Our Favorite Things: Toddler Version

It’s taken some time to figure out this whole toy thing, both for my child and in buying gifts for other children. It’s hard to know what a toddler will love. Campbell has lots of toys, but she tends to go back to her favorites time and again. Here are some of those.


Magna-Tiles. We discovered these magnetic blocks through her day care, and requested some for her birthday. She plays with these DAILY at home, and probably at school too. They work like blocks or legos, but they have magnets in them, so they hold together easily and allow for building structures more easily for toddlers. They come in different size sets; we have the 32-piece, which works just fine for now.

Children’s Dish Set. One of Campbell’s “aunties” sent her this for her second birthday, and ever since, she loves to set the table for her animals, serve us “food,” and generally act like a hostess. I like the fun colors and how it’s easy for her to carry and manipulate. Comes with a pitcher, tray, silverware, plates, bowls, & cups.

Ready-to-Read Dora books. Campbell was gifted these books by a sweet young friend of hers–hand-me-downs. She LOVES them. We read the stories over and over, and she sleeps with these paperbacks at night. Really. The books have images under the words, so theoretically they can help her learn to read. Maybe a few years down the road.

Grocery Cart. Campbell and her dad have a tradition of going grocery shopping every Friday morning, and so it has become a fun thing for her to have a shopping cart at home, too. She loads all sorts of funny things in it and traipses around the living room. I like how the cart has a chalk board, basket, and cart.

Baby Stroller. At least once a day, Campbell darts from one end of the house to another pushing her toy stroller with some sort of object inside. Sometimes it’s a baby doll; right now I see a sippy cup resting in the seat.

Now that I have typed up this list, I see how typically girly her favorite toys are. My inner feminist is kinda flipping out, though hopefully Campbell’s spunk and independence can overcome these sorts of things. Besides, she likes what she likes. Any other go-to toddler toys?

Around the web…

Happy Saturday! (Do people read blogs on Saturday? I don’t even know…) Here are some things that have struck my fancy lately.
Laughed out loud at this treatise about starting back to school.
Appreciated Glennon’s wise words about mental illness, addiction, and suicide.
Good Will Hunting was a favorite of ours, especially in high school. Have always adored Robin Williams. He will be missed.
Grace’s post on leaving kids home with dad was eerily familiar to me. I make it very CLEAR how hard it is to single parent at times, and then the hubs seemingly does it with ease. Blurgh.
Ordered some toddler clothes for fall from Gap, and I really love these cute tights and this dress that arrived a few days ago.
Madewell has a sweet sale going on right now, and I’ve been eyeing these shoes for fall.
Kristen’s post on what happened in Ferguson made me think and was helpful to read.
Image from our recent trip to Cashiers, NC. 

Visiting Our People

In July, we took a break from the heat and work to go home and visit our families. It was really, really wonderful. We took almost 3 weeks off, which made all the difference. We adjusted from jet lag and had time to relax. I felt totally disconnected from our world in Bahrain–didn’t think about work or the challenges of expat living here. We started in Charlottesville, traveled south to Cashiers, and then went back up to Virginia to round out the trip.

The flight over was pretty great. We woke Campbell up at midnight, drove to the airport for a red-eye to London, where we ate a yummy breakfast at Wagamama and ran around the waiting areas. Then we flew to Dulles. On both flights, Campbell slept 4-5 hours, thanks largely to melatonin. I slept as well, hallelujah.

In Charlottesville, we visited our favorite haunts in our college town, spent time with dear family, grilled some ribs (read: pork withdrawals), got a much-needed trim, and generally horsed around and recovered from jet lag.

In Cashiers, we juggled two babies, hiked, swam, wagon-ed, and celebrated the fourth of July. We slept in, watched Campbell get used to sharing the limelight with her cousin. And, thanks to Mom and Dad, SB & I were pampered for our 30th birthday for the week.

Following Cashiers, we capped off our trip with a second visit to Charlottesville before flying out of DC to the desert. There, we got to spent precious time with grandparents, brothers, brothers-in-law, and old friends.

Our second round of flying was less than awesome. Campbell screamed for 30 minutes straight on both flights. There was no stopping her; she was just too tired to deal with life. We both understood, even amidst the despair we felt during the midst of the crying.

We arrived back in one piece. I faced some minor culture shock and jet lag for the first few days but now we are back in the swing of things. I wouldn’t have wanted to spend our three weeks with anyone other than our family, our people. It refreshed the soul to be home.

