Get Out! Enjoying the Outdoors With Your Little One Everyday

It’s that time of year when it is starting to feel like it has been winter forever. In fact, in New England, where we live, it has been cold now for five months. Though we haven’t had much snow this year we have had dark, gray, and cold and we are all a bit ready for Spring. Today was the last official day of winter and Edith and I decided it would be the perfect beach day. And it was.

The temperature was right around 40, though the wind made it feel more like 26. The sun however was doing it’s thing and was lovely and invigorating. As we were climbing rocks and hunting for treasures I started thinking about how we had the place to ourselves. In fact, we went to two separate beaches and had both to ourselves, except for the birds and crabs.

As a stay-at -home parent being outside every day has been a priority and a real life saver. Not only does it give structure and meaning, it also helps us to stay healthy, calm, and refreshed. I read recently that Americans spend 97% of their time indoors. I also read that young children should be outside at least 3 hours, though preferably between 4 and 6! I definitely fall short of that some times though I’m always looking for ways to increase our time outside. It’s good for me, it’s good for her, and it’s good for the dog. If you are looking for ways to get out and stay outdoors more then here are some tips!

Top 5 Ways to Play Outside More:

1. Dress The Part

As the saying goes, “There’s no bad weather, just the wrong clothes.” We have found that layers are key. Edie is a real Yankee and is almost never cold unless it’s below 10. When it is that cold we definitely stay inside more. However, with layers we can stay out much longer. In the winter that means we wear all of Our LL Bean gear at once. This means snow pants and boots too, as well as good quality gloves. The cheap Target ones are cute but do not work for longer periods of time. Layer and stay!

2.Open Ended Play Is Best

While at times it’s good to have a mission or even a game as a focus, the best play is usually open ended. Backyards or beaches make great locations for this type of explorative play. In the backyard it’s good to have some old kitchen tools, buckets, old cookie trays, sticks, wagons, or other materials. After or during a rain storm these are even more fun. Always begin one of these play sessions by saying, “it’s ok to get dirty and make a mess as long as we are being safe!” I always tell Edith, “when you are dirty you know you’ve had fun!” This takes the pressure off and sets clear expectations.

3.Create a Mission Or Project:

Edie and I have a little wooden box with compartments that we use for all sorts of things. One way we use it is to organize and categorize our collections. Sea glass and shells are definitely our thing. We have multiple full jars and containers throughout our house. We use this box to help learn sorting and categorizing. It’s also aesthetically pleasing. The point is that you can set our on a mission. We will often collect things related to the season: pine cones in fall, sticks in winter, etc. It can be as simple as collecting rocks or looking for sticks in the backyard. Make it a mission and make it fun.

4. Grow Something Together

When you plant, feed, water, and wait together with your little ones there are so many fun and rewarding experiences to be had. It doesn’t have to be anything huge. We have a small vegetable garden. We love growing strawberries. Flowers are my favorite and provides an experience in most seasons. Even in winter, Edith will check the strawberry patch to see how it’s fairing. There are lessons on conservation and environmentalism to be learned as well as patience and all the amazing bugs. Right now, we are enjoying the birds at our feeder and watching the daffodils, hyacinth, and tulips slowly emerge.

5. Schedule It Every Day

We all live to follow a rhythm to our day that is predictable and orderly. This is particularly true for children. What do you do all day? Scheduling a Successful Day As a Stay-At-Home-Parent is one of my posts about scheduling if you haven’t read that yet. Schedule your time outside and make it a priority. Try and keep to the same time frame every day. Break it up if the weather is too nasty or cold (or hot). Schedule meals outside too when possible as a little picnic is good for the soul.

I’m curious…how much time do you spend outside with your children? What are other ways to get out more?

How can you get out more tomorrow?

Lent With a Four Year Old: Radical Self Love

Edie and I went to a great Children’s Service to celebrate Ash Wednesday this evening. Before I went I was hesitant because with my dad’s dying I feel I’ve had enough mortality reminders. However, it’s important to me for Edie to have a spiritual practice and we haven’t been to church in a few weeks.

