family fun memes & carnivals motherhood

Things I’ve Learned in June.

Beautiful flowers overlooking a pond.

The month of June is nearly at it’s end with only a weekend separating this month from the next. Emily @ Chatting at the Sky is asking us to share things we’ve learned this month – it can be big, huge, monumental things or quieter little things – silly or serious. The goal is simply to take a moment to reflect on the month ending and what it’s given you.

Here’s what I’ve learned this month:

  1. Dates with my husband can consist of more than dinner and a movie. I’ve always known this but a spur of the moment bowling double date with friends (made possible by my dad visiting us) was hands down one of our best dates ever. We’ve tried to keep the momentum going at home by playing card games together and are hoping to schedule another bowling date soon!
  2. The new Hy-Vee has some of the best Chinese food in town. I’m not sure if this is saying something good about Hy-Vee or something bad about the local Chinese Food scene, but we were very happy to discover this when a Hy-Vee opened up near Dan’s office. In addition to stellar Chinese food, they also have a great liquor selection, a dining area that has a wait staff to get you drinks in glasses (breakable ones!) and make you forget you are eating at the grocery store. And a coffee shop. They have a coffee shop. Basically, I’ve moved in.
  3. My dog now weighs more than both of my children at just over 60 pounds – but not as much as both of them combined just yet (84 pounds)… That may well change by next month!
  4. My daughter likes ballet but is not a ballerina. She is a Princess in a Tutu. Ballet lessons with BB were a pretty big eye opener for me – I don’t know if I was expecting her to be like a ballet dancing savant, but I certainly wasn’t expecting teary eyed refusals to participate the first day and though she overcame her fears, I learned that my daughter doesn’t like to necessarily do what everyone else is doing – she has to find some way to make her own spin on whatever is going on.
  5. I learned how much my time spent volunteering in my son’s classroom impacted not just myself and the teacher, but also the kids. I was overwhelmed by all the adorable thank you cards I received on my last day volunteering for the school year, in addition to beautiful flowers from the teacher. I got so much out of the experience of really getting to know the teacher and all of MM’s friends and was so touched to see how much they appreciated it.
  6. This month we went camping in Door County and I learned that I can survive a crazy thunderstorm in a tent, that moths are fearless and loyal companions and that camp grounds with tons of activities and amenities are not really necessary for us, especially in such an amazing town full of things to see and do.
  7. I learned a couple of new card games – my favorite being a game called Beggar My Neighbor which is similar to War but less tedious and easier to play in a small space while tired than Rummy. We played this while camping and loved it.
  8. I learned that my children basically think I cease to exist when they are asleep. Also that my favorite things are THEIR favorites things and I have no identity outside of them.
  9. I learned how much my data is worth and how much money I am worth, how boy crazy I am and how many cows I am worth – but not how much salt I’m worth – so I made my own quiz to help people find out – How much salt are you worth?
  10. I learned how to add corn starch to a berry sauce to thicken it – and all the things you can do wrong when attempting such a thing! I learned that improvisation in cooking can either be really good or really bad!
  11. I learned that cutting your finger while cooking hurts SO MUCH WORSE than I would have expected. And that you shouldn’t open a can of biscuits with a can opener.
  12. I learned how to crochet – again – it wasn’t until halfway through my husband teaching me last night that I realized I have done this before and I remember why I don’t crochet all the time. I have not entirely given up and I still think it’s WAY easier than knitting but… yeah.


What have you learned this month? Let me know if you are playing along on your blog!

family fun

craft love: these dinosaurs are real stand up guys!


We’ve been finding ourselves stuck inside a lot this summer and I was in desperate need of a quick and easy art project to occupy an hour or two of our time. Flipping through the May issue of Disney Family Fun magazine, I saw a cute stand up dinosaur guy that had been painted on cardboard. They have a free printable on their website so you can trace your own dinos – you’ll need an account on to login and access it but I’m pretty sure they are totally free and it’ll gain you access to lots of different magazines online.

This sounded like a nice easy project so I quickly printed off a few copies (no need to fight over paper stencils!) and cut out each stencil while the kids were eating lunch. Later I set up the stencils, green card stock, scissors and markers and briefly showed them the idea of the project but tried to encourage that they do their own thing with it.

