caraway seed, chives, mustard, peanut butter, a candy egg, jelly beans, a bay leaf.

She loves to mix and mix and mix “potions” and it is almost a no-mess activity done outside:

I do have a few dishes to do, but it gave me some time to play with Eric nearby and do our watering for the day. Plus, she had a blast!

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So this week hasn’t exactly been smooth sailing, and more than once the African proverb I used in my 8th grade graduation speech has come to mind: “Smooth seas do not make skillful sailors.” At times like this, I am often grateful for the farm values I inherited from both sides of my family. Don’t complain; just do. However much I long for eternal patience and limitless energy, I know I will never have either. But I can keep putting one foot in front of the other and look for the moments of what is good. What I try to do in this blog is to celebrate the good parts, to let my words guide my own mind back constantly to a place of gratitude. When I write about what is beautiful, it is a way to keep my own heart positive and receptive, supple and yielding, non-defensive, curious about what next good part might await.

We began this week with a totally mysterious illness for Mr. Eric. An iffy diaper on Monday night gave way to a fever that held fairly steady at 101.6 for most of 24 hours. By Tuesday night, the fever broke and there were absolutely no more symptoms. Monday night was sleepless—my maximum sleep was perhaps two hours. Eric usually adores his crib, but he was so restless and couldn’t sleep, in fact, he kept on making little man-who-is-feeling-bad moans every time I put him down. I ended up holding and rocking him almost all night and cooling him off with a damp cloth so he could get some sleep. Fortunately, I haven’t had to pull many all-nighters with my children, but this one was hard. At about 2AM my eyes burned and my whole body wanted to stretch out.

Then I looked at his little face and heard his (finally) peaceful breaths passing through his little delicate mouth. I looked at his jawline, oval and soft exactly like Bill’s. My heart laughed and leaped because it remembered that burning eyes and tired body were nothing—nothing!–compared to what I would actually endure for him, so small compared to knowing I would absolutely die for him, run into a building on fire, take any bullet. I just sat and watched that wee face, untroubled for a moment by fever, and felt the fullness and grace of unconditional love. This was a moment to explore the depth of that feeling, holding him there. In that respect, Monday night was a gift.

I celebrate, too, a productive, happy, forward-moving meeting with one of my clients and friends on Thursday. We had the chance to talk about the philosophy of focusing on what is positive and beautiful about life, and our viewpoints resonate well with one another. I think we always both find ourselves learning from one another as we work on his project.

We also had the chance to make some more handmade fettuccine this week and sundried tomato pesto. My brother’s MIL Lorraine sent us a really awesome “raw brownie” recipe that we tried, as well. Just almonds, prunes, cocoa powder, salt, vanilla, and 1 T. butter whizzed up and pressed in a pan. It could be made to be vegan as well. I promise that it is tasty and satisfies cravings. This recipe is perfect timing, as I made the decision to clean up some of our diet in this house. Bill has been the forerunner with respect to this project: he has been counting calories and exercising for months and has lost a bunch of weight. We’ve changed our snacks to veggies and fruits and have started limiting the sweets. Our biggest diet issues are butter/cream and sugar (usually in the form of baked goods and sauces), so we are being much more judicious about those items and putting family exercise back on our priority list.

And we loved music class today…and of course, the royal wedding. My husband wonders with some concern about  how much I was looking forward to seeing Kate and William marry, but he is a boy. 😉

I hope you are all finding joy this week, wherever it may be found.

Is that summertime I spy around the corner?

After gymnastics, we decided to enjoy the warmer weather by setting up our wading pool for the first time this season.

This was Eric’s first time in the wading pool. He seemed to prefer playing with the hose outside of it—the water was probably too chilly for him, although we let it sit out and warm up a bit before wading in.

Today was also a day of painting, reading more of On the Banks of Plum Creek, finishing some laundry, and otherwise getting back into a more calm home life now that Eric is feeling better and we all slept well/better last night.

I am excited for more days like this with both of my kiddos.

