Sunday, July 31, 2016

Bits and Piece: July

The biggest, most exciting news this month is the birth of my nephew! He was just born last week, and I am so excited to be an aunt again. I am sad that I won't be able to snuggle with him until January, because of the small fact of a large ocean separating us, but I can't wait. I know my brother and sister-in-law are going to be fantastic parents.

Closer to home, Clare has made two major decisions about her future. One, she will not have children. Two, she will compete on American Ninja Warrior. American Ninja Warrior is her favorite show. In fact, she has been begging to go to a "Ninja Gym." I'll have to see if I can find one for her.

July has been busy, as summer always is. At the beginning of the month, Ben and I took a trip to Chicago. By ourselves. Without our kids. It was so nice. I wish we had stayed longer, but Ben wanted to be back in Evansville in time to participate in our usual July 4th festivities there.  It was so nice to go places without children in tow, though. It was so relaxing. So easy. We drove down on Friday and had lunch at a Mexican restaurant with our friend Brian. We went out to eat at a delicious restaurant Friday night (Boho Bohemian House), went to the Field Museum and walked along the lake on Saturday, and then went to a show at The Second City. We had a blast at the comedy club - the show was funny and the beers were cold. Oh, and did I mentioned there were no children with us? Heaven. I think we will try to take a trip without kids again soon. Our last one was before we had kids, so we were due.

The fourth in Evansville is always a good time. Clare ran in the 1-mile fun run (I ran with her!) and she was awesome. She ran the whole way. She was very proud of her medal. (I didn't get a medal.) Ben did, though, because he came in third in his age group in the 10K. He was fifth overall. Because he is a crazy person, he was disappointed that he only ran it in 42 minutes. I'll do the math for you: that's sub-seven minute miles. I think that's pretty good. He really wants to break 40, though.

We kept our fun traditions of the parade followed by a late afternoon cookout and flag cake at my parents' house. Then came the mistake: we attempted to take Clare to the fireworks. She was so excited, and I thought, well, she's five, she'll have fun. Right? No. Even with the noise cancelling headphones, she. lost. her. mind. I had to carry her, screaming, back to the car. I felt bad that she was so scared. I managed to calm her down, though, and told her she could just let me know when she was ready to try fireworks again. She thought maybe she'd be ready at age 10 or so.

We spent a day at the lake at Ben's uncle's cabin. We had a great time swimming off the pontoon and grilling out. We've had a few other BBQs and picnics with friends, too, which are pretty much my favorite things to do in the summer.

Both kids are in swimming lessons right now, and doing well. It has been a long process getting Clare used to the water, but now she is a fish. A fish that won't go under, but still. It is hard to get her out of the pool. The screaming fits of fear are gone. Christopher is still not sure. He loves the wading pool, but clings to me in the big pool. He enjoys the songs, though. One more week to go, so maybe he'll loosen up a bit.

Clare also took ballet for a week this month, and is still in gymnastics. She really enjoys both, but I am going to make her choose one for the fall. She'll also do soccer, and I don't want her to be too over-scheduled. She is only a kindergartner, after all.  It's crazy that she already has swimming, ballet, gymnastics and soccer, isn't it? And in a year or two she'll start piano. And maybe Girl Scouts.

We ran into Clare's teacher in the neighborhood a few weeks ago, and Clare barely spoke to her. As soon as we biked away, though, she asked if she could invite Ms. Angela over for dinner. I think she'll be ready for school when the first day comes, and I know I'll be ready. In the meantime, I am trying to enjoy our time together. It can be challenging, especially now that Clare has decided to become a full time back seat driver. YOU'RE FIVE. YOU DON'T KNOW THE RULES OF THE ROAD. Anyway. Little things. The big things are that she is funny and sweet and still wants to play with me.

Christopher wants to do everything, and I mean everything, that Clare is doing. He even repeats the words she is saying. If she is wearing her hat, he'll wear his. Otherwise, forget it. He is so happy when she plays with him, and crushed when she (understandably) wants some time to herself.  I was hoping to potty train him this summer, but so far it has not happened. I know forcing him into won't work, so I am trying to be patient.

Christopher is so verbal, and I love talking to him. His little gravelly voice and his serious face when he is trying to tell me about the water he got in his eye are both so endearing. That is one great thing about this age - they can finally tell you want they want, and it is so fun to hear his opinions on things. On the downside, he doesn't always use these words, and instead throws massive tantrums. The smallest (and strangest) things will set him off. For example, this morning he became enraged when Clare put her hand in her cereal bowl to flatten out the cereal. Like, out of control screaming on the floor. I just shook my head and left the room, because what? I don't get it.

