Don’t Blink: Her 8th Birthday

When people ask me how long we’ve lived in Wisconsin, I quickly consider the age of my daughter before responding and it always catches me by surprise. We’ve lived here for EIGHT years now and the proof is in how big my youngest child is. Which seems to be bigger every time I look at her lately.

Sometimes it feels like ten minutes ago she looked like this:

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And then I blinked and she looked like this:

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Like when did that even happen? But then I look through that Facebook “on this day” feature and watch the years slide by and ohhh it really does go so fast…

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Last week she turned officially eight years old. There was much birthday cake and merriment. We invited friends over for a Trolls themed birthday party complete with sing-a-long. She blew out candles.

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And then I blinked again and the moment was over. Life got busy and she was simply eight years old. But in between dropping kids off for summer camps and buying groceries and switching loads of laundry I keep looking at her in amazement, wondering when all my littles became bigs, where those cheek bones came from and what she’ll look like after I blink next.

Happy 8th Birthday, Darling, But Please Slow Down.

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linking up with Mama Kat | you should, too

Swim Lessons: Underwater Pictures and Mom-commentary

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We just finished a session of swim lessons at our favorite pool. I love this place for it’s oh so small class sizes, incredible teachers and lessons that include everything from blowing bubbles underwater to every type of swim stroke you didn’t know existed. They seriously cover every aspect of swimming with detailed charts at the end of each session showing you what skills your kiddo still needs to work on.

But one of my faaaaavorite thing about the swim lessons here: their genius version of fund raising – $2 for an underwater photo of your kiddo during swim lessons. I seriously look forward to these pictures all summer.

Above and below are this year’s pictures. BB’s is only half under water, as you can see. She is kind of the world’s biggest baby about going underwater, even with goggles, especially when it’s cold. That’s our big task for this summer – getting her to be more comfortable and confident under water. Above water she can do basically anything. 🙂

MM is several levels ahead of her. After discovering a love of water slides last year his water confidence grew by leaps and bounds and now he’s working on various dives and strokes that don’t mean anything to me but have him coming back from lessons with a huge grin on his face – and really that is what it’s all about!

What are you up to this summer?

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Then and Now: Deep Questions To Ask Your Kids.

So about this time four years ago I asked the kids a bunch of super deep questions about life and shared them with you. I thought I’d ask the kids the same questions today and see how their answers changed and share my findings.

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Back in 2013 the kids were about 3 1/2 and 7. Those responses are on the left just like the picture above.


Right now the kids are 7 1/2 and 11. Their responses today are on the right hand side, again, like the picture above. Got it?

What is the meaning of life?

BB: um, a sun.
MM: I don’t know, I really don’t know, ok?

BB: hmmm let’s see… god created us and wants us to be saved.
MM: What? I don’t know.

MM still has no idea and no desire to pretend he knows. He’s a realist. BB wanted to tell you GOODDDDD for just about every question but after like the fourth question I told her she needed more variety in life.

What do you want to be when you grow up?

BB: Cinderella
MM: an actor of Doctor Who

BB: I want to be a jewelry maker.
MM: um a video game tester

I’m not sure either kid has career aspirations that will allow me to live in the comfort that I’d like to become accustomed to. Oh well.

What brings you the most happiness?

BB: my brother
MM: well, my favorite thing is Doctor Who, so that’s what I would say.

BB: you (while hugging me)
MM: Skyrim

These answers pretty much sum up my life right now.

When do you feel the most loved?

BB: Sunday
MM: when I’m with everybody.

BB: Really, I ALWAYS feel the most loved.
MM: when you hug me

I’m happy to hear that my daughter feels loved on ALL the days of the week now. Also awww.

What are you afraid of?

BB: those scary birds, the scary ones and they were black…
MM: nothing really. At least I don’t think I’m afraid of anything.

BB: The dark
MM: a world without books

MM is a boy after my own heart. BB has forgotten all about the birds.

