Monday, September 30, 2013

40/40 Club

About a month ago, C was racing around our house and crash-landed on the kitchen floor.  I'm not exactly sure how it happened, but I do know that I used the phrase, "Was that a body or a ball that I just heard?" And after a moment's hesitation, he called back to me, "Well, it was a body."  He picked himself up and continued playing but soon began to complain of pain "inside" his knee.  When he was still limping an hour later, we called our chiropractor who did a quick at-home adjustment before heading to the movies.  (Small town perks)  It turns out that he had twisted his knee just out of place when he crashed on our floor, and after a quick pop, he was good as new.

Last night, we had almost an exact repeat of the first injury.  Only this time, we had to wait out the night before we could see the doc.  When Mase took him in to the chiropractor's office this morning, they took his height and weight and officially announced that he's part of the 40/40 club.  He's 40 inches tall and 40 pounds heavy.  He's growing up in so many ways and he's one big, happy, boy.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Some things that I've said or heard in our house in the past week...

A little glimpse into Spahnville for your pleasure:

"Charlie, the lamp is not a fire pole."

"Daddy? Is it called Moose Tracks because it's moose poop in the ice cream?"

"Mommy, do you want to feel my big digger?"

"Charlie, Lincoln Logs are to be used for building.  They are not hockey sticks."

"Mom! Don't touch that!  It's NOT a box! It's my stinky boat filled with yucky frogs!"

"I didn't have a accident.  Just a little pee came out and got on my underwear and got them wet."

"Lula doesn't take showers.  She doesn't have a bath or a tub or a scrub a dub dub" (This "scrub-a-dub-dub is a reference to one of his favorite books, "If I Built a House")

"Babe? Are my grey hairs platinum or grey?"  "Grey.  Definitely"

"It's okay Mommy.  I was maybe doing something I shouldn't have been doing and I just choked a little."

"Charlie, your new [Dora] bubbles smell awesome!"
"I don't think they really smell awesome.  They smell like Dora's butt."

PS:  The pee comment was made by Charlie.  Although, if I'm being honest, it just as easily could have been made by me after sneezing or jumping on a trampoline.

Happy Friday, Friends.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Welcome, Autumn

September 22.  First day of Autumn!!  

Believe it or not, I am actually a lover of the changing seasons, and more shocking than that, I really do love fall.  I love digging out my sweaters and jeans and cute hats.  I love the seasonal produce lining the shelves of Hy-Vee.  I love brisk walks, and pumpkin patches, and tailgates.  I love the caramel apples my friend, Jackie, brings to me-- the ones that are maybe 5% apple and 95% caramel/M&M's.  I love picking up and dusting off my knitting needles, a hobby that I just cannot bring myself to do when it's bright and sunny outside.  I even kind of love when I accidentally ride my bike over a big ol' walnut and it squishes under the tire, staining tire and ground alike.

And while I love these things, I still love Summer the most.  It's my hands-down favorite season.  I love when the mercury rises above the 80 degree mark. I love being forced to wear tank tops and not thinking twice about the bat wings I've developed where my triceps used to be.  I love that unless it's raining, like downpouring, the weather is just fine for a few good hours outside (walking, playing, biking, swimming, etc.).  I love that the sun wakes you up at 5:00 and that same sun doesn't even dip below the horizon until close to 9:00.  I love that our deck gets used, really used, because we're always crafting or creating or eating on it.  I love that the house is surrounded by flowers in full bloom-- flowers like petunias and marigolds that thrive in full sun.  Their motto is mine:  The more sun the better.

But when I sit back and really reflect on why I love summer so much, the weather is only a piece of the equation.  (Okay, it might be a pretty big piece-- but still, just a piece.)  Perhaps an equally large piece of the equation is the connectedness I feel during the summer months.  I feel more connected to the Earth. I feel more connected to my family--without the daily hassle of keeping up with work demands. I feel more connected to myself-- with extra time to exercise, meditate, read, and prepare more healthy meals.  And I feel more connected to other people.

During the summer, making and keeping connections with others is almost effortless.  We see people at the pool or parks or on long walks around town.  We spontaneously share play dates and dinners and good conversations.  I find myself helping out neighbors by watering gardens, watching dogs, and picking up mail.  I've realized that all of these things help me feel that sense of belonging that we all need and want.   And while I tend to think of myself as an "introverted-extrovert", I have to admit that when I'm connecting with others (in relatively small settings), I'm feeling my best.

So when the temperature drops and we dig out the sweaters and hats and mittens, we also close up our houses.  We clean out flower beds, we take down decorations, we pack away the summer toys.  We switch the lawnmower out for the snowblower and trade fans for ice scrapers.  We put the patio furniture in storage-- for we know nobody in their right mind will be sitting outside in the months to come.  We close our doors and windows.  We shut the garage.  We retreat inside.  And there we stay.

