Cricket's costume is compiled of: ladybug rain boots, old black jeggings from Target, a discounted tutu and wings from Zulily and a consignment sale shirt.
Happy Halloween! This year Cricket wanted to be Ladybug Girl from her favorite book series, and I decided to transform Nora into a little peacock.
Cricket's costume is compiled of: ladybug rain boots, old black jeggings from Target, a discounted tutu and wings from Zulily and a consignment sale shirt.
Nora's costume includes: a ruffled onesie from Zulily, sparkly leggings from Target, Saucony shoes and peacock feathers and ribbon from Michael's.
To make Nora's tail, I cut the feathers to different lengths to create a fan shape, then used a hot glue gun to adhere them to the ribbon. I glued an additional piece of ribbon over the feathers, so they wouldn't poke her in the back. Amazingly, she agreed to wear the tail!
Click here to see last year's "A tale of the dragon and her almost-goat."
As November looms, I'm starting to hyperventilate. Why? Because November is National Novel Writing Month, and I'm finally planning to finish a draft of the novel I've been sketching and researching and outlining and beginning to draft for a few years now.
Though I'm a life-long writer, my work has almost exclusively rested within the realm of nonfiction. I'm not sure I'm cut out for fiction, but I've always wanted the experience of writing a novel. And I have the idea and groundwork laid out to make it happen.
The obstacles to finding large blocks of time to devote to fiction writing over the last three years have been considerable: two tough pregnancies, two babies, a new blog and business and lots of travel. Oh, and procrastination and fear. Lots of fear. Fear of failure. Fear of success. What if the book is terrible? What if the book is actually good and then I have to find a publisher and do a book tour and interviews? Okay, I'm getting ahead of myself...
There are always excuses, especially in this phase of life. November is about throwing those excuses out the window—letting the laundry pile up, losing more sleep than usual, imbibing too much coffee and wine—and writing intensely for a concentrated period of time.
To prepare, I've spent the month of October frantically working on all the projects I would normally take on in November, including writing blogs, designing holiday cards, planning Cricket's birthday party, editing client photos and on and on. I'm also sifting through research, re-reading relevant books and learning new software to help me better organize the entire process of creating a novel.
This Friday, November 1, I will embark on the small task of writing 50,000 words in 30 days—that’s an average of 1,700 words a day. Maybe 1,700 words doesn't sound too tough for a day's work—I’m a writer after all. But we'll all get sick about 10 times in those 30 days, Jeff will travel, we'll host birthday parties and Thanksgiving, and I'll get maybe an hour out of 24 to myself...Life will keep moving at a crazy pace.
But I'm putting those excuses aside, accepting that this draft will be rushed and awful and confused. That's what first drafts are all about. It's officially time to write a novel. Anyone want to join me?
(P.S. My sister, Erin, successfully wrote a 50,000-word novel draft last November and inspired me to give this strategy a try. Thanks, Er!)
Above: One portion of the novel—I think—is set on a ranch here in the Blue River Valley, at the foot of the Gore Range in Colorado. This image is available here as a print, framed art, stretched canvas, stationery, pillow, tote bag or iPhone/iPod/iPad/laptop case or skin.
Click here to visit my nature photography shop.
Fall always spurs my creativity. Perhaps it's the fresh, crisp air regenerating brain cells fried in the 100-degree heat of summer. Or the shifting quality of light that transforms late afternoon into gold. Or the approaching holidays. Whatever causes this burst of ideas and energy, I'll take it.
Do you feel the same? Here's a round-up of fall DIY projects from the last year to get you started.
Above: This post is actually about pulling together a series of artwork. But I had to include the photo since it always looks like fall in my dining room, which makes me happy.
Below: Simple candle and coffee bean centerpiece.
Below: Flower pot cake stands (topped with pumpkin doughnut muffins).
Below: Yarn wreath with felt flowers (with or without a number or letter for a birthday celebration).