If you had one wish, what would you wish for?

BB: um, a telephone.
MM: Doctor Who to be real.

BB: That the pool in swimming lessons would be much warmer than it is.
MM: longer days

We leave for swim lessons like any minute now and clearly BB is hoping for warmer water. MM just wants a later bed time or more time to play video games. Priorities.

What is the funniest word?

BB: button… button.
MM: I don’t know…. plethora – it means a lot of something.

BB: The word “who” because sometimes it’s “who” and sometimes it’s “hoo”
MM: abdomen, I think it’s kind of funny

My kids still have no idea what funny means.

What is the hardest/easiest thing to do?

BB: a present giving up / getting excited.
MM: to make a tent upstairs / to read a chapter book

BB: swim / use my kindle
MM: social studies / creative mode minecraft

These answers are boring but accurate.

What is the best/worst thing in the world?

BB: a present with a doll in it / um… a ring.
MM: The best thing in the world? Wow – sun. / I think that is rain.

BB: my BFFs / my enemies I guess?
MM: YOU! / I don’t know.

I have no idea who my daughters enemies are but apparently they are the worst thing in the world. MM has never encountered the worst thing in the world but I guess it isn’t rain anymore.

What makes you mad?

BB: a computer (I swear she’s just looking around the office and naming things)
MM: sometimes when I don’t get my way, that’s one thing.

BB: when something is really hard and frustrating
MM: sometimes my sister storms out of the room.

I think my kids only understand anger when they are feeling it. They were totally at a loss here.

What is the meaning of love?

BB: a heart
MM: well, it means that you really like something.

BB: hope
MM: happiness

This. All of this.

If you had all the money in the world, what would you do with it?

BB: I would… buy something.
MM: Huh… I would buy a lot of things…

BB: I would buy jewelry and a bunch of dress up clothes that I love.
MM: Like infinite money?? I would buy a lot of stuff, I would buy a mansion and a dog that does not bark. I would become Tony Stark and I would have a lot of nice food.

Neither of them offered to buy me anything. I don’t know how I feel about that.

Let me know if you and your kids play along!

5 Dystopian Novels for Middle Schoolers.

Dystopian novels are one of my absolute favorite genres of literature but it’s a heavy genre that is hard to recommend to your own children. Like, I loved The Hunger Games but I’m not sure I want my eleven year old reading about a reality show where children are forced to murder each other. It’s a lot. But he’s at a great age to dip his toe into the world of dystopian novels so I spent some time researching possible titles to recommend to him. I thought I’d share my findings with you.
51M5034KtPLThe City of Ember
by Jeanne DuPrau
was one of the first titles I found after a quick search. It’s recommended for kids as young as 8 so you don’t have to stress out too hard about recommending this title.

The city of Ember was built as a last refuge for the human race. Two hundred years later, the great lamps that light the city are beginning to flicker. When Lina finds part of an ancient message, she’s sure it holds a secret that will save the city. She and her friend Doon must race to figure out the clues before the lights go out on Ember forever!

Common Sense Media agrees that it’s appropriate for kids 8+ and had no notes of warning for parents. It’s also available as a graphic novel if your kids are as into that as mine.

61QU-tHlj6LLegend by Marie Lu is recommended for kids in the 7th grade and up on Amazon. Common Sense Media recommends 12+. This one isn’t quite as squeaky clean with one passionate kiss and alcohol is served but the main characters do not partake in it. It also contains a fair amount of violence.

From very different worlds, June and Day have no reason to cross paths – until the day June’s brother, Metias, is murdered and Day becomes the prime suspect. Caught in the ultimate game of cat and mouse, Day is in a race for his family’s survival, while June seeks to avenge Metias’s death. But in a shocking turn of events, the two uncover the truth of what has really brought them together, and the sinister lengths their country will go to keep its secrets.

