Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Thank God--No Flair Pens on the School-Supply List This Year.

the first day of school last year

This week I've done something thoroughly uncharacteristic. I've begun school-supply shopping.

I know. It's shocking.

As most of you know, I'm usually the mom who avoids all mention, thought, or even mere whisper of an idea of a mention or thought of back-to-school until nearly the last minute. This is because the end of summer/beginning of a new school year is so traumatic for me that my best coping mechanism is denial. Summer flies by so quickly; every year it feels like a cruel trick. I'm just not ready to think about the end of summer in July. When it's no longer optional to pretend summer vacation lasts forever, i.e. because school starts the following week, I then suck it up and try to find all the annoyingly specific requested items on the school-supply list in a fever of frustration, discovering as I do so that the limited stores in my small town are invariably out of stock of some of the necessary items (since everyone else started earlier than I did).

I can't explain why I've rejected my usual m.o. this year. Maybe I'm tired of missing out on the very best prices. Or maybe I'm sick to death of picking out the required spiral notebooks, getting to the bin on the store shelf where the purple spiral notebooks are supposed to be, and finding it empty, even though my list clearly states, "spiral notebooks: blue, red, yellow, green, purple." Or some such.

The truth is, I was inspired by my friend Kathy, who came to gymnastics class yesterday with her Walgreen's ad in hand, pointing out the low prices and stating her intention to head there after tumbling was done. To tell you the truth, the deal was sealed when Kathy texted me from Walgreen's a little later to tell me that they had PENCILS THAT ARE ALREADY SHARPENED. Seriously. That was it for me. I became intent on getting to Walgreen's before the pre-sharpened pencils were all sold out. Because, people, I will go anywhere for pre-sharpened pencils. Do you how rare the pre-sharpened pencil is? And do you know that the teachers all require the pencils to be already sharpened? Have you ever killed many a minute, the night before Back-to-School Open House, attempting to sharpen 60 brand-new pencils at home? Well, let me tell you, I have, as have most of my mom friends, and it is not pretty. It's possible that at one point or another I have pitched said pencils and/or crappy pencil sharpener across the room, muttering something about what the #$@! school can do with their #$@% request for already-sharpened pencils. I mean, don't they have pencil sharpeners AT SCHOOL? Hefty, industrial, effective pencil sharpeners?

Anyway, once I heard about the pre-sharpened pencils, I was sold on the idea of early school-supply shopping. I didn't have time after tumbling, so I ventured out after dinner, sans kiddos (also a change from earlier years, and wow does it make a difference), school list in hand, to begin the annual quest for glue sticks and highlighters and two-pocket folders.

Even though I was starting early, I braced myself for any possible challenges; remember The Unicorn of the School-Supply World, the Flair pen? And sure enough, once I got to to the school-supply aisle at Walgreen's, not everything was quite as it seemed in the enticing ad that came in the newspaper last weekend. I mean, naturally the folders that were 4/$1 did not include the 3rd-grade-required ORANGE. Red, blue, yellow, green--of course. But if you need orange? A different, more expensive folder. The multi-pack of cheap glue sticks? Not to be found. (I'm holding off on that one.) Highlighters? Can I get by with sending two of the 15-cent mini-highlighters with my child, in place of the requested "1 highlighter" (presumably regular-sized) that costs a whole lot more? What about the composition notebooks? They're 80 pages, but the school list asks for 100-page ones. Gah.

As for the pre-sharpened pencils? Came in packs of 10, not 12--even though one child needs two packs (24) and one needs three packs (36). I bought all five remaining packs of pre-sharpened pencils and still don't have the required number of pencils for each child. To which I say, ARGH! Close enough. They're SHARPENED, aren't they?

I'm not done with the school-supply shopping. I couldn't bring myself to buy the Crayola markers at Walgreen's when I know I can get cheaper markers at Target, even later on. And glue sticks are still on the to-buy list, as are the general items like Kleenex and Clorox Wipes (and a composition notebook that has 100 pages in it). Plus, there's still the issue of backpacks and lunch boxes to address. (Oh, Lord.)

 image courtesy potterybarnkids.com

Now that I've ventured into school-supply shopping a full month ahead of schedule (and am almost done), I cannot believe I ever subjected myself to this experience, last year.

