Monday, February 1, 2016

Bits and Pieces: January

When I was a kid, I actually liked getting pink eye. It was the best! You got to stay home from school and you didn't feel sick at all. Well, now hate is not a strong enough word for how I feel about pink eye. Yes, you guessed it, both kids were infected over the past few weeks. And actually, Christopher did fine with the eye drops. He barely flinched. Clare, on the other hand, acted as though I was sawing off her arm with a dull blade. My mom says it is payback from when I was a kid. Apparently I acted the same way. Conveniently, I don't remember that.

Other than pink eye, January was okay. The first week was spent in Florida, so I can't complain about that. We are now hitting my least favorite part of the year, but I am trying to stay positive. If there is even a hint of sun, or if the temperature is above 15, I am shooing the kids into the backyard. Clare loves the snow. In fact, we were leaving for school a few weeks ago in that frigid cold, and she said "I love winter!" It was negative 10. Christopher is less enthusiastic, but I am hoping he'll like it better next year when he can join Clare at the skating rink. We are going to try sledding next weekend, too. Christopher probably won't like it, but I am going to encourage him to enjoy the outdoors as much as possible.

Clare is still enjoying school. We went to the winter carnival last weekend, and she actually rode on a pony. This is huge for Clare, who normally runs away in terror from any animal, except for our decrepit cat (RIP).  She still challenging me constantly - if I tell her to do something she has a million reasons why she can't or won't. She is so good at getting under my skin that every piece of advice I've received or tips I've read fly right out of my head in the heat of the moment. I am working on it, though. I am trying really hard to ""engage, don't enrage" and "connect and redirect." Yes, I am reading a book about discipline. My take so far: nothing I do works.

It is not all bad, though, and we have a lot of fun together. Clare has been making valentine's for her family and friends, and she is super into it. She is much more crafty than I am. (She is bringing "Frozen" valentine's to school, because of course.) She has officially given up naps. She still does quiet time, but we usually play a few games in the afternoon while Josie and Christopher are sleeping. My favorite is house, because I am the baby and she puts me to bed. I get to lay on the couch with my eyes closed. She gets mad if I open them. Who am I to argue?

Christopher has a huge vocabulary now, and speaks in multi-word sentences. He is very generous and polite, constantly saying thank you. He also likes to hit, so we are working on putting an end to that. While Clare is at school, he sneaks up to her room to play. (She generally forbids him from entering when she is home.) I let him get away with it because I know he is not hurting anything. He loves music. He nods his head to the beat and frequently requests that we have dance parties at home.  He requests several "friends" to accompany him to bed. Currently, he has blankie, Big Bird, Cookie Monster, Super Grover, tiger, lamb, fox, baby, doggie, school bus, giraffe, space ship, bear, star light, and I think one or two toys more in bed with him. There is barely room for him.

Over the holidays, Christopher discovered that he loves chocolate. Clare is more of an equal opportunity sweets consumer, but Christopher will choose chocolate every time.

Christopher and I have watched a few football games together over the past month. I like his analysis of the game. "Run around! Fall down! Bonk head!" Yep, that about sums it up.

Pony rides a the winter carnival! Yes, she is wearing her Christmas dress.

Ready to watch the Packers. They lost, but Christopher and Cookie Monster didn't seem to care.

Snow monsters.

We might be going a little stir crazy.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

This Year's Resolutions

I have my 40 x 40 goals, but I am going to make a few specific resolutions for this year as well. If I write down what I want to accomplish, I feel accountable. I don't know who I am accountable to, exactly, but it seems to work.

1. Create a budget. This actually fits in with my 40 x 40 goals, because the budget will include college savings for both kids. We have a vague, general budget for our major expenses, but I want to keep track to the dollar. If I have cash, I tend to lose track of where I spend it.

2. Set stricter screen time limits and stick to them. I let the kids watch a lot of TV over the holidays. A lot. I was so busy getting everything ready for all of my hosting and present duties that I just needed them out of my hair. We developed some bad habits. And before the holidays? Well, I wasn't that great about restricting screen time then, either. My new plan: they get one hour a day. This will most likely work out to one show after lunch and one show while I am making dinner OR the equivalent time using the tablet to play games. I tried this schedule last week, and while there was a lot of initial complaining, we got through it and ended up having fun playing dress up and doing puzzles and putting on puppet shows. (And now that the holidays are over, I have time to facilitate the playing of such games, if I need to.) Of course, there will be exceptions for sick days and below zero days. There have to be exceptions to every rule, right?

