Two Story Cottage

Ode to School & September

Dear Friends,

Well, I can’t let the whole month of September pass without acknowledging back to school time for the kiddos .  This year was particularly special because I have a kindergartner and second grader.  That means everyone is in the same spot for the first time ever.  It feels like a big milestone as a mom.

kids_first_day

Reid going to kindergarten has been bittersweet.  It is so exciting for him to be at big school. He is thrilled to do all of the things Lacey has done and I can tell he thinks he is big stuff.   He is proud and challenged in such a good way.

boy_kindergarten

However, kindergarten is an adjustment.   It wears them out like nothing else.  My even keeled boy is all kinds of cranky by the end of the week.  It has taken a few weeks but finally he is settling in and as a family the routine is feeling more normal.

Second grade has been a seamless transition which I’m thankful for.  Lacey is excited to have her brother at school but slightly annoyed at having to share her special place.  She has made it clear that she is the seasoned veteran and we all need to remember that.

September often feels like a blur and survival mode is the mantra. October is such a fun month in comparison so I’m ready for the next chapter!

-Erin

Photo- Induced Reflections (Project 2015)

Dear Friends,

I’ve recently received an unexpected gift disguised as drudgery.

I’m center storm in a tornado of photos from four+  years ago and it is like living in a time warp.   Every day I get to sit down at my computer and spend an hour going through 200-300 photos moving chronologically by month (currently I’m August of 2011).  I started in March of 2010. As I move through the months, one day at a time, I am reliving those moments.  I can close my eyes and see my babies as just that.  I can remember exactly what it was like to have a 2 year old and a newborn.  Time is a strange, beautiful thing.

I’ve got one foot in the present and one precariously lodged on a ledge that crumbles as I move forward.  I’m an actual witness of our lives flashing by.  It should be sad but it isn’t that exactly. More like a feeling that leaves me breathless.

I have dreaded this like nothing else.  I hate being behind.  I detest feeling overwhelmed and thousands of pictures to wade through will do that to you.  When I made it a New Year’s goal to deal with these photos, I considered it the chore of all chores.

photo_project

But I’m really doing it.  It is January 22nd and I haven’t quit or given up.  The key is that I’ve found joy in this project.  Sure, there are moments of annoyance and frustration but the warmth of memories is balm for the frayed edges.   Tonight, after the kids are in bed, I get to see Reid’s first steps and I can’t wait.   Last night, I could see he was on the cusp and I was strangely giddy for the big reveal.

I was there but this is almost better.  I’ve read the book but this is seeing the beautifully adapted movie.  Sometimes I feel like a voyeur peeking in on someone else’s life.  Maybe it is better the second time?

If I do a month every day I still won’t be done until March.   However, on the flip side I’m 1/3 of the way there.  I might even be sad when it is over.  Luckily, I’ll have photo books to look at.  I started making Shutterfly books when Lacey was little and quit after Reid was born.  Each night, I’m adding a month to the yearbooks.  I go by birthdays so each child’s book begins & ends at a different time.

annual_photo_books

Every evening I look at the whole month of photos and select the ones for the books.  That process takes a while.  Then I complete that month in each child’s book.  Some nights it takes forever.

No joke.  Like blogging on steroids. But if I can blog, I can claw my way to the present one picture at a time.

It is a beautiful mess for sure.

-Erin

I hereby declare that I will keep up with my photos EVERY month and never get behind again. I’m thanking myself for this strange opportunity but my eyeballs might fall out if I ever have to do this again.

 

 

 

 

The Lone Pumpkin

Dear Friends,

With blogging I always try to plan a few days ahead so that I’m not fumbling around at the last minute for a post.  Of course, that has happened on many an occasion but a little pre-planning does help with photography and the order of things.  Sunday, I looked at my calendar for the week and it said “fall decor.”

Oops.

This is real life and my fall decor is in a storage box in the garage.  I had all intentions of getting it down this weekend but between two soccer games, a birthday party, and church duties I failed the mission.

pumpkin_blue_gold

Well, maybe it isn’t a total fail.  I do have one tiny pumpkin that is bringing fall cheer.  Oh, and fall napkins for the win.  Holiday decorating is one of those fun things that can turn into a total pitfall if you aren’t careful.  Maybe putting a couple of mums on the porch and hanging a fall wreath are a big deal for you.  Yet your neighbor has a display that would make Martha Stewart green.  The point is that I’m a believer in the attitude “you do what you can” depending on your season in life.

