Friday, May 31, 2013

The End of the Last Full Week of School Before the End of the School Year (Got That?)

This is what the sky looked like when I walked outside at 3:15 to meet the afternoon school bus. It had rained for roughly two weeks straight (I'm rounding up) and then today the sun came out and this crazy wind blew up and this is what resulted.

We get clouds like this fairly often in my town--these extravagant, fake-looking Northfield clouds. My family has an especially good view of them out where we live, because (though you can't tell from the photos above) we live on the edge of the countryside, with vast farm fields to our south and east, which gives us an unimpeded view of the sky. I have friends who live in the middle of town who don't really see these dramatic skies because of the trees and roofs in the way. I love it when we get clouds like these. They are honestly one of my absolute favorite things about where I live.

Ah but I wasn't planning to come here to write about clouds.

Sometime later, if you are lucky, you might get to see photos and/or video of my daughters and their besties doing a homegrown dance routine to "You Don't Know You're Beautiful" by One Direction at their elementary school's Annual End-of-the-School-Year Talent Show on Tuesday night. The show was moved indoors due to rain and the picnic part of the evening was cancelled, but their performance was quite adorable (in a homegrown sort of way) and everyone seemed to appreciate it. Believe me, the girls practiced for HOURS and HOURS over several weeks to pull off these two minutes. And those hours involved the moms, keep in mind. So we had a lot invested in it. I just want the world to know that that was my first and last foray into choreography, OK? I'm done.

Other than that, you really don't want to know what my week was like. Trust me. However, it might be starting to look a little like this. So this is what I am leaving you with: one of the funniest things you will EVER READ. EVER. EVER. EVER. Or maybe only if you're a mom. All I know is that my mom friends were passing this around on Facebook today and my sides hurt from laughing. Read all the way to the last line. I promise it's worth it.

Oh, motherhood and the end of the school year. So much to say, so little energy.

It's my firstborn's 9th birthday party tomorrow and I've spent the day running birthday-related errands, cleaning the house, making vanilla buttercream icing, decorating cupcakes to look like a flower garden, and generally crossing things off a to-do list as long as my arm.

the decorating test run

I'm tired, you all. I need to put on my pj's and chill on the couch while I watch "Dateline." Don't give me that look. I know that's what half of you are doing tonight too. 

(Now go and read that post I linked to up there. Particularly if you are or ever have been the mom of a school-ager.)

Happy weekend, mamas.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Race to the Finish

so sick

Did you have a good holiday weekend, friends? I had a sick kidlet at my house, and it rained nonstop, so....ours left a little to be desired. We watched a lot of cartoons and read a lot of books. Still, in some ways it was sort of nice to have an excuse to just stay home, hang out, and be lazy. Other than a potluck picnic that was shifted indoors due to the weather, we had nothing going on.

Vivi has been sick for a very long time--a loooong-lasting cold that turned into a sore throat and then turned into a fever and then turned into an ear infection, for which I got her in to the clinic at the last minute on Friday afternoon before the long holiday weekend began, and it's a good thing, too--so she and I mainly hung out on my bed. She felt fairly miserable and missed two days of school last week. Her appetite didn't come back until yesterday, and she took naps and went to sleep before bedtime a few different times. This child pretty much never gets sick, so it was fairly odd.

There is one week left of school. In the next seven days, we've got the school's annual Talent Show and Picnic (which looks likely to be moved inside this year, boo), Field Day (for which I am volunteering, remember? for both my daughters' classes. what was I thinking?), the third grade's Kite Day (Daddy's got that one), Julia's 9th birthday party (ten little girls and a garden tea party--pray for good weather, you all), a good friend's 7th birthday party, Julia's actual birthday (bring treats to school! don't forget the treats!), and the last day of school (teacher gifts! don't forget the teacher gifts!).

I've got flower cupcakes to make and decorate, presents to shop for and wrap, a house to clean and prep, outdoor furniture to borrow, picnics to pack, treats to buy, and oh yeah, summer vacation starts next week and I still haven't finished our "Summer 2013 Bucket List" (this is what we're doing this year as a departure from ABC Summer). My to-do list is a mile long.

There are some other things going on too, but blah blah blah. We're all busy. This is a crazy time of year. Fun, but head-spinning and crazy. Which is sometimes a good thing, because the crazy takes my mind off the sad (another school year gone!).