And that's it!

Friday, January 15, 2016

The Sunshine State

We flew to Florida the day after New Year's. My parents rented a house in Fort Myers Beach, and my brother and sister-in-law flew over from England. My sister and brother-in-law and Miss Josie were there as well.

It was wonderful. Clare swam in the pool every day - she is getting braver and braver in the water. We went to the beach. We rented a pontoon and tooled around the back bay. We saw dolphins. We drank lots of wine. We ate Mexican food. We had dueling dinner parties. (Clare won the Eiffel Tower building contest. She used toothpicks and cheese - she is quite the engineer.) We took long walks. We visited Sanibel Island and a wild bird sanctuary. I almost hit a car with our rental minivan, ruining both my brother-in-law and my lunches while we stewed over whether or not I had in fact caused the large scrape on the side of the other vehicle. (Our conclusion: I hadn't.) Christopher was crabby for the first few days. Uncle Gobby's orca impression in the pool snapped him right out of his funk. Uncle Andrew's mermaid impression wasn't bad, either. Ben, Andrew, Robby and Andri visited the Everglades. Some of us saw Star Wars. We watched football. We talked and laughed and had a blast.

I can't wait to go back next year.

Ready to fly.

He ended up on my lap for most of the flight.

My favorite girl and I at the bird sanctuary.

With two of her favorite people

Christopher is under that towel. Crabbypants did not like the wind.

Captain Clare.

The best family photo we got. It was a bit chilly that day - but we had some wonderful weather too.


Ready to be entertained. (And he actually went swimming!)

75 and sunny in January? I'll take it. So will Clare, even though she complained that the beach was "too bright" and the sand was "too dirty." Be glad you live in Minnesota, kid.

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Year in Review: 2015

I think I may have ended the year by making a big mistake: I let Clare watch "Frozen." She has watched it three times in three days, and has asked to watch it at least 12 times. Sigh.

This year flew by, didn't it? As usual. I'd say overall it was a good one.

1. What did you do in 2015 that you’d never done before?

Sent a child off to school on the school bus. Became a daycare provider for my niece.

2. Did you keep your New Year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

I actually kept 3 out of 4 this year! I think this is the first time I have ever followed through on my resolutions. Resolution one: get organized. I did this, but I think it needs to be a yearly task. I plan to try get rid of stuff every January. Number two: stick to my workout routine. I did this, for the most part. I have more work to do, and hope to be even better about exercising in 2016. Resolution three: read all of the books on my bookshelf rather than checking books out from the library. Nope, didn't do that. Resolution four: watch all of "Friends" on Netflix. Yeah, that one was easy.

3. Did anyone close to you have a child?

Yes! Katie had Remy, Peggy had Finn and my cousin Jackie had Violet.

4. Did anyone close to you die?

Yes, my grandpa died in March.

5. Where did you travel?

Golden Eagle Lodge on the Gunflint Trail with my in-laws, camping at St. Croix State Park with friends, a girls' weekend in Hayward, Wisconsin, and many trips to Evansville.

6. What would you like to have in 2016 that you lacked in 2015?

More time kid-free time with Ben. I am hoping we can take a trip for our 10th anniversary in May.

7. What dates from 2015 will remain etched upon your memory?

March 4, the day my grandpa died. Also, the third weekend in June: we went camping with friends. Christopher was sick and crabby, and Clare had an allergic reaction after eating a cashew. There were some fun things that happened, too. (Mostly I remember devouring chili mac and beer.) It was a memorable weekend, even if not all of the memories good.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?

Not going crazy? I don't know.

9. Did you suffer illness or injury?

Luckily, nothing major went wrong this year. I feel like I had 10,000 colds, though. I even have one right now! Ah, life with small children.

10. What was the best thing you bought?

Our minivan! I never thought I would want a minivan, but it has been so nice.