51ql88jksmLThe Giver by Lois Lowry has the stamp of approval of my actual child. He read it in school this year and loved it (thus sparking my desire to find more books for him in the same genre). Common Sense Media recommends this one for ages 11+. There are very mild sexual references and some scenes that might be disturbing (the main character witnesses his father euthanizing a baby) but it’s a classic that opens up a lot of room for discussion.

The Giver, the 1994 Newbery Medal winner, has become one of the most influential novels of our time. The haunting story centers on twelve-year-old Jonas, who lives in a seemingly ideal, if colorless, world of conformity and contentment. Not until he is given his life assignment as the Receiver of Memory does he begin to understand the dark, complex secrets behind his fragile community.

51io7AeVp4LThe Maximum Ride series by James Patterson is recommended for kids 11+ on Common Sense Media. The only real warning for this one is that it’s pretty violent. “There are broken noses and bones, knocked-out teeth, and some deaths, guns, explosions, and car chases.”

This one feels a little more science fiction / fantasy than Dystopian but I think it still  fits the bill of being recommended alongside the other titles.

Fourteen-year-old Maximum Ride, better known as Max, knows what it’s like to soar above the world. She and all the members of the “flock”–Fang, Iggy, Nudge, Gasman and Angel–are just like ordinary kids–only they have wings and can fly. It may seem like a dream come true to some, but their lives can morph into a living nightmare at any time…

51yBE-faNyLThe Maze Runner by James Dashner was made into a movie a few years ago so it might already be on your radar. Common Sense Media recommends this one for 13+ but kids and parents reviewing seem to agree on 12+.

It’s compared to Lord of the Flies and The Hunger Games. Some consider this one more violent than The Hunger Games so you’ll want to use your judgement on what factor make the book age appropriate for your kids.

When Thomas wakes up in the lift, the only thing he can remember is his name. He’s surrounded by strangers—boys whose memories are also gone.

Outside the towering stone walls that surround them is a limitless, ever-changing maze. It’s the only way out—and no one’s ever made it through alive.

Then a girl arrives. The first girl ever. And the message she delivers is terrifying.

Remember. Survive. Run.

Have you read any of these? Do you agree with the age recommendations? Are there any books I missed that you would recommend?

Then and Now: Family Photos

Every year we go to my husband’s office on New Years Day (sometimes New Years Eve) and explore some of the new buildings and take some family photos. Each building has a different theme and their artwork lends itself to some fun pictures. Back in 2014 we stumbled across this giant tractor and the kids were obsessed with it.

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We stumbled upon the tractor again this year and the kids were, once again, all over it. I snapped a bunch of pictures and had to share one here along with the photo above so we can all oooh and ahhh and clutch our ovaries over how much the kids have grown in just a couple years.

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Seriously. I literally cannot even.

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On mothering in the Septembers.

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Dear MM,

I wanted to apologize for the quality of our afternoons over the last few weeks. Is it weird for me, your mother, to be apologizing for bad behavior? I’ll tell you a Secret that grown ups often don’t want their kids to know: we have no idea what we are doing. I certainly don’t. Despite having ten years of parenting experience under my belt, I’m still largely figuring out how to do this.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t given an owner’s manual when I had you and I’ve spent the last ten years figuring it out as I go. Sometimes I think I’ve got it all figured out and I make lists and plans and laminate things and pat myself on the back for having it down. But then life happens; and when life doesn’t follow my schedule, I have a tendency to get cranky about it. And sometimes you bear the brunt of that crankiness, along with your sister and father.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve relied heavily on your good nature, your helpfulness and your ability to adapt to any situation and roll with the punches. You make me so proud – I don’t know if you realize this, but I brag about you to pretty much anyone who will listen; about how smart, clever and kind you are. About how much you help out around the house and how you never cease to rise to the occasion in life. Sometimes I may take advantage of these things, but I want you to know that I appreciate them.