Click here for more DIY ideas.
Welcome to scarf season. This pin for a DIY braided scarf caught my eye a few months ago, and I decided to make one for my sister's birthday (and one for me, of course). It was a...learning experience. Sewing is not my strong suit, people!
Thank you to my lovely sister, Meg, for modeling the scarves. As we were shooting the photos, the front door kept opening and, one by one, my girls and niece appeared looking for their mamas.
"Hey, here's proof you can even provide childcare while wearing this scarf!" Meg exclaimed as the girls climbed all over her.
For the scarf pictured above and below, I used an inexpensive linen blend in honey and potent purple. The fabric turned out to be a bit scratchy—no more scratchy than wool but not exactly soft. The linen was much easier to work with than the jersey knit suggested in the original pin, however.
I liked the color combination from the pin so much that I replicated it using these yellow and grey jersey knits (below). This was my first experience working with stretchy jersey fabric. It was challenging; the ends curl and you have to be careful not to stretch the fabric as you sew or it will end up pulled (and terrible). But the material is soft and comfortable to wear.
Overall I’d say the scarves turned out well—if you don’t look too closely at my blind stitching!
Interested in making your own braided scarf? Here's the tutorial.
Click here for more DIY ideas.
These days we typically only make it to my hometown of Minneapolis once a year. While we're home, I'm fiercely protective of my time; I've got so many agenda items and yet all I want to do is lounge around on my parents' back deck, enjoying the trees and the breeze and conjuring up memories of childhood Minnesota style.
This visit and our last both took place in early September—the week a short but glorious summer gives way to a short but glorious fall.
Above: Storm clouds gather over the Lake Harriet Bandshell. Below: We spent a lot of time close to home, discovering the paths that wind through my parents' stunning garden (and collecting buckets of rocks along the way).
When we did stray from home, it was for good reason. We hit some of my favorite old stomping grounds this year, many of which I wrote about here last year.
Jeff and I even got to escape for a dinner date at The Bachelor Farmer, a new-ish restaurant in the Warehouse District that's been getting good press. It was fantastic. We talked about our meal the whole way home and then spent the next day blabbing about it to anyone who would listen.
Below left: Another highlight was our stop at Wild Rumpus Books, which is packed with kids' books and home to many cuddly and not-so-cuddly animals. Below right: We couldn't walk around Lake Harriet without showing the girls my mom's childhood home.
We had so much fun at Lake Harriet's Lyndale Park Rose Gardens last year that we headed back this year for more exploration. Below: I couldn't hear what Cricket was saying, but I imagine it went something like this: "Nora, I'm going to drag you around the garden at break-neck speed until you fall down and cry."
Completely unprompted and utterly intense smelling of the roses.
First yellow leaf sighting on the path around Lake Calhoun.
Below left: Cricket was thrilled to play for the first time at the park in my childhood neighborhood. (The large field behind her is transformed into a skating rink in the winter. We spent countless hours perfecting our spins and jumps at that rink back in the day.) Below right: The Minneapolis skyline from Lake Calhoun.
Ten minutes after clearing security on our recent trip home from Minneapolis, we were milling around the airport when a young woman stopped us.
"Excuse me," she said. “I just have to tell you that you are the most efficient parents I have ever seen go through security. You’re such a great team! And the kids were so cooperative."
We laughed, thanked her and casually continued on our way. But for a family who travels somewhere between fairly often and way too much, this compliment felt like winning a gold medal!
I had been thinking of writing a post about flying with young kids for a while, and my newly minted gold medal (whether deserved or not) gave me the confidence to do it. When friends ask for advice on the matter, I feel like I could actually give 35,000 pieces of advice—one for each foot of altitude. The truth is that flying with young kids is difficult and stressful and makes me want to vomit with anticipation, but I always find it worth the hassle when we touchdown with an adventure awaiting us.
