Thursday, June 28, 2012

Enjoying

I have a whole lotta catching up with friends to do. It started in the driveway the night we rolled in from our trip and continues tonight in--oh, about twenty minutes when I get picked up to go out.

So a little enjoying today.

Enjoying:

Debby Does Naples.
And by that I mean, of course, Debby the Tropical Storm who rolled in to our beaches with her crazy wind and her big waves.

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When we know it's not too dangerous, we always try to hit the beach before or after storms because it really is spectacular. In 2004, before Hurricane Charley and certainly before the boys were old enough to understand what qualifies as "My parents embarrass me," we actually went to the beach as a family in--wait for it--orange plastic parkas. Kid you not. Made fake weather update videos and took pictures of surfers. It was a real blast.

Not-Your-Grandma's Spoonrack.
Okay, maybe it's still a grandma spoonrack, but that just makes it sweeter because seeing it makes me remember the exact one my grandma had hanging over the barstools, right above the cookie jar with the Fig Newtons. The dark wood rack was full of spoons she collected on mission trips. I found one at an antique shop in Michigan--brought it home, gave it a bath, fed it some cookies, painted it yellow, and now it's happy. And so am I.

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Friends with Benefits.
And by benefits I, of course, mean felt teepees.

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My friend Rebecca has a felt teepee, and if you knew Rebecca, you'd understand why I didn't even flinch when I arrived to the park the other day to find her holding her kid's hand in one hand and a giant teepee, folded up in a mess of 6-foot sticks and wadded felt, in the other. We hauled the teepee over half a mile of boardwalk to our supersecretspot in the woods--the one where the gnomes live. It felt very summer camp adventurous--especially that part where the rat snake slithered across our walking path.

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You know that part in Parent Trap where Hayley Mills scares the bears away? Yeah.

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Dogs Who Photobomb

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What I was trying to take a picture of:

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Birthday Traditions
In keeping with good traditions, I took Lainey to the dollar store today to pick out ten things for Brett. The rule (per Brett) is simple: I butt out of all gift decisions. She intently scoured every inch of Dollar Tree and settled on a pair of new scissors, some rope ("to make crafts"), two car wash sponges--one pink, one blue ("so we can wash the cars together"), two packs of flower seeds ("so we can plant together"), a roll of paper towel ("so you can clean"), a cheap pair of outdated craplastic sunglasses and a card that inside reads "Time to cough up a big thank you" This whole ordeal makes Brett's birthday one of my favorite times of the year. I can't stop smiling.

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Lainey enjoyed it immensely.

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Hope you all are enjoying your week as well.

So sad to hear of Nora Ephron's death. I ordered I Feel Bad About my Neck today in honor of her. I've been wanting to read it for a while now.

I love her quote: "Above all, be the heroine of your life, not the victim."

*****

Congratulations to the giveaway winner of the Piper and Paisley hat:

Comment #17, figwittage: I love that the sun pours in my bedroom windows in the morning and I can see stars and airplanes at night. There's no place like home... past and present. xx

Figwittage (I recognize you from Instagram!), please e-mail your contact info to kellehamptonblog@comcast.net with the subject line PIPER AND PAISLEY GIVEAWAY, and your next bad hair day will be all taken care of.

*****

Happy Thursday!

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Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Then and Now: Summer Memories, Hallmark

This post is a Hallmark sponsored post. I am being paid by Hallmark to write it, but all writing, ideas and opinions are mine. Thankfully, Hallmark and I share the same idea--that little moments are to be celebrated and that good people, good efforts and good intentions deserve a spotlight. See Hallmark Life is a Special Occasion for more details, like them on Facebook, and/or sign up for their e-mail messages HERE.


The very first sobering fact of motherhood that I learned just moments after I earned my title was that the unknown--the fear of what we can't control--can be paralyzing. After finally taking Lainey home from the hospital and receiving the "all clear" for her early health problems, I was relieved yet terrified that our "all clear" was temporary.

And that's the reality of motherhood--"All clear" is always temporary. No one can guarantee permanent good fortune.

I remember calling my sister in tears on one of those first days, needing to tell someone--anyone--that I loved her so much. "When will this feeling, this worry go away?" I asked.