Maybe this year you have a lone pumpkin and some discount napkins.  Celebrate it.  And cheers to your creative neighbor.

coffee_bar_fall

As long as fall coffee is on the agenda I don’t really care what decor is involved.

That being said, the tiny pumpkin came from a painting pottery date I had with Lacey a few weeks ago.  I miss her since she is in school practically all day everyday now.  It was nice to have special mother-daughter time.   The store had a large collection of fall items so we went thinking we would do pumpkins or something for Halloween.

skateboard_pottery

Yeah, she did a skateboard.  I did the pumpkin.  Oh well, everyone was happy.

And I do plan on getting that box down.  I’m not sure if it will be this week or next.  Regardless, I’m excited to add a little fall to the house.  I haven’t done anything seasonal yet in our new abode.  I don’t expect to do much this year but I’m considering any effort better than none.

Have you decorated for fall yet?  No judgement from me either way.

-Erin

School Daze + Chalk Art

Dear Friends,

It’s that time again.  The school year is ready to mow us down like a big yellow bus.  Unlike years past, we were actually ready this year.  Practically playing chicken, waiting for that proverbial bus because summer was kind of long this go around.

That is a lot of bus talk for a carpool family.

Because of our move, we had a lot less travel and many more summer days at home.  I daydream about those free days when our schedule is nutty, but by mid-August we were all craving more structure.  Sure, there were pool outings, trips to the library, and a handful of camps but all of that had run its course.

I guess summer ends for a reason.

school_collage

Luckily, Reid has another year of preschool before we hit the big time.  The 4’s program will take some getting used to for all of us.  He goes four half days and will be getting ready for the big K.  I know he will be worn out with all of the big kid work they do.

Lacey on the other hand starts first grade.  That is a longer day which means we don’t see her until almost 3:00.  I’m going to have to adjust to that because it just seems so late!  I certainly didn’t go that long in elementary school.  Times have changed for sure.

chalkboard_message_summer

I hung my diy chalkboard in our breakfast space back in June.   I was so excited about summer and the endless possibilities!   Rather than post an autumn message, I figured I’d keep this one around a wee bit longer while we properly mourn our loss of sleep.

goodbye_summer_quote

I did change the first line because summer days are drifting away, y’all.  Bring on fall.

-Erin

 

 

 

 

Life Lessons

Dear Friends,

The month of January was faster paced than typical for us.  Having our Disney trip smack in the middle perpetuated that with packing, unpacking, extra laundry, and a week of playing catch-up.  We ran around like crazy little beings instead of soaking up the after-Christmas grace that follows the big holiday.

I was not going to be sidetracked from my goals.  One drawer a day kept going, I kept organizing, and we declared victory for the year ahead.  I think the man upstairs thought my New Year’s motivation needed tweaking.  We were stopped in our tracks last Wednesday and had a five-day respite period.   First there was the snow.

And then there was the stomach bug.

The snow was fun.  Who doesn’t crave a cozy snow day every now and then?  Hot chocolate, a warm fire, and guilt-less screen time are a gift.  Just being lazy feels like luxury.  I soaked it in and savored it the way you do a summer vacation.  You know it is a snippet of time and that the grains of sand will slip through your fingers before you can fully grasp the wonder.

The stomach bug was like a slow death march into a suspended alternate universe.  You know the rest of the world must exist but it spins outside of your bubble, everything once important now distant and forgotten.  That isn’t the only spinning going on.   I was ticked off to succumb to the virus, thinking I was above bowing down to that particular throne.  Yeah, I was humbled.  And I recover quickly from the puke-fest but not as quickly from the inevitable vertigo and loss of appetite.

Taking away the appetite of a foodie is a form of mid-evil torture.  I love to eat and the Super Bowl is one of the most fun, fabulous spreads of the year.   Buffalo wings and cheese dip are my kryptonite.  We were recovered enough to participate in our annual family pot-luck but my plate was sadly void of the usual piles of gluttony.

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Print via GroovyGravy on etsy

Regardless of whether it was a snow day or a whirling turn on the norovirus ride, we were forced to slow down.  Our family of four spent some close-knit time together without stepping out the front door.  We bonded and we battled and we sprayed a lot of disinfectant.