Oh--and the pool opens in a week. Gulp! Are we ready to don swimsuits? I'm not sure we (I) are (am).

last June

And we're off. See you soon.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Stay-at-Home Mom Style: Easy Ways to Take Your Dress from Day to Evening

Hi, you all! It's been a quiet week on the blog, hasn't it? That's because it's been anything but quiet in real life. Of course.

But anyway, I'm not going to talk about any of that right now. I've got something fun for you today: a guest post from ASOS, the chic online fashion retailer that specializes in cute maternity wear and hip clothing for any mom (pregnant or non-) who wants to look stylish, not frumpy.

A few weeks ago, ASOS contacted me about writing a guest post here, specifically for moms. We decided to focus on how to transition a day dress--you know, the kind of thing a busy but stylish mom might wear for the school run, errands, parent-teacher meetings, and ferrying the kids to after-school activities--into an evening-worthy look that's just right for date night, drinks with the girls, or book club.

Because we're all busy moms here; when the rare opportunity presents itself to GET OUT OF THE HOUSE WITHOUT THE KIDLETS for any semblance of social time in the evening, who has time to primp and preen and change clothes a thousand times? You've gotta get out the door fast, before the kids catch you!

OK, in my case, I typically don't go out at night because I'm like a toddler: I need to be in my jammies by 7 and in bed soon thereafter. Ha. But I know not everyone is the homebody, early-to-bed-early-to-rise introvert that I am. Some of you probably socialize in the evenings regularly! Maybe even once a month!

So here you go: how to take a cute mommy day-look and quickly and easily transform it into something a little special for night. (How cute is that striped jersey dress, by the way??) Enjoy!   --Shannon

Open up just about any issue of just about any fashion magazine, and you’ll find some variation on this theme. It’s not hard to see the appeal. These days everyone is busier than ever, and we’re all looking for ways to streamline our schedule. Taking a dress from day to night is a vital skill for all women on the go, but almost all the articles you’ll find are geared towards office workers trying to save precious minutes flying from desk to date.

If you’re a stay-at-home mom, your daily uniform might look a little different from your average career girl, but your days are just as jam-packed. From the school-run to grabbing groceries for dinner, your days are spent tackling a to-do list as long as your arm. You know all about time-management, but if you’re looking forward to a long-overdue date-night or a well-earned bottle of wine with your girlfriends at the end of another hectic day, time to devote to preening and primping is at a premium.

So here it is: How to Transition A Dress from Day to Evening Mommy Edition. The pieces might be a little different, but the familiar formula holds true. Start with a versatile dress as your base, and switch up the accessories for an in-a-minute makeover. I’ve put together two examples to show you just how easy it can be.

First up is an adorable navy polka-dot midi dress. This length is super wearable, no matter what time of day. There’s a great retro charm to this one, and the slightly raised waistline and soft pleats are super-flattering and perfect for disguising any troublesome tummy action. 

Don’t freak out: it’s strapless, yes, but the fabric is a sturdy stretch-jersey and the bodice has been cleverly contoured to make sure it fits like a glove. Besides, the gorgeous textured cardigan I’ve picked out means no one needs to know about its strap-status but you. 

The bright pop of citrus is cheerful and on-trend, and the comfy matching ballet flats keep the whole look consistent. Add a casual beaded necklace for a little extra texture, and you’ve got a super-cute outfit that could take you just about anywhere in style. 

But we’re not stopping at cute. No way. Here’s the same dress kicked up a notch for that long-awaited date night:

First, shed the cardigan. Showing a little skin instantly takes the look to “evening”, and bare shoulders are pretty much the lowest-maintenance shortcut to sexy. Now ramp up that vintage appeal with a pair of cherry-red peep toes and a quilted clutch to match. I’ve picked out a pretty pendant for a subtle touch of bling. Throw on a slash of red lipstick and a few extra coats of mascara. Do a little spin in the mirror. Meow.

Now. Girls’ night. Here’s the day version.

Another look, another jersey material dress. It’s a great fabric for this kind of application, because it moves and breathes beautifully, and no matter how much kid-wrangling you do, it won’t wrinkle. This one falls just below the knee and is lightly belted for a bit of shape. A big tote, some big sunnies, and a smart pair of loafer flats, and you’re good to go for whatever errands own your afternoon. 