So we went and it was just right. Being part of a Liturgical church means you do the same rituals and prayers over and over again. I find this comforting and reassuring. I also find that each time I participate I experience or learn something new.

This year I need Lent to be about self care, self love, and radical self acceptance. This was the message that resonated with me this evening. Maybe it will resonate with you and your family too.

Self Care

This is such a buzzword these days and as with all buzzwords this one can seem hollow and cliche. In a spiritual sense, self care is one that requires an investment of time and often patience. This Lent we are committed to taking care of ourselves by attending services, and being fully present for each other. It means that as a family we allow each other the time to do things that are nourishing: exercise, napping, meditation, running. We will take care of ourselves and we give each other space and time to do so as well.

Self Love

I want so desperately for Edie to love herself. This is always my top priority. In part, this is because this is one of my own struggles. In a Spiritual sense in the Christian Church we are reminded in Lent that we are claimed by God in our Baptism and that we are enough simply because of that. We are literally made of stardust. We are everything we need to be. We are beloved. This was what I explained to Edie tonight.

The cross on our forehead was a reminder not just of our mortality but that we are connected with the Earth and every person and thing that was ever alive. We are dust! (Said with enthusiasm and excitement and without somber dread). We don’t have to try and be anything that we are not. We are loved. In loving ourselves we do a better job of loving others, of forgiving others, of being grounded and connected with everyone and everything we meet.

Self Acceptance

Traditionally Lent is a time of sacrifice, confession, renewal, and reimagining. When we accept ourselves and teach our children to do so we accept that we are not perfect. We are enough but we all have things we can work on: being more kind, working harder for social justice, speaking up more about racism, welcoming transgender folks to our communities more, demanding healthcare for all, saving our planet from the effects of climate change. This Lent we should work at overcoming all of these “sins”.

However, we must accept that we are human. Our children are humans. Our spouses or partners are humans too. Everyone we come in contact with is. We accept and forgive others as we accept and forgive ourselves. Lent is a time to let our best and most authentic self feel love and acceptance even as we strive to improve.

This Lent I want to deepen my connection with my husband and Edie. I want to ground myself and feel connected to all life in the universe: past and present. I want to accept others for who they are. This Lent I want to make more room for love. This Lent I want Edie to know what it means to be accepted exactly for who she is and to love herself and everyone else a little bit more because of it.

Papa’s Picks : The Ultimately Easy and Affordable Girl’s Style Guide

Spring is coming and that means so many things are coming back to life. As a gardener, Edie and I are obsessively checking for new sprouts in our garden. We have also all but finished our Spring clothing shopping. Find the task daunting? Let us help you to make it simple and affordable.

When I first became a dad I way overdid it with clothes. In fact, if you ask my husband I still have that tendency. Setting a spending plan (budget is such an ugly word) helps to give you some guidelines. Make sure you are also aware of how your little one is growing and changing at the time. Don’t want to buy too much if in the middle of a growth spurt and always try and buy a little too big.

In New England, where it is winter for a really really long time, Spring is about adding some color again and also pieces that can be layered. Some of the pieces will transition into summer and some will not. Keep that in mind when prioritizing and sizing. After that I like to think about what things are priorities and what things I can get with leftover money as splurges. Here are the three categories I like to think of:

The Affordable Basics, Layers and Mix and Match, and Holidays and Splurges

This post contains some affiliate links. While I might make some money off of your purchases it comes at no additional cost to you.

The Affordable Basics

One super important thing I have learned is that leggings are not an option they are a necessity. I also have learned that really 3-4 pair are plenty. I do laundry every day. Duh. See this post- Plastic Free Love. If you don’t do laundry every day, first off I envy you, secondly then add a few more pair. I used to buy higher end leggings and it is not worth it at all!! Target Leggings are where it’s at! $6? What? Yeah, $6 and they last and are soft and you need every color. Check out the unicorn ones! The basics go with everything!

