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Posts Tagged ‘kids’

Seems like I was just posting about our summer bucket list and bam! school starts tomorrow. Lucky for me, I did not blink…so I did not miss it in spite of the break-neck speed.

Summer is always such a paradox for me. (As are a lot of things…which is why I’m such a Whitman fan, I think, because his quote comes up in my head a lot and gets truer and truer every year: “Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself, I am large, I contain multitudes.”)

I LOVE the Summer. I love the freedom and the sleeping in and not making lunches and not seeing a backpack or a stack of papers for months. I love being in and out of the pool all day and watching sun-kissed boys lounge in their nearly-dry bathing suits while they insist that popcorn is acceptable for lunch – and I agree.

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I love that mealtimes sort of go away and we gather and eat when and if we feel like it. I love deciding, at the crack of 10am, that today we’ll go binge on video games and bad pizza and then we just go do that…because there is no schedule to consult or adjust.

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I love that my parents take the boys every Friday and do the coolest stuff: bat caves and zip lining and ropes courses and paddle boarding and movies and ice skating and roller skating and bouncy house fun.

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I love the lake trips and day drives and bowling/swimming playdates and mid-week sleepovers and pottery class and ALL.OF.IT.

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Every day with the boys I was aware how quickly this time will pass and that someday summers won’t look anything like this…and I’ll miss them terribly, I know. I felt so grateful to be able to be home with them so much and such a big part of their lazy Summer days. 

And honestly, just reading that last paragraph I can feel the other side of the paradox fake barfing just like my boys do over such sappy sentiments. Because, also, I DO NOT love the Summer. I crave a routine and without one I can get listless and unproductive. The empty calendar pages loom for weeks and I feel the pressure to fill them, make them useful, don’t just sit around for 2.5 months, go, do, learn, inspire, engage, entertain…and then I feel exhausted and overwhelmed. DSC_0136I really, really miss school-night bedtime…when the boys are staying up late every day feels endless and like I don’t get any of my necessary “me” time. Going to work feels like a chore because I have to leave all the fun and schedule all the nannies and I get lazy about my own career – which is something I adore. And then I feel bad about not being a good grown-up. DSC_0021They watch too much TV and play too many videogames and at some point I just say “OK” because we’ve already done everything on the list for that day…so, why not? And the “nutrition” that comes with the summer – ha, who am I kidding? So then mom-guilt sets in. Also, I adore back-to-school shopping – really – and that only happens when Summer ends. And then there’s the fighting… don’t even get me started on the bickering and poking and picking and taunting and antagonizing that has been perfected this Summer. IMG_0963They worked at it as if their very lives depended on it, like an artist works his craft, like an athlete trains for his biggest feat… they honed their rivalry skills and nearly drove me nutty in the process. I planned days based on the sole purpose of separating them. I planned activities in which they wouldn’t see each other for hours. I sent them to their rooms and forbid them to look at one another. So there are just as many reasons that I do NOT love the Summer.

And because of all of that, I am full with contradictory melancholy and glee that today is the last day of the Summer.

DSC_0005We had our ritual end-of-summer camp night this weekend and I was a mess of emotions over it. First, we moved into a new neighborhood at the start of this Summer, so the new house is still showing us what treasures it holds…like being able to camp out, under dreamy stars amid a glorious, somehow-cool breeze at the end of August in Texas surrounded by deer without a single mosquito in sight…seriously, who knew that was even possible? We had a late, late swim and then dried off by the campfire and fell straight into the tent where Whitman laughed us to sleep with his “guess which animal I’m thinking of” game. (Which I would love to tell you about, but I don’t really understand it. He loves it and it makes us all crack up – that will have to do.) How could I want for anything like that to ever end? I felt sad and sentimental and incredibly blessed. DSC_0043

And in the morning, I was delighted at the thought, “OK, that’s the end of that…back to the real world we go. Thank goodness for regular bedtimes which will soon be back!” And I made breakfast and organized something and put things on a calendar and filled out first-day-of-school paperwork… so relieved to think this Summer craziness would all be over soon. Whew.

