Summer is {almost} officially here, and the backyard is flourishing from all the recent rains.  The downside is that the flood waters have brought an insane amount of fire ants and mammoth mosquitoes which is a total bummer for playing outside.  But we're bound and determined to be outside a lot this summer and enjoy the bounty of this little piece of urban land we own.  This is the first year we've had a blackberry bush that stands upright - and we've already harvested several handfuls of luscious, tart berries.  Luci Belle loves checking on them each morning and making bouquets with our wildflowers.

The fairy ring we planted with gladiolus bulbs is starting to bloom and will hopefully be a fun play spot...if we can keep the fire ants away.  I'm using a doTerra peppermint oil/vinegar/water spray right now - we'll see if it works!

Here's our little plot of land in early June...

Besides that, we're seeking out all the swimming pools and splash pads possible to keep the little ones cool and happy! 

And of course there's already been lots of this....

...with fresh-squeezed lime juice on top.  If you haven't ever had watermelon with lime, JUST DO IT NOW.  Trust me.

What are you doing with your early summer days? 

Are you implementing any new traditions or activities this summer?

I'd love to know!

Jersey summer: here we go again...

On Friday morning, we head to New Jersey for almost the entire month of August.  Last year, I wasn't sure if it would be our last time to be able to do this, but we're blessed with the chance to embark on the journey again this year.  My husband has been working overtime at two jobs for awhile, and it's time for him to have a real break.  Luci Belle wakes up in the morning and after every nap asking, "Is it time to go to Mimi's house today?!"  We cannot wait to swim, swim, swim at the Madison Pool, visit the farmer's markets and drive through nearby towns in the countryside.  This year, Steven and I will also get an entire day in NYC all by ourselves which hasn't happened in years.  And our family of three will venture to the Hudson River Valley for a long weekend to stay at a private home in the woods.

On that note, I do have to be completely honest about something...I've had to face some ugly feelings about my body this summer, about how different it is already.  I feel so much bigger at this stage of pregnancy than I was last time.  I fear what people will think of me when they see how much my body has changed.  Blech.  It's a daily struggle to remind myself that the second pregnancy is different, and who cares what size I am because my most important job is growing a healthy baby.  And remember when I was so sick that I couldn't even leave the house for 2 months? 

So as I embark on many days ahead of squeezing into my maternity swimsuit, I need to state clearly in writing that I am not going to miss out on the best parts of summer.  These words serve as a great reminder...

"I'm going to live in the body God made me, not because it's perfect but because it's mine.  And I'm going to be thankful for health and for the ability to run and move and dance and swim.

And this is what I'm not going to do: I'm not going to hide.  I'm not going to bow out of things I love to do because I'm afraid people won't love me when they see my underbutt.

This is the promise I'm making: this summer, I'm not going to be ashamed of my body.  Or at the very least, I'm not going to let a lifetime of shame about my body get in the way of living in a rich, wild, grateful, wide-open way." ~ Shauna Niequist, Bread & Wine

Truthfully, I'm disappointed that I still feel shame about my body, especially while pregnant.  And it's got to stop.  Now.  There's a whole bunch of summer left, and I'm going to make the most of it.

Here are a few of my favorite moments from last summer in New Jersey...

A home for all seasons.

Here is my home sweet home in Madison, New Jersey, dressed in winter white.  Dad laments that it's T-H-R-E-E degrees there now {the clock at the bank downtown said so}, snow is packed tight, lawns piled high, driveways frozen over.  They're expecting another big storm on Tuesday and likely won't see a tip of grass until spring. 

I do love this little cottage home where I no longer abide but still consider "mine."  It's beautiful in all seasons.  How I miss the azaleas blooming in spring, the deep vibrant green of summer, the kaleidoscoped landscape of fall, and yes, even the blustery winter when the starkness and lack of color expresses its own kind of beauty.