Around the web…

Happy Friday, folks! This morning, the hubs took Campbell for a little daddy-daughter adventure to the local market, and I am more than thrilled to have the house to myself and get some stuff done. But first, here are some things that have struck my fancy lately…

I love Mini Boden (great luck with their swimsuits this year), and I have my eye on this dress for Campbell’s fall “school” days…

This video made me so happy.

Have picked up a few of these picture frames since living here, and I love the size and simplicity.

Currently reading this novel and about to pick up this parenting book, after many recommendations…

Listened to a positive review this morning of the new series “The Honorable Woman” starring Maggie Gyllenhaal. Now it’s on my to-watch list, which is ever-growing.

This article was enlightening to me about why I get overwhelmed as a parent sometimes.

**Despite the lightheartedness of the links here, my heart is heavy for those who suffer around the world, in war torn areas and in places more hidden from our view. I’m particularly aware today of the privilege and relative ease of my life. And so the weekend begins with gratitude, but also with thoughts and prayers for those facing loss, fear, grief, and violence.

Life Lately

My friend Katherine calls this a brain dump. Life lately, in a few words…

1. Reading. I’ve read some great books this summer, including Life After Life by Kate Atkinson, Me Before You by JoJo Moyes, What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty, and A Little Salty to Cut the Sweet by Sophie Hudson. Reviews to come, but all fun and easy summer reads. I’m still wading through The Goldfinch, and I’m struggling…

2. Travel. We took a three-week trip to Virginia and North Carolina to visit our families, which was absolutely lovely. It felt relieving to be in a totally different place (and out of the 110+ temperatures) and with our people for a good chunk of time. We totally disconnected from our world in Bahrain, and that was great.

3. Campbell. She’s pretty delightful right now, minus the temper tantrums, which come with the two-year-old territory. I have realized that I am a much happier toddler mom than infant mom–the parenting that comes along with this stage seems to fit my personality a little better. Though there are some days when it seems like Campbell fights me on every little decision (clothes, hairdo, socks/shoes, what to eat, carseat, on and on), it’s a lot of fun to see her interests emerge, hear her picking up our idioms and vocabulary (yikes),  be excited about play, and develop a sense of humor. This week, her teachers advised me to start purchasing pull-ups. Phew. I always dread these new things that keep coming (reminds me of pacifier-weaning).

4. Life in the Middle East. It’s hot, and it’s Ramadan, the holy month and the time in which Muslims fast and everyone dresses more conservatively. The temperatures range from 95-120, which is exhausting and unpleasant. Our bodies have adjusted, but still. We are generally either inside, walking to and from the car, or swimming.

5. MIlestones. The hubs and I celebrated our 7-year anniversary this past weekend, which feels like an accomplishment and a gift all at once. We watched our wedding DVD (always entertaining) and reminisced about that night, which is still kinda perfect in my head. Seven years feels good. We’ve weathered some stuff, enjoyed new places and things, and come out with a deeper happiness than we knew when we married.

These are my scattered thoughts for now. Happy Wednesday!



Hello out there! SB and I have yet to report on our delightful vacation in Barcelona in May with two of our oldest friends in celebration of us all turning 30. So here we go. In a word, it was lovely. The city was beautiful. Our week was a nice combination of tourism and relaxation. And it was refreshing to have so much time to catch up on life and be together. It felt exciting and adventurous to meet up in a European city. Our apartment in Barri Gotic, or the Gothic neighborhood, was perfectly located, minimalist, and had plenty of room for us to spread out. We were steps from the Catedral, one of the oldest churches in the city, and the metro, which we used a few times. We walked to dinner each night, never more than five or ten minutes. Our favorite restaurant was Pla, a cozy joint just around the corner and up the alley from our building. I think  I could do a number of posts on the sites, the restaurants, and definitely the bike tour. But for now, here’s an overview.

Monday: We arrived, SB & friends from Birmingham, and me from Bahrain. In the afternoon, we explored the adjacent neighborhood, La Ribera, grabbed wine and cheese, and then walked to dinner at a local tapas place. We tried to go to bed early but were awoken by a large protest march coming down our street! Interesting to see that big of a crowd and get a taste of the political environment right off the bat.