But ah, in the evening:

A buttery leather jacket in a cool camel shade adds a little grown-up glamor to the simple dress, and a pile of bright bangles brings up the colour of the print. You’re swapping the shoes again, of course. The heels are high, but a bit of a platform makes for easy walking, and the gorgeous cut out details are another delicate reference to the fabric’s pretty print. 

This whole transformation should take just a couple of minutes, so you’ll have time to throw your hair up in a quick twist, and then you’re out the door for some quality girl-time.

That’s really all it takes! Nothing gimmicky or dishearteningly fashiony here. These are styles that just about every mom can pull off, so try it out, and have fun!

This post was written on behalf of ASOS, an online fashion retailer that provides free shipping and a large selection of dresses that are perfect for day or night.   

Monday, May 20, 2013

Extreme Weekend

I have christened the past 2+ days The Weekend of Too Much.

Too much activity; too much playing with friends (yes, there can be such a thing!); too much staying up late; too much standing and moving (that part was mainly me) versus sitting and resting (or sleeping). It was (mostly) fun, but there can even be too much fun.

My introverted children are just like me: They can go-go only up to a point; then they need at-home quiet time to recharge. Even my "spirited" (another word for intense and challenging, yet brilliant) child is an introvert. (There really are distinct personality types known as "spirited introverts" and "spirited extraverts.") Unlike some other children who can go-go-go all day every day, mine have always had a finely calibrated stamina limit. Since toddlerhood, I have had to be constantly watchful of and firm about balancing social activities, family fun, and lessons/classes/etc. with bedtimes, naptimes, and at-home downtime.

This weekend Genevieve had a (super-fun, completely amazing) playdate/birthday party event on Friday afternoon/evening. On Saturday we had various friends over (read: constant stimulation, activation, and social fun) from just after lunch until late afternoon, while Daddy was off biking in his 100-mile race for the entire day. Both girls were up very late both nights, and we kicked off Sunday morning with brunch for their pals and a dance practice/playdate at our house. After a brief break, it was off to their final swimming lesson of the school year.

When friends headed off for our ritual Sunday Picnic Dinner (at the park right now, until the pool opens in June), Genevieve said, "NO!" And it was a good thing I agreed with her: After coming home from swimming and eating a giant hot dog, Waldorf salad, and some chocolate pudding for dinner, she curled up on the sofa with a blanket and fell asleep. WHICH HAS HAPPENED PRETTY MUCH NEVER in my years as a parent.

We've got to rest up--official Talent Show Rehearsal is this week. May the force be with us.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Famous Americans

Oh, friends, so much going on. As I type this, Christopher is in a small southern-Minnestoa town a couple hours away, preparing to ride in a 100-mile gravel road bike race. He left at 4:40 a.m. and will return sometime tonight. I am glad I am not him, but he is excited. Rumor has it that Greg LeMond is going to be there! For reals! (He's from Minnesota.)

The girls and I are at home, where will be busy doing chores and homework, making banana bread, practicing their upcoming talent show dance routine, and having playdates.

This week was Julia's big "Living Wax Museum of Famous Americans" program at school. The entire third grade does this project ever year, and it takes weeks of research, work, and preparation.

Each child is assigned a famous American to research. The children prepare speeches about their people and create life-sized pictures of each (by tracing each other's bodies). Julia was Abigail Adams.

The culmination of all this work was the program at school on Thursday. The giant figures are taped up in the school commons, along a timeline that stretches around corners and down halls and all around the perimeter of the space.

The children dress up in costumes (which have been assembled by the kids and parents during the week or two prior; families are encouraged to use things around the house or things they can make or borrow), then they stand in groups of three at different stations in the classrooms and pretend to be wax figures in a history museum.

Each group has a cardboard "button" for parents to press. When the button is pressed, one of the children "comes to life," steps forward, and gives a speech about the famous American they are impersonating, in the voice of that person.

Julia was with Daniel Boone and Betsy Ross.

They take turns giving their speeches, and do this repeatedly for 45 minutes while parents wander through the exhibits. It was hot and crowded and noisy, and still the children did an amazing job. My daughters' school is incredible.

As for me, I had a minor panic attack last evening when I realized that Julia's birthday party is getting a We are inviting eight little girls, which means that with my kiddos included, we'll have 10 children in a small house that day. Yikes! What happened to my original idea of keeping things small this year?

