Six things I learned in August

by Lesley on September 1, 2014 · 5 comments

in lessons learned

photo (57)

This beautiful, fast-paced mom life offers many learning opportunities but I’m not always great about writing them down. This month I’m linking up with Emily to share what I learned in August. Get ready for a little silly, a little bit helpful, and a little bit gross.

1. Cleaning barf out of a car seat requires patience and practice. Unfortunately, we’ve had lots of practice. It appears both of our children get carsick. I am hopeful this is just a toddler thing because it’s been awhile since Anna has had an incident, but poor Owen…poor, poor Owen.

Two separate incidents this month alone! We’re learning to: avoid winding roads, carry extra wipes, have a change of clothes in the car, and try not to panic. (I’ll just admit: I panic and freak out every single time.) Here’s my biggest tip: tempting as it might be to scoop your child out of the car seat and comfort them, wait until you’ve assessed and dealt with the damage. I’ll leave it at that.

2. Bribery is a beautiful parenting strategy. I never thought I’d be a parent that bribed on the regular, but Anna’s new sticker chart is both simple and effective. I have an ugly printable from Pinterest and I wrote in four categories:  “Trying new things” + “Not interrupting” + “Getting yourself dressed” and “Saying hello when you are introduced to new people.”  The chart has been most helpful before we leave for swim lessons. “See if you can put your whole face in the water today, Anna girl, so I can give you a ‘tries new things’ sticker.” Bam. Next thing you know I’ll be paying for grades. Ugh.

3. Uber is awesome. Have you tried this (somewhat new) transportation app? We used it while in Los Angeles for our anniversary weekend. It BLEW MY MIND. We never waited longer than three minutes for a ride, and it was cheaper and cleaner than a taxi. You must try it. And, if you’re looking for a flexible job, you should consider becoming a driver. Props to my husband for knowing about this LONG before I did.

4. Speaking of great apps, we also used Waze. If you hate traffic, and want real time reports and alternative routes, you’re going to love this invention.

5. Sometimes I need to make room for spontaneity. I tend to keep our life very scheduled, but not because I necessarily like routine. There is so much to see and do–both fun things and productive things–that an intentional schedule seems like the only way to make it all happen. But last week we had nothing on the calendar! I couldn’t find a babysitter so I was home every morning, the YMCA (and swim lessons) were closed, and I hadn’t planned any play dates. We took each day at a time, doing what we felt like doing and not overextending ourselves. On Friday night we headed up to Cayucos to spend time with Zach and Dana at the beach. We had so much fun, we stayed an extra night! Spontaneity (and salt water) is good for the soul.

6. We also learned that our children love dogs. For a long time, Anna was very afraid of dogs and we’re not sure why. I think our neighbor’s black lab, Lincoln, has helped with her fears. Both kids spent much of our weekend climbing all over Zach and Dana’s golden retriever, Bella. It warmed my heart to watch them delight in her. In fact I may have had a “WE NEED A DOG” moment, but then I collected myself and decided it’s a terrible idea (for now.) As soon as my kids are out of diapers…game on.

What did you learn this month? Leave me a comment, or head over to Emily’s blog and post your own!




It’s been almost three years since Jonathan’s cancer diagnosis, and in that time we’ve been SLOWLY making changes to what types of cleaning, home and cosmetic products we use. After cancer we felt paralyzed by all the choices there are when it comes to using “the right products.”

To be honest, the whole switch to safer products felt like a lot of work and potentially more money than we wanted to spend. And when I did sit down to research I became angry.  Cancer fears and conspiracy theories are everywhere and some of them made me feel guilty I hadn’t done a good enough job as a consumer. No one was trying to make cancer feel like his fault or my fault, but it lurked underneath every new article, book or commercial reporting the latest findings.

Hear me when I say: sometimes we simply don’t know what causes cancer or why it happens to him and not her. 

As a couple we made a conscious decision to not live in fear that a certain food, cleaning product or deodorant had contributed to Jonathan’s cells behaving wonky. Instead, we made a few small changes here and there and decided that over time we’d slowly begin researching and buying products we felt might be safer for our family.

