Sunday, June 24, 2018

Family Pictures

So...things aren't so great with the world right now, and that's an understatement. It's hard not to feel overwhelmed and helpless. I called my representatives and donated money. I plan to campaign for democrats. What else can I do?

And then there are my kids. I am so happy that they were lucky enough to be born here. They did nothing to have the advantages they have (and neither did I). It is all just dumb luck. Then I get so frustrated with them because they just don't know how good they have it. They are spoiled and I want them to be, at least for awhile. (We do talk about how lucky they are in terms of having a place to live and food to eat. And that it is important to help others who are less fortunate. Who knows how much it has sunk in.)

 Anyway. We had a few family pictures taken a few weeks ago. I am feeling lucky that we were able to do this. Here are a few of my favorites.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

First Day/Last Day

It has been a rough start to summer, with sickness (the kids) and a bad attitude (me). Clare's birthday continues, because the party had to be rescheduled thanks to the aforementioned sickness. I decided I need to improve my attitude or it will be a very long summer. Here is what I have decided:

1. Let go of the to-do list. As my mom keeps reminding me, I don't remember if my house was clean growing up and my kids won't either.

2. Take deep breaths. I need to write this reminder to myself every year. When will it become second nature?

3. Enjoy the kids. Summer flies by and I don't want to ruin it with my anxiety and dark moods.

4. Make exercise a priority.  I feel better on the days I exercise, and I tend to snack less and am more productive. Now, I have to figure out how to get myself out of bed early enough to have time to do this.

Oh, and here are the first day and last day pictures. 

Thursday, June 7, 2018


Clare has been telling everyone she sees (including the barista at Caribou and the cashier at Target) that her golden birthday is coming up. She is very excited about it being her golden birthday. I decorated our dining room and her room in gold decorations after she went to bed. She was pretty happy this morning, especially with her crown.

Her big treat for her golden birthday is that she is going to get her ears pierced. (Theoretically.) However, she has to wait for soccer to be over, so this milestone will not be taking place until late July.

Clare had a great year as a 6-year-old. She is still a very intense, somewhat fearful child, but each year that goes by she seems to learn to manage it better. (Although, did I write about the dog chasing her into the street while she was waiting for the bus? Keep your dogs on leashes, people!)

First grade has been a stellar school year for Clare. Reading is her best and favorite subject, but she is doing well in math as well. She is not patient with her writing. She brought home a book she had written, and the first few pages were written in a very neat hand. As I turned the pages, her writing became messier and messier. It was clear she had grown bored with the project. She is also interested in science, and I am thrilled about that. I know I've mentioned her wonderful teacher. She is learning a lot and has some nice friends.

Speaking of friends, her best friend in the entire world is Natalie. I hear about Natalie constantly. Her other good friend at school, Rainie, is sadly switching schools next year. Luckily, Natalie will still be there so the sky won't be falling too much.  Her other good friends are Elsie, Madeline, and Colin. She still enjoys spending time with her out-of-school friends Nora, Henry, James, Simon and Brendon. We'll see a lot of them this summer, I hope. (Totally a selfish hope, because their moms are some of my best friends.)

And then there's her brother. These two really do love each other and have fun together. They fight a lot, too, but I did with my siblings as well. I am looking forward to Clare being home this summer as a playmate for Christopher. She also adores her cousins Josie and Otto, and is my "Mother's Helper" when they are here. For that, she earns $1 in addition to her normal allowance. (She is still highly motivated by money.)

She has been taking piano lessons since August, and is doing really well with it. She has many pieces memorized and is learning difficult skills such as transposing a piece from one key into another. And she likes it, so that helps. She also did gymnastics, skating and is in the middle of soccer. She'll be taking tennis lessons this summer as well.

A few favorites: turquoise (pink has been demoted), pizza with black olives, ice cream, reading (we are on pause with Harry Potter; I am hoping to entice her with The Secret Garden), playing outside (especially riding her bike, swinging in the hammock, and going to the park), camping, playing with her American Girl dolls, Star Wars, Minecraft, swimming, doing a pretend cooking show while I am cooking dinner, screaming, movie night, watching TV, American Ninja Warrior, and playing the piano.

Dislikes: Food touching, frosting, pretty much everything I make for dinner, dogs, thunderstorms, being asked to do chores, putting on sunscreen.

She has expressed an interest in scouting, so we will be trying to find a Girl Scout troop for her. (Or perhaps she will join what was formally known as the Boy Scouts. This is interesting to me, because I feel like she could learn a lot more about the stuff she is interested in, but she is adamant that she do Girl Scouts. We shall see.) She also wants to try ballet again. It should be another busy year!

