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.

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

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. (;

Our little wildflower turned 2 almost 2 months ago and here I am, finally sitting down to write a little bit about all the sugar and spice we’ve encountered at this sweet stage.  When blowing out her birthday candles and asked her how old she was, she cleverly replied “Not. 6…I’m 2.” (Because big bro is 6!)

Back in early September, just before the leaves began to turn in the crisp fall air, we set out to snap a few photos of this beautiful girl! She is finally warming up to the idea of dress-ups and so by bringing along her little butterfly wings and wooden birthday cake toy we were able to keep her engaged in the photos for at least a few minutes. (:

It’s so funny how such a little person can be so sweet and sooo sassy all at once. I sometimes find it hard to say no and discipline her when it’s all I can do to not laugh at her antics. Other times it is impossible to not get frustrated with her demands of “I do it myself!” when clearly, she cannot yet do…

Kesterson_0915_046Kesterson_0915_017Kesterson_0915_002midwest-film-family-photographer-111115-04midwest-film-family-photographer-111115-01midwest-film-family-photographer-111115-05Also while we were at it, Jeff also snapped a few of big guy Graham and my bulging 9-month belly, which I knew in hindsight would be beautiful even if I felt the exact opposite of beautiful at the time, (; 

We knew Violet would be a sweet big sis/mini mama because all summer she was quick to show off her own baby tummy…Which friends, you have to admit is sooo much cuter than the real thing! Ha!Kesterson_0915_063Kesterson_0915_025