I don't think it's anyone's intention for a disconnection to happen in the winter months, but it's almost inevitable with everything closed up and packed away.  I have to admit that I'm a little nervous about holing up too much in Spahnville this winter.  Last winter was rough-- as in, really rough.  And though it was rough for many different reasons, I think part of my unease stemmed from the lack of connections I had with others during those months.  I'm hoping to continue to nurture the relationships we had this summer, even if our meetings can't be as impromptu as they occur during the summer months.

Afterall, how can you make things like spontaneous, "poor man's waterslide/ white trash slip 'n slide night" happen in the middle of the winter?  I'm not sure either-- but I'm definitely going to keep these photos handy --ready to glance at on a cold winter day, when I need a reminder of the importance connections and sunshine play in our lives.  

I had great visions of a chummy, arms-around-each-other, big toothy grin photo, but this is as close as I came to that shot with two three year olds and a two year old.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

If You Give a Mom a Night Off...

Last night I had a few hours of free time in our own house.  It inspired me to write this little ditty: 

If you give a mom a night off, she'll decide to get caught up on her scrapbooks.

She'll head downstairs to her craft room and realize she needs some music.  So she'll dig out a bunch of old cd's.

The old cd's will remind her of college so she'll decide to look through some college pictures.

On her way to get the photo album, she'll pass the kitchen and see there are a few dishes to do.

She'll do the dishes and the bubbles will remind her of laundry soap so she'll throw in a load of laundry.

In the laundry room, she'll see a pile of wrinkly clothes so she'll decide to do some ironing.  She'll haul the ironing upstairs and get out the ironing board.  The pattern on the ironing board will remind her of a vintage tablecloth picturing fresh veggies.

Fresh veggies will remind her of the excess of tomatoes and onions and peppers on her kitchen counter.  She'll decide to puree the tomatoes and slice the veggies to store in the freezer.

She'll take the veggie scraps out to the cornfield and notice the plants that need watering.  The dry soil will remind her of the spider plant on her counter that needs to be transplanted.

She'll head to the basement to find a larger pot for her spider plant and will discover her acrylic paints.

The paints will remind her of the doorstop she's been meaning to paint.  She'll grab the paints and head outside to find a rock to use for the doorstop.

On the way outside, she'll trip over the laptop cord and notice the computer is almost dead.  She'll plug it in and decide to check her email.

Checking her email will make her think of all the things she accomplished tonight.  She'll want to write them all down so she'll go find a pen.

The pen will remind her of writing and journaling in her scrapbooks.  She'll browse Etsy for new scrapbooks and think about buying one.

And chances are, if a mom buys a new scrapbook, she'll need a night off to work on it.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

The Art of Storytelling

Lately, C has added "Tell me a story" to his plethora of stalling techniques used before going to bed. Honestly, this part doesn't bother me too much because quite frankly, storytelling is one of my favorite things to do.  Usually, he'll want to hear a story about "When you were a little goyl" so I'll tell him random things about my childhood, and try to embellish them just enough so they reach the five minute mark.

As bland and boring as these stories are, he always wants to hear more-- which is kind of wearing me out a little.  (My childhood was great but producing story after story about adventures on 3rd Ave East is getting tougher.) So the other night, I suggested that we create a story together.  Brilliant.  He was stoked.

We whipped up a little story about a bunny (he has a stuffed bunny) who ventures over to his friend's house (the home of Puppy--another stuffed animal).  On the way, Bunny sniffed out a hungry fox and high-tailed it home to the safety of his brambly burrow hidden away from the hungry fox.  Neat, tidy, all wrapped up and time for bed.

Except it wasn't.  And by now, you would think that I know my child well enough to expect a bazillion questions about the story we had just made.  But being the slow learner that I am, it didn't even dawn on me that now he had a whole new stall tactic up his sleeve.  It went something like this:

"Good Night Charlie." 

"Night Mommy." 

(I tiptoe out of the room.... I make it almost as far as the living room-- approximately twelve feet away.)   I hear the following:

"Mommy?  Can you come in here?"  (So I go in there.  Bad move.)
"What's up Buddy?" 
"Mommy, how could the bunny smell the fox?"
"Well sweetie, bunnies have pretty good noses.  Goodnight Buddy."
"Mommy? Do bunnies have a big nose?"
"Maybe some.  I think they're usually pretty little though. Goodnight Buddy."
"Was Bunny's nose a little pink nose?"
"Not sure.  Goodnight." (I'm creeping out the door again.)