Tuesday: We grabbed breakfast and headed straight to the Picasso Museum, only a 10 minute walk from our apartment. It was fascinating to see how Picasso’s work changed throughout his lifetime to include much more variety than the classic, famous Picasso paintings I was familiar with. We then grabbed food for a picnic and caught  the double-decker tourist bus that circles the city two different ways. We took the “blue route” that passed La Sagrada Familia and hopped off at Park Guell, a lovely green space designed by Gaudi located at a top point in the city. After some back-and-forth about where we should land our hungry selves, we found a spot on a wall with a great view. We ate our cured meats, cheese, homemade bread, and fruit for lunch and drank some wine. That night we ate at Pla. Yum.

Wednesday: Biking & wine day! We took an hour train ride out to Luverne, where our friend and biking guide Albert picked us up at the quaint train station. Five minutes later, we were in a cute garage in the hills of the Spanish country side. He adjusted our seats, we did a few practice laps up the hill, and then we set off on our bike tour. We went to 2 vineyards and loved both. This was probably my favorite day–lots of activity, tasty wine and cava, and laughter.

Thursday: We dedicated the morning to the Sagrada Familia, Gaudi’s famous work. We waited in line for about 30 minutes to get a ticket. Then, we had another 45 minutes to wait before entering, so we took off, intending to hit up a few more architectural gems in the area–additional Modernista sites. Thankfully we got way-laid by a little espadrille shop and spent our time in there instead. We walked out with several bags of shoes, which were inexpensive and adorable. Then, we toured the massive church, which has been under construction for over 100 years. It was packed with tourists, but it was incredible, and the architecture was completely unique. Afterward, we took the long way home, stopped off for a delightful taco lunch and wandered through some shops. After a siesta, we grabbed a snack, browsed a local market, and saw the lovely La Catedral, steps away from our apartment. We paid a few euro to go to the rooftop, which was stunning. In our efforts to take a solid selfie, we laughed till we cried. This night, we played cards on our balcony and drank the wine we had bought at one of the vineyards the day before.

Friday: Beach day! We hiked (it felt long) over to the port area, right on the water. After reserving a spot on the catamaran for a sunset cruise, we found a bike rental place and strapped our bags on the backs of our beach cruisers. We proceeded to bike a few (or more) miles down the Barcelona coast in search of a less crowded area. We were zealous in our search but ended up turning around because we found ourselves in too much a remote location for our comfort. And so that’s how we ended up slightly hangry and needing lunch. After eating at a little beach cafe, we  and plopped down on a very crowded beach to relax for a few hours afterward. Our evening catamaran adventure was relaxing and gorgeous. The Mediterranean was a perfect shade of blue, and we relaxed over a bottle of wine on the deck.

Saturday: We ate a hearty brunch, which was refreshingly American in nature. As we packed back at the apartment, we did some trouble-shooting about how to transport the nine bottles of wine home that had been purchased with cava-induced enthusiasm. And then everyone sent me off with hugs and a few tears. The other three stayed an extra night. That day, they toured the Miro museum and took it easy.

This trip felt like such a gift–there’s nothing quite like discovering a new place with people you love. In retrospect, I’m really glad we did a little planning on the front end to be sure that we saw the highlights of the city. But we all agreed to a pretty relaxed pace, which made things fun. Hasta luego, Barcelona–it was, indeed, lovely.

Turning 30 Together

Today is our collective 30th birthday! We’re happy to be together with our family, celebrating in our favorite place in the world–Cashiers. For the occasion, Mom’s been working on a letter for us and surprised us with it this morning. SB and I thought it great to share it on Idaclare because we all have grown to appreciate this space to write and honor what counts. Anyway, here it is. Thank you, Mom, for putting to words so much of your journey with the two of us. We are so lucky you’ve been our shepherd…


