Finding Balance in Life: Coffee Meetings With My Kiddo

I’ve always been a working mom, and at times it has been incredibly trying to juggle all of the demands of my life. When my daughter was a toddler, she’d often ask me why I couldn’t stay at home with her. “I don’t want to go to school. I want to be with you!”

Her protests would break my heart, but I was confident that going to work was the right decision for me, and for our family. I just hoped I’d find strategies to make it easier.

In those early years I had a really stressful job and on most mornings I’d be racing around our house getting dressed, rushing through breakfast, and trying to get out the door to make it to my first meeting on time. My little one would look up at me with her big brown eyes and ask why I had to leave so soon.

“Mommy has another coffee meeting,” I’d respond, kissing her rosy cheek and giving her a reassuring smile.

One morning my daughter gave me a very stern look and in a loud voice shouted, “I want a coffee meeting with you!

That demand made me stop in my tracks. My two-year old had no idea what a coffee meeting was, but she knew that it must be important – and she was missing out.

So from that moment on, we began scheduling regular “coffee meetings”. They are on my calendar, highlighted in my daughter’s favorite color. They are never cancelled or rescheduled. Hand in hand we head to a neighborhood cafe before school, on a vacation day, or after a ballet lesson. I usually order an almond milk latte while my daughter gets a flavored steamer. We sit for an hour or so, talking about our favorite things and making plans for the future. Sometimes we color or read together, play My Little Pony, or explore a book store. Our meetings focus on the important work of childhood.

Having these special moments with my daughter is something that I cherish. It has definitely helped me find more balance in my life. Now my daughter is fine when I say Mommy has another coffee meeting, because she gets coffee meetings, too.

Ready to order

The perfect steamer

Enjoying my life

Mom drink & kid drink

 

 

 

 

Inspiring Books for Children: Must-Haves for Your Library

Happy holidays, my dear friends! Today’s post gets away from the hustle and bustle of the season and focuses on a really fun topic…children’s literature. So take a deep breath, relax, and enjoy!

As adults, I think that one of the greatest gifts we can give children is a well curated book collection. Really great literature helps youngsters develop vocabulary, build imagination, and explore the possibilities of the Universe. I have read countless books with my daughter and today’s post shares our very favorites.

Each of the books below has been selected based on the beauty and importance of its message, and the quality of its images. As a mom I have picked books that will not only be interesting for the young people in your life, but will make reading out loud a pleasure for you as well. In fact, you will actually look forward to reading these over and over again. And with each turn of the page, you will know that you’ve given an amazing gift to the young person in your life.

1.) The Zen Series by Jon J. Muth

These beautiful books (Zen Ties, Zen Shorts, Zen Ghosts, and Zen Socks) follow the adventures of a Giant Panda named Stillwater and the human children who live next door. Stillwater helps his young friend’s navigate the ups and downs of childhood by sharing lessons derived from Zen Buddhism. These books teach about compassion, kindness, sharing, and letting go of the things that don’t matter.

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2.) This is the World by M. Sasek

Is there a more stress-free way to travel than taking your child on vacation through the pages of a book? This is the World compiles some of M. Sasek’s greatest travel books in one masterwork. The illustrations and stories – which are now at least 50 years old – continue to teach children interesting facts about some of the world’s most famous monuments, cities, and spaces. It has gotten my daughter interested in traveling to new destinations and learning more about foreign cultures.

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3.) Journey by Aaron Becker

Aaron Becker has created a timeless work of art. Some people may be skeptical about this book at first because there are…gasp!…no words – but that becomes a part of the enchantment. The stirring and emotional images help children create their own narrative. This book helps kids understand and express emotions and it puts them “in the driver’s seat” as they become the story’s author. Adults can help guide young storytellers by asking probing questions that dig more deeply into each image.

Every time a child opens this book, they are creating a new adventure.

Journey Cover

Journey

4.) Rad American Women A-Z by Kate Schatz and Miriam Klein Stahl

The ABCs are so much more fun when you are learning about feminists that have changed the world! Angela Davis, Dolor Huerta, and Billie-Jean King are just some of the “rebels, trailblazers, and visionaries” captured in this important book. My daughter and I love reading the biographies together and then taking time to have deeper conversations about what we’ve learned. But rest assured, this book IS NOT JUST FOR LITTLE GIRLS! It should be on the shelf of every family that believes in equality – and every family that wants to raise interesting children (boys and girls) who feel empowered to change the world around them. Thanks, Aunt Masha for such a great gift!

A is for Angela

My Morning Routine

I believe that the way I start my day has a lasting impact on my mood and energy level. Having a positive, predictable, joyous routine in the morning is something that is very important to me.

In our home, my husband is the early riser. He wakes up with the sun and is showered and dressed before I lift my head from the pillow. His cajoling is my favorite alarm clock.

After I set my feet on the floor, I am off to wake our little one. Her sweet smile sets the tone for my entire day. For many years, I would pick her up from the bed and carry her around in my arms, but now she’s getting too big. Instead, we race each other down our creaky old staircase and into the kitchen where we gather around the island for breakfast.