Layers and Mix and Match

Next you need some layering pieces to add to your leggings. I can not say enough good things about Primary. Some of you still haven’t tried them and I’m really not sure why. Gooooooo!!! So soft. No stupid logos or goofy pictures. Just great colors and fit. I find the stuff to run a little big, which is great because you get a few seasons out of it. Their dresses have pockets: a must for Edie and most other dress wearers. Here is Edie in her black dress from Primary


Get 20% off your first order at Primary.com with code AFF20PCT
Enjoy a great discount code here!

Holidays and Splurges

With most seasons comes a special occasion or Holiday. When I can I like to splurge a little for an outfit. With Spring, I always look for a Birthday outfit and an Easter outfit. For those I usually do Hanna Anderson or Boden. As a newbie parent, I used to buy a lot more from them. As we are getting closer to paying for Kindergarten and in order to keep my marriage intact I try and shop at these spots only when on sale or for special occasion. If you have the resources, go for it. I particularly love Boden’s quality, and both brands are committed to representation and diversity. Win!

Look at this number we are eyeing for Easter:

Hello gorgeous

A shoes and accessories post will be coming soon and separately…but take a look here for the best shoes ever…Zimmerman Shoes.

Let us know what you think! How do you manage seasonal wardrobe changes? Share your successes and favorites with us!

Plastic Free Love

As stay-at-home-Papa I am the one in charge of keeping the home running smoothly and beautifully within a budget. See! The gay lifestyle is no different than yours.

One thing we have been focused on a lot lately is plastic. In fact I can get a little obsessive about it. The other day when Edie and I were shopping I knew that I was driving home a point as she was checking pieces of items that we were thinking of purchasing

Edie helping clean up

and saying, “metal, metal, glass, ok Papa are you happy? No plastic?”

Plastic is something pretty gross and it’s everywhere and in fact poisons our food, air, and water. Plastic is made using nasty chemicals and once it’s here it’s here for a long time. One thing that drives me nuts is the amount of unnecessary plastic that food is packaged in, particularly fruits and vegetables. We try and buy as many things from bulk bins and avoid having our broccoli with a side of petroleum whenever possible. Not only is plastic gross and avoiding plastic can actually make your home less toxic, it can also be cheaper!

Here are some things we do around the house to avoid plastic and excess packaging.

1. We love making our own laundry detergent. Choose any bar soap scent that you like (right now we are using cinnamon) and add a few other ingredients that all come in cardboard and you’ve saved your purse and the planet. Here is our recipe. Totally non toxic so kids can help grate and mix as age appropriate too.

-one part grated bar soap -two part borax -two part washing soda -mix and keep in cute glass ginger jar. -use 1/2 teaspoon for wash

2. Stop buying cleaning products! Not only are they harsh but they are expensive. We bought glass spray bottles and fill them mostly with vinegar and it cleans almost everything. Add your favorite essential oil if you don’t love the vinegar smell like I do. Why am I craving sauerkraut? Add some baking soda for toilets and tubs. Make a separate bottle with a little olive oil and vinegar for furniture polish. Again, all kid friendly so your whole family can clean together!

3. We discovered this store a few years back and they are amazing: Package Free. Love them! We buy our compostable toothbrushes here as well as deodorant, floss, and plastic free food wrap! It all comes without packaging and the quality is fabulous.

4. I know it sounds a bit pretentious to say you get your toilet paper delivered and I’m ok with that. For serious though, if you aren’t using Who Gives A Crap then give them a try. No plastic!! The wrapping is all compostable and they donate money to building toilets in underserved areas. PLUS, you don’t have to lug toilet paper around!

5. No plastic cups or straws. This one is tough when kids are super little and I would definitely recommend silicone then. Metal tumblers and plates are also great options. Teaching kids to wash their own plates and cups also helps them mimic grown up activities and become productive household members. Oh, and speaking of washing up we love the zero waste dish soap from Beehive Alchemy. Fun to use, pretty, and toxic free.

I’m curious to hear other simple ways you would suggest to make our home a little less toxic and plastic free? Edie and I are happy to share more ideas too!