My son, age 7, has a tendency to closely mimic whatever design I am doing during projects like this – so concerned about “doing it right” – in an effort to foster some creativity I made each corner, nook and cranny of my dinosaur a little different from each other (you can see my Stand Up Guy in the bottom to pictures of the collage above). He tried to keep up with me for awhile, but eventually my son also let himself just do his own thing and was really proud of the results (see the two pictures on the right hand side).

Then there’s my daughter – a three year old who absolutely marches to the beat of her own drum. Rather than trace the stencil on the green paper, she began cutting little pieces of green paper and placing them on her stencil in a mosaic style. I was so impressed with her creativity, that I offered her a glue stick which she happily accepted. She really spent most of the project practicing cutting and gluing, which is really a perfect use of our time and I was so proud of her. You can see her results in the big photo of the collage which was a little too floppy to stand but so adorable!

After making our dinosaurs, my son decided to use all of our scrap papers to be food for the dinosaurs to eat and building blocks for a Dinosaur City – no scrap gets unused under his watch! So now, my youngest has worked on some motor skills, both kids have gotten a lesson in creativity and we’re recycling – all for free, basically, as we used supplies we already had on hand.

By the time they were done crafting and playing, dinner was ready!

Disclaimer: Disney Family Fun did not sponsor this post, request it or have any idea that my children like making paper dinosaurs. These thoughts are my own and I am writing about them simply to share the project idea with other tired mommas out there looking for a quick art project fix.

family fun memes & carnivals

thankfully, it’s thursday.

I was all venty and angst-filled in my last post, so just to even things out – here are some things I am thankful for today – linking up with A Sorta Fairytale’s Thankful Thursday.

  1. BB totally took a nap yesterday. My fave neighbor and I threw the bigger kids in her backyard so that our little ones would FINALLY SLEEP. It totally worked and I think she and I are both feeling like brand new people today.
  2. My book club meeting last night was awesome – as awesome as ever, really. I am so thankful to have such a great group of friends in the area and a husband that supports me having the occasional social life. Getting out and talking about books and life and hardware stores and teen “war stories” was just what the doctor ordered.
  3. Today the sun is shining and there is no rain predicted until this afternoon – so knock on wood but I may have a chance to take the kids out to do something fun today, if my eldest ever wakes up anyway.
  4. My eldest child slept in this morning – lucky duck.
  5. Coffee. I remain faithfully, fanatically thankful for coffee.


Are some books an acquired taste?

rereading books

When I was in high school we had to read The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne. I remember the overall premise of the book and I remember hating it – but beyond that, the memory is fuzzy.

I’ve been hating on that book for almost fifteen years now, citing many reasons, most centering around the fact that, in my opinion, Hawthorne was much better at writing short stories than novels. The man can really go on a descriptive tangent at great length, you know? I’ve often said he could write an entire chapter about a brick wall if given the chance – luckily he never was given said chance!

I’ve had some people agree and others disagree with my thoughts on Hawthorne. Some say the book is excellent and I should give it another try. Given the sheer number of things I’ve changed my mind about since being a fifteen year old girl (turns on Hondas are not inherently evil, some asparagus is not disgusting and Leonardo DiCaprio is not the worst actor ever) I figure there is a chance these people are right. I might, in fact, like the book if I gave it another chance. Or I might hate it all over again.

Maybe some books are an acquired taste, like lobster or tofu – and you have to taste / read them multiple times before truly understanding them and deciding if they are good or not.

What do you think?

Are there any books that you hated as a teen but liked or loved as an adult?

Do you think that your taste in books changes as you get older just like kids and food?

Do you like asparagus?


throwing myself a (quiet) party

I don’t want to jinx myself, but I think my daughter might be sleeping…

motherhood op ed

the summer rant.


Summer so far has been more draining than fun as I continue to try and find my rhythm with both kids at home and instead find…

An exhausted, small girl who refuses to nap and instead spends the typical nap time hours absolutely losing it for several hours and making everyone around her more tired in the process…

A son who clearly misses the hustle and bustle of school days and is bored at home with us…

A car that has been giving me the weirdest forms of grief – hey, why can’t I turn off any of the interior lights at all? and oh look, the trunk was left open last night in a rain storm and is soaked… yay

Rain storms like every damn day that prevent us from going to anything outdoors for fear of being soaked through…

A random spree of super fun injuries inflicted on myself by stupid things like biscuit cans and cardboard boxes… A total lack of going to the gym or doing anything for me….