Unbelievably, our little 8.5 month old boy is officially toddling! He has been working on walking unassisted the past several days, and he took his first chunk of steps yesterday on Easter…and then more steps and more steps, all afternoon and evening. Bill captured a couple of videos this evening while I was upstairs working on a project for one of my clients. I am glad we have some kind of evidence that I can watch again and again, because even I can hardly believe it—and I am his mother!

Here is another video that Bill took, and it also shows more walking. Not as much as the first video…but it is such a sweet father and son moment, that I just love watching it:

Pretty neat! Interestingly from a developmental perspective, Katie and Eric had been achieving milestones at identical ages (almost to the DAY) until now. Although they pulled up at the same age, Katie walked at 9.5 months—one month later than Eric. We wonder what accounts for this variance when everything else has been so precisely the same. Ah well, the adventure continues! Pretty soon they will be running all over the place, together!

Speaking of exercise, we took a long morning walk today down to the corner market for milk and eggs and Greek yogurt…and back the long way. I’ve been trying to be mindful of teaching Katie to exercise for long periods several times a week in addition to her gymnastics. She walked the whole time, and we were gone for over an hour. She got a little tired at the end, but she pushed through with plenty of water breaks. Amie and Boppa gave her a little make-up purse for Easter, and she wanted to carry it with her today—very sweet.

On our walk…

Growing up…

Finally, I am in the midst of deciding what to do about the hassock that goes with our “cozy chair” (P.S. If you are wondering, as I am, why I am calling it a hassock and not an ottoman, the go-to person on the hassock vs. ottoman debate turns out to be my husband—who knew?). A couple of weeks ago, I noticed it was worn through in the place where we rest our heels most often. So worn through, in fact, that we could see the stuffing and all of the sudden, the tear was quite vast in area—like the fabric had just finally had it. Hm. I love our cozy chair, one of the few pieces in the downstairs part of our house that I bought “new” and had covered. Since I am not teaching, we don’t want to use funds to recover both pieces right now, and besides that, I actually really like my chair the way it is.

I’ve been throwing a blanket over the hassock, but then I decided I might be able to use a spare piece of fabric to make a patch for it. I deliberately chose something that would stand out so that it would look like I meant it to be there. Commit or go home, right?

Anyway, I can’t decide if it is hokey, or what.  I am not in love with this solution, from the aesthetic point of view. I could try another color, maybe. On the other hand, what I do love about it is the pioneer spirit. It seems like something my Great-Grandmother Sarah Matics, (the original, who was the epitome of thriftiness) would have done. It works for now, I guess!

Well, bedtime for me!

In bed at last. The carrots and apples have teeth marks; the lemonade cup is empty. Eggs wait in their hiding places. Easter baskets—two, for the first time—are ready for finding. The Easter Bunny has written his yearly letter, and placed it by the plate on the coffee table. The note Katie left for him has been tucked safely away in my hope chest, a gift from my Nana when I turned sixteen, and where I once kept linens, laces, and cookware as a dowery of sorts for when I married.

Writing the letter to Katie from the Easter Bunny this year was poignant, of course. I know she has been having her doubts about his existence lately. I sense from her that this might be the last year she will really believe. As I wrote her the letter from the Easter Bunny, I kept thinking, “What should be the last thing he tells her, when she still has a heart open to his magic? What can he tell her that will permeate her young self and last with her?”

In the end, he told her always to believe in the magic of her own self. And that he will always love her.

Today was a relaxing day, for the most part (right up until it was 8:45 PM and the white cake cupcakes still needed to be frosted with the strawberry me meringue buttercream—then I felt some pressure, I must say). It was a day of walking to the park this morning, having a happy phone conversation with my longtime friend Steve in the afternoon, and working on some fun projects around the house in between times.

Katie and I made handmade fettuccine this morning for our dinner—she’s a natural!

She is actually rolling it out by herself here. She hardly needed my assistance at all! I have such good memories of helping my mom roll out pasta when I was little. I am grateful for the chance to pass on these happy memories.

Fresh noodles are delicious! She felt special that she was big enough now to roll it, and that Eric was too little to help. Perks of being the eldest? She kept calling him “Little Chef” and “Baby Chef.”