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You have a lot of responsibilities these days between private school, karate classes, cub scouts and chores around the house and I know you are working your butt off to balance it all. But like every September before this one, we are having a hard time making all the pieces fit right now and I have been dumping my frustrations on you a lot. That isn’t fair to you.

As your mother, I’m supposed to pick you up when you fall and encourage you to keep trying. I’m supposed to tell you that it is okay to fail sometimes and that there are always opportunities to start over and try again. I’m sorry that I sometimes forget how to be that person. It’s not always easy to set aside my own frustrations and problems.

A lot of these frustrations don’t have much to do with you. It’s just me worrying about money and when to cook dinner and feeling bone tired from figuring out the flow of this new school year. It’s me trying to control things that cannot be controlled. It’s not about you.

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Sometimes I forget that you are a ten year old kid, doing the best you can. Ten year olds aren’t supposed to spend all day stressed out about these things – that’s what moms are for. I rely on your helpfulness a lot but sometimes I have to remind myself that some things are not your burden. You shouldn’t have to worry about the cost of karate lessons or when I’m going to make dinner and you shouldn’t have to carry the weight of my frustrations. You have your own frustrations to deal with and I’m sorry that I haven’t been a very good cheerleader for you lately.

I’m sure you know how hard it can be to calm down when you are upset – sometimes you take it out on others even when you don’t mean to and even though you’d probably rather calm down and find a rational solution, sometimes the temptation to wallow in our problems is too strong. I’ve taught you little tricks over the years to calm down, but sometimes I forget to do them myself.

Did you know that when people are frustrated they tend to take it out on the people they feel the safest around? That means that sometimes I’m going to throw temper tantrums around you because you are my safe place – that doesn’t make it right and it doesn’t mean that they are your tantrums to control. I want you to know that people can be upset around you and that it doesn’t mean they are necessarily upset with you. Sometimes emotions just point in the wrong direction and it can take awhile to realize you’ve been misfiring them.

I’m not saying I’m never going to dump on you again. I’m human and I’m imperfect and I have a tendency to relearn some things constantly. I know you will spend much of your life trying to learn how to balance it all, too, but for now I want you to focus on being ten. Have fun at school, work hard, dream big and know that even when I am ragging on you about things that I am still your number one fan and that I’m proud of you. There will be good days and bad days for all of us and sometimes we won’t get it right. That’s what tomorrow is for.

Love,

Mom

 

6 Favorite Memories of Summer 2016 (So Far)

My kids go back to school in like 27 days which sounds absurd but also appropriate because we’ve been out of school since Memorial Day and we’ve had a fun filled, busy summer that isn’t even over yet. We’ve still got some fun summer memories to make in the next couple of weeks, but I thought I’d share some of our favorite summer moments so far, at the bidding of Mama Kat’s Writer’s Workshop. Per her instructions, here are 6 of our favorite memories from this summer (so far).

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Sunsets on the river at our campground in June. We went camping for 5 days last month which was craziness and awesomeness.

You can read more about the trip here.

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I took my ten year old to a Mallards baseball game with his cub scout pack and I have to say it was probably my best experience at a baseball game with the kids ever. We had fantastic weather, good seats and I think having just one kid to dote on made it easier to relax and have fun while we ate our weight in walking tacos and cotton candy.

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We did two weeks of swim lessons last month (we’ll be doing another two week session in a couple weeks) and I continue to love the pants off the pool and swim instructors. Small class sizes and enthusiastic swimmers who come out of the pool lamenting that the classes aren’t longer are just two reasons we love it there. A shady spot to catch up with a good book while they are in the pool does not hurt either.

