Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Grateful for Right Now (November 2017)

I'm not sure why, maybe it's the gusty winds outside or the simmering pot on the stove or the fact that the holidays are literally right around the corner (like, in two days)... but I'm feeling all mother-ish and in-the-moment and grateful and I want to capture what's up in Spahnville at this exact minute. (Actually, at this exact minute, Anna is napping, Charlie is in school, Mason left for a meeting and I'm experiencing a rare moment of free time during the middle of the day.  I'm choosing to ignore  postpone the laundry and a few projects and just catch up for a minute.)

So right now is pretty good here.  Are you like me? Do you hate to say that out loud?? It's like as soon as you admit that things are going well and you actually feel content and the people around you are also in a pretty good place then the other shoe drops.  The shit inevitably happens--- but for now, things are good and life is pretty darn sweet.  So let's proceed to what's up right now.


Here are some words I could use to describe Anna:  (I had to look some of them up in the thesaurus) 
Energetic, exuberant, gregarious, persistent, resourceful, adventurous, clever, confident, creative, curious, dramatic, impulsive, fun-loving, good natured, funny, imaginative, lovable, kind, vivacious, self-sufficient, intelligent. 

Anna is curious about everything and is up for anything.  This combination can be dangerous-- or a lot of fun.  (Talk to me again when she's in college and see what I say....) She's highly imaginative and creates fun wherever she goes.  Anna loves people and is usually not shy-- unless she feels she's being asked to perform, in which case she kind of shuts down and hides her face in our pant leg.  Unfortunately, she isn't the greatest listener and is experimenting with running away from us in public.  After her most recent stunt in Target (where I almost had to find an employee to help with the search) I'm optimistic that she's going to stay forever by my side.  

While Anna is currently enrolled in dance class, it isn't something she looks forward to attending.  We've committed to continuing through Christmas, and then I think we'll give it a break. Music, however, continues to be her first love and she amazes me with her ability to hear a song and then repeat back the words and tune/ melody.  Current favorite sing-alongs include "Twinkle Twinkle" "Rain Rain Go Away" "Daddy Finger" the "ABC's" and "Happy Birthday".  In Anna's world, all the world truly is a stage.  She turns everything-- boxes, tables, rugs, chairs, etc. into a stage and belts out her most recent medley of songs for anyone within earshot.  (This is not limited to home performances-- she's put on some good shows at Barnes and Noble, Target, and the car dealership.) She also loves to throw in a little vibrato into her performances-- which everyone seems to enjoy.  

Anna loves playing with Barbies and babies, and is the most doting three-year old mother you will ever meet.  Her babies do seem to be in time-out a lot and we've heard them get several scoldings, "We don't say that!" "You no hit! We don't hit!" so we're hoping they turn their behavior around soon. When not playing with dolls, Anna runs Charlie's game with him (which severely annoys him) or watches Peppa Pig on the "pic-cuter".  She gets out of bed a hundred times after lights-out and is not allowed out of her room before 6:30 am.  (She wakes up around 6:00 these days...). If you ask her how much she weighs, she will tell you "fodey six" and if you ask her how tall she is, she will tell you "fodey six".  And if you ask her how old she is, she will tell you "dis meny" while holding up 3 fingers. She repeats "what" about ten times before you catch on and tell her not to do that-- which makes her burst into uncontrollable giggles.  (It seriously took me a million times to figure out that she was joking with me.)

This girl has just SO much personality packed into her little body.  She makes me absolutely craaaaazy and then the next second I want to eat her up because she's just the best thing that ever happened to me.  God, parenting is seriously the weirdest thing ever.  I couldn't love her more-- she is everything I ever imagined plus more than I could have ever hoped for.  I'm beyond grateful for this little miracle. 

Anna's current phrases: 
"Goodness for Gracious"
"Pic-cuter" (computer)
"Last morning...." (yesterday)
"Are you mean at me?" (Are you mad at me? Am I in trouble?)


Here are some words I could use to describe Charlie: Sensitive, Caring, Sweet, Empathetic, Deep, Dramatic, Imaginative, Compassionate, Contemplative, Considerate, Friendly, Earnest, Fun loving, Funny, Kind, Lovable, Trustworthy, Loyal, Perceptive, Playful, Popular, Reflective, Protective, Sentimental, Well-Rounded, Intelligent.

While preparing to publish this post, I realized that I have far fewer current photos of Charlie than Anna.  I swear that it's not because Anna is our favorite-- it's just that for as much as Anna is constantly putting on a show (and us taking pictures of it), Charlie is equally trying to deflect attention from himself.  Meaning, he isn't crazy about me taking pictures of him unless he's doing something specific or has company in the pics.