See? Even moms learn things as they grow up.

Friday, July 27, 2012

2nd Annual ABC Summer Weekly Report: B and Q

Ah, ABC Summer. Neglected again this week.

This was Genevieve's final week of soccer. As loyal readers may remember, we don't do many ABC activities during the three-week soccer session. By the time we've gotten to soccer every morning and then shoehorned in the necessary chores and errands of family life, we seem to easily fill what's left of each day with things like playdates, quiet time, and the pool. This week, for example, in addition to the few ABC activities below, we went to the pool (of course), visited the town square's popcorn cart, had friends over for a make-your-own-ice-cream-sundae party, perused a dollhouse exhibit at the library, went to gymnastics class (Julia), and later today we have a birthday party (Julia) and are hosting a playdate (Genevieve). At home, we worked on printable vehicle mazes, had a doll tea party, created sidewalk-chalk hopscotch boards on the driveway, and delivered home-baked goodies to five of our neighbors.

But. We did do a few things for B and Q week, and one activity is yet to come later today. So here you go, those of you who might be facing a long, unscheduled summer day and wondering how you could fill some of it.


* baked Banana Bread
* made Butterscotch icebox cookies


* colored Queen coloring sheets from Education.com
* did Q-tip painting (not yet actually, but plan to do it today)

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Two Little Girls and a Little Dollhouse

Friends. Is it truly Thursday already? What? Where have I been? What have I been doing? I don't know. Mainly taking the littles here and there: soccer, the dollhouse-collection exhibit at the library, the pool, gymnastics class. The dentist to get the 360-degree X-rays for the upcoming braces. (OMG.) The supermarket to get the ice cream and glorious assorted sauces and toppings for the ice-cream-sundae-bar get-together at our house one night after dinner. The prairie and the woods, to run. (That one, not with the littles, but by myself). The pool. The pool. The pool.

My daughters have fallen back in love with their giant dollhouse, the one Santa brought last Christmas. They were also recently handed-down an old handmade table-top dollhouse from our elderly next-door neighbor, so now they set the dollhouses up side by side and play "neighborhood." They have spent several hours this week playing dollhouse neighborhood, constructing elaborate scenarios and schedules for their houses' families, mostly involving chores, playdates, tea parties, and naps.

Amidst this mostly-harmonious activity, I clean, cook, bake, begin to plan for Genevieve's August birthday, and generally keep things humming around the house. I try not to think about how many (few) weeks and days we have left in the summer.

I turn off the news repeatedly, every time my girls come into the room and there's talk of Aurora, CO, on the radio. I am acutely aware of how fervently I want them to stay focused on things like dollhouses rather than on terrifying mass murders borne out of psychotic psychiatric illness. At the grocery store I become angry that every single checkout has the same tabloid facing out, with a photo of the Aurora shooter at his court appearance, eyes spacey and crazy, hair dyed orange, and a large typed headline just below, spelling out "murder" and more. I frantically, surreptitiously, throw a different magazine in front of one of them so we can pay for our groceries. Had my girls seen that photo, they would see that face in their heads at night, in their beds, in the dark.

Hugs to all of you and your littles.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Parenting Small Children Has Done Me In.

Didn't I look fairly good back then?

OMG, you all. Let me give you a little piece of advice right now, perhaps the most important piece of advice you will ever receive from a fellow parent. No, nothing about discipline or sleep training or picky eaters or anything like that. Nothing about the actual parenting of a child at all, in fact. But still--so important. Here it is. Are you ready?

Do not go back and look at old photos of yourself from two to seven years ago. Just don't.

Look at the babies, sure. Definitely enjoy the photos of your kids themselves. Just avoid the ones that include your own self.

The other night, just for fun, I took down a family album of photos from 2005 to 2010. (I know; that's six years--in one album? what the...? This is a general album of semi-"leftover" pictures, separate from the albums I maintain for each daughter herself. Thus, ten kajillion photos go in my daughters' albums, and, like, five per year end up in this album. WHICH APPARENTLY IS A GOOD THING.)