Our list of preparations and carry-on items changes constantly as the girls leave one stage and enter another, but here is a boiled down list of general things to remember.
Book wisely: You don't typically have to buy a seat for a child under 2. That said, you need to decide whether you're comfortable holding a child instead of belting her in or whether that child is too squirmy to sit on your lap for five hours. We started booking an extra seat around 18 to 21 months depending on the length of the flight.
Some aircrafts only have an extra air mask for a lap child on one side of the plane. You must have an extra air mask, but you may not be able to determine when booking where that mask is located. The only person who will definitely know is the lead flight attendant. Several times we were seated without an air mask and had to move, but only because we knew to ask. (If you have one adult on each side of the aisle and plan to pass the child back and forth, be sure to ask if there is a mask on each side.)
We’ve been flying Southwest Airlines a lot lately. Southwest allows families to board between the A and B groups, so you don't have to worry about checking in exactly 24 hours in advance. Plus you can check some luggage for free.
If you have the option, sit near the front of the plane, so you can make a quick escape after landing when the kids are falling apart.
Make a list and check it twice: The moment you try to leave for the airport, everyone begins to fuss and squirm and needs to go potty and is nervous you’re going to leave without them. In our phase of life, we would never make it out the door with the things we need if we didn't make a list. Enough said.
Prove it: Bring your kids’ birth certificates. Some airlines require birth certificates for lap children to prove they’re under 2 years. For infants, you may also need to show they’re older than 5-6 weeks. Southwest always asks us for a birth certificate for a lap child; sometimes agents from other airlines just look to make sure the child isn’t obviously over 2. Either way, I’ve learned to bring birth certificates for both kids in case any questions arise.
Assume the worst: Okay, okay, you can't plan for every scenario, but you should carry on the supplies you need for several hours of delay (and possibly essentials for a night in a random place if you're connecting). Someone once told me to bring six times as many diapers as I thought we would need, and that's what I've always done. Diapers are nearly impossible to find in an airport. Bring several changes of clothes for puking and diaper blow-outs.
Bring drugs. I always carry these supplies for the kids: Tylenol, ibuprofen, thermometer, (and for my daughter with a peanut allergy: EpiPens and Benadryl). I kid you not, there is something about flying that makes viruses flourish into horrendous fevers and ears to become instantaneously infected. It’s like clockwork. On our last flight, Nora seemed healthy on take-off and was lethargic with fever by the time we landed an hour and a half later. So bring what you need to avoid an emergency landing.
Don't sedate: In our experience, young toddlers are the toughest age to travel with because they're all over the place, may not nap on the plane like an infant and don't yet have the attention span to watch movies or play games. On our last flight, one mom told me the flight attendant suggested she drug her toddler with Benadryl next time. Are you kidding me? DON'T. DO. IT. Benadryl works differently on young kids than it does on adults and can actually make them hyper, or exhausted and cranky but unable to sleep. I've seen it firsthand—not while flying, thankfully—and it's not pretty. It would be more disastrous to have a drug-hyper child on a plane than a regular-hyper one.
Plan for the awkward: One of the first hurdles at the airport is actually getting inside. Have you ever tried to carry multiple awkward car seats and a family’s-worth of luggage through miles of parking garage? It’s not fun. But have you noticed there are always guys standing around the curb and the baggage carousel with carts just waiting to help you check in or haul your luggage to the car when you land? (If they aren't there, you can go to the information desk and have them paged.) Our recent routine is for Jeff to drop me off with the girls, luggage and car seats. Either someone checks us in at curbside or a guy with a cart brings all our stuff in and helps me get checked in while Jeff parks the car. When we land, we find a guy at baggage claim to help us out to the car. Just keep some cash on you for tips.
Unless your kids are old enough to walk 50 miles and carry their own luggage, consider bringing a stroller. You can check it at the gate (even a double stroller) and it will be returned to you on the jet way when you deplane.