A crazy dog who likes to poop in places he shouldn’t and is generally acting like a dog….

And a mom who is slowly starting to lose her cool (read: her cool has completely left the building) and has ceased to be fun in any way….

So the few sacred hours that are left in between all of this ridiculousness seems to be spent at the bank, picking up milk, cleaning the kitchen, doing the laundry, taking the dog to the vet to get his flea, tick & heartworm meds, changing diapers, trying to encourage potty training with minimal success, and… damn, it’s time to make dinner again.

Where are my leisurely mornings at the beach and zoo and playground and splash pad and other things that are awesome that I can’t think of right now?

Where are my long summer nights of BBQs and fireflies and sprinklers and summer movies?

Where is MY summer vacation because so far all I’m seeing is MORE work, MORE errands and MORE temper tantrums (both from the kids and me)…

I swear I liked summer once but so far this one has been pretty pathetic.

Disclaimer: I know I’m over reacting and that we are probably doing tons of fun things that I’m not acknowledging right now because that kind of gets in the way of venting and feeling sorry for myself. I know that these days are long and these seasons are short and that obviously I’ve been home with both kids before and should be handling it better than this and that most of the time I probably totally am handling it better than this. It has been a long day and it’s only noon. Did I mention the lack of naps? And the poop? And the soaked trunk and the injuries? I will be fine. The summer will be awesome, at some point, I’m sure. In the meantime… Blergh.

books & reading nightstand summer reading

Nightstand: June 2013

We are quickly approaching the end of yet another month and it’s time to check in with those fantastic ladies @ 5 Minutes for Books with a What’s On Your Nightstand? update.

If you’ve never participated before, it’s super easy – just answer some or all of the following questions:

What books have you read recently?

What are you reading right now?

What will you read next?

Basically what books are on your nightstand, either literally or figuratively.

Since we last talked nightstands, I read two books:

  1. Pandemonium (Delirium #2) by Lauren Oliver – Finished May 29, 2013 – I put off reading this book for awhile, worried that it would be too depressing, given the way that book one ended, but I’m glad I finally picked it up. I think Oliver makes a few interesting decisions in her story telling that provide a less predictable plot and more realistic lives for her main characters. I’m interested to see what develops in the third book.
  2. The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker (June Book Club) – Finished June 12, 2013 – This is going to be one of those books that stays with me for a long time. The overall concept of this story is both fantastical and disturbingly plausible – the way any good dystopian kind of story should be. I think the author did a great job of fleshing out her story, providing a main character that was both realistic and likeable with plenty of side stories that had less to do with the world potentially ending and more to do with coming of age. This was a book that really sucked me in while I was reading it – I really liked it. – Full Review

Right now I’m reading The Extraordinary Education of Nicholas Benedict by Trenton Lee Stewart, which is the prequel to the incredibly popular Mysterious Benedict Society series. “Nine-year-old Nicholas Benedict has more problems than most children his age. Not only is he an orphan with an unfortunate nose, but he also has narcolepsy, a condition that gives him terrible nightmares and makes him fall asleep at the worst possible moments. Now he’s being sent to a new orphanage, where he will encounter vicious bullies, selfish adults, strange circumstances – and a mystery that could change his life forever. Luckily, he does have one thing in his favor: He’s a a genius.”   I’m only about 1/4 through the book (it is a pretty big book!) but so far enjoying it quite a bit. I think it holds up well as its own book so if you haven’t read the other books in the series, you could easily pick this one up first.

summerreading-buttonSo what’s on tap to read next? With Summer in full swing, I am holding my first annual Summer Reading Challenge. I decided to host a very informal reading challenge at my blog this summer, because why should our kids have all the fun? If you’d like to join in, you can link up your reading goals here. The challenge will run until September 1st and you can join in any time. I challenged myself to read 9 books this summer, preferably ones I already own.