Just a few days ago I was reading news about potential cancer causing toxins in toothpaste. The article was a good kick in the butt to sit down and research some of the cosmetic products I’ve been using.

If you’re trying to make healthier product choices for your family but feel paralyzed by the research or the cost, here are my (recently discovered) tips:

1. Check out The site is like a combination of Whole Foods and Amazon Prime. They have a huge selection of healthy living products at discounted prices. Spend over $50 and you get free shipping. I decided to create an account first which allowed me to build a list of products I’m already using, or that I’d like to start using.

2. Check out for a database of safer cleaning products. We’ve already been using Seventh Generation liquid dish soap, but I keep meaning to research dishwasher and laundry detergents. The EWG confirmed that Seventh Generation is a great product, and Vitacost carries this brand. Easy peasy! I’ll start ordering Seventh Generation from Vitcost.

3. Check out Skin Deep for a database of cosmetic products. This database isn’t as user friendly as the cleaning products’ site so I ended up searching for best selling products on Vitacost and then comparing the ratings on the EWG site. As a result of my research I’ve decided to say goodbye to Cepahil, Jonathan’s Suave shampoo and our Burt’s Bees baby products. We’ll be trying a few new products instead, while holding on to some of our old favorites like my eye makeup remover and Dove bar soap which were rated well.

It took a few hours to go through all the various databases and evaluate the products we’re currently using, but I feel SO GOOD about my discoveries. I hope some of these websites might help your family too.

Also- did you know that Trader Joe’s line of food is all non-GMO? That’s another post for another day…but…just one more reason I love my beloved TJs!

Any tips for finding better cosmetic or home products for my family?

p.s. Interestingly enough, on the EWG site Mrs. Meyers isn’t ranked as high as I’d like for “safe” products. But, I love the scent and decided to keep purchasing their hand soap and countertop spray, at least for now.



Long live summer

by Lesley on August 23, 2014 · 5 comments

in what i'm into

Jonathan’s playing basketball tonight so naturally I’m home eating Rocky Road ice cream…because if I can’t exercise I might as well do the opposite, right? I hope he burns enough calories for the both of us.

It’s been awhile since I posted an update about life around our house, so here’s a quick update even though I’m way late for Leigh’s July link-up, and way early for the September one.

I present to you a recap of the last six weeks: 



We have been totally and completely in love with summer in this town. The buzz of tourists, the smell of saltwater, the chlorine scent on my kids’ heads…it’s all intoxicating. After the mellow craziness of last summer (only moms of newborns will understand that oxymoron) all of us are enjoying the ability to get out of the house. I can’t even tell you how many beach walks and picnics we’ve done in the last six weeks.

As for celebrations, there have been plenty. Both my sister AND brother (in-laws) got engaged in the last few weeks! Sarah just sent me links to the ring bearer and flower girl ensembles. You guys, this is about as close as I’ll ever get to pageant mom and I can’t WAIT. 



We also celebrated Owen’s first birthday with a family party at Doheny State Beach, and Anna’s third birthday with a Thomas the Train party in our yard. For some reason I really believed they needed separate parties but as fun as they were, I should have just combined their special days while I had the chance. In a few years I won’t be able to get away with that trick, you know?


Jonathan and I decided to have Owen dedicated when he turned one, just like we did with Anna. Our church thoughtfully prepared us for his dedication with podcasts, homework and a small celebration the night before with a few other families. Owen was perfectly charming on stage. Anna, however, kept slipping her hand up my dress…which was awkward to say the least. (Speaking of charming–do you like her “I refuse to smile for the camera” face?)



Fun alert! We got to see a bunch of friends over the last six weeks. Ashlee visited in July for a few days with Everett and I had so much fun showing her my new home. Kelly and sweet Piper,  Janelle, Bethie, Justin and Tricia, and Dana were all in the SB area for various reasons, too. I’m learning that beach towns tend to draw people to visit which is great for us because we get to do fun things like ride the carousel and go wine tasting and eat a lot.


Speaking of the beach, Janelle and I spent a hilariously chaotic afternoon together at Refugio. Let’s just say that taking four children (three and under) to the beach might have been ambitious.