Ah, but fellow moms understand. Once you've decided on a group party, there are just certain friends that must be included. Maybe they are long-time BFFs. Maybe they are neighbors with whom your children play frequently. Maybe they are your best friends' children. It's almost impossible to just choose three or four. They are all important, cherished friends.

But it's OK, because (weather permitting) the party will be largely outdoors. It's going to be a garden tea party. No, I haven't yet planned or bought anything for said party. (OMG!) Hence the other cause of my panic attack. I just don't have time to plan or prep for this party right now, because I am HELPING SMALL CHILDREN CREATE AND MEMORIZE A DANCE ROUTINE TO A NEW DIRECTION SONG. Seriously, God, help me. How did I get into this?

Panic aside, it is a good May so far. Well, since May 10th or so....whenever the snow finally melted and the temperatures reached more than 40 degrees. It's been a good eight days? ;)

Two weeks and two days left of school. Can't believe it. Time marches on.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

So Excited for Hot.

So, today it's going to be 93 degrees where I live. Yes, you are remembering correctly: we did have a very large snowstorm within the past two weeks. What the what?? The weather here is insane and mind-boggling.

If it seems that I am always writing about, and ridiculously preoccupied with, the weather, that is because the weather here has become so nutso that it makes one worry about the sustainability of the planet. Maybe the weather is this crazy where you live, too, and you're all like, Yeah, whatever, that's the way it is everywhere now, and thus you're tired of hearing about the crazy weather. Sorry about that. It's just that it is so crazy.

However, having said that, in Minnesota it generally leaps up to 90+ degrees all of a sudden one day in May. That part happens pretty much every year. It's just that usually it's not preceded by A RECENT SNOWSTORM.

Between the last time I wrote here and now, I have remembered a whole bunch of other stuff going on in May in addition to the stuff I was already feeling frenzied about. Yesterday I woke up at 4 a.m. and never went back to sleep because I was so busy frantically worrying about all the things that need to happen and places I need to be between now and June 4th. Most of these things happen every year, so you may be tempted to say, Shannon, obviously you get them all done every year, so shut up already. However, I'll tell you what doesn't happen every year: my children do not decide, with their two pals, to do a dance routine to a One Direction song at the annual school talent show in two weeks' time, forcing you and their pals' mom to devote several hours to helping them come up with choreography and then practice and memorize it. Which obviously will all be worth it in the end, because come on---two 6-year-olds and two 8-year-olds doing a synchronized homemade dance routine in front of several hundred people, outside on the summery lawn by the elementary school? Priceless.

Also: Why did I volunteer to help out at Field Day? WHY. I have no time for that. It happens two days before my daughter's birthday party. What was I thinking? I tell you: I had forgotten my daughter's birthday party was coming up when I signed on to help. I may have even forgotten about the birthday itself at that point. Because it was probably snowing at the time.

Oy vey, mamas. It's a wonder my head is still on straight. Half the time if I'm not reading it off a handwritten list of my own making, I've forgotten it even exists. I even write "make dinner" on my daily to-do lists, so that I remember to think about it before five p.m. each day.

How about you? Are you crazy busy too? (Silly question.) Do you rely on lists?

Thursday, May 09, 2013

The Merry Month of May

May is the month of busy moms.

It's barely begun and I'm already feeling frazzled, planning and scheduling things like both girls' birthday celebrations at school (Genevieve's is early since we'll be on summer vacation when her birthday rolls around), a big third-grade project and program for Julia--which involves a parent-obtained or -created costume! oh my--, the school Field Day (for which I am volunteering), the annual Talent Show (my daughters think they are singing a One Direction song with their pals, oh my, again), Julia's birthday party at home and visits from grandparents, and just the general chaos and craziness of the end of another school year.

In the middle of all that I'm attempting to plan a small family summer trip; clean/refresh/prep the house, garage, patio, and front door area for spring (a week ago it was all still covered in snow, remember?); schedule the kiddos' summer activities; get the kids to the park and on bike rides after school now that it's finally spring; finish up their spring-session swimming lessons; and work around (i.e., "plan some playdates or other forms of distraction to get through an entire Saturday with no parenting-partner and no car") my husband's upcoming annual 100-mile bike race.