Also, we had the chance to finish Katie’s blanket today! Just in time for Easter! This is the first blanket of any type I have made for my daughter, or for either of my children. Eric’s blanket is next. My brother and I have slept under several blankets handmade by my mom since we were babies—even now, I have one she made recently. I’ve missed out on a few of Katie’s years, but I am determined to give my children that feeling of sleeping under a mommy blanket.

Yay! She is sleeping wrapped in it right now. We cuddled under it together during our movie night tonight.

Okay, I’d better get to sleep! Tomorrow is a big, fun day!

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Apple blossoms in the morning mist. Hummingbirds and finches around us as the kiddos and I greet the morning in our pajamas, exploring the backyard. New blossoms and buds and sprouts from all of our planting. A big plastic bat and ball. Playing barefoot in the yard. Yorkshire tea. On the Banks of Plum Creek. A week full of exciting work from my editing/writing consulting clients. Making progress on Katie’s quilt. Time to dye Easter eggs. The scent of an Easter lily.

These have been beautiful days… I am so grateful for the time to play with my children, to explore with them. We love to take “discovery walks” around the neighborhood, and yesterday we had a magical morning in the moist and misty air. Seemingly the only people out so early, we found mallard ducks in one of the neighborhood pools, washing and playing. Katie and I looked at seed pods in various stages of releasing seeds, and we talked about (and demonstrated) how the seeds stick to animals (and our clothes) to be delivered to new places. We went to all three parks that occur within a few blocks, found a recently sawed tree stump in some bushes, collected various plants, and enjoyed our world together.

Up early, we love to explore our garden and backyard and watch the day begin together. We see our trees and flowers and plants changing. We hear the morning bird songs. We step in tender grass wet with dew. We saw the pale blue egg from a newly hatched bird (there is a nest nearby us). It makes the starting of the day more pleasant, to feel the cool morning air, to go inside for tea and breakfast and warmth.

Katie loves her new gymnastics session, the first she has done with me watching from the sidelines instead of helping to lead her through the equipment. It is bittersweet, mostly sweet, to watch her achieve this next level of independence in her learning. She is proud of herself, too. Eric and I sit and watch and play on the sidelines. It is a good opportunity for us to have a little time with just the two of us…although I always try to be watching and giving the thumbs up to Katie whenever she looks over at us.

Both of the kiddos are becoming more involved in their Friday music class. Eric has reached a new degree of engagement with the instruments and with exploring our music space. We love our Music Together program, and the really neat part of it is realizing how being in this program connects us all across the nation with the other families who also are a part of Music Together. We have a musical language in common now. We’re in the “Maracas” session right now.

Eric is getting closer and closer to walking, and he seems about ready to launch. Just today he had several moments of standing without falling, unassisted, not holding on to anything. Katie walked at exactly 9.5 months, as did I. I think he is on pace for that, if not a little sooner. He has been pulled up and cruising for about a month now and is slowly but surely growing less wobbly! With all the potential for tumbles, our house is a bit crazy right now…this pre-walking stage is one of the most nerve-wracking, I remember now.

My dad helped us drain our pond/waterfall feature in our backyard. I am definitely going to miss its ambiance this summer, but that much water is a safety issue for little Eric. I thought about putting up a gate to section off that part of the yard, but I decided on the more extreme (and, in our eyes, more safe) solution. My dad helped us fill the meandering pond with bark, and I bought a dozen star jasmine plants and some white geraniums. Jasmine blooming in the summer night is one of my favorite perfumes in the world, so we are making beauty from the necessity of change.

Eric and Katie (both in the bright blue) playing with the big drum right before music class begins.

A picture of the patchwork top for Katie’s blanket. Since taking this picture, I finished laying it out on the muslin and batting and have secured the satin trim around the edges—it is all ready for final sewing. The last step will be tying the blanket with threads at the intersection of the squares. I actually am hoping to photograph it in better lighting when it is all done!

Preparing to dye Easter eggs last night!

