Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Number 12 (and Mother's Day)

I went to see Maureen Campion speak at my ECFE site last week. She discussed marriage and how to make it work, especially with young children. It was really interesting, and I wish Ben had been there, too. (One thing she said that particularly resonated with me was that mothers tend to lose their inner voice, forget who they are, when they have young children. I think this is especially true for me as a SAHM. When people I ask me what I am going to do when the kids go back to school I usually give them a blank look and then say, "Something..." I honestly have no idea.)

Anyway, I felt pretty good about our marriage after hearing Maureen's talk. We have our issues, every couple does, but we were in a good place before we had kids. And that has helped a ton. It also helps that Ben doesn't like to sit still, so he is always busy doing tasks that need to be done around the house. And I can't say enough about how much I appreciate the fact that he does the dishes every night while I collapse on the couch.

Another thing the speaker said was that when asked, women with small children first want to spend time alone, and then with friends, and then with their spouse. (While the man usually wants to spend time with his spouse, even sacrificing sleep.) I have to say this is true for me. As an introvert, I need that alone time and I rarely get it. I also feel refreshed after a night out with friends. Again, points to Ben for never complaining when I tell him I am going out.

That said, I still do want to spend time with Ben, too. Good, right? We were able to go out for our anniversary on Saturday night. We were both a little tired (hungover) from a neighborhood party on Friday night, but that didn't stop us from enjoying whiskey at Young Joni's hidden bar. We also shared a bottle of wine and devoured delicious pizza at Young Joni after our cocktail. It was very nice.

On Mother's Day, I received my usual Mother's Day flowers and a fitbit. I am excited to see if the fitbit helps.  I have been doing a better job exercising, but maybe this will provide even more motivation. We spent the day doing usual Sunday things (Clare and I went to Target together), but we made time for bloody mary's on the deck. (I am realizing this post makes it sound like I am constantly drinking. I'm really not.) Christopher spent a lot of time on his new bike while Clare did cartwheels in the yard. We had Ben's parents over for dinner and Ben grilled chicken kabobs. It was a nice day.

Clare brought this questionnaire home from school. 

Mother's Day snack at Starbucks.

Cheers to 12 years!

Christopher's moment of zen.

Monday, April 30, 2018

Bits and Pieces: April

I think it's March that's supposed to go in as a lion and out as a lamb, but this year it's April's turn. This weather is so beautiful, though. That's one thing about living in a state with a long winter - I really appreciate every sunny day. And the kids have been going crazy since the weather finally turned to spring - they are outside running around like maniacs every day. It is wonderful.

This month has been strange and sad in some ways. We had a death in the family and Clare's teacher had a serious illness. I am sad for some of my relatives who are grieving. The good news is that Clare's teacher is recovering well, and will hopefully be back to work full time soon.

On a happier note, Ben and I had a wonderful night to ourselves last weekend. I have been trying to plan a date night once a month. It seems like we go too long without having a conversation that doesn't involve child or house maintenance tasks. These date nights are really important for us to reconnect. My sister and brother-in-law gave us a very generous Christmas present this year: a gift certificate to Butcher and the Boar, along with the promise to take Clare and Christopher for a sleepover. We cashed in last weekend. We started with a few beers at Bauhaus, along with eleventy billion other people who wanted to enjoy the sunshine. Then we had a delicious dinner at Butcher and the Boar. (The best part were the whiskey cocktails: an old-fashioned for me and a whiskey sour for Ben.) It was so nice being able to sleep past 7 the next morning. Then, we went out to breakfast, just the two of us, at Tillie's Farmhouse. We did a lot of talking about the kids, and reminiscing about how we used to go out to breakfast almost every weekend before kids.

Spring Break feels like a year ago, but it was actually just at the beginning of this month. Weird. We had Easter here. We went to my friend Heather's annual brunch, which was fun as usual. I love the Easter egg hunt and the mimosas. We hosted Ben's parents' and aunt and uncle here for Easter dinner. I made kielbasa, warm potato salad, asparagus, and lime curd bars for dessert. The kids had fun hunting for their Easter baskets. We still have Easter candy, which I am doing my best to help get rid of. Don't tell Clare.

We spent Spring Break at my parents' house. Ben stayed here to work. It was a nice time, despite weather putting an end to our plans to visit my grandma. We took the kids to an indoor play area and they went sledding. I got to have dinner with my friend Christina, which was wonderful as always. My Aunt Karen and Ruth also came for dinner one night. We had a good time.

I've been busy with ECFE this month - we had our annual potluck on Friday. This may or may not be my last year on the PAC, since I apparently don't know how to say no.

I also had dinner with my friend Chrissy this month! We had gone way too long without seeing each other. I love seeing old friends and feeling like very little time has past.