It shouldn't seem all that frazzling, but....well, it is. It's all (mostly? not the cleaning house part) good, fun, spring-y, happy stuff, but it's a bit much, all at once. Because of having snowstorms into May, it has basically seemed like February around these parts until just last week, so now we're all trying to catch up on two months' worth of life in the span of a few days or weeks. Yikes!

But yay! I got my oh-so-cute wedge espadrilles, the ones my husband is giving me for my Mother's Day gift. So summery! So cute! I don't know if you can tell here, but they are navy-and-white pin-dot fabric with a knotted bow at the peep-toe. They are also 3.5 inches high so they will not be playground, pool, farm, or grocery-shopping shoes. They will be school program, out to lunch, date night, or casual summer party shoes.

Sorry I didn't take any close-ups of the shoes. Trust me, no one wants to see my feet close-up. But can you tell that the shoes are adorable? Thank you, dear husband, for the cute shoes that I will not be wearing to the pool, the farm, or the park, which are the places I frequent the most in the summer. You might say "impractical" but I say "cute and utterly necessary for the OTHER occasions that might arise, and also, on an incredible sale."

OK, mamas! I'm off. I may be harried and busy, but there's no rest for the weary, and anyway, there's a lot of spring weather out there to enjoy! (Well, not today exactly, because it's rainy and 60 degrees, but believe me, compared to a snowstorm in May this is heaven.)

Have a good day, and don't forget to put your feet up this Sunday. It's Mother's Day, and we all know that SHOULD mean "leave Mom alone so she can read a novel in peace" day. Good luck with that!

Monday, May 06, 2013

Oh My, May.

The other day I was looking through my iPhoto archives and found the above photo. Last year at the beginning of May I was out chalking on the driveway with my five-year-old while waiting for the afternoon kindergarten bus. This year everyone was off school while my town was buried in a HUGE snowstorm. Ugh!

Ah, but everything passes, and over the weekend it got warm(er), and the snow melted, and now, for the first time so far this "spring," the weather forecast includes the number "70," or close to it, and a sun icon for the entire upcoming week. The fact that it took until MAY 6TH for this to happen is not taken lightly by my fellow Minnesotans and me. In effect, yes, we lost spring this year. There are four weeks left before summer vacation--just four weeks without snow pants and snow boots and parkas, before the pool opens. How crazy is that?!

But all I have to say about the weather now is, THANK GOD. Yesterday I took my kiddos and their buddy to the park, and they all wore shorts (it was 54 degrees) and rode bikes (finally, no snow on the sidewalks!). Later, after their swimming lesson, I ventured up to the Arborteum--a.k.a. my running happy place--to test (again) the trails, and was able to run/hike for an hour despite having to climb over, under, or around four fallen trees (from the heavy, wet snow last week) and being forced to turn around at one point where the trail was underwater. The sun was out and it was 65 degrees, so I really didn't mind. I was just glad to be there.

Oh, May. Such a conflicted month. On the one hand I'm excited, because summer is almost here, and we all know how much I adore summer. On the other hand, we also all know the crushing sadness with which I experience the end of every next school year: the kidlets another grade older, another period of their childhoods over. Gah! It's torture. So what can you do? You focus on the happy, sunny, warm, good part. You try to put the other out of your mind.

Thursday, May 02, 2013

Serenity Now! Or Maybe Much, Much Later When This is All a Distant Memory.

One day, many days hence, perhaps even years hence, we will look back on May 1-2, 2013, and laugh. We will marvel at the fact that we delivered our May baskets on May Day that year amidst giant, falling snowflakes, so many snowflakes that it looked like Christmas and, for a second, my daughters got mixed up and almost thought we were delivering "Christmas Elf" surprises.

We will reminisce with awe about how the snow came down steadily and thick all evening , and then the power went out at 2:30 a.m.--we knew this because the white noise machines and nightlights all went out and woke us up immediately--and when we got up to investigate, we could see that outside everything was covered in what ended up being nine or so inches of snow, so heavy that it bent trees sideways and broke power lines. And about the fact that at five a.m. my cell rang and we knew it was the school district's automated voicemail telling us that the schools were closed again. On May 2nd.

Oh, and remember how the power stayed off for 6-1/2 hours, so there was no heat, and no coffee, and no TV to park the kids in front of? And then how when it came back on, it only stayed on for 45 minutes before going out again? AND IT WAS MAY 2ND???

This will all make a really good story someday. When I am not actually living it.