I think I will have one very sad boy on my hands when Clare goes back to school. It's hard to believe that summer is already more than half over! I am looking forward to August, though. We are going camping (twice) and planning to hit the State Fair. Christopher hated it last year, but maybe some mini donuts and a Pronto pup will change his mind.

Family runners! (I am not a runner.)

Ready for the parade!

Proud of the flag cake she made with Meema.

Cuddle time, with a look at the nasty bruise he got at the park.
My mom came back with me after our July visit, and took Josie and Christopher to look at the animals at the zoo while I took Clare on the rides at Como Town. We had so much fun together, and even went on the huge pirate ship ride.

This picture is not great, but we went to the top of the Highland Park Water Tower during Highland Fest. It was awesome to see the Cities from up there!

Flying high at Highland Fest.

Christopher is about asleep here.

My little ballerina.

Waiting in the air conditioned car for Clare to finish ballet.
Fun with friends in the pool.





Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Reset

It feels like the world needs a reset button. Can we just Ctrl-Alt-Delete this whole thing and start over?

I've spent the last few weeks trying to write about the confused,hurt, sad and worried feelings I've had the last few weeks, and I am struggling. I look at my children sleeping peacefully at night, and I feel overwhelmed - both with love for them and worry for the world they are going to grow up in. And it seems like there is just one hit after another. These horrible things that keep happening don't even include my usual fear. (Climate change, in case you are wondering.) There is just too much.

What do we do? Where do we even start? I don't have any answers, except perhaps to be kind and try to teach my kids how to be kind. Teach them to understand that everyone's situation is different, that people may be suffering in ways you can't imagine. Be empathetic. Help where you can. The number one rule in our house is be safe, be kind and be responsible. I think there are many people in this world who could benefit from following that rule.

On Saturday, though, I went to a birthday party for a friend. We all talked about how bad things seem right now, of course. Then I found out that another friend is pregnant with identical twin girls (!). And my friend Jessica (not pregnant) and I realized we have been friends for 18 years. When I drove home and checked on those peacefully sleeping kids, I felt hopeful. Hope for new babies and birthday parties and friendships that have lasted half my life. I know not everyone has the privilege of focusing on those things, but as cliche as it is, those small things can bring me some peace. Maybe the small things can bring peace to others, too.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Bits and Pieces: June

We've been having a pretty good summer so far. I can't complain about the weather, and we have settled into a routine. There are plenty things I could complain about (whiny kids, kids fighting, etc.), but I won't. Christopher just threw his arms around me and said "I love you SO much." And moments like that make all of those other things seem insignificant, even if I am pulling my hair out at the time. 

Ben has nicknamed the children Captain Literal and Captain Obvious. When speaking to Captain Literal, also known as Clare, you must be very precise. When we talked about it being summer, she was adamant that no, it was in fact still spring. I explained to her that most people say it is summer once school is out, even though it is not technically summer. We had this conversation several times, until I finally remembered to say "summer vacation" rather than "summer." I was very happy when it was finally, officially, summer.

Captain Obvious likes to narrate his life. The other day, Christopher and I were playing in the gym next door to Clare's gymnastics class. He would throw his ball and chase after it. Then he'd run back to me and announce "I throw ball. I run." Then he sat down to drink his water. "I drink water." He coughed. "I cough. I not throw up." Thanks for sharing, Captain Obvious.

Clare lost her third tooth last week, one on top. The Tooth Fairy forgot to come. Way to go, Tooth Fairy! We tried again the second night and the Tooth Fairy was not too busy to stop by, thank goodness. At the rate she is going, she's not going to have any teeth left!

We had a few Josie free days this month, so I took the opportunity to take the kids to the Minnesota Zoo. Clare and Christopher and I had a blast. I brought a picnic lunch. We played on the playground, saw a few animals, and then went to the dinosaur exhibit. Clare loved it. Christopher was less enthused, but that was partly because he fell on his face at the entrance. We ended the day with ice cream and the splash pad. A perfect summer day, even though it wasn't technically summer yet. 

We went on our annual friends' camping trip last weekend. (Note: one of my 40 x 40 goals was to continue this yearly tradition. 2016 is in the books!) We camped at Whitewater State Park, which is in the southeastern part of the state. It was really, really fun.  We arrived Friday night and roasted hot dogs over the fire. The night was clear, and we could see millions of stars. There were lightning bugs everywhere, but very few mosquitoes. We spent most of Saturday at the beach. Christopher took a nap on a towel for about two hours. The kids, all boys except Clare, ran themselves ragged. We roasted marshmallows for s'mores and drank a lot of beer and wine. A perfect summer weekend, and it was actually summer!