We went to visit my grandmother and aunt in La Crosse this past weekend. She is going to be 95 this year! The kids always love visiting her, and do well in the car.

Clare has finished the second Harry Potter. I am making her take a break before she reads the third one. She is quite upset by this, but I am just not sure she is ready for the third one yet. They get pretty intense pretty fast. And she is only six.

The kids are both doing well. It has hard to believe how close we are to the end of the school year. Why does that always take me by surprise? Christopher's last day is May 25. Help. Way too soon.

Decorating Easter eggs.

I wonder how many more years I can hide his basket in the front hall closet without him remembering.

It took her awhile to find it, but she was happy when she did.

Spring break sledding. #wrong

These two adore each other.

When there's a blizzard, you put on a party dress and walk to the local kid-friendly bar.

Snowball fight.

On the snow day we got together with friends , went sledding, and had a massive kids vs. adults snowball fight.

Ben and I at Bauhaus.

"Will you take my picture? I want to see my style."

Thursday, April 19, 2018

On Purpose

When Ben and I moved back here 5 years ago, it certainly wasn't for the weather. I admit, I was in a foul mood about this weekend's blizzard, and having school canceled on Monday certainly didn't help. Last week, I heard someone on the radio say, "We live here on purpose. Just remember that." And that made me think it would do me some good to think about all of the reasons why we moved back here and why we plan to stay. That, along with they memory of the epic kids versus adults snowball fight that took place on Monday, is sure to help my mood.

  • Our neighborhood: friendly people, great parks, and the ability to walk to locally-owned restaurants, even in a blizzard.
  • Clare's school. A free, public Montessori school is a wonderful thing.
  • Christopher's preschool. We will miss this sweet school next year.
  • Living close to many family and friends, both old and new. (We do miss living near my parents. And I will probably wish forever, in vain, that my brother and his family will move here.)
  • Proximity to many beautiful state parks. Being within an easy drive to Minnesota's gorgeous north shore and the BWCA is not a small thing for our camping-loving family.
  • The Como Zoo, the Children's Museum, the Big Zoo, the Science Museum, the History Center, the Aquarium.
  • ECFE. Did you know Minnesota is the only state with this program? It has been a huge help for me, and I have made many friends in the neighborhood through my classes. And the kids love it.
  • So many delicious places to eat, if only I had unlimited funds and unlimited babysitters.
  • The Palace Theater and First Ave. And the Turf Club and even Xcel.
  • The Twins, the Saints, not the Vikings.
  • MIA and the Walker.
  • Hockey games at the U and the Minnesota United. (This one is for Ben.)
  • Surly, Lake Monster, Bauhaus, Indeed, Urban Growler,  Rails and Ales FTW.
  • Bike trails. The River Road. Minnehaha Falls and Wabun Picnic Area practically in our backyard.
  • The State Fair.
  • A plethora of options for summer camps and classes for the kids. We're already so busy this summer!
  • Many job opportunities for Ben and me.
  • Free ice skating at Groveland. Free sledding all over the place. Broomball. (Also for Ben.)
  • Coffee shops aplenty, including a local bean roaster and a coffee shop with an entire play area for the kids.
  • Coffee shops seem like a lame one to end on, but I can't think of anything else right now. What am I missing, Twin Cities friends??
There. I feel better. But spring, you are welcome any time. (Summer, don't get any ideas. We need at least a week of spring first, okay?)

Monday, April 9, 2018

Four and a half

He refuses to sit with the moose, so here he is on Easter morning.

I'm a few days behind with this, but here we are. Christopher is 4 and a half!

Despite being no longer remotely a baby, Christopher still has the most kissable cheeks in the world. And he still lets me kiss him, so I'll take it as long as I can. He likes to snuggle, and most mornings I wake up to find him laying in bed beside me. I could do without the night time visits, but it really bothers Ben more than me, and there is something sweet about finding him there in the morning.

He is becoming more articulate and interested in words. He can spell some short words, and recognizes his name. He still says pee-pano (piano), pizz-ya and ta-gar (guitar).

Christopher loves preschool. He is learning a lot, and comes home with interesting facts for us about a variety of topics. His favorite subjects have been outer space and dinosaurs. We had a conference with his teachers a few weeks ago, and they said he is doing well. He understands the school routine and participates. They said he is more interested in talking to the teacher than any other kids, though. Apparently he'll be inventing some game, and kids will go to play with him, but he can take it or leave it if he has company. I'm glad he is so independent, and I'm sure he'll be more interested in friends as he gets older. (And he does play well with his sister and dotes on his baby cousin Otto. He and Josie love to fight and antagonize each other, but they sometimes play nicely, too.)

We found out that he was accepted at Clare's school for pre-K next year. He'll go five mornings a week, and take the bus with his big sister. He has been enjoying watching her get on the bus for three years, so I think he'll be pretty thrilled when he gets to ride it himself. And it will buy me an extra 45 minutes every day, so yay for that.