A lot of fat good that did.

I’m going into Feburary a bit sluggish with wild eyes much like a typical January.  It is definitely time to enjoy our current cruising altitude instead of the up and down journey that we seem to favor.

I guess I’m thankful for the lesson but next time I’ll just take a second snow day.

-Erin

 

 

 

 

Swagger Wagon

Dear Friends,

It’s official.  I’m a minivan owner. I’ve joined the club and there is no looking back.  Of course, swagger wagon sounds better.  Gotta use the hip lingo to prove I haven’t completely turned in my cool card.  Oh wait.  I’m not sure I was a member of that club anyway.

If you were wondering why there were no costly house projects in 2013, this would be the reason.   We were planning our big purchase for months.  I was in denial until the big day but I’m glad I caved.

swagger_wagon

I’ll admit, I took a long time to come around on the van idea.  I loved the idea of tooling around in my green CR-V with the two kids, not needing the giant hauler.  I was above it in my mind.  I know, total vanity is not-so-attractive, especially when up on the high horse. I fell hard from that perch when kindergarten started.   Driving across town to school and back is a beast, particularly since I couldn’t carpool with anyone.  My CR-V did not fit a third in the middle with a carseat and booster.

No carpooling.  No friends over.  No room for the dog.

I could have done a larger SUV.  It would have worked and I could have avoided official Soccer Mom status.   However, half of the carpool line is big black vehicles so I think they are poorly disguised Mom-mobiles anyway.   And I’m proud to be a Mom so I might as well wear it like a badge of honor.

The truth? Those sliding doors are like butter, y’all.

I’ve fallen head over heels in love in less than a month.  I’m going to be one of those Moms that tries to convert everyone in sight. Have you seen a power lift gate in action? Magic does exist.  And Mr. C likes it just as much as I do.  The technology has won him over.   Pure luxury on wheels.

The next thing you know I’ll be cutting my hair off.  It’s about time.

-Erin

 

 

 

Twelfth Annual Christmas Card Dilemma

Dear Friends,

Are you doing Christmas cards this year?  Let me guess-  they are signed, sealed, and maybe even delivered.  Mine have not been ordered yet and today is my personal deadline.  We have sent them each year for twelve consecutive years since marrying in 2002.  I like receiving cards so I refuse to stop sending them.   In the age of the internet taking over the world, I don’t want to give up the one time that snail mail takes precedence.

Creating a photo card is not for the weak.  I am teetering on the top rung of the indecisive ladder.  It is a familiar spot because I’ve been there a dozen times already.  Each year like clock-work, I spend time browsing photos taken during the year.   Then I decide that we must get a new, fun, coordinated family shot.  It doesn’t have to be posed but it needs to be cheerful.  The children should look awake and not mean.  Hair should look like it was combed sometime this week.  Don’t even think about closing your eyes.  A shot that includes the dog is somewhere in the neighborhood of unattainable so that has become optional.

christmas_card_outtakes

This year so far we have done pajama shots with the kids cuddled in a cozy chair.  We did Thanksgiving photos in their holiday attire. I’ve got pictures with Santa and matching Christmas clothes.  All of those, and I got one or two in the neighborhood of decent.  My favorite is a picture that I took with my cell phone of the kids on Santa’s lap.

I finally decided to go with the cheating Santa picture (I did order a photo package so I feel less guilty).   This is followed by the several evening process of putting the picture in an assortment of cards on several different websites.  Tiny Prints, Shutterfly, Vistaprint, Minted, Snapfish.

Don’t give me anymore to try.

If that wasn’t enough, I have cards added to carts and I stumble around comparing and contrasting and humming until I just can’t take it anymore.   Photo Place A has 20% off but you can’t order 75 cards.  Photo Place B has only 15% but the card costs a little less.  Photo Place C has free expedited shipping + 10% which could make me look like less of a procrastinator.

Because a photo card is all about perception.

I don’t want people to think I’m a last minute Mama although I clearly am.  And you want the world to see your perfect little stick figure family with bells on.  And smiles.  And neat hair. With sarcasm and droopy faces checked at the door.

The best part?  I finally submitted the card last night and got a message in my inbox this morning from the “design expert” saying that my photo was too grainy.  It must have been the flash from the real camera.