And what struck me immediately was how fresh and relaxed and pretty and fit I looked back then. Which is crazy, really, because--seriously, fit and fresh and relaxed while you have babies, toddlers, and preschoolers? I doubt it. But still: there was photographic proof, and I definitely looked better in that album than I do when I look in the mirror every day now. And I don't think it's just aging, you all. I don't think it's just the passage of time. I mean, six years is a long time, yes--more than half a decade, which means a whole lot when you're in your thirties (or forties). But if the photos were to be believed, even two and three years ago I was looking a heck of a lot less....rough....than I'm feeling these days.

Clearly parenting has done me in. Which is funny, because I love parenting. My daughter asked me the other day if I loved being a mom more than anything else and I honestly told her yes. She asked me if I loved it all the time, even when she and her sister are being naughty, and I could honestly say that I did--that in those moments I don't love how they're behaving, but I still love being a mom more than anything else there is in the world to be. So....how come I look like death warmed over half the time? I'd like to blame lack of discretionary income, and state that if I had more money I could pay someone else to take away many of the vestiges of time and the nicks and dings that come along with parenting small children and having no time to yourself--the wrinkles and cellulite and wan complexion and neglected roots and sun damage and scrabbly cuticles--but....come to think of it let's do that. That works for me.

By definition, parenting small children is bad for your appearance. I mean, think about it: two of the hallmarks of parenting littles are: a.) getting very, VERY little sleep, and b.) being outside for hours and hours (= massive sun exposure) each day, particularly in the summer. Right there you're already deep in the trenches of Uglyville.

Beyond that, my personal theory is that when you're far from the social network of an extended family and thus lacking in the immediate physical help and emotional support that comes from having relatives nearby, the stresses and challenges of parenting even an easy child are magnified many fold. Throw in a poor sleeper or money troubles or any number of other additional stresses and your body basically goes for broke just to get through. So there's that too.

But I still can't escape the fact that my life appears to be kicking my ass. Or at least my photographic image.

(Come to think of it, maybe part of the problem is that we no longer have a real camera. All our photos are taken with our phones, and I don't know how to use Instagram yet. Can I blame my scrappy appearance on crappy cell-phone cameras? Please say yes.) 

How about you? Do you ever look at old photos and think, Hey, what happened to that young, pretty, well-rested woman? She is so gone! Please tell me I'm not the only one.

Friday, July 20, 2012

2nd Annual ABC Summer Weekly Report: L and V; Plus LIW Museum Trip Recap

For the past three summers, one or the other of my daughters has taken a little soccer class offered through our town's community services program. Because it meets every morning (except Fridays) for three weeks in a row, those weeks are predictably pretty light on ABC Summer activities. By the time we've gone to soccer, completed our requisite errands, done the housecleaning, grocery shopping, cooking, and laundry, and visited the pool on all the hot afternoons, there isn't much time for extra plans. Which is totally fine.

This week's letters for ABC Summer were L and V. Since half of our Walnut Grove trip occurred at the beginning of L week, and Little House on the Prairie begins with L, I'll start out by finally showing you some pictures of our visit to the Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum last weekend. If your family is into the Little House books, or even just pioneer-history in general, and you live in the Minnesota/South Dakota/Iowa area, I recommend a visit. Walnut Grove is tiny and scrabbly, and the museum is a bit shabby in a we-need-money sort of way, but it's fascinating and there's a lot to look at. Plus your kids will be utterly amazed at the thought of standing on the same ground as the Ingalls girls did if they've ever read On the Banks of Plum Creek (the volume that describes Laura's life during her family's time at Walnut Grove, MN).

Walnut Grove is a 3-hour drive from our house. We started off on Saturday morning, bright and early, with the girls in braids and wearing the prairie bonnets their grandma gave them last Halloween:

The drive was long and slow, but pretty. It was interesting to be driving on a small two-lane highway through farmland and prairie, imagining the Ingalls family traversing the same plains in a covered wagon. When we got to Walnut Grove, we had a picnic lunch in the little park, where a small festival/carnival was going on in conjunction with the museum.

Then we walked over to the museum, where we forced the girls to pose for photos and asked a stranger to take the requisite shot of us pretending to be Pa, Ma, Laura, and Mary.

The museum had oodles of things to see, including all sort of photos, documents, letters, and household objects of Laura Ingalls and the Ingalls family, information about their travels and difficulties, and facts about pioneer life. There were also rooms that showed aspects of life during Laura's time, like slates the children used in school and an old cast-iron stove.

