Hey! I'm Emily... homebody, amateur philosopher, professional photographer, mama and wife. This is my little world-- a place for me to preserve the little snippets of my life that bring me joy, make me think, or show my creative leanings. I'm so happy you're here. If you get a minute, please introduce yourself in the comments. If you like what you see, you are invited to follow my blog through your RSS Reader. Just click the link at the bottom of the page to add me.
Thank you for being part of my little world... :)

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Tuesday, August 25

iPhoneography: A Week in August

I've been getting a great Project Life habit going this summer, thanks to an amazing birthday gift from my bessie, where she provided basically everything needed to make Project Life happen. (If you have no idea what that is, stay tuned-- I have a Project Life post in the works this very week! All shall be explained!) The point is, one key component to keeping up on this weekly album is keeping up on sorting and prepping my phone photos to print for the project. So I've gotten into the groove of sitting and editing my phone photos for the week on Sunday evenings, trying to take care of ALL of them,  even the ones that I won't need for the album. And so far, I've done a pretty good job keeping up! So this week, for fun, here is a roundup of the majority of the phone photos I took last week. Just the minutia and moments of everydayness... the moments that call to me to take the phone out and grab it in a photo for my own memories. Fun to see them all in one spot. Fun to have them off my phone and available for these sorts of things. Enjoy the randomness!

Schoolwork by Noah * Fresh haircut for Quinn * Working on Project Life on Mondays * Giving Quinn screen time while I clean my way-overdue bedroom

Shopping with my two tag-along yahoos * Lucy bedtime shots * Visiting the Museum of Transportation with our friends Annelies and Avi Meun

A shipment of shoes, indulging my obsession with Livie & Luca footwear for Lucy and Quinn. (Thanks, Carrie!) These will fit my kiddos for the next year or two, hopefully. * Q and I, keeping Noah company as he waits for the bus * August stitching is all done! * Playing at Longview Farm Park while I attend a Jamberry meeting

A beautiful evening, so we took a family walk to Oberweis for ice cream. * Noah bedtime shots * Cute kiddos on a sunny Friday morning

Heading off to Chicago on my own * a cute French patisserie and great conversation with my soul sister, Sam * Time with Steph and her family, including yummy food and a great family session at the Chicago Botanic Gardens

A second fun day in Chicago, with a lovely visit with Beth and her family and a session with them * a leisurely lunchtime stroll around Naperville, IL, where I happened upon a cute craft fair * Argentinian tapas for lunch * country roads to head home, and a visit with Anna

Friday, August 14

Five For Friday: Back To School

Back to school for my two older kiddos. Noah is off to second grade, and Lucy starts her second year in preschool, but in a new school. Five For Friday this week are photos from the morning of their first day, yesterday. 

1. Sleepy Noah, saying goodbye to Old Mai.

2. Dappled morning light, waiting for the bus.

3., 4., 5. One hour later, these two are ready to get in the car for Lucy's preschool drop-off. Quinn insists on his backpack, and I'm not quite sure he knows he's not going to get to go, too. 


Both had great first days, both came home tired. Quinn and I had a lovely morning just the two of us, sorting toys and playing. All in all, a good first day.  I think it's going to be a good year!

Saturday, August 8

Five For Tonight.... Dailiness

Noah- Pokemon-obsessed. 
Lucy- digging dolphins and a little group of Beanie Babies she's amassed over the summer. 
Quinn- Train fanatic. Always. But also diggers, which he calls "bobobozers". 

Happy weekend, friends! 


Tuesday, August 4

Music Monday: Indigo Girls' "Ghost"

I was nearly 16 and I was on an unforgettable adventure in Virginia, miles and miles from my home in Missouri. It was summer, and I'd been gifted a solo trip to visit a long-distance girlfriend I'd gotten close to the previous summer when she'd stayed with her brother and his family for the summer as a nanny-aunt to their kids. Her name was Becky, and she had an infectious gappy smile and a generous helping of freckles across her nose. We'd bonded immediately at church and spent that summer, when I was 15, practicing makeup, singing along to the radio, talking about life and love, and mooching rides to get ice cream from her brother or sister-in-law.

When she had to head back home to Virginia at the end of that summer, we vowed we'd write, and that we'd see each other again. With the help of plenty of letters and one midwinter visit back to Missouri, she and I maintained a deep enough friendship that when we told our parents of our wild plan to get me out to Virginia the next summer, somehow they let us make it happen.

And so, right as I was about to turn 16, I found myself on an airplane alone, looking down at amazing clouds and reveling in my first airplane flight since I was 4. Upon landing, I found myself double-hugged by a smiling Becky and her near-carbon copy twin sister, Jenny, just as freckled and gap-toothed. The promise of adventure and fun was heavy in the air.