The nail in my coffin, y’all.

Back to square one.  But cards will be mailed.   Say cheese!

-Erin

P.S.  Come on – tell me I’m not the only one who does this dance every year.

P.P.S.  I could do another post on the annual fight with the printer over the address labels.  Because that saves time, right?

 

 

Restoring the Balance

Dear Friends,

Change is hard but it can be good.   I’ve made done some life-tweaking this fall that has lifted my spirits immensely.  Somehow, I got on this blog train 3 and 1/2 years ago and it was smooth sailing until all of a sudden it wasn’t.  I felt like a speeding bullet about to derail at any second. When I started blogging, I needed an outlet.  I was at home 24/7 with two small children.  My husband worked long hours and this was my answer to keeping my sanity.

I loved it.

Suddenly, I’m a Mom of school-aged children, spending hours in the car taking people places, volunteering, and “killing time” between preschool and big school.   Nap time has been replaced by quiet time where nine times out of ten I’m attempting some sort of vegan allergy-friendly concoction for the boy.  The afternoons are now filled with reading and outdoor play. Blogging has become an early morning or night time activity.

I’m not loving it.

BUT I don’t want to stop.  I do have a couple of “free” mornings each week due to preschool.  I pictured myself using that time for the blog but instead I’ve chosen to invest it in myself.   I was a runner before all of this started and a pretty healthy person.  Over the past three years, blogging has replaced exercise and tipped my mental scales out of balance.  I’ve always believed in moderation,  yet I’m not practicing what I preach.

photo

I’m proud that I’ve never let it interfere with the kids.  I’m proud that they don’t associate me with a computer; however, I am trying to create a universe where I can blog AND exercise AND maintain relationships with others.

Does that exist?  Maybe.

Running 3 days a week has nearly cured me.  Following along on a “light” version of a year-long Bible class is challenging me in a positive way.  Mumford and Sons and the iPod are a close third for nurturing the soul.

This isn’t about quitting or about finding an answer or solution.  No tips for squeezing the most of the day.  I’m just a girl trying to stay content, be a good mom, and do a little good where I can.

My blog is lean at times, my pictures are fodder for photography failure, and I don’t always have the answers.  I just want you to know that when you land here,  I’m doing my best.

-Erin

 

 

Reid Health Update (& Results)

Dear Friends,

I thought it was high time for a Reid health update.  If you remember, he was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease called Eosinophilic Esophagitis in May. Basically, his esophagus is allergic to many food proteins, which when ingested, causes vomiting and makes eating painful.  After extensive allergy testing, we discovered that he is sensitive to dairy, egg, beef, chicken, soy, corn, oat, tree nuts, and white potato.

It was a big whoa to say the least and our lifestyle changed overnight.

Although it has been hard, we have honestly adjusted to Reid’s crazy new diet.  He can eat turkey, pork, sweet potato, fruits and vegetables.  I shared some of our go-to recipes here.  The fact that he is feeling SO much better makes the diet easier to maintain.  We are seeing a difference in everything from energy level to motor skills.  The vomiting stopped weeks ago but the further we go on the elimination diet, the better he seems overall.

happy_healthy_reid

We can still picnic no matter the dietary restrictions.

Last week, Reid had an endoscopy to check his progress as he has been on the new diet for about ten weeks.   We had our fingers crossed for a good biopsy but did not find out results until Wednesday.

While his esophagus is still healing, the eosinophils (white blood cells) that are not supposed to be there have decreased dramatically.  Previously he had between 50 & 60 white blood cells hanging out in his esophagus which was making him very sick and sucking all of his energy. He now has NINE eosinophils in the esophagus. With a number less than TEN, he is considered in remission.

Now what?

This is far better news that we could have imagined. Usually it takes a couple of rounds of allergy testing to pinpoint all of the culprits.  For now, we stick with the current crazy diet and enjoy our healthy boy.

After Christmas, we will start the process of food trials which is where we can see what food from his allergic list that he might possibly be able to tolerate.  I’m not quite ready for that, especially now that he is feeling so much better.

This was a September miracle for us and I plan on enjoying the next couple of months before we shift things once again.   I’m learning things daily about food and allergies and ingredients.  Is there an honorary degree for label -reading?  If so, I might qualify.