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My little girl turned seven last week and we celebrated over the weekend with so many good friends who joined us for a Wild Horses Party which almost didn’t happen when massive storms and a sensible husband who pointed out that our house was too small to hold all of us indoors threatened to ruin our fun. Then my sweet friend who lives nearby volunteered her home at a moment’s notice to host the party and after a frantic dash to transport all of the party supplies and food and then actually set up, frost the cake and fill goodie bags…

I took a deep breath and looked around at all of these wonderful friends we have made in our new town (yes it still feels new after seven years – shhhhhh) who gathered around us to celebrate, who offer help and support when needed and who don’t bat an eyelash when I’m not at my level best and love me anyway. We had a great night filled with bandanas and plastic horses, carrot cupcakes and crock pot bratwurst, a gaggle of giggling children and good conversation with some of our favorite people.

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For years bowling was rather hit or miss for me with the kids. Those balls are so heavy and my kids are so clumsy and for a long time it was more work than seemed worth it for the sake of a casual day out. But at seven and ten, my kids are finally at an age that lets them bowl pretty much independently and they only scare the pants off of me occasionally when they fling that ball down the lane. We’ve been making major use of the Kids Bowl Free program, meeting up with friends on weekday mornings to escape the muggy heat and catch up while the kids work on becoming Star Bowlers and drink slushies.

13619817_1248273465217888_13476747633771453_n It’s been a summer of movies this year between date nights, family outings and girls night out, I’ve been truly pampered. I swear most years I see 3 movies in a year if I’m lucky but we’ve somehow managed to see Finding Dory, X-Men Apocalypse, Captain America: Civil War, Love & Friendship, Popstar, Me Before You, Secret Life of Pets and Ghostbusters this summer. Thanks largely in part to our theater’s Five Dollar Tuesdays.

These are six of my favorite memories from this summer thus far.

What have been some of your favorite moments?

My Morning Routine: Keeping it Real

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I was reading this article at Nutrition Stripped about how she creates her morning routine because don’t all mothers wish the mornings ran more smoothly? I definitely see room for improvement in mine. Her routine obviously sounds amazing but reading her article I noticed two things:

  1. Her morning routine starts at 5:00 a.m. Like intentionally. Anybody who knows me knows that this is laughable. My husband has tried to get me to wake up earlier but my body doesn’t acknowledge common sense that early. If I have to get up at 6am to get the kids to school by 7, most of that hour is technically still spent in bed. I’ve learned to shout commands with my eyes closed, literally.
  2. Throughout her morning of meditation, Matcha tea lattes, walks in the park and infrared sauna routines, I didn’t notice any children asking for cheerios or carefully planting LEGOS under her feet as she walked.

Now I’m not saying that having kids precludes having a relaxing morning routine. I know plenty of mommas that achieve this and most of them are those annoyingly clever early rising mommas. They are my heroes. But I am saying that our situations are a little different.

I still think my morning routine could use some improvement though. Here’s what it looks like during the summer:

giphy7:00am : My bed does the wave as my husband gets out of bed. Or maybe he’s been up for an hour and he’s lifting it up and down now to spite me. Who can say? He murmurs something about clever people waking up early and I throw the blankets over my head and try to pretend I don’t hear him.

giphy37:15am : Subconsciously I am awake now but my body cannot move yet. So I start mentally throwing together a to do list for the day or think about all the things I sucked at doing yesterday.

7:30am : My alarm goes off because good intentions. This makes me immediately exhausted so I hit snooze. Didn’t I, like, just fall asleep?

7:40am : I swear I just fell back to sleep but my alarm is going off again. How rude! I’ll press it just one more time, I swear

giphy47:50am – 8:20am : Somewhere in this time frame I give up the ghost because the kids are shouting under the door about things like Minecraft and oatmeal and how hard they can hit each other.

giphy58:30am : Acknowledge bladder. Stare at my empty closet and think about the laundry I need to fold. Find a shirt I don’t hate and put that on so that I can call myself dressed.