Christopher is quite a comedian, both intentionally and unintentionally. We were having Easter dinner, and Christopher was dressed as Batman, as one does. He announced to us, "I am going to save the world when I am done here." This got a big laugh, of course, so he tried a second joke which involved poop. That got a scolding. He is still trying to figure out what will land and what won't.

He enjoys performing. The other night he said to me, "We are going to put on our super hero costumes and then we will dance." He told Ben he is going to be a stage singer when he grows up, but he will still live here. Ben: "If you are going to be a professional singer, that's probably true."

Some of Christopher's current favorites: "Here We Are" by Oliver Jeffers, Richard Scarry's "Best Word Book Ever", Rescue Bots, superheros (especially Batman), pizzya, all fruit, ta-sert (dessert), the sharks at the Aquarium, the Children's Museum (especially the big slide and the lasers), dancing and singing with his guitar, bouncy houses, balls and trucks and dinosaurs, Jupiter, the "Science is Real" album by They Might Be Giants, playing Super Mario Bros, his blankie (which is not so slowly disappearing), watching golf with his Baba, all four of his grandparents in general, his cousins, and of course, his best friend and sister Clare.

Some dislikes: Scary movies or scary parts in TV shows (he covers his ears and runs around the house). And I actually can't think of anything else. He's a pretty easy going kid.

And now, my interview with Christopher, in two parts. I am trying to do this every year. It might be hard to understand, but I find it entertaining. (And you will notice that he is really into potty talk, much to my annoyance.)

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Bits and Pieces: March

Okay, I have to say it. It snowed. Again. On March 31. I know this happens, a lot, in March. But every year I hate it.

Anyway, moving on. We had Clare's conference last week. She is doing really well. She is working above grade level in every subject, but reading is by far her best subject. My problem now is finding books that she enjoys and are challenging for her, but that are about appropriate subjects. She is currently reading the second Harry Potter, but I might make her stop with that one. She is also still really enjoying school, which is the most important thing.

I chaperoned a field trip to the History Center last week, and I have to say, I have a renewed appreciation for all the teachers do. It was stressful! But it was fun to see Clare's classmates in action, especially her best friends Natalie, Rainie and Colin. I hear so much about them.

Ben has been gone for quite a few Saturdays this month, which is always hard for me. I know he should be able to have activities outside of work, but I am with the kids all day every day, and look forward to getting a break on weekends. It has just made the month feel long.

That being said, I did escape for one weekend for my girls' weekend. I shouldn't complain about Ben being gone, I guess, since he never complains about me going away on these weekends. We rented a cabin near Luck, Wisconsin. It was a beautiful place on a lake. We shopped and had dinner at a traditional Wisconsin supper club (brandy old-fashioneds ftw)! It was a really nice break and I love getting to spend time with the four amazing women who were on the trip.

Ben and I went to see They Might Be Giants at First Avenue this month. Despite growing up in Minneapolis, Ben had never been to a show at First Ave!  I know, it seems impossible. The show was really fun. I bought the tickets for Ben for Christmas, so I am glad he had a good time.

My mom was here this past week, which was nice. She helped watch Christopher so I could do a few things during the week. I also went to my first PTO meeting, and I am going to start getting more involved with that next year.

And now it is Spring Break. We are spending Easter here. My friend Heather is hosting her annual brunch, and we are hosting Ben's parents and aunt and uncle for dinner. Then the kids and I are headed to my parents' house for the week. We are going to visit my 90-year-old Grandma, and I am so excited to see her!

Happy Easter!

The Aquarium on one of Clare's many days off this month.


One-on-one dinner with Clare.

Christopher with his bud, cousin Otto.

Saturday, March 3, 2018

The Oscars: 2018

It's that time of year again! I saw almost all of the nominees for Best Picture. Even with the Oscars airing later thanks to the Olympics, I still missed two. I guess I was too busy watching the Olympics to get to the theater. Sorry, Call me by Your Name and Darkest Hour.

In addition to the Best Picture nominees, I saw I, Tonya. Allison Janney was brilliant. I really liked it, and it fit in well with all of my Olympics watching.

I have to saw, this collection of nominees were not my favorite. I much preferred last year's movies. Anyway, here are my mini reviews.

7. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri: The more I thought about this one after seeing it, the less I liked it. The acting was excellent, and probably worthy of the Oscars Frances McDormand and Sam Rockwell are likely to win. However, the story itself was disappointing on many levels. I don't want to spoil it, but I'll just say that redemption via a letter from beyond the grave does not work for me.

6. Phantom Thread: Daniel Day-Lewis is always good, and I enjoyed the behind the scenes look at fashion in the 1940s. But then this movie takes a very bizarre turn that I am not sure I liked. Actually, I am sure. I didn't like it.