All (or most) airlines check car seats at no charge, so don’t feel like you need to lug them through the airport. Whether Pack ‘n Plays are free can be up to the discretion of the person checking you in. We’ve never had to pay to check one, but some agents aren’t so kind.
Organize for security: We all know the security line is a drag, but it’s not so bad if you’re organized. The rules are always changing, though one beautiful innovation occurred after Nora was born: you can go walk through security with an infant in a carrier (like an Ergo, not a car seat) without having to remove the baby and put the carrier through the x-ray machine. They’ll probably run the wand over you, but who cares? The baby stays asleep.
The stroller is another situation. Don’t pack the stroller full of essentials and expect to wheel it through, kids and all. You’ll need to remove everything from the stroller and either fold it up or, if it’s too large to fit through the x-ray machine, send it through the wheelchair gate to be poked and prodded. (You’ll have to take the kids out either way.) So clean out your stroller before you get to the airport.
You can bring bottles or cups of milk, formula or other liquids for your kids, which will be tested for explosives. It will take some extra time to get through security, but I’ve been amazed how helpful most security personnel and fellow travelers are when you’re struggling through with a baby or two, especially if you’re traveling without another adult. (And don’t forget to have your own liquids handy to pull out of your bag.)
Bribe shamelessly: No normal rules apply on the plane. Treats, books, games, toys and movies should be endless. Endless, people! We often buy a few new books and movies for the plane but read or watch them once or twice before the flight so the girls are excited about them. (Sometimes a brand new book isn’t popular until they’re familiar with it.) Don’t forget there will be at least around 15 minutes during take-off and landing when you’ll have to turn off electronic devices, so don’t just count on movies and games.
Protect the ears: Kids can have trouble equalizing their ears during take-off and landing, which leads to screaming and more screaming. Try to have them drink something on the way up and down; swallowing can help relieve the pressure.
Food allergies: If your children have severe food allergies, consider bringing all the food they'll need in case you can't find safe food at the airport. The last thing you want to do is feed them something questionable before you hop on the plane. We have a peanut allergy in our family, and airports are packed with snacks processed with nuts. I try to make a special treat I know will distract them for a few minutes. I also bring enough regular, nut-free food to get us through a long delay if need be. (And I have the EpiPens and Benadryl handy, as always.)
Southwest normally serves peanuts, but if you tell them at check-in they will serve something else and make an announcement to notify the passengers. You can also request they wipe down the seats and tray tables in case the previous passengers were eating nuts. (You should do this yourself if you they don’t offer.) Some airlines are less accommodating, but it’s always worth asking.
If you’re breastfeeding: You may not be used to breastfeeding in public, but too bad for the middle-aged businessman sitting next to you. It’s way easier to breastfeed on the plane than to carry bottles or mix formula. If you're breastfeeding, bring plenty of water since the flight attendants may not be able to provide it for you if the flight is turbulent. You'll be more thirsty than usual (did you think it was possible?), because the air is dry at altitude.
Run for it: Most flights we’ve taken with the girls have gone much better than anticipated. But if things start to go downhill, keep this in mind: You are not going to see your fellow passengers ever again. When you land, collect your kids and belongings and run for it. You made it, so don’t look back!
(iPhone photos. Top: Nevada fly-over. Bottom: Airport layover.)
Planning your next adventure? Click here for some ideas.
I'm Julia Soplop. In a former life, I studied lemurs in Madagascar, worked for National Geographic and trained as a medical journalist. These days my adventures usually include my three tiny daughters. Oh, and I'm still a writer and photographer—a storyteller. This blog is my story. It's about things that make life beautiful.
DIY crate bookshelf
Toddler bedroom tour
DIY twin bed
DIY braided scarf
DIY coffee bean centerpiece
Grandma knows best
Little gallery wall
DIY yarn wreath ornament
DIY no-sew tutu
5-month portraits + b&w tips
DIY felt heart mobile