"Mommy? Where was the bunny when he smelled the fox?"
(deep calming cleansing breath) "Not sure.  Probably on the trail. Night night Charlie."
"Was he walking?"
"Mommy? Did the fox go to look for Puppy?"
"You know what?  I don't know.  I think the fox was just out minding his own business and smelled a bunny.  Or maybe he didn't even smell the bunny because he was probably so tired and just wanted to go back to his den and go to sleep.  Which is what you should do.  Goodnight." 

"How did Bunny run fast to his burrow?"
"Cuz he's a bunny Charlie.  They're quick."
"Was Bunny's mommy in the burrow?"
"She was probably sleeping.  Or maybe drinking bunny wine.  Probably doing shots."
"Could the hungry fox get into Puppy's house? Did the puppy live in a doghouse?"

At that point, I told Charlie that I'm not really sure what all happened to Puppy and Bunny but that I'm sure he could dream all about it.  He wasn't sold on that answer but I somehow managed to slip out the bedroom... this time I made it all the way to the kitchen before I heard:

"Mommy?  I'm firsty.  Do you think the Bunny got firsty when he ran away from the hungry fox?"

Sigh.  Pour wine.  Take a deep breath.   Write down these stories because someday, they'll provide me with nothing but humorous nostalgia, and all hints of frustration will be long forgotten.

Monday, September 9, 2013

This is Panther Town

Charlie calls the mascots, "The Big Kitty" or "The Duck".  We call them The Panthers or The Duhawks. (Don't worry, nobody else knows what a Duhawk is either.)  My and Mason's respective alma maters, The University of Northern Iowa and Loras College share team colors of purple and gold. So while our house is technically divided on who we're cheering for, at least we're all sporting the same colors.   

But this past weekend, Spahnville was a Panther house. 

It all began with Breakfast with TC and TK (The UNI Mascots).  For the bargain price of five bucks, we were treated to a pretty scrumptious breakfast and one on one time with the mascots.  

Nora couldn't have been more thrilled.

Charlie was a little hesitant, refusing to shake hands or give high fives or knuckles at first.  When I asked him why he didn't want to participate, his little lip trembled and he told me, "My hands are all dirty and the lady said not to touch them if you're hands are sticky."  When I assured him that it was all right to give them a high five, he reluctantly agreed, then warmed right up. 

After we finished eating breakfast, we had a photo op with both mascots.  Miss Nora was overjoyed-- we pretty much had to pull her off the two of them when it was finally time to leave.  (I think they were smitten with her too.)

Later, we spent some time strolling around campus, reminiscing about college life and days gone by.  

Later that afternoon, we made our way to the Dome to watch the Panthers take on the Drake Bulldogs.  Since Uncle Ryan works for Drake, he scored us some tickets in the visitors' section-- but we weren't shy about donning our UNI gear.  Both kids loved the action of the game but let's not lie, they were most excited about the concession stand treats.  

(I have to admit that I love when Miss N insists on sitting next to Aunt Kari)

I love living in the Cedar Valley with so many opportunities to cheer on my Panthers.  And now, like so many other things, sharing these things with C makes it even better.  Here's to many more UNI events in our future.  Go Panthers!

Friday, September 6, 2013

Up North

We headed out of town on Wednesady afternoon, around 2:00.  We drove to Madison and then stopped at a park and ate a picnic dinner and let Charlie run around a bit.  He loved running the bases and we had an incredibly exciting pretend baseball game.  Then Mason and I timed eachother and my 40 year  old husband rand the bases in 13 seconds.  I was totally impressed and my number was not quite so good.  Maybe 19?  And I was really trying.

We arrived at the cottage that night shortly after ten.  Charlie fell asleep about ten minutes before we arrived, but managed to sleep through the night and wake up bright and early the next day.  We unloaded stuff as he slept and then we settled ourselves in. 

The weather was supposed to be great most of the weekend so we headed into town on Thursday and picked up some library books.  We’re the only family I know of that stops at the library the first thing on a vacation to ensure a fresh new stack of books.  Charlie found a ton of goodies and I picked out one for myself too.  After the library, we headed to get groceries and stock up for the weekend.  We were starving by the time we finished grocery shopping so we stopped at McDonalds for a bite to eat.  As much as it pained Mason, his wife and son loved the decision.  I loved that Mason overheard a lady comment on how well behaved Charlie was for his age.  Proud mama moment.

Even for short trips, we always load up on groceries and this time was no exception.  We especially loved the abundance of fresh produce stands off the beaten path.  Yum.

We headed back to the cottage and settled Charlie down for a little nap.  He napped and Mason and I relaxed a bit, watching tv and settling into the cottage.  I spent some time reading in the hammock and Mason surfed the channels. 