5. Dunkirk: This one was interesting. It's not your standard war movie. There is very little dialogue - the movie lets the action tell the story. As with most war movies, it is violent and hard to watch at times. It was an interesting way to tell a story, though.

4.  Shape of Water: This one managed to be completely unique and totally cliche at the same time. Basically, it's a love story between a woman and a giant man fish. If that doesn't sound interesting to you, I wouldn't bother with this one. (Also, there is some gruesome violence.)

3. Get Out: So good. So freaky. So happy this was nominated for Best Picture.

2. The Post: I really liked this one. I wish it was getting more awards love, because I thought it was really well done. It takes place in the 1970s, but is absolutely a commentary on Trump. As a former newspaper reporter, I always enjoy journalism movies. And you can't go wrong with Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks in your cast. People in the theater were actually cheering during this movie.

1. Lady Bird: This was beautifully shot, directed and acted. I was worried that it would hit too close to my future home as a story about a mother and her teenage daughter, but it really didn't. After this movie my friends and I noted that we are now old enough that we were sympathizing with the mother rather than the teenager. This was the first one I saw, and it ended up being my favorite.

Should Win: Lady Bird
Will Win: Shape of Water*

*This is the least confident I have ever been in my pick. We'll see if I can win the Oscar contest for the third year in a row!

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Bits and Pieces: February

Why is it that the shortest month of the year always feels like the longest? I've been struggling this month - anxiety rearing its ugly head again. I am just so ready for winter to be over. It doesn't help that a stomach through is making its way through each of us. I am still hoping to avoid it, knock on all the wood, fingers crossed, etc.

Clare and Christopher have been making the most of winter, though. Ben took them sledding last weekend, and they loved it. They were out there for hours. I am glad Ben enjoys doing these things with them, so I don't have to. I did take Clare ice skating on Sunday, though, and it did feel good to get some fresh air. Maybe I need to try harder to enjoy winter activities.

Ben and I joke that Clare is going to be a lawyer when she grows up, because she insists on arguing, debating, or negotiating with us at all times. (A trait she likely inherited from either her grandfather, an actual lawyer, or her Aunt Katie, noted pusher of buttons. When she was a kid. Not so much now.) Clare is good at it, too. She will quickly find flaws in any argument, or throw words back in your face that show that you did in fact not give her the punishment you thought you did. It would be annoying if I wasn't so impressed with her skillz.

Clare has become interested in cooking this month. She checked a cookbook out from the library and has been busy in the kitchen making meringues and a strawberry yogurt concoction. I am hoping this new hobby will help curb her picky eating. We shall see. School is still going well. She is very attached to her best friends Rainie and Natalie. She is doing mostly second grade work, which is once again a great benefit to being in a mixed age classroom. She is reading at a much higher level than that.  She enjoys reading about 5 books at once, something I can never do. She is currently reading the second Harry Potter, "Charlotte's Web", an American Girl mystery, and a book about the main female characters in Star Wars. At school, she is working her way through the Diary of a Wimpy Kid books. I have never read those, but she likes them.

Christopher has been learning about outer space at preschool. I have never seen him so excited about a topic, or so excited to go to school. Every day we play aliens after school. He is named Rock Man, and I am the Queen. (Of what, I have not a clue.) Rock Man lives on Jupiter, Christopher's favorite planet. He also likes to tell me about gravity and how it works. I have been digging out all of our books on space, and will need to find more at the library.

Ben gave me a game emulator for Christmas, so we have a lot of the old-school Nintendo games. Clare and Christopher love it. Christopher is actually pretty good. He quite enjoys playing the games during his allotted screen time.

He is doing better at skating - there are no more tears and he actually puts forth a bit of effort. I can tell he is also ready for winter to be over, though. He keeps asking to go camping.

This month we went to the Winter Carnival, and also checked out Rock the Cradle at MIA. The Winter Carnival always seems like a good idea, and then is always kind of boring. This year there were lots of out of towners there since it was Super Bowl weekend. Rock the Cradle was fun, but Christopher was a bit cranky. (It turns out he was sick.) I was proud of him though, because at one point we got separated and he took the initiative to ask a staff person to help him find his mom. (We were in the same room, we just lost track of each other for a minute.)

Ben and I took advantage of the Y's Parent's Night Out program this month and had a date night. It was nice, although I was unimpressed with the restaurant we went to. I am going to try to plan a date night every month this year.

This coming weekend is quite busy, and then next weekend I am going on a much-needed weekend getaway with my friends. I can't wait!

The only celebrities we saw Super Bowl weekend.

Ice palace at the Winter Carnival.

Rocking out at Rock the Cradle.

Riding a horse at a preschool field trip to Choo Choo Bob's.

Ice skating at Groveland.