I held Eric and we worked on coloring a blue egg together while Katie worked on her eggs. Eric’s first Easter egg!

This morning: all ready for Easter weekend!

Tomorrow we hope for a relaxing day of walking to the park and then baking up a storm! We always bring dessert to the family Easter party. In recent years we’ve made coconut cupcakes and lemon pound cake, but this year Katie and I are switching it up a little and bringing white cupcakes with strawberry meringue buttercream frosting. I haven’t made this pair of Martha Stewart recipes since prior to Katie’s birth actually, but they are soooooooo delicious, especially together.

I hope everyone has a beautiful Easter weekend!

Many years ago, one of our wedding guests gave us a lemonade maker. My husband and I never located a card in the wrapping, and my meticulous Excel spreadsheet which kept track of all shower and wedding gifts and thank you notes forevermore has a blank next to “Lemonade Maker” where the giver’s name should be. There were a couple of possibilities as to a possible giver, yet no one can really ask that sort of thing because it might put a friend on the spot and because gifts are not to be expected or taken for granted. Of course, I have had many a moment wondering if the giver thinks to this day that I forgot to thank him or her. I may never know the solution to this mystery.

Yet how much we have loved and used this gift over the years! Every time I take it out, I always think of our wedding and marriage under lush oak trees and an arbor made with vines and roses and kumquats and lemons. I think of walking down a swath of rose petals, of the In-n-Out truck that served our reception meal, the galvanized buckets with toys and vintage candy, my brother playing our ceremony songs, Chet’s beautiful toast, dancing with Rosa and my cousins, my former students, my mom blowing bubbles….

One lemonade maker conjures a whole day. It has not one giver; now it represents all of the guests who shared time and celebrated with us. It represents a time in life, a lovely time.

Now I am using it with our daughter. I wonder if the giver imagined us using this gift with our children? Probably so. Wherever and whomever you are, Giver of the Lemonade Maker, thank you for the joy we have had using this gift.

We made lemonade, sun tea (uh-oh…holy moly…I just realized it is still outside!! And I am posting from bed), and Popsicles. Spring treats!

Also today….

Bill and our kiddos did laundry….

Eric seems to like hanging out in laundry baskets!

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This morning we dressed in our Easter best and headed over our neighborhood’s largest park for the HOA’s neighborhood Easter Egg Hunt! Mr. and Mrs. Easter Bunny, game booths and prizes, a crafting station, face painting, big bouncers, and tons of eggs with candy inside—fun! This was Katie’s third time at the hunt and Eric’s first. Katie tried the game booths this year and made a colored sand-filled plastic egg necklace.

Katie and Eric with Mr. and Mrs. Easter Bunny

Eric found this purple egg himself!

Sharing  a basket

Katie still got to hunt for eggs on the “Four and Under” part of the field, where the plentiful eggs are in plain sight. Although she has many eggs in her basket, it is by no means full—because she had an amazing moment of epiphany. She had gathered her eggs, looked around at all the younger children still trying…and said, “I have enough. I don’t need any more eggs.” She wanted to leave some for the rest of the children.

The greed instinct is difficult to suppress in my own self, despite my working on it. Yet here is my beautiful 3.5-year-old daughter who saw the beauty and pragmatics of restraint of her own accord this morning. I, an adult, even had a moment of, “Really?!? Let’s keep getting them!” in my own head. Hers was the wiser voice.

Just because something is easy to get or to take…well, that doesn’t mean we should.

The art of restraint is one I try to cultivate constantly, with very modest and moderate success. Not just with things, or with want, but also in my relationships or even what I choose to put out into the world. Restraint is difficult, and I fail often. I admire people like my cousin, Hannah, whom I have never (to my recollection anyway) heard gossip about anyone in many hours of conversation. After hitting my gossipy pinnacle while working as a teacher (it is difficult to avoid in the high school environment, but to my shame that is no excuse), I have worked hard over the past three years to lower my rate. It is not always easy finding topics of conversation that do not include people I know, so if I talk about people at all, I try to keep it positive and non-judgmental. It’s tough. It will be something I have to work on my whole life. My instinctual nature is not as glamorous as I wish it was, obviously, so it needs to be governed by a code of moral conduct. One of the reasons I love to visit with Hannah is that she seems to avoid negative discussions about people so easily and never even “goes there.”

