Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Giving Thanks

I have been trying to write a post about how recent events, both here and abroad, have me so worried about what kind of world my kids will inherit. How I know that there has been evil in the world since the beginning of time, but that doesn't make it any easier. How I want to do my part to create a peaceful planet for my children, and to give them the tools to deal with what may come.

Instead, though, I'll just say that I am grateful. For everything I have, for my family and friends, and most importantly for my children. They are funny and smart and loving and most importantly, healthy. We have food and clothes and a warm place to sleep. What more can I ask for?

They find such joy in the small things. I am going to try to follow that example. Pure joy. Happy Thanksgiving, all!

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Bits and Pieces: October

I am done with the monthly photos of Christopher, but I want to keep doing a monthly update of some kind. I'll probably break out the moose and the dinosaur on the kids' birthdays, though. Do you think they'll still humor me when they're teenagers? I hope so.

This fall has been kind of a mixed bag. We've had some fun, but everyone had two colds within a month. Then I had a horrible stomach flu. Then Ben had the horrible stomach bug. Still in suspense as to whether not anyone else will get the horrible stomach bug.

Adjusting to our new schedule has been challenging. All of us have had our issues, except Josie. My niece is just getting funnier and more fearless by the day. Christopher misses his sister. He cries when she leaves. Clare is exhausted after school, especially towards the end of the week, and therefore more prone to tantrums and defiance. And I am getting used to a new schedule too, one that has me seeing less of my friends and Clare. It is hard spending so much time alone with a 2-year-old and 10-month-old, and has me actually thinking it might be time to go back to work. I just need to remember that I was in a similar situation two years ago. It took me awhile to find my groove after Christopher was born, and I need some time to figure out this new schedule, too.

Clare loves school, though, despite her tiredness. She has made several friends and seems to like her teacher. She has blossomed since school started - she is more articulate and more confident. She has started taking gymnastics. She loves that, too, and it is a better place to funnel her energy than the obstacle courses she sets up in the living room. (I blame American Ninja Warrior.)

Christopher is enjoying expressing his opinions, especially if his opinion is "NO." He has a new word every day. Last weekend he started speaking in two word sentences. "Mommy back." "Josie cry." Blankie mine." He also sings along with songs, but does not like it when I sing along. I love listening to him sing, though.


We went to an apple orchard on one of the many beautiful fall days we had this month. The kids had a blast picking apples and pumpkins while I tried to soak in as much sun as I could.

Until the day before Halloween, Clare wanted to be a pirate princess. She'd talked about it for weeks. We had the costume and Christopher was going to be her parrot. The day before Halloween she decided to be a magic butterfly instead. I found myself arguing with her in the car about it. I wanted pictures of Clare and Christopher in their coordinated outfits. Then I took a breath and realized I should not be fighting with my daughter about her Halloween costume. She went as a magic butterfly.

We had a fun Halloween. Ben ran a half marathon in the morning, and we made it just in time to see him run by on Fairview and Summit. Then we all went to a Halloween party at a friend's house, followed by dinner with my parents and Katie and Andrew, and of course, trick or treating. Clare didn't stay out as long as I thought she would. She had a great time, though. Christopher had fun getting all of the "cookies" although he tore off his parrot costume before heading out the door. He was willing to wear the hat, however.

Now, off to raid the kids' candy buckets.

Group picture attempts were futile.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Recent Clare-isms

We were out to dinner the other night and Clare was her usual talkative self. A man eating at a nearby table turned to me and said, "Your daughter has such a beautiful speaking voice. She speaks so clearly." I thanked him while Clare literally sank to the floor in embarrassment. It's true, though. She has one or two verbal tics (hunderwear), but overall she speaks like an adult. (She definitely ACTS like a 4-year-old, though.) Here are a few of her recent gems.
Clare and I were shopping at Target. I noticed Clare staring at another woman shopping in the same aisle. This woman was dressed in a Burka. I was getting nervous because Clare was looking at her so intently, and I was worried she would say something that would offend the woman. Suddenly, Clare announced in amazement: "She doesn't have a basket OR a cart!" Whew.
We went to Lunds. I was looking at a pretty decorative wreath, but decided not to buy it because it was $45. As we were driving out of the parking lot later, Clare noticed a man begging for money at the parking lot entrance. She had questions. I explained to her what he was doing, and why we typically don't give money to people begging on the streets. (We prefer to give money to organizations who can distribute it fairly and better determine who needs the assistance. And I rarely carry cash.) Clare seemed to accept this. Then, a few minutes later: "Mommy, if you want that wreath maybe you should stand on the corner and ask people for money." So then we had a discussion about how we earn money, and making good decisions with the money we have.
My mom, sister and I are planners. We love talking about plans. We are the type of people who are planning dinner while we are at the restaurant eating lunch. (Note: we can be flexible if our plans change. It just means more plans to talk about!) You can imagine my joy and Ben's extreme dismay now that we have discovered that Clare also enjoys talking about plans. She and I discuss plans for the day and plans for the week. (Part of this is her temperament. It helps with her anxiety to know what's coming.) During one of our planning discussions, she turned to Ben and said, "Daddy, you should try talking about planning. You might like it!" I laughed. Ben slowly shook his head. 