My husband always hands me a mug of strong, dark coffee. The smell, taste, and warmth bring me to a deeper level of consciousness. One inhalation of the steam rising from my cup and I’m prepared to face the day.

Breakfast is relaxed and casual. As we eat, we recap our dreams and talk about the day ahead. My daughter will usually try to convince us to let her stay home from school. We will usually say no.

There is time for one PBS show, and then we finish getting ready for our days and begin heading out the door. My daughter with her backpack, my husband with his messenger bag, and me with my bright red tote.

We all pack into my station wagon and then head to school. After walking our daughter to her classroom and giving her a big hug and kiss, we journey back home. I drop my husband off at his car. We kiss and wish each other a good day. He drives to his office, and I drive to mine.

And that’s it. Everyday of the work week.

I’m calm. Relaxed. Ready.

Bring on the challenges of the day….

Family “Field Trips”

I’ve noticed that sometimes busy families get stuck in ruts….parents working all hours, kids plopped in front of screens, fast food served on dinner plates…everyone is together but not really together at all.

To keep our family playing, talking, and bonding, each weekend we take family “field trips.” Just like the exciting, fun-filled trips we took in grade school, these outings are designed to get us exploring and playing together…really together. They get us out of our daily routines, help us facilitate rich interactions, and allow us to build lasting memories.

We usually head outdoors and visit our community’s natural resources, living museums, and free play areas. During these “field trips” there are only five rules: 1.) no electronic devices, 2.) have fun, 3.) get messy, 4.) try to learn something new, and 5.) run wild! And yes, princess dresses are perfectly acceptable attire.

Our daughter loves the uninterrupted time with mom and dad…and we love sharing our passion for nature with our little one. We’re creating healthy traditions that, we hope, our daughter will continue when she has her own family.

Here are some photos from a trip we took this past weekend…a forest hike followed by playtime along the shores of Lake Michigan. Free, fun, and fabulous.

Entertaining Family wants to know, what does your family do to stay connected?

Waves along the shore

Chair in the woods

Butterfly

Father daughter bonding

Paths in the sand

Rocks on the shore

Standing on the tip of the world

Creating a Meditative Outdoor Space That Fit Our Lifestyle

Our climbing vines

 

When my husband and I moved into our 1896 Victorian home, almost a decade ago, the yard was overgrown with invasive weeds and trees, and the ground was uneven at best…filled with dangerous, gaping holes is more like it. There was no place to entertain, and no where to sit and relax. In fact, being in our yard was anything but relaxing…overwhelming and anxiety producing was more like it.

We knew we needed to change things up, but we couldn’t do it ourselves. We hired an innovate design company, Greener Roofs and Gardens in Milwaukee, WI, to help us develop a plan that would fit our busy lives.

In creating our “new” outdoor space, we drew inspiration from the gorgeous neighborhood in which we live. Not far from Lake Michigan, our east side community is nestled between Milwaukee’s Lake Park, designed by Frederick Law Olmsted in the late 19th Century (the landscape architect who also designed Central Park in New York City), and Riverside Park, an urban green space along the Milwaukee River which leads to miles of hiking trails and an arboretum. The two parks are connected by Newberry Boulevard, a stately road lined with a canopy of towering maple trees.

Greener Roofs and Gardens completely re-landscaped our home to create a serene, meditative outdoor space that fit our family, reflected our love of wild, natural spaces and mirrored the outdoor environments found throughout our neighborhood.

We developed a low-fuss plan (a.k.a., there is absolutely no mowing required, ANYWHERE). We added a circular seating area for entertaining, a play space for our young daughter which includes a sandbox and a “tree house” with a garden roof, and raised beds to grow and harvest vegetables during the summer and fall. We used greenery (vines, cranberry bushes, and sculptural trees) to screen out the city buildings around us and create a yard that envelopes us in nature.

The entertaining space

Our Buddha

Cherry Tree

In the front yard, our landscapers created a rain garden filled with native plants and flowers and decorative elements like flagstone walking paths and a free-form stone wall. In Milwaukee, during rain storms, we have issues with runoff taxing our deep tunnel system and this results in raw sewage being dumped into Lake Michigan – our city’s most important natural resource. Our small rain garden is one way to help reduce that runoff. Rather than having rain water flow from our yard into the sewage system, it pools in our garden where our big, hearty plants drink it up. This space is also a haven for honey bees, monarchs and different types of birds.

Rain Garden

More Climbing Vines

Wall and Rain Garden

Sandbox

Cranberries

Tree House with Green Roof

Container Garden

Today I couldn’t be happier, more relaxed or more content sitting in our outdoor space. First of all, it is absolutely lush and picturesque. Second, it supports he way we live! I’m simply too busy to spend all of my time caring for a lawn – and it’s not good for the environment – so this low-maintenance space is perfect for me and my family. Moreover, there are ample spaces for us to garden together, play together, and entertain friends and family. This type of yard wouldn’t work for everyone…and it doesn’t have to – it was made just for us and we love it!

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