Second grade has really been a year of growth for Charlie.  Someone told me (Josie) that research indicates a child grows the most during their second grade year.  They grow physically, they grow academically, and they grow mentally-- more during that year than any other.  At first, I dismissed it as something a scholar wrote with little truth-checking.... but it's really holding true for Charlie.  He's shot up like a weed and is losing teeth left and right.  He's gaining so much confidence in academics-- especially math, which is an area he has to work at.  I'm so proud of him for the kid he is becoming and I hear such good things from other parents and teachers-- the kind of stuff that makes me feel like   Mason and I are doing something right, even though there are so many moments of chaos in our house.   He's also really branching out with new friendships this year-- keeping Keira close to his heart but making new friends and trying different activities.

Charlie loves computer games and screen time as much as the next kid, but he's equally interested in unplugged activities.  I used to fight his urge to plug-in, monitoring every second, setting timers, insisting on books and board games, and imaginative play until one day I looked around and realized, 'he's gonna be okay'.  Charlie loves to be outside, he's super creative when he's outside, he loves athletics and running, jumping, ninja-ing, you name it.  He makes lego creations, builds random shit out of scrap wood, and creates battlegrounds with Civil War soldiers.  He's not a child of the 80's-- but that's okay.  He knows how to find his game sites on our family computer, he watches "most extreme roller coasters" on YouTube Kids, he reads books on his Kindle, and he texts me Bitmojis from his iPod Touch (Not sure he realized his Bitmoji holding a sign "Fri-Yay!" was taking a plunge in a glass of wine.  I however, did notice and I also appreciated it.)  And you know what?  It's all okay.  We're all gonna be okay and sometimes I need to remind myself that I need to just chill the "F" out.  

At school, Charlie excels in reading.  I have no idea what 'level' he is or whatever.  I just know that he loves to read and often chooses reading for his free time activity.  He can talk to you about children's books and authors-- recently told me that his favorite author is Adam Rubin.  "You know, the guy who wrote 'Dragons Love Tacos', 'Dragons Love Tacos 2', 'Those Darn Squirrels', and 'Robosauce'?" Um, no--didn't know that but now I do.  Charlie has also been working on his own book, "Wendell the Worriless Worm".  We recently published it at home and he brought copies to his teacher and two friends.  Later that day, he came home insisting that we "publish" 14 more copies because all the kids in his class really wanted a signed copy of his first book. (Talk about sending his mama over the edge of "my dream child" cliff!)

When he's not reading or writing or playing, he loves watching ESPN and the current sport season.  He tends to root for winning teams (Any other new Eagles fans out there?) and loves telling us what everyone is "rankthed".  Apparently he plays football at recess and we're running a 5K on Thanksgiving together.  (He's been training all last week by doing burpies, push ups, and sprints in the basement.  I'll keep you posted.)

The only phrase that Charlie says consistently is: "Type Down" when he's suggesting we google something.  As in, "Mom, type down Worlds Most Extreme Waterslides".  I can't bear to correct him because it's one of my favorites.  So many things about this kid are just the most amazing thing ever.  Sometimes I find myself wondering what lives he's lived before because he just seems so wise on this other level.  (There is also the level that can't deal with his socks being too tight-- but I try not to dwell on that part.)  I'm so familiar with school-age kids and I kind of thought I'd whiz through these years with my own kids. I figured that nothing would really strike me because I'd heard it all-- but again, it's just not the case.  Because, like all parents out there, I think my kid is just something extra special.  He's all these amazing characteristics wrapped up in one growing, uncoordinated, messy, adorable little body.  I couldn't love him more-- he is everything I ever imagined plus more than I could have ever hoped for.  I'm beyond grateful for this little miracle.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

The Summer Bucket List. How Did We Do?

A'hem, everyone? May I please have your complete and total attention? I'd like to take a moment to officially acknowledge that summer is (and has been) over.  I held on kicking and screaming for as long as possible, even grew out my nails and clawed my way back to summer-- refusing to give up the flip flops or accessorize with scarves.  I left the sweaters boxed up and kept opening up the windows on sunny days and willed it to be warm (I wouldn't recommend this, by the way).  But you know what?  That wishful thinking did me a whole lotta crap 'cuz it's freaking cold here.  As in can't run outside to grab the mail barefoot, have to wear a coat, the wind bites your face and makes your eyes water, and recess duty totally 100% sucks.  My 6 out of 7 days of walking has dwindled to about   maybe 1 out of 14.  Everyone's bed is layered in flannel, my Smartwool socks are the first available, and the dreaded boots/ snow pants in correct sizes are ready for the s-word to arrive.  While all these thoughts of cold and snow and warm fires and LLBean catalogs make some people weak in the knees, I mostly just get annoyed.