Sorry Ben, your daughter is my mini-me.

Pre-K school picture!

Friday, October 16, 2015

40 x 40

Six (!) years ago today I turned 30, and totally freaked out about it. I now realize I was being silly. Thirty is young! I was a baby. Now that I am officially entering my late thirties (or is 36 still mid-thirties?), I decided to make some goals to accomplish by the time I am 40. That way I'll feel better about turning 40? Well, maybe not, but I saw this idea on my friend A.'s blog, and decided to do it myself. Some of these goals are already happening (the England trip is booked), but I am going to include them anyway.

1. Find an exercise routine and stick to it.
2. Add to college savings for Clare and start account for Christopher.
3. Get new storm windows in our house.
4. Finish our basement.
5. Take Clare to England to visit my brother and sister-in-law.
6. Re-learn how to play Rhapsody in Blue on the piano.
7. Read the "Little House on the Prairie" books to Clare and Christopher.
8. Go on a family trip to the Boundary Waters.
9. Knit a sweater for myself.
10. Knit the Sipalu bag with Chelsea.
11. Master knitting socks.
12. Learn how to cook Chinese food.
13. Finally accept the fact that I will never throw a Pinterest-worthy birthday party or be a "crafty" person. The kids don't care and neither should I.
14. Volunteer somewhere with the kids.
15. Participate in a wine and canvas night.
16. Take a trip with Ben without the kids.
17. Visit my brother and sister-in-law in England, leave the kids with them, and go somewhere else in Europe. (Might not happen by the time I am 40, but it could be planned.)
18. Go to a Gopher football game at TCF Bank stadium.
19. Go to a concert at the State Fair.
20. Once in the next four years: watch all of the Best Picture nominated movies before my friend Kerry's Oscar party.
21. Volunteer at Clare's school.
22. Spend the night by myself at a hotel.
23. Visit a state I've never been to before.
24. Camp at Lake Itasca State Park.
25. Take Clare to a fancy tea party.
26.  Bake an apple pie with homemade crust, using my grandmother's recipe.
27. Spend a day in Stillwater and Hudson with my mom and sister.
28. Find freelance writing work. I'll need some money to pay for all of these trips.
29. Attend a Minnesota Lynx game with Clare.
30. See a local performance of the Nutcracker.
31. Take both kids to a movie at a movie theater.
32. Enroll in a music class with Christopher.
33. Do a "behind the scenes" tour at the aquarium with both kids.
34. Read "East of Eden" by John Steinbeck.
35. Go cross country skiing.
36. Organize my photos and videos.
37. Continue yearly camping trip tradition with friends and kids.
38. Have a night out with friends (couples, but no kids) once a year.
39. Host a Christmas cookie baking party.
40. Try a new recipe once a month.

Sunday, October 4, 2015


One week.

He's two! Unbelievable.

The other night Christopher was a reading a book and we heard him talking. "E! Y! O! C!" he said. Ben and I looked at each other, shocked. Could he really know these letters? We asked him to point to the letter Y. He did it. Same with E, O and C. This is partly surprising because Christopher has a lot fewer words than Clare did at this age. He is in the normal range, though, so I am not worried. Clare was (and is) just crazy verbal.

His new words this month include blanky, home, Daddy, moon, Ernie, Bert, piano, balloon, door, shoe and plane . When I give him a snack or a toy, he says "Thank you, Mom." I love it. He is so polite.

Here are a few of Christopher's favorites at two: blanky, anything with wheels, balls, slides, swings, the sandbox, fruit of any kind, books (especially if they have pictures of anything with wheels or babies), babies, running, making animal noises, playing the piano, ECFE (especially Teacher Ugo), waiting for the bus with Clare (he actually shakes with joy when the bus turns the corner. "Beeeeeepppp!" he yells), snuggles with Mom, coffee, and Cookie Monster. Most importantly, he loves his people: Daddy, all four grandparents, Aunt K, Uncle Andrew, Josie, Uncle Robby and Aunt Andri, Uncle Andy and Aunt Meg, and Clare. Clare most of all. When she gets home from school, she runs to him and wraps him up in a huge hug. It is my favorite thing. He has a running list of people he asks for in the morning, too. Right now it includes Daddy, Clare, Aunt Katie and Josie. (Meema and Baba make regular appearances on the list, too.)