The museum has several different buildings, designed to illustrate pertinent places in Walnut Grove, like a one-room schoolhouse, jail, and church. We spent a long time going through the different buildings and imagining life back then. On the schoolhouse wall, there was a framed copy of rules for schoolteachers in the late 1800s, which was fascinating and made schoolteaching back then sound like a hell of a raw deal--but perhaps better than many other options, and probably the only option available to unmarried women (you were forbidden to work as a teacher once you were engaged) and one of the few available to educated men.

On the way back to our car to drive to the "dugout site," we bought pony rides for the girls at the carnival in the park. Forgive me, animal rights activists. I admit these ponies looked pretty sad. But my daughters had never ridden a pony and were DYING to do so, and how can you resist, when given an opportunity like this? Sure, it was overpriced and sketchy in its own carny way, but....they were thrilled. to. death.

Each of the ponies had a little sun umbrella affixed to its bar. I couldn't decide if this was brilliant or just made everything all the sadder for the poor, restrained, hot, bored ponies.

Moving on!

After the pony rides, we drove about a mile into the prairie to the actual site of the Ingalls' family's "dugout house," the space in a hillside that was the family's home when they first moved to the area by Plum Creek. The roof of the dugout collapsed a long time ago, so you can't go inside to see anything, but the site is still there, and we stood right next to the collapsed roof and walked down the same path that Laura and Mary Ingalls walked down to wade in the actual creek they waded in 150 years ago. It was truly mind-boggling.

Because there's nothing built up around the dugout site, it's easy to imagine what the land around the Ingalls' home looked like when they lived there--probably pretty much exactly like it did last weekend when we were there. The land around the dugout has been maintained as native prairie, so all you can see are trees, prairie grass and wildflowers, and the creek.

About a year or so ago, I read the first four books in the Little House series to Julia and Genevieve, one chapter at a time, every evening. On the Banks of Plum Creek was perhaps our favorite; it's so full of drama, what with the dugout and the crop failures and grasshopper plagues and all. I've re-read certain chapters since, just to refresh my memory of some of the incredible tribulations the Ingalls family experienced. We might have to read it again, now that we've visited the actual dugout.

On our way back from Walnut Grove, we spent part of a day in the small historic German town of New Ulm, Minnesota, which was cute and interesting and offers many family activities, but I'll save all that for some other time, when we return to New Ulm to fully experience its charms. For now, let's move on to our ABC Summer endeavors for the week, such as they were:


* went to the Library, where we...
* checked out books on Lions
* colored Jan Brett Lions coloring pages
* did a story-ordering worksheet about growing Lettuce
* did Lemon/Lime print painting


* checked out library books on Volcanoes, Velociraptors, and Venus
* did a Verb word scramble worksheet
* plus one idea we have not gotten to yet, but still may do later today or tomorrow: make decoupage Vases using clean, empty food jars or cans, tissue paper, and mod podge

So there you go! I hope this post gives you some ideas for activities to keep your littles busy, and perhaps even a trip to take with your kiddos sometime. Enjoy!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Do My Updo.

I'm telling you, once you have kids, you'll never lack for entertainment. Yesterday I was at the playground with my daughters when they started playing "hair salon."

(Friends, that sentence right there sums up the difference between little boys and little girls. My daughters were playing hair salon at the playground, under the jungle gym, where there was a little metal door type thing and a small stool built into the playset. Of course!)

Julia was being the stylist, and Genevieve was the customer coming to get her hair done. And Julia goes, "Ask for something fancy.....like a curly pompadour."

I barely have time to think, Whaaaa....? when Genevieve flounces over to the stool, plops down, and demands in a client-y sort of way, "Cut it a little, and then give me a leafy twirl."

I'd like to see the entire menu of hairstyling options available at this salon. It sounds pretty interesting, frankly.

I really hope this isn't what the Leafy Twirl looks like.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

So. Hot.

You guys, this is almost blasphemy, but considering how much of the past month has involved temperatures over 90 (and sometimes over 100!) and dew points over 65 (and sometimes over 70!), I am sort of not liking running these days. I am even sort of too hot at the pool. THE POOL.