We are used to packing Reid’s food for everything, but it is a wee bit harder now that we are out of the summer bubble.  Preschool has been a little challenging with class parties and snack time. I have to provide everything he eats and the teachers understand the situation, but just yesterday we had a very close call with a substitute teacher in the classroom.  Luckily, Reid told the teacher he wasn’t allowed to eat the snack she had given him.  I am so thankful that he is figuring all of this out without us really explaining it. Because he can’t have most everything, it is easier to tell him what he CAN have. I think the fact that he feels so much better helps him resist the yummy things he cannot eat. Two months ago, he would have jumped off a cliff for a goldfish cracker or dug one out of a trash can. Yesterday, he said, “Yeah, I can’t eat this.” Church is equally hard because of rotating volunteers – I’ve decided I need to put a giant piece of tape on the front of his shirt that says,”do not feed under any circumstances”.   People will think he is a zoo animal, but what can you do when the world is determined to give your child cheese cracker snacks?

I’m feeling very positive after our excellent scope. I try not to think too far into the future because it will be a long road with possibly years of food trials; however, this is a pretty new disease, so who really knows?

I was a little sad to miss out on “Talk Like a Pirate Day” at Krispy Kreme – I’m a sucker for free doughnuts and a fun reason to celebrate. On the flip side, we have discovered that Reid can eat sorbet at Sweet Frog which is a blessing. It is nice to have one place to go for a special outing.

October brings Halloween which is another new challenge.

Thanks for your well wishes everyone!

-Erin

 

Summer Reflections

Dear Friends,

Today is the day.  The culmination of six years of imagery come to life.  My first-born, Lacey, goes to kindergarten.  Not to mention, Reid will be in 3’s preschool.  I suddenly have three free mornings a week and in the blink of an eye, life is scheduled again.   No more lazy mornings at the breakfast table.  Alarm clocks are back with a vengeance that seems borderline barbaric. Spontaneous pool trips will be a distant memory.  Instead of talking about vacation plans, we are discussing Halloween costumes.

I’m okay with it.

No more sibling bickering which has been the theme of August.  In July, everyone was happy but these last ten days have shown a cohesive desperation for structure.  The kids are itching to expand their minds and for the socialization that school brings.  The ends of my rope are fraying, a sign of the inevitable.

We had a beautiful summer.  A collage of  happy days coupled with hard days.

summer_fun

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Crafts using random crapola, adventures at the library, picnics, birthdays, trips to see cousins, and crazy dress-up days.  Balanced, of course, by grumbling at the grocery store and the inevitable whining that wears thin.

We lived in a bubble mostly due to Reid’s elimination diet.  A little respite time can be a good thing. Typical summer trips to Chick-fil-A or TCBY were out which put a damper on life for a hot minute.  Until I realized that we were okay. It became a version of unplugging that made me embrace the little things.

Don’t think I won’t hit the drive-thru while Mr. Reid is in school.  I’m only human.

Last summer, I was too loosey goosey so this summer I added a few structured activities.  Lacey enjoyed an afternoon art camp while Reid had a few morning craft sessions at a local kids’ art studio.  The big girl also attended her first day camp, where she caught multiple fish and mastered the bow and arrow.  Sprinkled in were swim and tennis lessons when it wasn’t raining.

Which was rare.

Lacey_reid_rain

Regardless we swam.  And swam some more. Two beach trips is gluttony.  And I’m better for it.

I’ll remember this summer as my grandmother’s last.  She passed away earlier this month, a few weeks shy of 93.  “Mimi” moved in with my parents in May, after entering hospice care. There was a lot of precious time soaking up her presence.  She enjoyed the kids so much – it was an honor to watch them interact with their great-grandmother.  As nice as it was to spend time with one of my favorite people, it was hard on my parents.  Death can be a long, drawn -out process and although the ending is sweet, the journey can be rough.   Thankfully, we had the peace that closure brings before our new beginnings.  Life is so poignantly planned sometimes.

I’m nervously anticipating the chaos of the next few weeks. The tides are shifting but back to school time can be cleansing. I’m in a purging mode.  Beware the crazy woman on a rampage.

Happy Almost Fall.   Bring on the smoky smell of tailgating, mingled with the sounds of football and the colors of nature.

Assuming the sun decides to shine one of these days.

-Erin

 

 

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