DSC_1545 DSC_1566 DSC_1567 DSC_1592 DSC_1597 DSC_1570DSC_1623Brave souls that we are, we recently took our little gaggle on a road trip. As they say, traveling with kids is worse than traveling without kids, but way better than never going at all. This is the truth.
For instance, we made double the stops in double the time on our way to Colorado. We also choose to detour through the Black Hills, South Dakota, in effort to mix up the scenery a bit. On the first evening of our journey, we stopped at Mount Rushmore. It was a lovely time of day to visit and hike around a bit. The light was warm and soft for photos, the air was cool, and the crowds were sparse.

On Day 2, we foolishly booked a tour at Wind Cave National Park smack dab in the center of Penelope’s usual nap time. With 3 small children and 2 frazzled parents, you can pretty much do the math and figure out how this all went down. Much like an airplane, these cave tours require 30 strangers to sandwich together into claustrophobic quarters and play by all the ranger’s rules while stumbling through the dark single file. Once you’re down, there’s no turning back…And so, in order to punish us for this unwise choice of entertainment, Penny wailed for 74 of the 75-minute tour which of course echoed to exponential decibels in the bowels of the cave. The poor park ranger managed to shout over the crying in order to interject his obligatory historical/geological commentary, then promptly expedited our family up the first available elevator at the end of the tour. The. Shame. For this reason, I am offering full refunds to any poor soul who was on this tour that day with us. You know who you are. (;

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Once we made it to Colorado, we joined forces with our giant family reunion crew, spent time catching up and watching flocks of cousins play. We picnicked like it was our job. We also did some soft-core hiking (in other words, the opposite of hard-core) with our kiddos. (: Since it is the 100th anniversary of our beloved National Park system, it was extra special to visit a few along the way! We drove to the tip-top highest point in Rocky Mountain National Park. Technically Jeff drove, and I closed my eyes, clung to the door handle, and prayed for guardrails. But once we reached the top and I reopened my eyes, we experienced some of the most breathtaking views. Plus we frolicked with some moose, a herd of caribou, mountain rams, and some eagles. And looking back at these photos I already so greatly treasure our picturesque little adventures. We are just like the VonTrap family!–Minus clothes sewn from curtains and perfect pitch!

On the return drive, we made it within 100 miles of home before the most epic car seat blow out ensued. From my perch as co-pilot, I turned my head to the sound of jolly coos and squeals of joy. Here are my next 5 thoughts/words/actions:
“Wait. Who gave the baby chocolate!?”
“Wait. I ATE ALL the chocolate.”
“Wait. Then…How does she have chocolate all over her face/hands/mouth/clothes/car seat!?”
“Wait. That.’s NOT chocolate.”
“Jeff. PULL OVER!”
We learned a super valuable life lesson that day…NOT to feed your baby prunes on a road trip. And to ALWAYS pack extra wipes.

Meltdowns and poop stories aside, we had a most lovely trip. Somehow the hassles fade and the bright shiny memories of togetherness always remain. We are gearing up for trip part deux soon. Only this time we are flying…A flight or two with 3 small fries can’t be any worse than a cave tour, right!? (;
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So many creative project ideas pass through my head from day to day. Often it is not the right time or there is not enough time to entertain each idea, but this one in particular had been begging to be made for quite some time. And so, with a piece of pretty pink & blue vintage floral fabric, last weekend I set out to make a little summer sun bonnet for my Penny. Once the final stitch was in place, it took all my self-control not to wake her from her nap to try it on her sweet head! Ha! Eventually she roused on her own and had soaked through her diaper. What a convenient opportunity for an afternoon bath outside…

I adore how it frames her pretty round face and shelters her precious baby skin from the sun. I say bring back all the bonnets. I do believe that the creative process of sewing one gave me the equivalent joy to her splashing in the backyard!

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DSC_3373We had a really lovely & relaxing 4th of July! I took the kids to the park in the morning for a parade, bouncy house, snow cones, balloon animals, etc. Back home the afternoon, my two highly esteemed berry-snitching batter-licking helpers and I set out to make the most patriotic fruit pizza imaginable. The kind of dessert that makes America so great. (:

While the sugar cookie crust was cooling on the counter, I whipped up the cream cheese frosting and rinsed our favorite fresh-summer berries. Thankfully, barely enough berries survived little Violet’s grazing to decorate the top. Recipe below!