This is CUH-RAY-ZEE. This is not like me at all. If I had my way, summer would last about twice as long as it does, and the excess time would be taken not from spring or fall, but straight off of winter. But we've hit that point of high summer when our town is in a drought and every day is bright and hot, and yet the air is so humid you feel like you could wring it with your hands and water the dry, dead grass that way--and that makes me wish for a cool, cloudy, thunderstormy day. One during which we'd ideally lie around watching movies. Ahhhhh.....

At the same time, we've also hit the point in the summer when I start to feel the tiny, barely-there edges of panic about summer being halfway over. As all my regular readers know, I suffer every late-August. The back-to-school season is a true trial for me. I dread it like most people dread, say, tax day or their annual mammogram. I hate it when summer ends and my kids go back to school--which means I'd better get out there and enjoy every single second of summer (which is generally all too short in Minnesota). But....it's almost 100 degrees and dripping-humid. A dilemma.

So how is your summer going?

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Bon Voyage

 Even more fun with a friend

My daughters' neighbor buddy leaves in five minutes for her family's annual month-long trip abroad to visit their relatives in Asia. The buddy who lives right next door. The pal who is my daughters' daily playmate, providing hours of entertainment and companionship as she happily joins them in complex pretend-play scenarios in which the girls all imagine they are pioneer girls, or fairies, or explorers, or mothers with babies. The friend who is a year older than Julia and comes from a solid, strict family, and who therefore has impeccable manners, good values, and an even, mature temperament. Leaving. For four weeks. Allow me to sob a little.

Let me tell you, a next-door buddy like this is a true stay-at-home mom's dream. But even so, we're having a great, busy summer, and the truth is, the girls' schedules and activities have conflicted with one another quite a bit this summer, so we haven't relied on backyard play with friends as much as we normally might. Still, it's always a sad day for me--I mean my girls--when their best neighborhood friend goes away for so many weeks. I foresee some long, LONG afternoons ahead. For me.

If I wasn't so drained from sitting outside watching Genevieve play soccer in extreme heat and humidity this morning, I might have the energy to post photos from our weekend trip. Alas, I do not. I do have the energy, however, to take my daughters to the town square later today for $2 root-beer floats (for charity) and then to the pool. Because that's a no-brainer.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Pioneer Girls

Just a little sneak peek of our weekend's adventures. Our family took a little trip to the Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum in Walnut Grove, MN (and a visit to the small historic German town of New Ulm, which was extremely charming and will warrant a return trip when we can spend more time there, hopefully in the fall during their Octoberfest festival).

This photo is of Julia and Genevieve, braids plaited and Little House on the Prairie-style bonnets dangling, ready to hop into the SUV to traverse the Laura Ingalls Wilder Historic Highway to Walnut Grove. We had a wonderful time and there will be more photos and news to come, when I don't have two children and myself to get ready for a morning of tiny tots soccer, gymnastics class, a playdate, and a supermarket run.

Friday, July 13, 2012

2nd Annual ABC Summer Weekly Report: N

This'll be short and sweet, both because we only did one letter for ABC Summer this week (I'm sure there was originally a reason for this, but I can't remember now) and because I've been gone all morning up to a super-fun "fortress playground" in the Twin Cities suburbs with my girls today and yet still have to get us all ready to go out of town for the weekend tomorrow morning. (More on that later.)

This week's ABC Summer letter was 'N.' Hence the morning/lunch field trip today: the fortress playground (one of those giant, unique playgrounds with a huge, intricate, interconnected, all-wood jungle gym/structure boasting unusual features like tire tunnels, a puppet theatre stage, chain bridges, and the like) was at North Park.

'N' was a surprisingly challenging letter to come up with activities for. Either that or we were too busy with our first week of Vivi's summer soccer session to do much else. At any rate, here's what we did for ABC Summer this week:


* went to North Park
* ate Nuts and Noodles (not together)
* made Noodle art
* painted our Nails
* made Nutter Butter brownies
* checked out a library book about the Night sky (we haven't even read this yet!)
* did N letter maze worksheets

And that's all I have for 'N.' Tomorrow we are off to the Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum and Dugout Site in Walnut Grove, MN--the setting for the book On the Banks of Plum Creek, which I read aloud to my girls chapter by chapter last year, along with the other books in the "Little House" series. I'll be back next week with new letters for ABC Summer, more five-year-old soccer, and most likely many more hours at the pool. I'm a broken record this year!