As for Katie: Katie had a glimmer of a life of restraint today. What a gift to see! Being three she has a ways to go, yet being thirty-one, I have a ways to go, too. Today she showed understanding of principle. If the ideal is to act always on principles, the first step is at least knowing what they ought to be. She reminded and taught me today, and that is a joy.

With Little Man Eric on the move (and I mean, really, really on the move, nearly at the walking point and certainly at the falling down/climbing around point) and with the way life naturally cycles back and forth and around all things, I have not been blogging nearly as much as I think about blogging—right before my head hits the pillow!

Our lives are full of springtime right now: quilts and gardens and new recipes and play dates and the start of a new gymnastics session and our next Music Together semester. It always amazes me how much I love each season. “Fall is my FAVORITE!!” I have been known to exclaim in delight at the first sign of nip in the night air. Yet then there is the cozy wintertime of Christmas season. And here, in Spring, I feel ready to hug the world for all its sunshine and budding trees and bushes. Life seems to be a promise that there shall never be a shortage of things to wonder at, or to take delight in. Each season brings its own goodness.

This week has been spent in our yard and in our garden. Feeling soil beneath my fingernails. Feeling the contentment that arises from sun and breeze and physical labor joined to the preparing and sowing of the earth. Happy days. I let the yard and garden go a little fallow this late fall and early winter. We always have an Autumn planting of mums, but I let that go by this year. I resolved, though, that we would turn our yard back into a colorful, productive, relaxing, and enchanting haven for the Spring and Summer. Our aim is to go out in the sunshine daily, to find ways to make the landscape magic. To watch our herbs and vegetables and fruit grow. To have tan lines. To be filled with air and beauty.

We celebrated last night with a semi-impromptu family barbecue with my mom and dad. After a day working outside, the kiddos were excited when their grandparents came over. We served barbecued Wild Alaskan salmon and chicken with barbecue sauce, warm biscuits with freshly whipped honey butter, roasted asparagus, grilled sweet white corn, and lemon meringue tart. Springtime on the tongue.

Day One of gardening in the garden! Currently growing (well, presumably): zucchini, carrots, tomatoes, onions, strawberries, cantaloupe, jalapeno pepper, cilantro, parsley, mint, thyme, basil, sage, rosemary.

Digging a hole for more herbs

Beautiful gardener

I love this girl

Shortly before Project Mud Pie

Eric helps to plant the dwarf lemon tree

I love this boy

Hi, Mom!

Lemon meringue tart

Adding to the joy, our cousin Hannah came to visit us this afternoon. What a delight is her heart. My kiddos love her, and I love her. She is a peaceful, loving person and it was pleasant to share lunch with her and to sit out in the open air and play outside. What a gift to share time!

One of these days I am going to take up the metaphor of gardening as compared to the seeds we sow in our hearts and how it connects to looking for the weeds in our own hearts before trying to weed or tend the heart-garden of anyone else…. But I know that metaphor has been examined already. I only know for sure that, when we work the land we are reconnected to the fundamentals of life and existence, and it has been a welcome opportunity to think about my own heart-life.

Happy Spring, friends!

We are thankful that life is so abundant, so full of the simple beauties that reveal the wonder of our connections to each other and to those around us. I am humbled by how that beauty still has the ability to surprise me in new ways, a reminder that we only know but a piece of the wonder that is always present around us. The beauty is found in loud moments and quiet, in busy moments and in moment of stillness. I am humbled by how much there is in life to savor, appreciate, learn, know, and do—and for all of our days, we can never even begin to scratch the surface of all there is to love.

Eric helped me with laundry early one morning before everyone else woke up (I have looked closely at this picture, friends, and I think it is safe—I don’t see any unmentionables!!). He was holding one of Katie’s toys and saying, “Kuh, Kuh, Kuh-ta!” Indeed, her name seems to be one of the first words he is working on (in addition to the infinitely cute “Hi, Da-Da-Da” he was saying to Bill a few nights ago—video forthcoming)! I can hear through his language acquisition how special she is to him. My heart wells up.