During these days of cold and damp and wind, I find myself wishing for summer and all that it brings.  I crave sun and daylight that encourages us to wake up early and stay up late. I'm energized by the life and activity that is everywhere you look and I find myself not only motivated to start creative endeavors, but actually following through with them.  We let the days unfold easily, knowing that there are so many possibilities right at our fingertips.  Sometimes, this is a little overwhelming-- arriving at this moment that I have waited for all year-- to finally do all the things I look forward to doing.  My mind runs wild with possibilities of things and adventures for the kids and I--sometimes really needing to be reeled back in.  But this past summer, the kids and I decided to roll out a sheet of blank paper and let our ideas pour down like a summer thunderstorm (Anyone up for a "Walk in the rain"?).  Everyone participated-- no thought was too big or small, everything landed on the paper.  And at the end of it all, we were left with a pretty substantial list of hopes and dreams for the summer of 2017.

And how did we do?  While we didn't cross of everything, we sure did come close.  But more importantly, the list served as a constant reminder of all we wanted to enjoy during the summer.  It's easy for me to get lost in the daily grind and having the bucket list taped to our wall gave me a daily dose of inspiration to enjoy that all to fleeting season.  The kids (especially Charlie) loved crossing off items and I noticed that more often than not, we would spontaneously do something just because it's on the list.  "Hey, it's gorgeous outside and we haven't eaten breakfast on the deck yet!" or "Mom, we have to take off our shoes right now, I see mud on that sidewalk and 'muddy feet' is on the list!" or "I'm exhausted but making slime is on the list, should we just go for it?".  The list really helped me realize that while I claim to dive head first into summer and all that it brings, I sometimes do it with my eyes closed-- too lazy or half-hearted to fully enjoy the opportunities it brings.

....Which brings me back to today.  As much as I claim to despise this season of which we are entering, I do admit that beauty lies here too. (I'm just very reluctant to say it out loud.) Although the daylight is shorter, there are still 24 hours in the day and plenty of ways to fill them.  Of course it looks different than summer (and smells less like chlorine and sunscreen), but I'm sure it can look beautiful too (and smell like cinnamon and apples and fir trees).  Charlie, in all his wisdom, suggested that we do a bucket list for every season and while I initially dismissed the idea... I think it's on the agenda for Thanksgiving break.

Until then, here's a glimpse of our summer list with descriptions below.  Got any suggestions for next year? I'm not opposed to daydreaming already...

And here's how we did: 
Adventureland xtra T (extra time) √  Went in early June, & lines were awesome!
Eat Breakfast Outside √ Several times on the deck picnic table.
Felix Grundy Celebration √  Harris cousins came and watched the parade with us
Waterski √  At the cottage, with DeYoungs-- Charlie tried and Mama skied across the lake
Driveway Paint √  With sponges and chalk and washable paint
Ride Bikes to Holland √ Note to self: Do this later in the summer and not in 90° heat
Ama & Papa's House √  Kids spent a weekend, grownups went to Pipho's
"Pool Express" 
"Park Express"
Picnic √ At George Wyth, at P'burg, in the backyard
Boating √ With Pipho's and again with DeYoung's
Golf √ Daddy & Charlie.... the girls didn't get out even once
Library √ Too many times to count
Scavenger Hunt
Baseball Game √ Waterloo Bucks game
Mindy's √ In June...twice!
Lost Island √ Charlie and I went on the hottest day of the summer
Pipho's √ 4th of July and again with just the Moms & kids
Invite a Friend Over √ Plenty
Sleep in the Tent or Go Camping
Play Hide & Seek √ Spent an entire evening playing this at the cottage
Play Duck Duck Goose √ Anna's favorite thing to play while Charlie was at coach-pitch
Walk in the Rain √ With Kelly & Jay-- but Jay wasn't too okay with the thunder
Family Game Night 
Muddy Feet √
Zoo √ Minoqua zoo while at the cottage
Yoga √ Anna & Mama taught yoga on Fridays at the library
Climb a Tree 
College Hill Arts Festival √ Whole family, waited for 100 years at the OP for pizza, got rained on
Cottage √ Yes!!
Obsticle Course
Make Slime √ With Kelly, Turner, and Jay
S'mores √ While at the cottage
Fire Pit √ At the cottage, Gas fire pit almost every night on the patio
Jello Cake √ For Daddy's birthday
Dairy Queen, Ice Cream Cake √ At Burgess' house on Labor Day weekend--Justin drove the minivan
Teckenburg's √ 7 kids, 4 grownups, lots of food and drinks and laughter and tears and chaos 
Flynn's √ 3-night sleepover, 3 days for Mama with her bestie
Rothert's √ Swimming at the country club, out for Karen's show
Kayak √ At the cottage
Write a Book
Children's Museum
Swimming Lessons √ While at Flynn's.... Mamas walked the trail while kids swam
Bike Ride @ George Wythe √ Anna fell asleep, Charlie was the trailblazer
Hartman Reserve Nature Center
GC Pool √ Over and over and over and over....