Have a lovely weekend, friends.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Nutter Butter Starts With N. That's All You Need to Know.

Boxed brownie mix and Target-brand peanut-butter sandwich cookies = Nutter Butter Brownies. In other words, an impromptu 'N' activity for ABC Summer. In other words, a very, very good reason to love 'N' week.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Gratitude is All Well and Good But a Vacation Would Be Nice Too.

Every summer I love being a stay-at-home mom more. I love doing ABC Summer. I love taking my kids to the pool (nearly) every day (thanks to grandma and grandpa who once again bought us a family pool pass!). I love going on walks around the block with them during the cranky half hour between whatever afternoon fun we did that day and dinnertime. I love big things like planning "field trips" to the children's theatre or the zoo or unusual playgrounds; I love little things like taking them to Target to pick up eggs and more sunscreen and the portable snacks they like to bring to the pool. I like picking berries with them, chalking on the driveway with them, reading library books with them. I like closing them into separate bedrooms in the afternoon for an hour of cool, dim, quiet time each day, when we all rest or read or nap for a little bit before getting up and tackling the next round of play. I like polishing their tiny toenails out on the patio, watching them run through the sprinkler, giving them Popsicles.

Sadly, none of that pays me a dime, and what I don't love is being in my early 40s and eight years into parenting, and still living paycheck to paycheck and hand to mouth, without enough money to pay off my student loans or go on a real vacation or get my bedroom and bathroom painted. If stay-at-home motherhood paid what it was truly worth financially, I'd be rolling in it.

The idea of getting a job to earn some money for my household, but giving up these precious hours and experiences with my daughters to do so, makes me feel ill. I guess life is all about choices.

Or maybe buying more lottery tickets. There must be a way to make this work, people!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Step by Step

Nearly every day, I'm at the pool with Julia and Genevieve. This allows me near constant opportunity to think about how much my life has changed in the past few years. In some ways, the pool is a metaphor for parenting--the way the stages of childhood (and parenthood) rise up, swirl around and engulf you, and then retreat as you and your child progress to the next stage, which has reared up and will consume you for a time, and which then will disappear, and on...and on.

Every day I pass the baby pool as I walk over to the main pool. I pass the younger moms with the babies and toddlers. I don't know any of them anymore; they're a new crop to me. But the lovely, gentle baby pool used to be the thriving center of my time at the city pool, too.

At the edge of the big pool I tiptoe into the zero-entry, fountain-festooned, shallow area, which stretches far and wide and is studded with two large concrete, sun-umbrella-shaded islands at calf-height. Even up to last year, I spent all my time in this section of the pool with my collection of mom friends. At first, we were all in the water with our kiddos, holding them under their arms and swirling them through the water or catching them as they jumped off the edge; later we progressed to sitting under the umbrella with our legs swinging in the water as our preschoolers and kindergartners splashed to and fro and pretended they could actually swim.

This year I've crossed the line. Half the time or more, I'm sitting beyond the shallow-end rope, on the edge of the middle section, where the water flirts with my daughters' chins and lips when they stand on tiptoe. They jump off the edge over and over, or swim with their goggled faces in the water. And last week, they began jumping off the diving board in the farthest, deepest end of the pool; just jumping off and swimming (Julia) or dog-paddling (Genevieve) to the edge, which is nearby. But still.

This topic has come up time and time again among my circle of mom friends this summer: the notion of traversing the stages of pool-parenting. "We're gradually shifting out," a friend noted the other week. "A few years ago, it was US at the baby pool; then we moved to the shallow. Now we're out deeper, and one day we'll be on the poolside lounge chairs, with our kids in the water by themselves." We all know it means something. We know it's a metaphor for motherhood.

And what really strikes me, this year, is how the stages of pool-parent life illustrate the shifts in my mothering life in general--how, now that my daughters are almost-six and newly-eight, they are so much more self-sufficient, and thus my daily life is dramatically less physically exhausting. It's a bit of a revelation, actually. Any sane adult realizes that kids grow and certain things about parenting them become far easier with time. But it's still a bit startling when it happens to you. It's like you never truly believed you'd get snatches of your life back, to yourself--that you'd actually get to attend to your own needs during the day on occasion, and live to tell the tale. But now here the kids are, and they're no longer splashing in the baby pool between nursing sessions or naptimes. They're no longer in need of water toys and extra snacks and Orajel. You're not finishing up a session at the pool only to stare down diaper changes and toddler tantrums and the fact that they're not old enough to be out of your sight for even five minutes at a time yet unless they're contained in a crib.