Over the course of a few weeks I read The Invention of Wings which was SO SO good. I tend to read a lot of non-fiction and was hoping to dive into a great fiction book this summer. I highly recommend Sue Monk Kidd’s newest novel which is all about slavery, abolition, and women’s rights.


In early August we celebrated our first FIESTA weekend since forever ago. If you’re not familiar with Santa Barbara’s Old Spanish Days, it’s basically a five day festival with parties all over town, a carnival, a parade, and really yummy churros. Anna learned how to crack confetti eggs- a HUGE hit- and I was reminded about the charm of small town living.



Anna finished up her first session of swim lessons on Thursday. I’ve been taking her to the YMCA twice a week, and while she is by no means swimming, we’ve enjoyed seeing small successes in the water. She smiles through most of the class, but I still think her favorite part is the warm shower when it’s over. Those gym showers I tell ya. Phew, they’re fun.

I’ve been hard at work on Kidaround’s next issue, which debuts on Thursday. (Yay!) Over the last few weeks I’ve been just wanting to veg out after the kids fall asleep, so Jonathan and I spent many nights glued to the most recent season of 24. The show is still unrealistic and way too gory, BUT I’VE LOVED EVERY SECOND.


Last week we celebrated our ninth wedding anniversary by taking the whole family to see a country music cover band at a local park. It was a lovely night until Jonathan dropped his stroller on our toe and I got stung by a bee…all within 30 seconds. I was so shocked by the whole thing that I was in hysterics–laughing and then sobbing at the same time. The next day we left for TWO WHOLE NIGHTS ALONE in Los Angeles where we sat by the pool, ate amazing food, read, got a massage, and saw Boyhood. (Which you should totally see, by the way.)

This week we have no plans! No work. No swim lessons. No MOPS. No home group. It’s our final week before all the fall commitments start up, including preschool. (Preschool!!!) We plan to soak up every last drop of summer.

How have you spent these last, lingering days?



The strangest love letters you ever read

by Lesley on August 14, 2014 · 3 comments

in marriage

Laughing on beach

A few weeks ago Jonathan’s parents handed over the last of his childhood things which had been hiding in their garage since we married. Several years ago my parents made a similar delivery and I remember receiving the boxes with about 30% hope (I WONDER WHAT I MIGHT FIND?!?) and 70% terror (When am I going to find time to sort through all of this, and where am I going to store this junk in my tiny house?!)

At a quick glance, his boxes were similar to mine. They were filled with things you’d expect from childhood: school book reports and college blue books, way too many photo negatives concert ticket stubs, and baseball cards.

And then I noticed love letters. Lots and lots and lots of love letters penned from China and England, Prague and Paris. From me to him. A time capsule of our dating days we didn’t know existed.

There was a letter in a bottle, and letters on various hotel stationary, and postcards and three ring binder paper scraps and ones with drawings and hearts and lipstick prints. He’d saved them all, just like I saved his.

Later that night we put the kids to sleep and then sat down next to our backyard fire pit. A “date night in,” we called it. I pulled over the box of his old stuff and we each rifled through the papers and cards and random things he’d thought worthy of saving.

I spent awhile reading through my words to him, many of which were written during the long months of travel apart, and I was immediately struck by the intentionality and encouragement I’d poured into those letters. They were handwritten and lengthy, filled with all the reasons I cared about him. You are kind. You are persistent. You are a hard worker. You love Jesus. You put me before yourself. You are thoughtful. You are funny. 

But nowhere in all those love letters did I write, I love you. 

(Wait? Huh?)

During this stage in our dating life, despite having been together for almost two years, we hadn’t said the butterfly inducing phrase most people throw out a few months into their dating relationship.  I’d said the L word to previous boyfriends, and I’d regretted saying so. Love, to me, meant a commitment. Love doesn’t come and go. Love stays around when things get hard and sicknesses come and jobs are lost. I couldn’t tell another man that I loved him until I knew he was the one.

I think, at the time, some of our friends maybe thought we were strange for not saying I love you. And it is a little bit crazy and different. But you know, my friend Tammy said something recently that really resonated with me. She said, essentially, to really feel secure in a relationship you have to feel both loved and known.