8:40am : COFFEE. I should eat breakfast, too, but I can’t think about that because I haven’t had coffee yet. I ask the kids if they have eaten and usually the answer is yes. I ask if they put their dishes in the sink or dishwasher and usually the answer is no. I goad them into chores and have them feed the dog if this hasn’t happened yet. My kids are independent rock stars, this was not an accident.

giphy6 8:50am : Find somewhere to sit and drink my coffee. Preference is usually for in my office so I can check my email or in the living room where I might catch up on an episode of tv. Either way, I will do this for at least half an hour  or until obligations present themselves. Every two minutes a child will ask to play Minecraft or use their kindles and I throw out alternate suggestions like reading or drawing pictures or doing jumping jacks until about the 8th request when I’m grumpy and give in.

giphy109:30am : My coffee is gone! We should do something productive like humans! Let’s get ready for swim lessons or go to the park or visit the library!!!! What do you mean you aren’t dressed yet? What have you been doing all morning? How did you lose one shoe? No you cannot wear that! You can’t be hungry, didn’t you just eat? Hurry up!

giphy89:50am : Halfway to wherever we are going I realize I didn’t eat breakfast and my socks don’t match.

So clearly there is room for improvement.

What does your morning routine look like?

ps: During the school year you can erase everything after 8:40am and move the time frame up an hour and a half.

Summer Reading B-I-N-G-O!

We have no shortage of summer reading programs here, some better than others (Barnes and Noble’s took roughly twelve minutes; a local used bookstore is strictly keeping track of minutes read which sounds like homework). We’re rolling deep in reading lists but when I saw this post at Mom’s Radius I couldn’t help myself. I dove headfirst into Picmonkey and created this:

summerreadingbingoYou can steal mine or you can make your own – it was really pretty easy. The hardest part was coming up with ideas to fill all the spaces. I changed them up a little bit for each kid to suit their age and interests. And of course there is a chance that my kids will say, “oh cool” and then forget all about it. That’s okay, too. Summertime and the livin’s easy, right?

Our Summer un-bucket List.

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The kids are officially on summer vacation and that means that Pinterest is blowing up with bucket lists again and my blog feed is full of ways to make the summer amazing. I’ll admit, I get sucked into the excitement of three months to jam pack my kids’ lives full of memorable summer moments to savor for a lifetime. Even though my childhood wasn’t like that at all. And yours probably wasn’t either. When I was a kid, summer just meant there was no school. We played with friends longer, spent more time in the backyard and ate popsicles. Other cool stuff happened, obviously – summer has a tendency to find fireworks and parades and family vacations. We’ll do that stuff.

But this year I’m taking a break from bucket lists for two reasons:

  1. Our summer calendar already looks insane just with LIFE STUFF. Family visiting us, us visiting family, camping, weddings and friends about to give birth, a couple of swim lessons thrown in for good measure. My friends and I have been lamenting about how ridiculous our weekends are already shaping up to be this summer – but many of my weekdays are still relatively calm. Why would I ruin those calm breaks in the storm of summer fun stuff that I know we’re going to need? I know myself and if I don’t give myself a healthy smattering of do nothing days, I get cranky. And cranky summer moms are no fun.
  2. Just for the sake of gauging the kid’s expectations, I had them make a list of five things they want to do this summer (each). A few minutes later they came back with their lists – my son (10 years old) wants to have a lemonade stand apparently, play fetch with the dog, play video games with his dad, hang out with his best friend and ride scooters. My daughter (nearly 7) wants to play princesses with me, play Minecraft with anyone who will join her, go for a walk, play Little Big Planet (another family favorite video game) and go to church at least once. Um, guys, how precious and simple and perfect are these lists? The most extravagant plans they have in mind are a lemonade stand and the glorious idea that we might let them play ALL the video games.

They’ve worked hard all school year and done all the things. If what they want this summer is to relax, chill and enjoy the much earned downtime they have coming to them: I don’t want to take that away from them. We’ll find our memories as they come to us – whether it’s a picture perfect firefly catching night in the backyard, a five hour marathon on the playstation or a competition to see who can take the longest nap – it’s going to be a great summer. And my goal is simply to try not to organize it to death.