It gets easier. And then, no doubt, harder again. But then hopefully, eventually, easier--until everyone's leaping off the diving board and chilling on lounge chairs. But long before then, you'll stroll past the baby pool and feel a little pang of longing. That was your entire life for awhile, after all, way back when. And part of you will always, always miss it.

Monday, July 09, 2012

Summer: Soccer, Cycling, & Swimming

Vivi starts summer soccer today. After two summers of watching Julia participate in this program but being too young to do so herself, she could not be more excited to finally get to be a "real soccer player." This is not a competitive, time-intensive, league-type soccer experience; it's a three-week, four-morning-per-week, 45-minute-per-session, beginner soccer skills program offered for young elementary-schoolers by our town's community recreation department. In other words, just perfect for our non-competitive, somewhat lazy, mildly-structured-activity-averse family. The main challenge for us this year will be getting our lazy summer bodies dressed and out the door at 8:50 every morning for three weeks. We're doing almost no community activities this summer, so we've become very attached to our ritual of hanging out in our pj's every morning for a long, long time, doing whatever happens to suit our fancy (or my to-do list) at the time.

Speaking of firsts, over the weekend Christopher and I took the girls to the nearby Cannon Valley Trail to go biking for the first time. The trail is well-known as a beautiful, flat, paved path through many miles of southern-MN countryside and woods, perfect for recreational cycling. We only covered four miles total, because it's hard to go that far with little legs on a little bike, but we definitely got a good taste of how much fun it is. The girls were thrilled by the wooded scenery and beautiful views, not to mention the easy, smooth path. I was having visions of driving back on my own sometime to do a long run there. And this trail is only 15 or so miles from our house! I envision many weekend biking sessions on the CVT as the girls grow up. So fun!

We topped off the weekend not with another new experience but with a beloved tradition: Sunday night picnic dinner at the pool with some of our favorite families. We try to meet friends at the pool every Sunday during the summer, to swim in the late afternoon and then eat supper together. It's a nice way to end the weekend and get the kiddos all worn out and crashed into bed before another busy, blissful summer week begins.

Long live summer! And long live summer adventures, friends, and picnics at the city pool. It doesn't get any better!

Friday, July 06, 2012

2nd Annual ABC Summer Weekly Report: F and J

Our ABC Summer project continues!

Back in May when my friends Jen, Kathy, and I planned the summer, we naturally assigned the letters 'F' and 'J' to this week--for the Fourth of July. All well and good, but the girls' and my great adventure for the week ended up being a trip to see "Seussical" (the "young audiences" version) at a Twin Cities children's theatre company this morning--which had nothing to do with 'F' or 'J.' It was super fun, though. The performance was excellent. Afterward, I took them out for lunchtime BLTs at a little cafe near the theatre. It was the perfect way to spend a 101-degree day (the only other option when it's 101 degrees is the pool, honestly).

But, moving on--here's what we did for ABC Summer this week:


* celebrated the Fourth of July (also works for 'J'!)
* played with Friends
* went to the Farm
* made 3-D layered paper Flowers (FYI: I got this kit for much cheaper at Target, and it has been a HUGE HIT and has gone a long way--great for pulling out on rainy (or 100-degree) days)
* made Perler bead Flowers:


* celebrated the fourth of July (I need all the 'J' activities I can get!)
* ate Jelly beans
* made Jam tarts (a recipe from the back of the book Anne of Avonlea, very similar to the recipe here):

Some of the activities we didn't get to this week included making homemade Finger paint (see the recipe in the bonus chapter of my book!), making bead Jewelry, and Jumping rope. Oh well--there's only so much you can get done when you spend 3/4 of your time at the pool.

Our week+-long heat wave is supposed to break tonight, so I'm looking forward to temps lower than 90 degrees for the weekend. Yesterday the heat index here was 118 degrees. I don't even want to know what it is right now. Thank God for central air and the city pool.

Thursday, July 05, 2012

Six Summers

I miss you.