Along the way, some of that anticipation waned.... Some of the magic got tarnished by basic reality. Jenny and Becky had a huge gaggle of friends and much of the time I was there, I was thrust in the midst of a crowd I barely knew. There were awkward moments when the sisters would pick at each other, or argue with their dad,who had custody of them for the time I was there. Becky had a boyfriend by then, and sometimes she opted to give her attention to him instead of me, leaving me feeling more like an outsider than I'd expected.

 But there were moments of pure magic, too.  Visceral moments seared into my memory of a humid 4th of July night in a small school stadium on the grounds, on quilts, watching fireworks. Swimming in the James River in my favorite swimsuit ever, a photorealistic print of fresh fruit. Touring the beautiful house and grounds of Monticello, Thomas Jefferson's home. Going to Virginia Beach. Celebrating my 16th birthday at her dad's house, where, unexpectedly, her stepmom had even thought to get me a couple of sweet gifts and a cake.

And the moment I remember most of all-- such a small, ordinary thing, but one of my favorite memories from my teenage years: one night, Becky, Jenny, and several of their friends crowded into a few cars to cruise into the twilight night along country roads.... windows down, the smell of cigarette smoke wafting from one or two of the kids who had lit up... and the sound of Becky and her twin singing along to  "Ghost" by the Indigo Girls in strong harmonies, not missing a note. One sister took the higher part, the other seamlessly flowed to the lower harmonies, and the song itself haunted all of us in the darkening night. There was freedom that night. The winding, tree-lined roads, the open windows, the muggy warm air... a few fireflies along the roadside... the smell of smoke (to this day, I feel a deep nostalgia at the wafting hint of cigarette smoke in the summertime)... And the sound of two perfectly-matched voices singing a plaintive, beautiful, haunted song I fell in love with that night and have never stopped loving.

To this day, if the stars align and my iTunes gives me "Ghost" through my car speakers on a summer evening, I have to roll my windows down, let the wind fill the car with muggy warm air, and I have to sing. Sing and feel and remember what it was like to be an almost-16-year old with undefined wishes and hopes and ideals. An almost-16 year old learning about herself and a little more about the world, that summer she got to spend a string of days in Virginia, far from home and happysadexcitedgrowing.

Thursday, July 30

Our Summer Chore Jar

Hey, friends! Not sure it was missed, but I didn't get a "Five For Friday" post written last week... I was in Texas on a solo trip to attend the National Conference for Jamberry, as well as to meet up with some photography friends and also to shoot a few sessions. It was a good trip-- but packed and exhausting. And I'm not going to lie-- in between some wonderful, intense times with people I care about, it was kind of a lonely adventure. Normally when I get time away, it is a really lovely break from my sweeet little kids. But this time, every kid I saw just made me ache to be with mine again. I wasn't prepared for it, and so it gave me a lump in my throat every time. And though this week back has been kind of a "adventure hangover" for me, I'm so glad to be home. 

Meanwhile, have I mentioned I've begun guest-contributing to my dear friend Sarah's amazing craft/inspiration blog, Bombshell Bling? I have agreed to create a few new posts for her, as well as share some of my party and craft posts from Emily's Little World. If you want a new blog to follow, Bombshell Bling is a FABULOUS one. And we've talked, and Sarah is a-okay with me cross-posting any of the new posts I write for her back here on this blog. And today's post is all about an idea I wanted to share here anyway. So. How about let's talk about our Summer Chore Jar?

This is an idea I put into action this summer that has been working like a dream for us. Like many of you, we ended the school year just happy to be done with locked-in routines and morning battles. The first week or two, we reveled in the freedom, and slowly my kids figured out how to sleep in an extra 30 minutes. (Heaven, I tell you.) But by the end of that second week, we were floundering a little in the lack of structure, and I was beginning to realize that my kids were getting downright lazy. And lazy leads to bored. And bored leads to needy.

I didn’t want to get all crazy with new rules and routines, to schedule their entire day, or become a hardened task-master. But I did begin to suspect that we could use a little light structure to our mornings, even with the sleeping later. And I do want my kiddos to begin to understand the concept of daily chores. So as I was browsing Pinterest, I saw a darling idea for a summer “Boredom Buster” jar, using popsicle sticks and washi tape (of course)… and I realized I could re-purpose that cute idea to serve my desire to have some summer chores put into place.