In the hammock we bought Ben for Father's Day. They've spent more time in it than he has.

Another tooth gone.

At the Zoo.


Dinosaurs!

Buds.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Last Day (Delayed)

I am a little late with these, but here they are. First day and last day of pre-K.



She definitely looks older, doesn't she? She did a lot of complaining about going to school the last few months of the year, but when she got home she always seemed happy and had a lot to tell me about her day. I am hoping she will be excited for kindergarten in the fall. She will have the same teacher and half the same kids in her class, so I am also hoping the transition is a smooth one.

She had her 5-year well-check today. She is in the 66th percentile for height (43 inches) and the 59th percentile for weight.

Clare had her birthday party with her friends on Saturday. She even invited her two best friends from school. The kids had a blast in the sprinkler, and Clare was pretty excited about her hot pink glittery birthday cake.
Note my lovely handiwork after the bakery misspelled Clare.




Oh, and she lost another tooth on Friday night. It was a big week for Clare.


On Sunday we had some time at home to recover from birthday/lost teeth/last day of school week. Perfect for some Daddy-Daughter Lego time.


When I mentioned she could take a break if she didn't feel like finishing the whole Imperial Troop Transport right then, she and Ben both looked at me like I was crazy. Apparently you do not take breaks while doing a Lego construction. I am glad they have this in common.

And now on to summer break! The first day was hard. Today was much better. It is time for me to break out last summer's rule, which was to relax. RELAX.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Five










This feels like a milestone birthday.  Five! I suppose it is in a way - she'll be starting kindergarten in the fall. Actually, she is more like 5 going on 15. The way she speaks, the attitude, everything seems like a tamer version of what the teenage years will be like.

Despite her spunky personality, Clare is really very sweet. She dotes on her cousin and stands up for her brother. She tells me she loves me daily (she tells me she hates me daily, too, but I know she doesn't mean it). She cares about her friends. She has two best friends at school, Chloe and Keira, but I think she still prefers playing with the pack of boys she's run with since we moved here. She should have a lot of time with them this summer.

Clare lost a tooth yesterday! We were walking back from an early birthday dinner at Snuffy's when it came out. I am sure the sucker she was eating helped it along. She was quite excited. It has been a big few days for her. She has two other loose teeth, so I think the Tooth Fairy will be back again soon.

Clare loves to be outside, whether she is swimming, hiking, gardening or biking. She is learning to ride her bike without training wheels, and can already do four laps around the parking lot next door before losing confidence. She is planning to run a few races this summer, and will also be trying ballet for the first time. She'll continue with soccer and gymnastics as well. She still doesn't like going under the water at the pool, but she is no longer scared of the big pool. Small steps, but she's getting there.

She is still an extremely picky eater. She does not like her food to touch on her plate, and is unwilling to try pretty much everything I make. She does love berries, pizza (as long as it's pepperoni and black olive, or plain cheese), spaghetti (with no sauce, of course), macaroni and cheese (but just Annie's, NOT homemade) cucumbers, carrots, and most desserts, but especially strawberry ice cream and any kind of cake. Making lunches next year should be a challenge. There is no way she'll eat hot lunch.

She loves wearing dresses and playing dress up. She is begging me to take her to the salon to get a manicure. She is not afraid to get dirty, though.

She has started reading on her own, some, and we have been reading chapter books together. I plan to read "Little House on the Big Woods" with her this summer, and I can't wait.

Clare is into puzzles and books, but she also likes play doh and painting. And TV, of course. Her current favorite shows are "Phineas and Ferb" and "American Ninja Warrior" and her favorite movies are "Mulan" and "Brave."  She is hoping to see "Star Wars" soon and wants to be Darth Vader for Halloween.

She also likes watching cooking shows with me, and it has lead to one of her favorite games. We play cooking show while I am making dinner. It even has a name: "Clare and Emily's Home Cooking." At first, she was very concerned about camera placement, but she eventually decided they were just everywhere, so it didn't matter where we stood in the kitchen. It is pretty hilarious, actually. I need to film it one day, because she is a surprisingly good cooking show host.

She and Christopher are each other's best friends and worst enemies. One minute they are playing sweetly together, and the next one of them is screaming or crying. I am sure it will be this way always. (But without the screaming and crying when they are adults. Although you never know.)