It is so fun watching Clare grow up. She is so like me in so many ways, but I think overall her brain works more like Ben's. She is logical and enjoys figuring out puzzles and building with Legos and doing science experiments. She wants to know how the world works. I believe I've mentioned how she "lawyers" us all the time. She will remember your exact words and throw them in your face. She has a great memory.  She is sweet, too, and likes to do things like make me breakfast in bed (it is usually dry toast and an apple, but it's the thought that counts) and make homemade cards for all of her friends and family. She enjoys crafts, and is better at doing them than I am.

She is still our little rule-follower, which is great. I can send her into the backyard with her brother and her cousin and know Clare will let me know if anything goes wrong. We all trust her on her own with the kids (obviously, she is way to young to be totally home alone with them).

Clare and I do well when it is just the two of us and she doesn't have to compete for my attention. We have long talks about all sorts of things. We clash, too, and I think a lot of it has to with my shock at her behavior when she acts her age. I have been trying to take a step back and remind myself that she is still a little kid.

I always feel like these posts fall short in describing the kids, but at least I have something recorded to remind myself what Clare was like at this age.

I am excited to see what this year will bring. Happy birthday to my best girl!

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Bits and Pieces: May

I have a new nephew! My brother and sister-in-law welcomed Marios to the world at the beginning of the month. I am sad that I won't get to meet him for several months, but excited that my mom and I have a trip planned for January.  In the meantime, I'll have to settle for video chats and pictures. He is a cutie pie.

One of my other cutie pie nephews (I have three now!) has been hanging out with me on a semi-regular basis, along with his sister Josie. I actually feel kind of nostalgic for those baby years while playing with Otto. Then I quickly talk some sense into myself.

Well, here we are almost at the end of another school year. Clare is still going strong at school. I think she will miss her friends and her teacher this summer. We will be busy, though, so hopefully the transition will go smoothly.

Christopher is done with preschool. SOB. His last day was last Friday. I will really miss his sweet teachers. I couldn't have asked for a better first year of school for him. Next year will be great, too, because he'll get to ride the bus with his sister, but I know he'll miss preschool. On his last day I decided to forget my to-do list and get a pedicure. It was the right choice.

We had a year-end picnic for preschool, and I got a chance to talk to a bunch of parents who have older kids at Clare's school. I am slowly getting to know more families at her school, and have joined the PTO for next year. I'll be the treasurer, along with another mom, so I am not totally on my own with it yet.

This month has been busy. I already wrote about our anniversary and Mother's Day. We also had a baptism for my nephew, which included a visit from my parents. We had a neighborhood progressive party, which was fun. Most of my neighbors' kids go to the local Catholic school, so we don't have much interaction with them other than saying hi when we see each other outside. It was nice to have a chance to get to know them a little better.

Other than that it's been the usual: yard work, housework, nights out with friends. Both kids have started soccer, although they both had games rained out over the last week due to the storms.

We spend Memorial Day weekend in Evansville. We left at lunch time on Friday, and were there in time for Friday martinis with Ruth. My mom bought Clare a birthday cake for an early birthday celebration since they'll be in England on her birthday. Clare was pretty thrilled. We traveled to Oostburg (north of Milwaukee) to visit my 90-year-old grandma on Saturday. It was nice to see her, but the kids were a little crazy which made it hard to talk. On Sunday we had a cookout with Aunt Karen and the kids ran through the sprinkler. We drove back on Monday, discovered a broken air conditioner, and decided not to worry about it while we drank beer at my friend Kerry's annual Memorial Day party. When we came back it was magically working again. A Memorial Day miracle!

I leave you with a few Christopher-isms. (Christopher, by the way, has had a growth spurt and I can't get over how long his legs look. Where is my baby??)

Waitress: Where is your bacon?
Christopher: It's in my tummy! And soon it will be poop. (Said while waving his hand around like a magician.)

Priest, during Homily at my parents' church: I can't remember if personae is Latin or Greek.
Christopher: I think it's both.

Next week is the last day of school and Clare's birthday, so it will be a busy week!

On one of the first warm, snow free days. In May. 

Clare wanted to take this selfie. We were at Hidden Falls for some family pictures. 

This picture makes me laugh because it looks like she is falling, but she was just concentrating really hard.

On the last day of preschool.

With his teachers. The goof refused to take a picture without his eyes crossed.

Clare's delicious lemon poppyseed raspberry cake!


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?)