The ones I’m most likely to read in the coming month are :


The Paris Wife by Paula McLain (Book Club Pick for July) – “A deeply evocative story of ambition and betrayal, The Paris Wife captures a remarkable period of time and a love affair between two unforgettable people: Ernest Hemingway and his wife Hadley.”

The Selection by Kiera Cass – “For thirty-five girls, the Selection is the chance of a lifetime. The opportunity to escape the life laid out for them since birth. To be swept up in a world of glittering gowns and priceless jewels. To live in a palace and compete for the heart of gorgeous Prince Maxon. But for America Singer, being Selected is a nightmare. It means turning her back on her secret love with Aspen, who is a caste below her. Leaving her home to enter a fierce competition for a crown she doesn’t want. Living in a palace that is constantly threatened by violent rebel attacks. Then America meets Prince Maxon. Gradually, she starts to question all the plans she’s made for herself—and realizes that the life she’s always dreamed of may not compare to a future she never imagined.

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald – “Jay Gatsby is the man who has everything. But one thing will always be out of his reach … Everybody who is anybody is seen at his glittering parties. Day and night his Long Island mansion buzzes with bright young things drinking, dancing and debating his mysterious character. For Gatsby – young, handsome, fabulously rich – always seems alone in the crowd, watching and waiting, though no one knows what for. Beneath the shimmering surface of his life he is hiding a secret: a silent longing that can never be fulfilled. And soon this destructive obsession will force his world to unravel.

Bitter is the New Black by Jen Lancaster – “This is the story of how a haughty former sorority girl went from having a household income of almost a quarter-million dollars to being evicted from a ghetto apartment… It’s a modern Greek tragedy, as defined by Roger Dunkle in The Classical Origins of Western Culture: a story in which “the central character, called a tragic protagonist or hero, suffers some serious misfortune which is not accidental and therefore meaningless, but is significant in that the misfortune is logically connected.” In other words? The bitch had it coming.”

Or some combination of those… Or different books entirely – you never know with me!

What are you reading right now?

Do you like to make reading goals or just fly by the seat of your literary pants?

family fun motherhood photography

“Because that’s my joke, daddy.”

My husband sent me a text on Sunday with this “joke” from BB, age 3:


“Daddy, what’s zero plus water? The air gets scared, because there’s a scary dolphin in it. Because that’s my joke, daddy.”


This might be the most amazing joke of all time… What’s your favorite joke?

books & reading spring reading thing 2013

Spring Reading Thing: The End

Spring officially came and went and with that, the Spring Reading Thing officially ended three days ago. I challenged myself to read 10 books this Spring and didn’t quite finish that goal, reading only 7 1/2 books.

The books I read were:

  1. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green (April Book Club Pick) – “Diagnosed with Stage IV thyroid cancer at 13, Hazel was prepared to die until, at 14, a medical miracle shrunk the tumours in her lungs… for now.  Two years post-miracle, sixteen-year-old Hazel is post-everything else, too; post-high school, post-friends and post-normalcy. And even though she could live for a long time (whatever that means), Hazel lives tethered to an oxygen tank, the tumours tenuously kept at bay with a constant chemical assault. Enter Augustus Waters. A match made at cancer kid support group, Augustus is gorgeous, in remission, and shockingly to her, interested in Hazel. Being with Augustus is both an unexpected destination and a long-needed journey, pushing Hazel to re-examine how sickness and health, life and death, will define her and the legacy that everyone leaves behind.” (Finished April 16th – full review -)
  2. Where’d You Go Bernadette by Maria Semple (May Book Club Pick) “Bernadette Fox is notorious. To her Microsoft-guru husband, she’s a fearlessly opinionated partner; to fellow private-school mothers in Seattle, she’s a disgrace; to design mavens, she’s a revolutionary architect, and to 15-year-old Bee, she is a best friend and, simply, Mom. Then Bernadette disappears. It began when Bee aced her report card and claimed her promised reward: a family trip to Antarctica. But Bernadette’s intensifying allergy to Seattle—and people in general—has made her so agoraphobic that a virtual assistant in India now runs her most basic errands. A trip to the end of the earth is problematic.” (Finished May 9th – full review -)
  3. The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker (June Book Club Pick) “On a seemingly ordinary Saturday in a California suburb, 11-year-old Julia and her family awake to discover, along with the rest of the world, that the rotation of the earth has suddenly begun to slow. The days and nights grow longer and longer, gravity is affected, the environment is thrown into disarray. Yet as she struggles to navigate an ever-shifting landscape, Julia is also coping with the normal disasters of everyday life–the fissures in her parents’ marriage, the loss of old friends, the hopeful anguish of first love, the bizarre behavior of her grandfather who, convinced of a government conspiracy, spends his days obsessively cataloging his possessions. As Julia adjusts to the new normal, the slowing inexorably continues.” (Finished June 12th – Full Review -)
  4. The Runaway King by Jennifer A. Nielsen – Book two in a promising middle reader series, I’m very anxious to read this one. “A kingdom teetering on the brink of destruction. A king gone missing. Who will survive? Find out in the highly anticipated sequel to Jennifer A. Nielsen’s blockbuster THE FALSE PRINCE! Just weeks after Jaron has taken the throne, an assassination attempt forces him into a deadly situation. Rumors of a coming war are winding their way between the castle walls, and Jaron feels the pressure quietly mounting within Carthya. Soon, it becomes clear that deserting the kingdom may be his only hope of saving it. But the further Jaron is forced to run from his identity, the more he wonders if it is possible to go too far. Will he ever be able to return home again? Or will he have to sacrifice his own life in order to save his kingdom?(Finished May 18th)
  5. Pandemonium by Lauren Oliver – Book two in the delirium series. I have to admit, I’ve been putting this book off because the end of book one is majorly depressing, but I am definitely anxious to see where the series will go from here and I think this reading challenge is a great excuse to force myself to soldier on. Here’s a description of book two but there are spoilers : “After falling in love, Lena and Alex flee their oppressive society where love is outlawed and everyone must receive the “cure” – an operation that makes them immune to the delirium of love – but Lena alone manages to find her way to a community of resistance fighters. Although she is bereft without the boy she loves, her struggles seem to be leading her toward a new love.” (Finished May 29th)
  6. Bringing Up Bebe by Pamela Druckerman – I actually started reading this already but since my current book club pick, Casual Vacancy by JK Rowling is a bit long and time consuming, I’ve temporarily set it aside so that I can hopefully finish on time. I’ll hopefully be reading this one again ASAP as I’m really enjoying it. “When American journalist Pamela Druckerman has a baby in Paris, she doesn’t aspire to become a “French parent.” French parenting isn’t a known thing, like French fashion or French cheese. Even French parents themselves insist they aren’t doing anything special. Yet, the French children Druckerman knows sleep through the night at two or three months old while those of her American friends take a year or more. French kids eat well-rounded meals that are more likely to include braised leeks than chicken nuggets. And while her American friends spend their visits resolving spats between their kids, her French friends sip coffee while the kids play.” (Finished April 10 – full review)
  7. Pretty in Plaid by Jen Lancaster – I kind of adore Jen Lancaster these days and I’m looking forward to diving into this book. “Think Jen Lancaster was always “like David Sedaris with pearls and a super-cute handbag?” (Jennifer Coburn) Think again. She was a badge-hungry Junior Girl Scout with a knack for extortion, an aspiring sorority girl who didn’t know her Coach from her Louis Vuitton, and a budding executive who found herself bewildered by her first encounter with a fax machine. In this humorous and touching memoir, Jen Lancaster looks back on her life-and wardrobe-before bitter was the new black and shows us a young woman not so very different than the rest of us.” (Finished April 30)

I ended up abandoning The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling which my book club was reading in March. It was very slow going and had basically no characters that you would want to root for at all. When I didn’t finish in time for the meeting and then heard everyone else’s thoughts about the book, I opted to spare myself the pain and misery of finishing it.

I am currently reading The Extraordinary Education of Nicholas Benedict by Trenton Lee Stewart and very much enjoying it but had no chances of finishing it before the end of the Spring – it’s a lengthy book and summertime has seemed to result in less reading time rather than more so far. Boo!

The other book on my list was Vixen by Jillian Larkin which I’m still hoping to read, possibly this summer.

For more on my summer reading goals, check out my Summer Reading Challenge.