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Cottage 2017

(Written and not published on September 14, 2017)

Now that the honeymoon has pretty much worn off at school, the kids' bedtimes have returned to 'normal', and our fall routine is in full swing, it makes sense that I finally post photos from our summer vacation to the cottage.  And while one would think that having an hour and a half at home in the afternoons would provide me with plenty of time to exercise, clean & tidy, read, knit, and update the blog.... those things just don't happen.  That being said, I do have several posts that I'm hoping to write that highlight some of our summer adventures-- I'll probably get to it in about two years.  (And that is probably wishful thinking)

So, back to the cottage.  We didn't think we would be able to go up this year due to our first inservice day being held on a Friday  (who does that, by the way!?).   But as the summer wound down, I felt the familiar tug of anxiety pulling at my tan lines.... and I knew we had to make the cottage somehow fit into our plans.  We ended taking a shorter trip than we usually do, but everything all worked out.  

After what felt like an eternity in the car (seriously, close to 10 hours after breaks and stops and more breaks and stops ) we arrived at the cottage and headed straight down to the lake.  

The water is so much higher than it has been in the past, due to a super rainy summer.  And, because the lake is a seepage lake and not spring fed, it is crystal clear.  Every summer I'm so shocked at how clear the water is-- the bottom is visible until you reach about 20 feet which is almost unheard of.  

The forecast looked a little questionable for the week, and we were hoping to have one, (maybe two?) good "sun days" where we could be out on the water the entire day.  But much to our (super grateful) surprise, the weather cooperated so well all week, and we could be found outside almost every day.  As is typically the case, our days unfolded easily and without too many plans.  Mostly, this involved lounging in our jammies, playing in the lake & testing out the new big floatie, relaxing in the hammock, riding scooters down Denton Road, running down to the beach to watch sunsets, hosting fires on the beach and roasting s'mores, kayaking, bird watching, and plenty of fishing.

Speaking of fishing, for some reason, the kids were obsessed with fishing this summer.  We always bring fishing poles and never use them.... so this year we didn't bring them... and ended up buying some.  (Augh!)  And honestly, the kids loved it.  Charlie mostly loved playing with the worms and while Anna was a little hesitant to dive into the worms, she eventually took the bait.  (Pun intended because I'm so clever.) 

On Tuesday, the weather was cool and cloudy so we headed to the petting zoo in Minocqua. The kids hugged and petted and held and cuddled as many furry little animals as possible.  Although, as I think about this, Anna's favorite was the tortoise which is neither furry nor cuddly and definitely not hold-able. 

They had a great time and could have stayed for another hour or two... but the sun had come out and Mama sensed a little beach opportunity....

On Wednesday, we could have hung out at home all day but there's this one thing that we do every time we come to the cottage in the summer and it's called.... Go Karts.  And because we have a 7 year old boy who now remembers traditions, there's no way we could have forgone this little activity.  We also headed into Eagle River to grab some ice cream and take part in the Paul Bunyan festival that was going on.  The town was buzzing with artists, musicians, food vendors, and beer tents. Mason and I grabbed a Shandy and then bought ice cream and fudge and taffy for the kids.  (And maybe some dark chocolate malted milk balls for ourselves) 

Anna fell asleep in the van on the way home but was up in time to enjoy a boat ride with our lake neighbors.  Charlie tried to waterski for the first time and was such a trooper (I think that story is worthy of a separate blog post) and our neighbor pursuaded me to ski too.  (Note to self: water skiing once every 10 years is not recommended and will make a person 3 months away from turning 40 very sore in the following days).  But hey, I got up on the first try, skied out of the wake, and didn't even wipe out!

Our neighbor's grandkids were the same age as Charlie and had a great time once they broke the ice...

We headed back to the cottage, ordered pizza (the best in my opinion) and ate it out at the end of the dock-- much to Charlie's annoyance because it really stressed him out. :) 

We headed home on Thursday and crashed in our own beds, ready to tackle the school year the following day.  It seemed a little surreal that summer had come and gone right before our eyes-- but rather than focusing on what is over, we're so grateful for the summer we had and we are intentionally choosing to focus on all the possibilities that stretch out before us.  Happy school year, my friends.