In my pocket this week, VOLUME FOUR

With each new day I become increasingly aware of the delight my children take in the world, and how when I present new things for them to engage with and wonder at, the more their vocabulary surprises me, their focus deepens, and their questions become more profound. So much of parenting is about choosing what our children will meet and engage with on any given day. It's very easy to fall down the slope of saying, "My children don't do x,y, or z because it's not good for them." What follows is often a sense of superiority, and others feel judged because essentially, you're saying that your decisions are better than someone else's decisions. Of course there are quantifiably damaging things that we can allow into our children's lives, but I'm not talking about those things. I'm talking about all those things we all have opinions about, and get passionate about, but where the research is limited and there is no moral issue at stake. Lately I've chosen to look at what my children do each day in an either/or way. Either my children do this, or they will do that. We can't have our cake and eat it, too. The lightbulb went off one evening a few months ago when Bruno was upset because we hadn't read very many books that day. I responded by reminding him that he had watched movies that afternoon and because of that decision, there simply hadn't been time to read books. Perhaps, I suggested, we could read books tomorrow afternoon instead of watching a movie? I was a little surprised when he agreed, and the next day he never even asked for a movie. We had made a plan.

Of course! Duh! The tables had been turned. We can't possibly cram everything we want to do into a single day. If we choose one activity, we sacrifice another. Since that evening with Bruno, I've been trying to see every opportunity in this light. The boys are asking me for a movie, and I'm tired and I just want to say yes, but then I think, "Hold the phones—I'm not that tired. I'll tell them we're going to read some books, and if things continue to spiral downhill and I'm feeling miserable-tired, then we can choose to put a movie on." Most of the time, we all end up relishing our read-aloud time and before we know it, an hour has gone by and the boys are refreshed and ready to play while I make supper. I may still be tired, but I have the enormous satisfaction of knowing that I prioritized my dreams for my children over my comfort. This doesn't always work, and that's okay, but the more we've plowed ahead with this kind of perspective, the more fruit I see bursting from their growing brains, and it makes me more and more passionate about savoring the minutes and making the most of them in ways that are true to our dreams and goals as a family. I am not in the business of providing a steady stream of flashy entertainment or events for Seb and Bruno, (I think seeing their creativity spring out of boredom is delightful) and I am getting a glimpse at how making little decisions and foregoing others are making my dreams a reality and building habits of parenting that I am at peace with.

Have you had any lightbulb parenting moments this week or in recent months? I would sincerely love to hear about them.

Thinking on

Birth, of course. I have this enormous peace about labor, and I really feel so great about it that I've been starting to freak myself out, wondering if I should "prepare for the worst" or something like that. I have been receiving Mama Natural e-mails, and one of the most recent began like this,

"Our minds can be our biggest friend or foe during birth. I know this from experience. Just like we need to exercise to keep our bodies strong and healthy, we need to train our minds to have the birth we desire. Your thoughts can create your reality. And your thoughts can help you create an awesome, unmedicated birth!"

To which I respond, well thank you, Mama Natural. Onward, pregnant women! We've got this.

Self-care as a discipline, not an indulgence. Much more on this to come! (I'm not kidding. Get very very excited)

Date nights. Date days. Dates in general. Having spent most of our married lives in graduate school, or pinching pennies to save for graduate school, Cody and I have never made time for date nights. Maybe 1-3 per year in addition to evenings spent together after the boys go to bed. I've recently been feeling like we need to prioritize the getting-out-of-the-house-alone style of date a bit more. The wheels are turning as we try to figure out what kind of dates would be beneficial for our marriage and enjoyable for both of us. My friend, Chandler, wrote this at the end of May, and her thoughts on the subject of dating your spouse have been nagging me for some brain space. I am so grateful for examples all around me of people fighting to live better.

Eating

Flammkuchen has recently become our family's version of "Pizza night." I am still working to perfect a recipe, searching through the highest rated German cooking sites, but since I don't have a kitchen scale, I fear that my measurements don't turn out quite right. Nevertheless, this dish is very difficult to mess up. Every way we've tried it has been delicious. This recipe (in English!) is the closest to the ones I've tried. One of the tricks with making Flammkuchen is getting the cream right. I've been happiest with the result when I mix heavy cream and greek yogurt to get a not-too-thick, spreadable consistency. This is a really delicious and simple recipe to play around with, and tastes great with some white wine and a side of asparagus or other favorite green veggie.

Visual Delights

Tanglebird by Bernard Lodge (that's an affiliate link, fyi) can be found used for really cheap on Amazon. I am completely enraptured by his woodcuts and honestly want to just tear out the pages and frame them!