 Just a few random thoughts for the day after the 4th of July...

I trust you all had a good holiday. The heat index where I live was 110 degrees yesterday, but we still made it to the annual Criterium bike races in our town in the a.m., where we cheered on a bike-racing friend. (This race is a huge deal; my town is a big biking community and racers come from all over to compete in the Criterium. It's fun to watch because the racers speed around a loop that goes right through our little downtown, so you get to see the pack over and over.) I'm pretty sure the hardy racers suffered a lot more than we did in the heat and humidity.

Later on, we also attended the potluck 4th of July party my friend Dawn hosts every year in her backyard in the country. Dawn and I reminisced to a new guest that she'd been hosting this party for six years; we remembered because the first one was the year my family moved to Northfield and we formed our original playgroup--where four of us mom friends all had 1-1/2 year olds and were pregnant with our second babies. At that first 4th of July party, our friend Connie came out for the first time with her new baby who had been born one month prior; the other three of us were still pregnant and awaiting life as moms of two. I'll never forget that afternoon and the experience of witnessing Connie come in with the infant carseat, and the rest of us waddling over to lean in and ask, How is it? How are you managing? Oh my God, what is it like with two babies under two? Are you getting any sleep at all??? (Of course not.) And now these fast, full years have passed and our 1-1/2 year olds are entering 2nd or 3rd grade, and our newborns (and unborns) are newly or nearly six. But there we were, still friends, in the same kitchen, on the same deck, with our same full hearts and noisy families and busy lives.

Today, on this day after the holiday, life is messy and tired and bug-bitten and still hot. We'll be at the pool this afternoon. I'll be making preparations tonight to take the girls out of town tomorrow morning for a children's play and a picnic lunch. I'm thinking it's time for me to start re-watching "Friday Night Lights" on DVD (we own all five seasons). I really miss that Coach Taylor, and isn't stifling-hot summer the perfect time to watch a series that begins with August football practices in Texas?

Love summer. In all its memory-packed, hot-and-close, stifling busy-ness and kid-craziness.

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Eating for the 4th of July (Early)

My friend Laura is on vacation with her family this week, so I'm watering her garden for her, in exchange for all the fresh raspberries the girls and I can pick.

It's 99 degrees here with a dew point of 70, and the mosquitoes are so bad that we have to pick berries in long sleeves, pants, and hats or hoodies. And yet, it's still worth it.

In the afternoons, we head to the pool, along with the rest of our town.

The essence of summer in Minnesota, right there.

Monday, July 02, 2012

Love, Love, Love. (Or: A Frivolous Post About Hair Product.)

You guys, I can't help myself, I just have to show you photos of the wonder that this is Kerastase hair product I raved about in my Summer Must-Haves for Moms post. You know, the Cristalliste Lumiere Liquide Luminous Perfecting Essence for Dry Lengths or Ends? I think I spelled it wrong the first time. Anyway, I've been using it for a month now and I'm just as amazed as I was the first time I tried it, after getting some as a gift from a friend. Look at what this stuff does to my normally dry, straw-like, summer-fried hair:

(Arm, back, and shoulder muscles brought to you by Jillian Michaels and 
her 30 Day Shred. Hate it but you CANNOT argue with the results.)

Can you see those soft, shiny, glossy ends?!

 There's probably a better way to take photos of the back of your head, but I do not know it.


In case you were wondering, my hair NEVER looks like that, normally. Generally, during the summer, the ends of my hair resemble a worn-out broom or the chewed-on bristles of my five-year-old's toddler toothbrush. Lovely.

Truth be told, I don't know if photos really show you the effect very well, and no, Kerastase is not sponsoring this post in any way. I'm just so amazed that I feel compelled to share my discovery with the world. Of course it wouldn't be a bad thing if Kerastase was moved to show their appreciation in some way for the free, personal-testimony advertising--such as providing me with a surprise case of this liquid gold. But really, I just wanted to show you. Because when I saw the ends of my hair looking like this, my mouth fell open. And my kids just weren't appropriately excited for me. "Yeah, Mama, OK, whatever, can we have ice cream for snack?" may have been their response.

I love you, expensive hair potion. You make even tired, harried, unkempt moms look pretty. Even if they're still in their pajamas at ten in the morning.