He is less enamored with sitting in his car seat, going down for his nap, the opening credits to Super Grover 2.0, and carrots.

Christopher's personality is a lot like his dad's: laid back, smart and so funny. Not much bothers him, except Mom leaving and Super Grover. And even if he does get upset by something, he gets over it within seconds.

We celebrated birthday number two with a small party. We had pizza and cake (homemade!) with one set of grandparents, Aunt Katie and Uncle Andrew and Josie, and Uncle Andy and Aunt Meg. He got several trucks, a helicopter, an airplane and a baby doll. Oh, and a My Little Pony and Mr. Potato Head from Clare. He couldn't have been happier.

Happy birthday to my sweet, cuddly, adorable little boy. I love you so much it hurts.

Clare opened most of his presents. He didn't mind.

Mommy and Christopher and a new dinosaur.

Aunt Katie and Christopher and a new helicopter.

Applauding after "Happy Birthday." For the first time, I made a layer cake. It is chocolate with a fresh strawberry buttercream frosting.

Best buds.

    Cheering on the 10 mile runners on his birthday morning. Go Aunt Katie!

Thursday, September 10, 2015

First Day of Pre-K

There were tears shed. By me. Clare did just fine. She has been looking forward to starting school for weeks. The thing she was most excited about? Taking the bus. I hope the novelty doesn't wear off, because she is going to spend at least half an hour on the bus every morning. She was so eager to get on the bus this morning that I couldn't even get a picture. I do have a lovely shot of the bus driver, though.

I baked banana bread for a special breakfast today. She helped. We also went out to dinner to celebrate her first day, her pick. She chose Snuffy's, of course.

Ben took the day off, so I decided to follow the bus to school. Yes, I am one of those parents. I can't help it. It is scary putting your 4-year-old on the bus and sending her off into the world.  I didn't actually follow it the whole way, I just went to the school to make sure she got there okay. I saw her get off the bus, talking to another little girl. She looked so grown-up.  (Note, and this is important: Clare had no idea I was following the bus and did not see me when I was at the school.)

When she got home, she didn't want to tell me much about her day at first. Later, she was laying on the kitchen floor when she said, "I did okay today, Mom, I didn't even play by myself. I just played with other kids." She paused. "Sometimes I am shy when I first meet people, but I wasn't today." She sounded surprised. I told her she was getting better at meeting new people, because she's had lots of practice. I am so happy she had such a good day.

Waiting for the bus.

 Christopher taking a coffee break while waiting for Clare.

Getting off the bus at the end of the day.

Monday, September 7, 2015

End of Summer

I think I'll start with my favorite Clare-ism of late. My parents babysat for us on Saturday so Ben and I could drink a lot of beer and ride on the light rail wearing matching T-shirts. (Rails and Ales: super fun!) Clare and my mom were playing restaurant.

Clare: "How do you like your ice cream?"

My mom: "It's really good."

Clare: "I stored it in my hunderwear!"

My mom: Slowly spits out her pretend ice cream...

Yes, she says hunder instead of under. Maybe it was all the beer, but I couldn't stop laughing when my mom told me the story.


We tried camping again at the begin of August, despite the mixed results from the first trip. This trip was worse, mainly because everyone but Clare had a bad cold. We stayed for one night and then gave up. Clare had fun, at least. We were at Blue Mounds State Park in southern Wisconsin. It is beautiful, and they have a nice pool, but even that wasn't enough to motivate us to stay longer. Christopher is at a hard age for this type of thing, too, mostly because he doesn't seem to think it's a problem to run into the road or walk through the fire pit while there is a fire blazing. Next year?


We were invited to a friend's cabin for a few days in mid-August. The kids and I went during the week, ditching poor Ben. It was really nice. The best part, though, was that Clare actually went tubing! It was a tube with sides that she could sit down in, and she had a blast. I was really impressed, considering her usual fearful nature. She has definitely become braver this summer.


At the end of the month, we went to Golden Eagle Lodge on the Gunflint Trail for the third year in a row. Being up north is so relaxing. Even with an almost two-year-old, I feel like I can breath better up there.


Clare and Ben are really in to the Fair.

I can take it or leave it, but if I have some beer and some Sweet Martha's Cookies I am usually happy enough.

Christopher hates it.

He did manage to choke down a few cookies, though.

We had one final summer playdate this morning with our neighborhood friends. The best part of a Labor Day playdate? The husband of one of my friends delivered Chipotle to the park.

Another good summer in the books. Now, time to get ready for another new routine.