photoMy dear Anna Kate and Sarah Beth,

June  29, 1984, the day you two were born, was long awaited with much anticipation.  It followed years of struggling with infertility, doctors visits, procedures, and medications.   At last in the late fall of 1983, we learned that I was pregnant.   I recall making a surprise visit to your dad’s office to tell him the exciting news.  He was overjoyed.  Then a few weeks later he accompanied me for the first ultrasound at the UAB office of our fertility specialist.  I was filled with anxiety and hope.   Having a dear friend who had recently learned of no heart beat during the first ultrasound, I was particularly nervous and aware of the significance of the ultrasound.  The ultrasound technician started the procedure and shortly thereafter left with no explanation, saying she would return.  My heart fell, assuming there was a problem and that she was seeking the assistance of a physician.  She returned with more than one doctor and after a short time, one of them announced there were two heart beats.  In typical fashion your dad, overjoyed, asked if they were sure there were not three!  On the other hand, I was speechless, relieved beyond words.
The pregnancy proceeded with various complications.  My excellent doctors required that I reduce my hours at the office, until gradually I was on full bed rest. My dear parents who lived two hours away were supportive through it all.  In her typical fashion of relentless love demonstrated in concrete ways, my mother made weekly treks to Birmingham to bring food, assist with grocery shopping, household chores, fluff up the nursery and instruct  me in person to stay put.  On her last visit before your birth, I vividly recall my devoted mother cleaning out a coat closet in our Forest Park home while I gave her instructions as I lounged nearby.  My nesting instincts and my desire to bring my babies home to a perfect, well organized home had set in, and my plan to make our home just right for you two was executed by my amazing mother.
Then on Friday June 29, I was swollen and barely able to hobble as your dad drove me to my weekly doctor’s visit, which was scheduled to be my last before the c section scheduled for July 2.  Dr Davis sent me straight from his office to be admitted to the hospital and said he wanted me to remain there for observation until July 2.  As far as we knew, everything was ok.  Nurses came in, monitored and all seemed well.  Your dad left the hospital around 9 that night.  Shortly thereafter one of my doctors, Mark Cohen, came in and said “how would you like to have your babies tonight rather than next week?”  (I later learned that I had developed toxemia and the cure was to deliver you).  Dr. Cohen then called your dad and told him to hightail  it back to the hospital, which he did, but stopped along the way at the neighborhood Texaco to purchase 18 mm film.   He knew this was a great day, and he was determined to document it.  So, Anna Kate, you popped out at 10:39 PM, a healthy 6 lb, 5oz.   And, Sarah Beth, you followed at 10:40 PM, a healthy 5 lb, 6 oz.  You became the joys of our lives and we experienced that all consuming love and joy that only parents know. You two, along with your wonderful brother, who arrived two and a half years later, remain to this day our absolute joys and the greatest gifts of our lives.
Having twins definitely doubles the joy!  (The needlepoint verse above hung in your nursery and now graces the Birmingham nursery for Campbell and Ellliott.)   Twinship also presented a few challenges—how best to parent without comparing, how to let you grow and excel as individuals, how to spare you the pain of inevitable comments and comparisons by others including teachers, how to react when one is ” left out,” how to cope when one excels in one area.   On and on.   Amazingly it all worked out, thanks to how you carved out your niches, held on to your identity, nurtured your special relationship with each other and your brother while still developing strong friendships with so many others.   Our philosophy, of course, to raise you not as twins but as two individuals.  We made sure you were in separate classrooms from preschool on and allowed you to participate separately or together in church and extracurricular activities.   Interestingly, as you reached the junior high years, you seemed to have an unspoken pact not to compete.  Sarah Beth carved out her  niche  as a natural dancer on the school dance teams through her junior high and high school years, while Anna Kate chose sports, participating on the school volleyball and basketball team through junior high and high school.  Both of you were there for each other for games and performances.  We stood by with pride and joy.
Then when college arrived you chose schools in Virginia, an hour away from each another, not because of a desire to be geographically close, as far as I know, but because the schools were your first choices.  But what a blessing that geographic closeness provided for you both and for us.  During those college days we watched you both grow and come into your own.  You again found time to nurture your relationship with each other and provide support to one another during hard times but blossomed with new and wonderful college friends.
In your days of courtship and marriage, I watched with some mixed feelings–joy and delight as you found the loves of your lives, and yet perhaps a tinge of sadness as you anticipated how your relationship with each other might change with married lives.  I watched you adapt quickly after marriage–that loyalty, support and closeness never wavering, along with unending efforts to be together for every life event, including of course your sweet children’s births and other times to just be together.
This year we gather, all ten of us, to celebrate your 30th birthday at “Marrywoode,” our peaceful haven in the beautiful mountains of North Carolina.  As we have anticipated this time together,  your dad and I have reflected on the joys of parenting you and the challenges, which were few by comparison. We also stand back and say to ourselves, “job well done,” as we observe your lives, your work ethic, the life partners you’ve chosen, the career paths you’ve chosen, how hard you work to remain good sisters, daughters and friends and how you take care of your families.  To watch you each mother is just a beautiful site.  The way you two live  your lives as examples to us and others brings us great satisfaction   As your dad likes to say, our children are our heroes.   Indeed our joy is boundless.