11. Whose behavior merited celebration?

Family and friends who were generous and helpful and kind.

12. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?

Sadly, there are too many to list here without throwing myself into a deep depression. I'll limit myself to one name: Donald Trump.

13. Where did most of your money go?

The new car and the other usual Things for House and Children.

14. What did you get really, really, really excited about?

Going away on a girls' weekend to Hayward, Wis., with Heather, Kerry, Peggy and Sarah. I was so excited that I drank a pint of gin the first night and was super hungover the next day. All well. It was still really fun.

15. What song will always remind you of 2015?

"Dreams" by Brandi Carlile. Clare insists on listening to it nearly every time we're in the car. "Somewhere Over the Rainbow," which we sing to Christopher every night.

16. Compared to this time last year, are you: a) happier or sadder? b) thinner or fatter? c) richer or poorer?

Happier, thinner and poorer.

17. What do you wish you’d done more of?

Spent more time doing things to exercise my brain. Sometimes I feel like I am getting dumber by the year. I do read a lot, so that helps, but I need to find another activity to do as well. Maybe a crossword puzzle? Am I an old person?

18. What do you wish you’d done less of?

I'll just repeat what I wrote last year:

Worried about things that are out of my control. I think I'll wish that every year. Also: obsessed about things that have already happened. (And are therefore out of my control.)

19. How did you spend Christmas?

We hosted a Christmas Eve lunch with my in-laws here. That was the start of the present extravaganza, and Clare loved every minute of it. We went to church next door, and Christopher sang along to the music. Christmas Eve was at my sister's, complete with taco dip and more presents. Katie and Andrew gave me a ceramic tree with lights that looks just like the one my grandmother has, and I love it. Christmas Day was here. The kids opened presents and ate homemade gingerbread, and then I cooked a big English breakfast for my parents and Katie and Andrew. Clare got some great gifts. Santa didn't let her down: she got her Doc McStuffins kit. I also gave her my Samantha doll that I had when I was a little girl. She was pretty excited. Christopher got a Cookie Monster stuffed animal and a few different school buses. These are his two favorite things in the world, so he was happy. Among many others things, they also both got pillow pet dream lites from my neighbor. These might have been one of their favorite presents. They both insisting on having them on every night.

We had Christmas dinner here with my parents. It was nice, especially the martinis my mom mixed up. Overall, it was a great Christmas.

20. What was your favorite TV program?

Master of None, Parks and Recreation (I will miss you!), Broadchurch, Game of Thrones (Yes, I am very late to the party - I have only watched the first season so far), Veep and the Great British Baking Show.

22. What was the best book you read?

My top five:

1. "Station Eleven" by Emily St. John Mandel
2. "Big Little Lies" by Liane Moriarty
3. "The Remains of the Day" by Kazuo Ishiguro
4. "All the Light We Cannot See" by Anthony Doerr
5. "The Girl on the Train" by Paula Hawkins

23. What was your greatest musical discovery?

I could use some recommendations here, actually. I haven't discovered any new music in a long time.

24. What did you want and get?

THREE girls' weekends away. I am spoiled by a very accommodating and understanding husband.

25. What did you want and not get?

More time to myself.

26. What was your favorite film of this year?

Once again I saw very few movies this year. I'll go with "Still Alice." Sad, but very well done.

27. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?

Ben took me to dinner at the Surly taproom. They have really good food! I still think about the chicken sandwich I ate there. And the beer was okay, too. I turned 36.

28. What one [or three] thing[s] would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?

Like I said before, Ben and I could really use some more time to ourselves. I am going to try to schedule a date night once a month in 2016. Maybe that can be one of my New Year's Resolutions?

29. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2015?

I think I should delete this question.

30. What kept you sane?

Routine, routine, ROUTINE. Also, girls' nights out and my yoga class.

31. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?

Aaron Rodgers. I love you.

32. What political issue stirred you the most?

Gun control. Yes, Amy Klobuchar, that should be listed as an issue in your drop down menu!

33. Who did you miss?

Christina. Jenn. Sara. Rob and Andri. My grandpa.

34. Who was the best new person you met?

My new friend Sarah!

35. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2015.

I've been better at putting things into perspective. When I start to get into a funk about something, I think about how lucky I am to have the life I do. I don't have to worry about where my next meal is coming from or whether or not I'll have heat this winter. I spend a lot of time fretting about the state of the world, and it finally occurred to me that maybe I should try to do something about these things. My actions may be small, but they help me feel better, and hopefully will help the world be a better place, too. Is that cheesy enough for you?

Happy New Year, all! And here's hoping that I get "Let it Go" out of my head sometime before 2017.

At Ben's family Christmas party. (Which was really fun - she went swimming on her own in the hotel pool, and Christopher spent most of the time hiding under the buffet table with his school bus or chasing his Great Uncle Chris around the room.)

Getting ready for a puppet show with the puppet theater Meema Jo and Baba Ralph gave C & C for Christmas.

Monday, December 21, 2015

RIP Cat and Other Updates

The cat is gone. At long last. As most of you know, I never liked her. She kept me awake. I blame her for my other cat running away and, in all likelihood, getting lost in a cornfield and eaten by a coyote. She peed all over our basement. She scared Christopher to death.

That being said, though, it still made me sad. She was a living thing, after all, and making the decision to end her life was not an easy one. It was her time, though. She was ill and pretty miserable. She was 22 years old, which is quite old for a cat. When we adopted her, she was 10. I like to think we gave her those extra 12 years, because most people don't want to adopt a 10-year-old cat. (Including me. This was all Ben.) So RIP cat. I hope you are in cat heaven, taking a long nap in the sun.

I wonder if I should blame myself for Christopher's current fear of both cats and dogs. Our cat spent most of the time in the basement, and when she did come upstairs she walked around meowing at the top of her voice and looked fairly demented. I don't blame him for being a bit scared of her. My friends and I had our office holiday party at my friend Heather's house, which is also home to two cats and a dog. Christopher spent much of the time clinging to me. He finally calmed down when the dog was penned. Clare is also scared of dogs. (She is fine with cats.) I don't know.

Speaking of the office party, though, it was really fun. We decided that since our husbands all get fun holiday parties, we should get one too. We drank wine with lunch and ate a bunch of cookies. It was grand. I think I'll get a babysitter next year, though.

We've attended a few other holiday parties this month, including one without kids! We had a Christmas get together with Ben's family on Sunday, too. We went out for a nice dinner, and the kids are always so happy to see their grandparents. It has been a busy month and we haven't even gotten to the main event yet. I am hosting brunch and dinner on Christmas Day and a lunch on Christmas Eve, and have been waking up at 4:30 every morning with lists of things to do running through my head. I am trying to relax and enjoy the season, but that is only happening sporadically.

Luckily, I have been the recipient of many of Christopher's hugs. He gives the best hugs. He wraps his arms around me and squeezes as tightly as he can. They make my day.

I wish everyone a Merry Christmas and good luck during Christmas Break. I have a feeling it will be a mixed blessing here, but I am going to try to enjoy my extra time with this bearded lady.

Monday, December 7, 2015

4 and a Half

How to describe Clare at 4 and a half? Words that come to mind: attitude, independence, challenging, funny, sweet, and smart.

She wants to know everything. If Ben and I are having a conversation, she will be a part of it. Yesterday, she was pretty disappointed when she found out we were talking about speaker wire. Why would you talk about that when there are so many more interesting things in the world? When we read books at night, I almost lose my mind because she asks a question about something on every page. (And much of the time she is questioning the plot of the book. For example, in "Harold and the Purple Crayon" he climbs up a mountain, and then falls when there isn't another side to it. Clare cannot understand why he doesn't just draw the other side of the mountain. This bothers her.) And I can't get away with saying "I don't know" to anything. Her response to that: "Well, tell me what you think."

I mean, this is great. It makes me crazy, but it's great. I love that she is already thinking so critically about the world around her. She wants to know how everything works, too. She gets that from her father.

She's loving school, and is doing really well. We had a conference with her teacher a few weeks ago. Her only criticism was that Clare is sometimes too loud. I was not shocked. At home, she shouts all day long.