And in true 4th-of-July fashion, we tossed some burgers on the grill, lit a few 2-ft tall fireworks on the sidewalk, ran around with sparklers, and called it a night. I love this simple holiday! It is the epitome of long summer days, outdoor fun, and sweet treats.
DSC_3343 DSC_3345 DSC_3352 DSC_3357DSC_3356 DSC_3368SUGAR COOKIE CRUST:
Beat together:
1 stick of butter, softened
1 egg
3/4 cup sugar
Then mix in:
1 1/4c. flour
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 teaspoon salt
Press dough into pizza stone & bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes. Allow to cool.

FILLING:
Whip together:
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
8 ounces cream cheese, softened

Spread filling over cooled crust, top with fruit, and chill until dessert time. Enjoy! xo.

000027470016I’ve written this post over and over in my head 1,000 times. The post in which I step back into this long-forgotten space of mine and find words and courage to write once again. The truth is, it’s been a fiercely hard year for me.  As much as it’s true that as a busy mama I simply haven’t had the time to keep up with blogging, it’s far more accurate to say that somewhere in the chaos of moving, remodeling projects, bringing sweet bebe number 3 into the world, the walloping sleep deprivation to follow, mixed with our general unsettledness, I completely lost myself.

I became so greatly overwhelmed that I was living day after day in survival mode, without so much as a spark of creativity.  For far too long, I had been slapping on a happy face and agreeing to more commitments than necessary, all the while secretly feeling completely hollowed out and ashamed.  I was so busy keeping up appearances & caring for everyone else, that I had completely written myself off and was in complete denial over how much I was hurting. The nasty things I’d tell myself are words I would never ascribe to another human being. In the future, I hope to be more transparent about my struggles with depression & anxiety, because I’ve learned that doing so helps to shine light in dark places. If even just my own.

This online world can be so strange. All too often, I’ve found myself scrolling mindlessly through my Instagram feed for example, looking at everyone else’s most lovely, thoughtful, high points, all the while comparing them to my lows. I’ve honestly believed at times that I had nothing worthwhile to contribute to the world.  I’ve felt so inadequate.  Like I had already tried my hands at blogging and failed. Like I was not compatible with society. Like I needed to have a perfectly decorated and tidy home in order to share glimpses into our family life; or that I needed to master handmade crafts of all kinds and generate dazzling daily content before I could maintain a legitimate blog.  Sheesh!!

How grateful I am to have finally come to grips with how this is all so untrue! Even just typing out those crazy-girl standards I’d been holding over my head is so freeing. I’ve been longing for so long to get back ‘at it, because I find so much joy in sharing photos and stories, but truly did not know where to start. Perfectionism and comparison are so crippling to me. But with time, kind friends, fresh air, and good reads helping to heal all things, I am learning that I simply need to dust off my keyboard and start, however imperfectly it may be. Life is so messy, filled with ups, downs, twists & turns, and I want to just show up for it and be able to be more present in each moment of the journey.

Cheers to new beginnings, to being our authentic selves, overcoming perfectionism, and finding the beauty in the the everyday.

Speaking of letting go of perfect, I have given up on the idea of snapping perfectly posed photos of these squirrely kids. The real, monkies in motion are so much more sweet and vibrant. (:

Penny’s head band found here // Lace blanket here
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Kesterson_1015_019Our precious Penny is already 3 months young, and I’ve finally found a quiet moment to sit down and share the story of her birth! They say that 3rd babies are the game-changers and I’d say this was accurate even on her birthday! This was my longest yet easiest labor–although not by much in both regards.  I am beyond grateful to have had Jeff and my wonderful doula friend Ashley there both to support me and to capture these most cherished images!

Disclaimer: Please keep in mind that if birth and raw birth photos are not your jam then you need not read more. I am posting this just for me and for my family and for those who might genuinely read without judgement or disgust. Thanks!

So here goes…Way too early on a Tuesday morning in October, a few little contractions woke me up (5amish?). I couldn’t fall back to sleep, so I started the stopwatch on my phone and hit “lap” for each one I felt. They were steady, but wimpy so I wasn’t about to get my hopes up.

By 7:30am we had whisked Graham off to school and were getting Violet ready to head out the door on a play date. The contractions just kept coming and although they were still mild, they hadn’t gone away and so I figured it truly must be the real deal.