That evening, we headed down to play on the beach a bit.  Mason showed Charlie the big Styrofoam airplane.  He showed him how you could turn the tail to make it fly straight or loop, which was pretty entertaining for both Mom and Charlie.  Then we headed down to the beach.  The water was pretty choppy but it was nice enough to play outside in the sand.  We brought out the canoe and some floaty toys and had a great time.  Charlie jumped off the neighbor’s dock.   We ate noodles and salad for supper because we hadn’t given ourselves enough time to grill.  Oops. 

Friday was our Museum Day!  I love the NW Children’s museum because it’s so typical of the northwoods.  Only in the northwoods will you find an exhibit with a snowmobile stimulator and a “what to do if you fall through the ice”.  Don’t forget fishing and log-cabin life and all the other things the Northwoods provides.

Friday night we had a campfire down on the beach and roasted s’mores.  Charlie loved it and kept pointing out the stars.  He once looked over at me and said, “Mom, it really is a wonderful night to have a beach fire.”  I think my heart melted.  The three of us were so happy and content, watching the stars that Charlie kept calling “twinkles”.  Definitely a night that I want to capture in my memory vault.

On Saturday morning we woke up and relaxed around the house.  Charlie and I took a Nature walk down Denton Road and collected things.  The weather was absolutely gorgeous and we knew it was going to be a great day.

That afternoon, we drove over to Minackwa to the petting zoo.  Charlie had fun but not as much fun as last year.  On the way, we stopped and rode go-karts, which was pretty exciting to Charlie.  He kept calling them race cars.  We picnicked in the van before going into the zoo.  He fed a giraffe a little cup full of carrots.

After the zoo, we came back and played in the water.  We were down by the beach all afternoon.  Mason put the Iowa game on the radio and listened to it on the outdoor speakers.  (They lost to NIU) The water and weather were just perfect.  We hung out with the neighbors, DeYoungs for awhile.  They were coming off a boat ride.  Charlie made friends with their granddaughter, Brynn and the two of them played on the beach while the grownups chatted. 

That night, we grilled brats and ate quickly before having another fire down on the beach.  Charlie was thrilled to eat fudgecicles and s’mores before going to bed.  We weren’t too concerned with the calorie count that week! 

Sunday was supposed to be rainy and cold and though it didn’t rain, it was pretty chilly.  The three of us drove up to Bond Falls, MI to look at the waterfalls.  We enjoyed our hike down, although Charlie insisted that he didn’t want to go for a hike.  We took a few pictures by the falls and then decided to try hiking up the other side of the falls.  The trail is not well maintained, and it’s much rougher hiking but we were up for and adventure.  Charlie did a great job although he made me nervous any time he was close to the falls.  We found our way back to the trail head and then headed back to the cottage for lunch.

That afternoon, we killed time in the cottage, playing with toys and reading books and watching movies.  We went into Eagle River for supper, choosing Alexander’s over Log Cabin because we thought Charlie might be more apt to eat it.  Plus, the video games and pool tables kept him entertained while we waited.  We were all surprised that they serve their pizza on paper with no utensils—supposedly the traditional way to eat pizza in Italy.  We think they just don’t want to mess with doing dishes. 

Charlie had trouble falling asleep that night, after watching his movie, “PeterPan”.  But eventually he settled down and we had to wake him up the next morning.

Every other day, Charlie woke up at 6:30 and called out to us:  “Hey Guys!  Someone come get me! Somebody get me out of here!”  But of course, on the morning we needed to wake up at a decent time, he slept until we woke him around 7:30.  We threw the sheets in the laundry and washed a load of our clothes before packing the suitcase to head for home.  The weather was cloudy and cool, which made leaving the lake much easier. 

On the way home, we stopped in Waunakee to rescue Bunny, and then again in Verona to grab a quick ice cream cone at Michael’s.  Charlie loved the ice cream treat but was getting tired and fell asleep almost as soon as we hit the highway.  He slept until 6:30, and was still tired enough to fall asleep by 10:00 that night. 

We had a great trip and every time I go there, I can’t wait to go back again.  Mason and I seem to connect on such a good level and everything slows down (if it can slow down from Grundy Center) which makes things that much better.
The picture of Mason and Charlie in the canoe literally takes my breath away.  There was something magical in the air that night.  The water was calm, the breeze was light, and we were surrounded by nature as far and high as we could see.  The Northwoods of Wisconsin have become something of a spiritual place for me.  The daily hassles of life are lost and the tiniest gems, like the dimple in Charlie's right cheek and the weight of Mason's arm around my shoulder are intensified.  Things slow down.  We breath in the deep pine, we breath in the musty lake, we breath in each other.  And we eat fudgesicles.  All is well.  

We are blessed beyond words. 

And just as a side note, how did this little guy get so big in just a year?