Clare is very excited for Christmas. We decorated the tree yesterday, and plan to bake cookies next weekend. I am trying to keep her expectations low, but it is hard. I hope she won't be disappointed on Christmas morning.

There are daily battles with this one, but most of the time she is just so fun. I just love talking to her. I miss her when she is at school, although I think we both need the break from each other. Christopher misses her even more. When she comes home, he runs to the door, screaming with joy. Josie is always happy to see her, too. And Clare is so good with both of them, although she does yell at her brother more than I'd like.

Like last year, I asked Clare a few questions in an interview. I had to start over twice because she kept using baby talk. Who knows why. The mind of a four and a half year old can be quite the mystery.

I was recently watching a video of Clare as an infant. I wished I could go back and hold her as a baby again, just for a minute. I know I can't, though, so I am trying to enjoy each stage while I have it.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Bits and Pieces: November

The year feels like a roller coaster to me. The first few months: slow. You're climbing  to the top of the ride. Then it's June and WHOOSH, down you go, and suddenly it's the end of the November. Have I used that analogy before? Anyway, here we are. The end of November!

I haven't put out any Christmas decorations yet, but the Christmas tree lot at the school next door is in full swing. I love Christmas music, but even I get tired of hearing it every night. All well, they give us a free tree. I am trying not to be a Grinch about it. (It really isn't bad, except for the nights that they are out there drinking until all hours. In the Catholic school parking lot. As you do.)

Christopher's vocabulary continues to grow daily. He also knows at least half the alphabet, the numbers one through 10, and the primary colors. (He can count to five in order, but gets confused after that.) Whenever we're out anywhere, he starts emphatically shouting out letters he sees on signs or buildings. We sing "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" to him every night and he sings along. He knows quite a few of the words. I melt.

He and Clare are both having trouble adjusting to the cold weather. They insist on wearing their fall coats. Clare spent yesterday running around the house in a tank top. Clare's argument is that since it is technically still fall, she should be able to wear her fall coat. I keep trying to explain that in Minnesota fall ends with October, but she doesn't care. IT IS STILL FALL. I don't know what Christopher's deal is. I think he is just trying to assert his independence.

They are playing together more and more, which I love, and not only because it gives me a few minutes of peace.

Clare conquered a major fear this month: Santa. I've always been vague about Santa - you have to be when you have a fearful child. (And I mean really, the whole thing is kind of creepy when you think about it.) However, this year Clare was willing to meet Santa. (She would not sit on his lap. Again, understandable.) She even told him what she wants: a Doc McStuffins doctor kit. Poor Santa clearly had no idea what she was talking about. Luckily, Mommy does, and may or may not already have one in the basement. It was a really fun day all around. We were in Evansville visiting my parents. Evansville held an Old Fashioned Christmas celebration. Eleven inches of snow had fallen the night before, so it was quite Christmasy, even though it was the weekend before Thanksgiving. Clare and I took a ride on a fire truck, and she and my mom and I spent some time drinking coffee and doing puzzles at the local coffee shop. Actually, Clare did the puzzles mostly by herself. She is really good at them and can even do 50 piece puzzles on her own.

And, of course the kids had fun with their grandparents. They love going to the "Cuckoo House."

I hosted Thanksgiving for my in-laws for the first time this year. It went pretty well. Everyone helped. Ben washed all of the dishes after the meal, and made a pumpkin pie that morning. Clare stirred the corn casserole and tore the bread for the stuffing. And Christopher took an extra long nap on Thanksgiving Day, giving me a lot of uninterrupted time to cook. Wow, it is a lot of work to put together that dinner. It was worth it, though. Everyone had a good time.

Next weekend we celebrate my sweet niece's 1st birthday. Her two biggest fans (besides her parents) will be in attendance. Clare and Christopher are just so excited to see her every day. You would think it had been weeks since they had seen her, rather than, you know, the day before. I love that they have such a special relationship with their cousin.

On to December!

Christopher and Baba Ralph.

Watching the snow fall.
Clare got to go out for ice cream with Baba by herself. Can you tell she was happy?
Tearing bread for stuffing. Josie is not helping.

Clare sort of smiling with Santa!