I’ve had a list of age-appropriate tasks on my fridge for a while now— a list that shows things each child is likely capable of doing at certain ages, and it is from lists like these that I made up my own set of chores for each of my children.  (This list, from thehappyhousewife.com, is a really good one and has a printable version!) I decided to give each of my three kids a list of 8 possible chores. Quinn, who is two, got simple tasks like “clean up toys” and “put pillows on the couch nicely”. Lucy, age 4, got chores like “empty recycling” and “do one load of laundry” (I figure the laundry thing means either one load put in the wash, or transferred from wash to dry, OR folded. Not all three. And this chore would be with my supervision and help, of course.) And my oldest, Noah, who is 7.5, gets to try his hand at dishes, sweeping, and putting books away on his shelf nicely.

The idea, in my case, is to give them some tasks they can attempt, sometimes with my help, and begin to learn those skills. I don’t expect or need these jobs to be done perfectly— I just want to begin to establish the routine and the expectation. Eventually, I imagine I’ll have some stricter standards I want them to follow. But this summer, I’m just trying to teach them the concept.

So for the Chore Jar: I then got 8 sticks per kid and chose a different washi tape design for each of my kids. I taped the end of the sticks, then wrote their 8 tasks on their sticks, like this (Noah=red, Lucy= floral, Quinn= yellow):

Our morning then looks like this:

We still wake at our leisure. It’s been amazing to get to sleep til 8:00, I tell you. That is when Quinn wakes. Noah is often soon after that. Lucy, the mini-teenager, can often sleep in til 9 or later. Crazy! So when the boys are up, I get them breakfast. Whenever Lucy joins us, I get her some breakfast too. Then, when breakfast is done, whatever time that may be, they clear their own dishes and come to me to get a chore stick from the jar. (I don’t put their sticks back in that week, so we don’t repeat tasks all the time).  You’ll notice in my above photo that some of their tasks are identical. If they happen to get the same chore, they get to work on it together. Lucky them! If the 2 or 4-year old draws a task that needs my direct help, we get right to work together. Lucy is often still eating when Quinn gets to his chore anyway, so it works out.

I plan for their tasks to take no more than 10 minutes. They are often even less than that. And after chores are done, we get to proceed with our day and whatever adventure awaits.

I am finding, after two months of this, that even this small routine has set the tone for the day, and therefore for our summer. The kids are usually completely willing to do their jobs, and I think the younger ones in particular are feeling really proud of themselves and happy I am asking them to do “important” things. So far, no one has complained! And perhaps if we can keep this up, I can begin to ask more of them toward the end of the summer. I want to continue to be mindful of the age-appropriate task list, and of not asking them to do things perfectly the first several times. I want to encourage teamwork and I want to keep praising them for doing their work cheerfully.

We still get LOTS of freedom, long days in our pajamas, and a looser, milder pattern to our summer days. But a couple of simple routines in our days, like this easy chore jar, have made all the difference in making an already good summer even better.


(This post originally appeared on BombshellBling.com, June 29, 2015)

Tuesday, July 21

Johnson's Shut-Ins Day Trip: Phone Phones

We took a day trip to Johnson's Shut-Ins State Park this past Wednesday. We had to go without Joe since he had work duties... But it's been a really smooth summer for me with regards to toting the three kids all over the place by myself. (Finally! It feels huge for this to be easy!) 

So we packed up the car with all the river-swimming supplies (towels, swim diapers, sunscreen, water toys, Puddle Jumper life vests, changes of clothing) and snacks (individual baggies of fruit loops, Cheetos; granola bars, apple sauce pouches, premade PB&J sandwiches, Capri Suns) and we set out on the 2-hour journey. 

Though we planned to rendezvous with my parents and my sisters at the same time upon arrival, they got stuck in a terrible highway traffic jam, so we arrived what turned out to be HOURS before them. Good thing for the snacks-- we were able to eat lunch with only what we brought and not have to rely on the lunch food my parents were bringing. So we went ahead and ate first, then just headed out on our own to trek the .25 mile trail to the river. 

We ended up swimming/splashing/ playing for almost two full hours before my family arrived, and there were definitely some rough patches where my juggling three kids' needs was nearly impossible. Noah was mostly patient and willing to do his playing near me, but Quinn was daring and curious and always trying to do more than I could help him with. Lucy, meanwhile, was extremely timid and really wanted me close to her the whole time-- a bad combo with the boys' need to explore a bit. Quinn nearly floated away from me two times, and Lucy had more than a few mini-freakouts. But we survived, and finally my poor parents and sisters arrived and were able to come cool down, shake off their awful traffic stress, and we got down to the business of having fun, all of us. 

It was really so perfect. Once I had some extra hands and eyes to help me, I even managed to relax and enjoy the moments. The river was gorgeous, the sky so blue, and it was fun to be with my family. We played in the water til about 4:30 pm, and then slowly made the trek back to my parents' campsite, where we changed clothes, relaxed, and the folks got a campfire and dutch oven dinner going. We stayed long enough to eat a delicious meal of brats and beans, then I packed up my two littles, leaving Noah behind to camp in the cabin with my parents and sisters, and I drove the two hours home with the help of "Wreck It Ralph" on the portable DVD player. We all fell into bed once we got home at 10pm that night, and slept hard and long, reuniting with Noah the next afternoon when my mom and sister brought him home to us. 