We went on a family date night to a magic show not too long ago. Katie really loved it! The magician did a locked box trick, and even I was impressed. I love watching magic, not only because I love trying to figure it out, but moreso because I love when I can’t figure it out. Magicians are messengers of an essential truth: so often things may not be what they seem. We are tempted to make judgments all the time with limited information; magic shows remind us how silly that can be. What might be going on beneath the surface of life, or people, or situations that we don’t know yet?

Katie and Daddy at our family date night.

A couple of days ago, we made memories that I will always cherish. I grew up with Nana’s neighbors seeming like a part of our family. I remember all of us around Nana’s table for dinners and celebrations, and her neighbors were always part of the childhood stories and lore my aunts and uncle shared. Nana has had good friendships with her neighbors, all of them doing things for one another, and over time even the neighbors that grew up and moved away became like beloved storybook characters to me. Through Facebook, I was able to “meet” as an adult my mom’s childhood friend Gail Shelly, and my mom was able to reconnect to their friend Desi. We all got together a couple of days ago at Nana’s house. I am in awe of the way life and time work to bring about connections and feelings of kinship among people. I am in awe of how small the forces of time and space really feel, when people seem meant to connect.

Our kiddos got to spend precious time with their Nana. I love my Nana’s smile in this picture—so beautiful.

Sweet sleeping boy sharing time with his great-grandmother. A picture for the ages… Sometimes I am just in awe because I realize that, if the whole purpose of my life was just so that this one specific moment could happen, then that is more than I have earned with my flawed self. And yet, there are so many of these moments, like true gifts to open one after another… Staggers me, the goodness in this life.

Yesterday, my mom and Katie and I went to see the circus! In town for a couple of weeks, Circus Vargas is ending its run soon, and it was pure luck that I happened to see the big top the other day when we went to visit the Easter Bunny. I guess I don’t get to the mall all that much anymore. I haven’t been to the circus since going with Uncle Eric (Aunt Jenny, did you go on that trip, too?). I must have been about Katie’s age. One story Uncle Eric liked to remember when he was alive was how I said, “No see clown! No see clown!” I have only snippits of that circus in my mind, but I remember being with Uncle Eric, and that is the important part.

I really loved this circus, and Katie seemed to have fun, too. The man who balanced a ladder and a shopping cart ON HIS CHIN absolutely amazed me. I don’t know how one trains for that, and I am totally impressed by the work that must take. The circus has a air of mystery to me, and I love that it feels old-world and old-fashioned. I kept thinking of one of my favorite books, Water for Elephants, and was wholly enchanted. We watched the acts with popcorn and cotton candy, and I even liked the clown! Matti the Clown was the first clown I have ever actually liked. He didn’t paint his face all the way, which helped, and he really seemed amiable, good-natured, and had good comic timing. I know all clowns are supposed to seem that way, but Matti Esqueda is the real deal. Best clown experience ever.

Today Katie and Eric and I made homemade oatmeal bread. With Katie on the counter and Eric in the Bjorn, everyone gets involved. Katie loved watching the yeast in progress, and she helped measure and pour almost everything. While it rose on the windowsill, we worked on making homemade butter. Using clean baby food jars, Katie and I poured some cream inside and took them outside to shake and shake while Eric played on the grass. After a little while, we had homemade butter!! So yummy! We talked about how this connected to one of our favorite books, Little House in the Big Woods. Eventually the oatmeal bread came out of the oven, and we delighted in its warmth with the chilled butter and a little kosher salt. I even gave Eric small pieces (he has his third tooth now), and a couple of times he pumped his arms up and down in excitement as the tiny bite was heading for his mouth.

While the kiddos napped (both at the same time today!) I worked on sewing fabric strips for Katie’s blanket. Is there anything more meditative and peaceful than working with square after square of beautiful vintage-looking fabric?