9:00am rolls around and I’d showered, tidied up the house, and had both big kids accounted for. I am thinking ” Ok! This baby is coming so let’s get this show on the road, get her out by noon and get on with our day! That way both Graham & Violet could come to the hospital to meet her in the afternoon and Jeff could even take them back home to tuck them in tonight!” It’s so funny how with babies #2 & 3 my biggest fear in labor was that I’d be scrambling to figure out childcare.  It’s also funny how the one thing you can count on is that your labor will go exactly how you don’t expect it to go (in other words, this baby would most certainly not be born by noon). You’d think by my 3rd I would have figured out that I just need to roll with it…

So instead of heading to the hospital, I headed to the grocery store so that at least this child would be brought home to a well-stocked fridge. I had it all planned out in my head–if contractions got fierce or if my water broke in the middle of the store I would just ditch my cart and bail. That didn’t happen. I kept having pokey, medium at best contractions every 5 minutes. The biggest excitement of my shopping trip was receiving a text from my 41-weeks pregnant sister-in-law saying “Hi! I’m in labor! Heard you are too. On my way to the hospital. The race is on.” My heart skipped a beat. How fun to have cousins born on the same day!!! And what are the odds!?!

Back home we dilly-dallied. I made scrambled eggs. I found more stuff to clean. We went for a walk all around the neighborhood and enjoyed the beautiful fall colors, which were just beginning to peak. We walked past Graham’s school and spied him playing on the playground at recess. I gulped back tears as I remembered doing this same labor thing 6 years ago and how much my first baby has changed and what a crazy adventure this has all been.

By early afternoon, I felt the contractions were maybe perhaps getting a bit stronger, but still every 5. Remembering that our Violet was practically born in the car, we made the decision to play it safe and head to the hospital before traffic slowed down and/or labor picked up. So we checked into the hospital at 2:30ish and met our wonderful doula, nurse & midwife there. I had no idea, but Jeff and doula Ashley astutely observed that they had put us in the same room where Violet was born. Here we go again, team!penelopebirth

There, I was 6cm and fully effaced in case that means anything to you. I guess it wasn’t all in vain–things were progressing but it still seemed to be at snail’s pace to me! So we walked in the hallways and chit-chatted a bunch…now pausing and needing to focus on breathing during what were becoming more pronounced contractions.  At one point I remember joking that I wished I’d brought some Sudoku or something. I was getting bored and so anxious to meet this darling girl!

At 4pmish things were finally getting real. I was done with walking and bouncing on the exercise ball seemed like the only thing that was “working” for me. I was hugging Jeff’s neck hard during each contraction.  Kesterson_1015_004Kesterson_1015_006

Then at 4:30ish my nurse walked back in the room and didn’t leave. Shortly after that, I announced I felt like I needed to push and the midwife was just like “Ok. Awesome. Then just go ahead and push.”Kesterson_1015_007

I gave a push or two and got a bit discouraged and chickened out. “Ouch. I hate this. This is the worst. I hate this.” My water still hadn’t broken, so each push just kinda felt like nothing. Like I wasn’t getting anywhere and it hurt. A lot. Obviously.

Not sure however many I-feel-like-I’m-getting-nowhere pushes occurred, but by 4:57 I guess I gave it my biggest and best, because my water broke and that poor sweet baby literally fell out into the bed without giving anyone a chance to catch her! Ack! Birth is so crazy/surreal/intense/insane/beautiful!

I remember telling her “Oh baby girl! I’m so sorry I dropped you!” before the usual hellos and I love yous and snuggles. I think she might have aspirated a bit in that birth bomb madness because it took her a few long scary moments to breathe. Not the finest Apgars at first, but quickly pinked up into her healthy perfect self.

Its so cliche but so amazing and miraculous how you just forget everything that just happened and can go from the lowest low to the highest high in a split second. This sweet lovely girl was so worth it.Kesterson_1015_008 Kesterson_1015_010Kesterson_1015_011Kesterson_1015_018Kesterson_1015_028Kesterson_1015_016Kesterson_1015_030Kesterson_1015_032Kesterson_1015_022We named her Penelope Celeste and she was perfectly perfect in every way. So much thick dark hair. Beautiful button nose. Reminded us so much of our baby Graham and a whole pound and a half lighter than her big sis Violet. (Praise.) 7lb 8oz. 21 in. Xoxo.

P.S. In case you were wondering, our sweet nephew won the race. He was born just a few short hours before Pen. (;