It Does Work

I’ve been trying to teach Edie gratitude and thankfulness, at least as much as one can teach a 3.75 year old.  I can’t really teach her to be grateful if I am not.  That is the really tricky part.  I think I have to admit that I tend toward pessimism naturally.  I am a bit anxious and depressive, a belly-acher if you will.  So this post is not about me preaching to you or even giving advice.  Believe me, I am the last person that you would want to take advice from.  Most of the time I feel like I am a super hot mess of a parent and human and am mostly just trying to get through each day and make myself better and hopefully get better at this parenting thing, too, without being a total jerk to those I love and need the most.  Along with exercise, gratitude is a fantastic remedy for these conditions and attitudes.  I try many evenings to have Edie pause and name what she loves or loved that day, to name the things for which she is grateful.  I say most nights because there are some nights when we can barely get her to potty and brush her teeth before she loses it and collapses into alternating laughing and crying before a final crash into sleep.  Last night as she was about to fall asleep, she said simply:

“Let’s talk about Maine.”

Maine is our favorite place in the world where we like to vacation and would love to live full time if we could figure out how to make a living there.  It makes us happy and peaceful and relaxed.  We always feel more connected and more ourselves, really.  It makes us grateful.  So we talk about Maine.  We talk about our favorite meals, memories, and moments including Rufus, our dog, getting sprayed by a skunk.

These shared moments of gratitude bring us closer together and help keep us centered and focused.  It’s one of the reasons I find it necessary to belong to a faith community.  It’s a place where you can share your struggles, sure, but it’s also a place to be grateful together.  To say, even though there is a lot of shit in the world we still press on.  We have hope. We hold each other tight.  We stand up to injustice and oppression.  We know that Trumps presidency will one day end.  For certain it takes a lot of audacity to have hope and gratitude. There are days when I can get bogged down with a lot of the junk that a lot of us do: my aging dog, my dying dad, failed relationships, oppression, the rise of the right around the world, and climate change to name a few.

Hope, grace, and gratitude seem to be the antidote to most of this shit.  I have so much to be grateful for.  I have a feeling that most of us do.  As usual, Edie is the one who teaches me how to be a better person.  She already gets it and when she says, “Thank you, Papa,” her gratitude makes me grateful too.

Here is what I am grateful for in a list form.  This list is not exhaustive.  It is a start and a reminder.  It is an anchor for me to come back to on those days when I can’t seem to find a place to start.

I am grateful for:

  1. Every text message that I still get from my Dad.  There will not be many more, but there have been more than I thought.
  2. Tim, my husband.  I literally have no idea how he puts up with me.  He makes me a better person.  Every single day.
  3. My family.  My mom who I get to live with.  My sisters, who understand me like no other people on the planet.  My family through marriage.  I am lucky on all accounts here.
  4. The ocean.  I am grateful to live on the coast and the ability to smell the sea daily, to gather sea glass, and to have the mystical metaphors that come along with the tide.
  5. Sobriety.  I drank too much for so long.  Man, a lot of it was really fun.  I still drool when I think of a good Cabernet.  But, I am healthier, happier, and much more rested and present than I have ever been.
  6. My plants, inside and out.  There is nothing like growing something to help with gratitude.  Sometimes when no one is watching or listening I even tell them how lovely they are.  Crazy ass hippie.
  7. Edie.  Yeah, we have our difficult moments, but this person that I am lucky enough to spend every day (and many nights) with is just perfect.  I have been told not to tell her that by some well intentioned folks but I completely disagree.  She is perfect.  How many of us actually feel that way about ourselves? I want her to and she is gonna have enough messages to the contrary.
  8. Snow
  9. Bread
  10. Sleep.  I love how dark it is in coastal New England in the winter time. It gives me an excuse to put on my pajamas at 7 and be in bed reading by 8.

Ten seems like a nice place to start.  Gratitude is something I am working on for my sake and for Edie’s too.  I am doing it because I have to.  If I do not, I can get completely bogged down in the garbage.  Gratitude enables Grace.  It gives us that second chance ( and third, and fourth…).  Like teaching a three year old to be grateful the hard part can be getting started.  As Edie has taught me, sometimes you just have to cuddle in bed and talk about Maine.