All in all, despite hiccups and unpredictabilities and a few little meltdowns, the trip was SO worth the effort. I love that my own kids are building a collection of memories of a place I have cherished for so many years of my own youth. I love that we plan to return year after year for years to come. 

Here, from my phone, all the photos I took of this summer's trip.

Lucy enjoys our pre-swimming picnic.

But Lucy does NOT enjoy a riverside "potty" break...

Mom tried her hand at rock-stacking. We loved it!

Quinn was FAR less interested in stacking rocks, and FAR more interested in throwing rocks. As many rocks as he could. HEAVEN. 

Noah was thrilled when his aunts arrived and he had some real playmates. Aunt Sarah was great about going down the shut-in formations with him on both days he was there. 

And Aunt Julina was a really good sport about Noah wanting to "battle" with water sprayers. 

Even when he got her full in the face. 

Dad was on his usual quest to find at least one rock with a natural hole worn through it by thousands of years on the river. This one was a little too big for him to take home, but it was one of the coolest of all his finds over the years.

Two-Mama Selfie. My cute mom....

And Lucy was happiest when I was near and she could sit in shallow water and splash her toys into the water. 

Noah proudly heaved this massive rock to our pile of stuff and not so subtly said, offhandedly at the end, "I sure wish we could take this rock home with us!" I asked if he could settle for a photo of him and this rock, and he was a pretty good sport. This is a "concentrating on not dropping it" face, not a mad face. 

It was a gorgeous day for the river trail.... Even at the end of the day when we were tired, achy, and sun-drained. 

At the campsite, Quinn LOVED going in and out and in and out and in and out of the cabin door. 

But when the kids say the tin of dominoes, they latched right onto them as a plaything. Quinn and Lucy claimed the train pieces for their "toys", running them up and down domino "tracks", and Noah appropriated a big pile of dominoes to build his own fortress or something like that. 

Happy and worn out, these kiddos ate a decent meal and were mellow but awake the entire drive home to St. Louis. We were all so happy to get to our beds. The ones who stayed behind to camp had a pretty fun rest of their night with s'mores and things, and another morning on the river before they packed it in.

Ending the post with one more of these cuties, actually kind of getting along as they agreed to share the rocking chair without any tears or adult intervention. I love it!

Saturday, July 18

Five For Friday: Johnson's Shut-Ins

We just took our almost-annual trip to Johnson's Shut-Ins State Park here in Missouri. This year, Joe couldn't come because my folks planned it mid-week and he needed to be at work... so I decided to do it as a day trip for the first time in my life. Every other time I've been there, it's always wrapped up in camping, which has its own set of charms and frustrations. The day trip worked so well for us this time, though, and we had a marvelous time in the river. 

 Last year, we did the camping version of this trip, right about this same time of the summer. The state park had recently built some basic cabins available for rent-- full electricity, but no running weather/bathroom inside the cabins... So while these cabins are half-luxury, they are still still half-camping, with outdoor cooking and treks to the public toilets.  My parents wanted to try a cabin out, and we loved it. My Five For Friday tonight, therefore,  is a throwback to our trip last year and specifically to some of the Big Camera photographs I took while we puttered around our campsite and cabin.

1. Noah brought markers and paper and really focused on drawing landscapes. I was utterly enchanted with his efforts and his focus. And seriously-- can you believe that view from the porch of our cabin?? Worthy of capturing in art, for sure. 

1a. Bonus Image-- here is his best landscape, titled "Still Forist"[sic].  ♥

2. Lucy in a camp chair, snuggling with blankies and stuffed animals, totally oblivious to her mesmerizing blue eyes. 

3. Quinn was still 100% binkie baby last summer, so this was a common post-nap look of his. Captain Adorable FOR SURE. How cute is his too-long hair??

4. None of these attempted Mom & Three Kid photos turned out classically ideal (i.e. everyone looking forward and smiling into the camera) and at the time, I was bummed/bugged by that. But this year, revisiting this set of photos, I love them all. Even more so because they AREN'T all looking into the camera. How sweet is their interaction?? 

5. But with Joe, they DID all manage to look AND smile huge smiles for the camera. So *shrug* You win some and you concede some to Dad. 

Next up, I will post this year's photos from Johnson's Shut-Ins, all taken on my phone, and all at the actual river, since we didn't camp. Hooray for summer, and huzzah for summer rituals. I love it.