The celebration of Clare's 5th birthday has gotten a bit out of control, with two family parties, a dinner out at Snuffy's last night, and a party with her friends this coming Saturday. Next year I plan to scale it way back. (There were some unusual circumstances prompting one of the extra parties: my brother and sister-in-law were visiting from England. We had to celebrate with them!)

It is so fun to have a conversation with Clare. Her observations on life are smart, logical, and funny. She remembers everything, and has a thousand questions about every new topic she encounters. Four was a good year, and I can't wait to see what the year ahead brings.

Happy birthday, Clare. We love you so, so much.


Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Bits and Pieces: May

My last post was about our anniversary, but I wrote it before Ben presented me with his gift. He had my wedding bouquet recreated, ordered a small version of our wedding cake, and picked up Taco Bell on his way home. That morning, he left croissants and coffee for me. I did nothing, so I felt like a jerk. (In my defense, we are celebrating our anniversary with a trip to Chicago in July.) It was so sweet and romantic. The flowers were beautiful. When I opened the package, I said, "Hey, this looks just like my wedding bouquet." Ben: "Yes, yes it does."



Mother's Day also happened this month! I got my haircut that day, which was lovely. We had brunch with Ben's family and a cook-out with my sister and Josie. My gift was a beautiful pot of flowers, which are currently thriving on our deck. It was a nice day.


Clare's birthday is coming up, so I am planning to write a more lengthy blog post about her then. Christopher's big news this month is that he does NOT have a peanut allergy. As someone with severe food allergies, this makes me extremely happy. Clare is allergic to sesame seeds and cashews, and so far Christopher is fine with sesame seeds. We haven't tried cashews yet, but I am hopeful he will be allergy free.

A few days ago Christopher and I were at Walgreens. It was raining when we left, so I raced to the car. I was fumbling with my keys, trying in vain to unlock the door. I couldn't figure out why it wasn't working. Christopher: "Not our car." He was right. It was not our car. I swear, at least once a week one of my children has to tell me something that should be completely obvious to me. (I know you know this: there are hundreds of black Honda Odyssey minivans in my neighborhood alone. I am not exaggerating. Still though. I should be able to recognize my own car.)

Christopher's latest favorite book is "Little Blue Truck." He knows it by heart, and I'll hear him randomly reciting it throughout the day. It's pretty cute. We've been struggling with nap time and bed time, still. I keep hoping it will get better, but so far no luck.

I've had a few days off from watching Josie, so I took the opportunity to do some things with the kids in the afternoon. (If Christopher is going to fight naps anyway, we might as well be out and about!) We went to Como Zoo last Thursday, and had our first picnic of the season. Clare went on the carousel, and we saw the animals and ate ice cream. It was nice, even when Christopher dropped his entire ice cream cone on the ground. (Yes, I should have known better than to give a 2-year-old his own cone.) Clare very generously shared with him. On Friday we went to the Children's Museum. Clare was a great big sister while we were there. If other kids took something from Christopher she stood up for him. "My brother was using that," she informed one little boy. We were in the ant hill, by far my least favorite part of the museum. Some kids were being obnoxious and screaming in my kids' faces. Clare very calmly told them to stop many times. They didn't. I told them to stop. They didn't. Their dad told them to stop. They didn't. Poor Clare, she just could not understand why these kids wouldn't listen to all the people telling them to stop. She was in tears. It was a good learning experience, though.

I had a girls' weekend away this month, too! It was so, so nice. We went to Lake City. It was a beautiful weekend with good food, great drinks and even better friends. I feel so lucky that I've found such a close group of friends in my neighborhood. It is weird to think that 3 years ago I didn't know any of them.

Our delicious dinner spread. 
One last note: today is my parents' 41st wedding anniversary. Happy anniversary, Mom and Dad!

I had to post this picture. She is such a fashionista, isn't she?

Eating ice cream at Como Zoo.

At the Children's Museum. 

Best picture I could get of me with both kids on Mother's Day.

Friday, May 13, 2016

10 Years


10 years. Two kids. Two cats. Five cars. One condo. One (rented) townhouse. One house. Five jobs. Saint Paul, Evansville, back to Saint Paul. Hawaii, England, Florida, England again, Florida again and again. Golden Eagle Lodge. The Boundary Waters. Duluth. Countless trips to the farmers market, dinners out, movies, road trips, camping trips, hikes, bike rides, pancake breakfasts, beers, baseball games, visits with family, cook-outs, fights, laughs, tears, hugs and spontaneous dance parties.

Thanks for keeping me sane, being my co-parent, and doing the dishes. Here's to another 10 great years.