When I re-read those letters (and the letters he wrote back to me) I realized we may not have been saying “I love you” but we were building a beautiful foundation for our marriage that we continue to benefit from all these years later.

Those letters said more than I love you. They said I know your heart. I know what will make you laugh. I know what hard things you’re going through. I know you are lonely right now. I know your good traits and I will remind you of them even when you doubt yourself. 

Today we’ve been married nine years, and it’s been the best nine years of my life. These days we say I LOVE YOU all the time, every day. We say I KNOW YOU all the time, too.

You are tired. Please sleep in.

You are stressed out. Let me  do the laundry.

You need time with friends. Go play basketball.

You look worried right now. Can I pray for you?

You always work so hard for our family. Thank you.

So often in our relationships we start going through the motions. Re-reading our old letters reminded me that to feel love, and to show love, we have to be intentional in knowing another person, and speaking encouragement and truth into their hearts.

Jonathan, on our anniversary today, I want to thank you for knowing me and reminding me that I am worthy of love.

And for all the times I didn’t say so… I love you. 

{photo taken at our rehearsal dinner, Irvine Cove, 2005}




I consider myself a fairly neat and tidy person. Some (my husband) might even say I’m a clean freak. I like order and I live for organization pin boards showcasing all glass container pantries or color coordinated craft closets.

But little people, though small and seemingly weak, have magical super powers when it comes to their ability to turn a warm and welcoming home into a small war zone.

When it comes to organizing our small house, and the growing number of kids’ clothes and toys, I’m constantly working hard to find solutions. In general, I’m careful to not buy too many toys and if we do purchase new things we’ll try to get outdoor toys rather than indoor toys since they can be hidden in our yard or garage. (Plus–fresh air is good for kids and we live in mild climate, so why not?) Inside the house, all our toys with lots of pieces are kept on high shelves and they have to be “checked-out” one at a time. Anna’s plastic eyesore of a play kitchen with a million parts? It’s in her closet for easy access but it can also hidden away when not in use. Our living room has a few chic baskets and boxes hidden behind our furniture which hold toys. At night after the kids go to bed, I pick up any and all remaining toys, light a candle, take a deep long breath, (perhaps grab a glass of wine!) and pretend no children live here.

But there’s one thing I rarely do, and I’m going to challenge you to do the same.

Don’t clean your windows. 

When Anna started walking her little fingerprints appeared everywhere. Our backyard french doors were covered in prints, as was our new stainless steel refrigerator. The front window, which looked out on the street, was by far the worst. Every morning and evening she banged on that window to say goodbye to Daddy on his way to work, and when he returned I would hold her up for waves and hellos. Her lips, tongue, and peanut butter coated fingers left love trails I couldn’t keep up with.

One weekend after I took Anna to see my parents–Granna and Grand-dude as they’re so lovingly referred to around here–my mom called to debrief our time together. She said something like, “I looked out our back window today and noticed Anna’s little fingerprints are still there. They made me smile and I didn’t have the heart to wipe them away. Those are things you appreciate now as grandparents.”

If there is anyone who likes a clean house and some resemblance of order more than I do, it’s my mom. And I love this about her. But I also love that she gave me a beautiful reminder to slow down and appreciate the chaotic mess of toddlerhood. These days, their little fingers seem to be all over everywhere and everything. They leave trails of Cheerios and water puddles all over the bathroom, and trains strewn across the living room. There is sand ALL OVER my car and dollhouse pieces in my bed and if I step on one more raisin with my bare feet… well… you know.

And yet someday their fingerprints and their puddles and their raisins won’t be around anymore. I won’t find all her Thomas trains “puffing” along the window’s edge. Instead, Jonathan and I will settle for quick e-mails and text messages, and dinners here and there. These messy kiddos won’t always be messy kiddos. Their time in our house, dirtying our furniture, is temporary. 

So while I can’t handle my living room looking like a war zone at all times–who can, am I right?– I resist the urge to Windex their fingerprints off my slider door and living room windows. At night when I sit down and kick my feet up, their fingerprints help me remember that children live here and it’s a really, really wonderful thing.

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