I'll never forget her answer: "It never goes away. You just find a place for it."

I soon found the most foolproof way to soften the fear of what we can't control. I canceled it out by grabbing the wheel of what we can control and taking that ship to the moon.

We, of course, literally did that these last weeks--grabbing the wheel and driving toward the summer memories we wanted our girls to have, the ones we have from days when our own parents drove toward cottages and landmarks, lakes and campgrounds.

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Last week was summer solstice, the peak of childhood nostalgia. There are childhood memories for all of us from which we want to protect our children--divorce and bullying, broken friendships or struggling in school. But summer? I think it brought out the best of many families, and I will make certain it brings out the best in ours.

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We repeat history--our favorite parts of it--and add pages of our own family to the greater legacy--volumes of summer memories over generations.

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Why else do you think Brett so badly wanted Lainey to catch that fish last week?


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He remembers what it felt like.

And I remember the thrill of catching fireflies in jars, making homemade slip 'n slides with garbage bags and dish soap, cousin Olympics in the backyard, sprinklers, Sleeping Bear Dunes, Tawas rock shops and turning the hatch back of our gold Citation into a bed for long road trips.

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Good God--stripe-obsessed, much? Even then.

Our parents passed the torch. We will feed the flames, inspired by the sentimental depth of our own summer memories.

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True, there is so much we can't control in parenthood. But how we spend these next weeks, midsummer--that we can control. Grab the wheel and take this ship to the moon.

Just like our parents did.

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What summer memory from your childhood are you most looking forward to passing on to your own children? Are there any summer then-and-now moments you'd like to share, any landmarks from summer vacations you'll make sure your own family visits? Hallmark and I would love to hear how you plan to repeat your favorite parts of summer history.

To see other Hallmark posts on this blog, click HERE.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Let's Go Home

It is uncharacteristic of me to have suitcases unpacked the day after a trip. It is even more uncharacteristic of me to have the clothes washed, folded and put away. But being away for three weeks made the return home seem feel so good that I'm appreciating every little thing about our home so much more. I've spent the last two rainy days tending to our house. Cleaning, folding, lighting candles, finding places for the little treasures I picked up along our travels.

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I'm inspired to tackle some small home projects like new paint this summer, but I'm also feeling more settled in contentment about the older, worn edges of our home for which I've always had an improvement plan.

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This is where we come home.

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I hope my girls grow up with memories of adventure--favorite travel stories and vivid descriptions of road trips and camping and landmark exploration that they will recall at the Thanksgiving table years from now. But what they'll remember most is the foundation of home--the substance of all the morning routines, family meals, creative afternoons, bedtime rituals, kitchen gatherings and lazy Sundays that cushion the excitement of outside adventure.

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Appropriately, Lainey and I read Let's Go Home before bed tonight (by Cynthia Rylant--a must-have for a child's library). My favorite line is on the very first page: "...no matter the kind of house, it is the living inside that makes it wonderful, what happens in each room that makes it marvelous to those who live there."

After 4,000 miles on the road, tonight I am loving the living inside our home--what's happening in each room that makes it marvelous to us.

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Nella pushes her baby in a stroller only a couple yards before she can't bear to let the baby go unheld another minute. She always ends up ditching the stroller and walking away, baby in arms. A baby-wearing proponent, for sure.

The best part about travel is the fulfilment of adventure and the comfort that comes from the last statement..."Let's Go Home."

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*****

I wanted to make mention of a talented seamstress making some fabulous hats, a few which I took on vacation and loved. Piper and Paisley offers a wide variety of hat styles and patterns great for on-the-go moms or anyone who loves accessories.

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Wearing the Gillian Hat in Chicago

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Wearing the Golden Yellow Slouch Hat in Michigan

Use code "etst10" for 10% off your order. One randomly selected commenter from this post will receive a free hat, a gift from Piper and Paisley.

Tell me...what do you love most about your home?

I love the the light that pours in our front doors in the morning, the worn wood floors in Nella's room, and the way the island and counter stools in our kitchen beg for people to come sit and talk to you while you cook.

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I'll be back tomorrow evening for Hallmark post.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

The Last Day

After three weeks away and over 4,000 miles worn on our tire treads, we are now only three hours away from home. That’s three weeks times 4,000 miles plus three hours equals—well, crackers. Crackers everywhere in our car. Smashed into the carpet, buried under car seat fabric, wedged into the plastic grooves of floor mats. We’ve exhausted all road trip games, we’re all ready to be home, and all cries are now answered simply with “Here, have some crackers.”

We’re already talking about how we’re going do the whole walking into the house thing. We’ve been driving six hours, we’re bored, we needed something to talk about.

“I say we don’t carry anything in. We get the girls and go inside and celebrate,” Brett suggests.

“Ooooh—good idea,” I applaud him.

“And let’s video tape it. I think the girls are going to be so excited to be home. It’s going to be awesome.”

I love that he says this.

I’ve never been very good at ending happy events like holidays and vacations, but it’s easy when you slide from happy vacation to happy home. From Chicago adventures and book signings to hammock naps, dune climbs and lake wading, I’ve been deprogrammed, ready to reestablish our home routines step by step—most familiar and well-established but some new, inspired by travel.

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Playing in the city creek at sunset in Chattanooga last night.

The thing I love most about visiting other people and places is witnessing the wonder of differentiated cultures and learning new things—routines and methods that are interesting, most of which are different from ours and shed light on how wonderful it is to be unique and how fascinating different ways of living truly are. I like to see the way people organize their homes, how they relax, how they make time for family, how they experience adventure. I like to see how towns exist and function—what shops are thriving, how they are designed and decorated. Some of the things we learn and see, we take home and implement in our own home. And they can be as simple as falling in love with my friend Rebecca’s wood salt box that her grandpa made her and deciding a homemade wood salt box is a very charming thing to have in a kitchen indeed.

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There's something cozy about giving my girls a bath in someone else's home. I always love it when my friends' kids all climb in our tub. It's very "Mi Casa es su Casa."

The last days of our trip were spent in Carmel, Indiana and Chattanooga, Tennessee.

In Carmel, we reunited with my friend Rebecca and her husband John, who graciously opened their beautiful home to us.

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Lainey's knee-patch leggings, The Measure

Nella liked the carpet so much, she fell asleep on the stairs. She slept there for two hours.

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Downtown Carmel afternoon:

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And last night, we stopped in Chattanooga for sunset and dinner before driving on to Macon, Georgia to sleep off the driving hours.

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Chiseled right into the cement of downtown sidewalks, in front of the Tennessee Aquarium, is a pebbly shallow stream where kids gather in the heat of summer. It curves and staggers into mini waterfalls and calls for little ones to drench their clothes—even if they have no back-up outfits.

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Even if there're no more diapers.

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The Tennessee River sidles right up next to downtown Chattanooga, and the Smoky Mountains rest stately in the background—the grand combination providing an epic place to watch the sun set.

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We did just that, and it was one of those moments—one of many on this vacation—where I stood in awe, in gratitude, in perfect contentment. “I’m so happy to be right here, right now,” I thought.

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Ice cream topped off the evening.

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As well as the sounds of bands that loudly echoed into the streets from bars that were crowded with summer enthusiasts.

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*****

This week's Friday Photo Dump:

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Friday Phone Dump photos are taken on the Instagram iPhone app (free) and dropped into a 12x12 collage using a photo editing software (Photoshop Elements works). I am @etst (enjoying the small things) on Instagram if you care to follow the feed.


And your #enjoyingthesmallthings photos. (If you use Instagram and have a photo that makes you happy, share it by using the hashtag #enjoyingthesmallthings. Yours may be chosen to be shared in a Friday post.)

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*****

And now, I’m publishing this from home, settled in for only an hour but so ready to continue sinking back into our space this weekend.

This is my last vacation post--so bittersweet. What a trip this has been. My girls were so wonderful. Cooperative on the long drive. Fascinated with new places just like I dreamed they’d be. There were a lot of "wow"s.

Find ways to be fascinated. “Wow” is always such a wonderful word to say. And these past three weeks have been just that.

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Wow.

The last day of our vacation, the first day of our summer at home.