Then the boys began begging me to get in the pool for a morning swim… “Dad’s here, come on, it’s so nice and cool…come on mom, why won’t you??!! Huh? Why not? Come have fun with us!” And so, just to shut them up, and maybe also to prove that on rare occasions I can actually be as much fun as their father, I walked straight across the deck, still in pajamas mind you, and jumped right in. Their squeals of delight made me instantly miss the Summer again. DSC_0011

So, dear Summer, so long for now… I have loved and hated every minute of you. I will mourn your end at the crack of dawn while I’m making breakfast, buttoning buttons, packing fresh new backpacks, combing hair and supervising teeth brushing. I will mourn you when the boys sigh at my refusal to let them swim at 8:00pm because there’s still too much to do and it’s bedtime. I will mourn you when it’s my day off and I can’t steal away my children for an unscheduled day doing who-knows-what.

I will also delight in your passing at 8:17am when I’m alone in a silent house with no mouths to feed and no bickering to referee.  I’ll probably also do that again around noon, just because I can. Try not to take it personally.

Thank you, Summer – you’ve been the very best!

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How long has it been since you’ve read this book?

Well it had been some time for me, until recently.  (And for those of you on Pinterest, you probably already know why.) But we’ll get to that in a minute.

I love this book.

Maybe as much as my all-time favorite Dr. Seuss book, The Lorax.

It’s positive and encouraging and has that you-can-do-anything-you-set-your-mind-to message….but it’s also realistic and talks about a wide variety of challenges and stumbling blocks along the way…

The Library of Congress summary for this book is: Advice in rhyme for proceeding in life; weathering fear, loneliness, and confusion; and being in charge of your own actions.

Sounds a little like parenting, no? Though it’s my husband who is usually in charge of the rhyming department.

So why am I talking about a decades-old children’s book?

Because this year I sent a copy of this book to my sons’ schools and asked their teachers to please write something in them. I planned to do a cute little instruction tag for them, but maybe next year. This year I just wrote on the envelope…

Do you have any idea what happens when you do this??  Well, for starters, you better be stocked up on Kleenex. Seriously.

They say the most amazing things…things I know I would have never heard, never known.  And definitely things no one would remember in 11 or 12 years. And also the book starts to look really cool…

different page choices…and handwriting…

and even stickers…

(Lincoln is in a Spanish immersion program…so I guess he better be able to still read Spanish when he’s 18 otherwise he’ll never know what his Kindergarten teacher had to say!)

Some were thoughtful about page choice, wrote on top of illustrations…

…but mostly they just made a mom cry.  The good kind.

I found myself thinking about my own lifetime of teachers…geez, I don’t even know how many that would be. Some of them I’m sure I couldn’t even remember. But I can hardly wait for the boys to get to see these books…to read these amazing, generous things people said about them. (I know, I know, I have to wait, like more than a decade…and I don’t really want it to go fast…and these books will just keep getting better and better…but still, I can hardly wait.)

“Kid, you’ll move mountains!”

I love that.

So, if you have kids in school…it doesn’t matter how old they are…I highly recommend this little project.

“Your mountain is waiting.”  (sigh)  Can you tell how much I’m going to cry at high school graduations?

Thank you, Pinterest, for this little gem. Such a great idea!

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Earlier this week our recently-turned-five-year-old announced that he wanted to ride his bike without his training wheels. He made this announcement while his dad was in the middle of trying to fix the leaf blower. I remember him saying something about tiny little parts being all over the place…so the answer was probably, “Yeah, OK…in just a little while when I finish this.”  Which is something the boys hear a lot because they like to ask for things when we are knee-deep in something else.

Not being terribly gifted with patience, our son decided to rummage around in the tools…found the appropriately-sized socket wrench…and tackled those wheels himself. By the time my husband was finished with the leaf blower, there was a two-wheeled bike in the garage next to a helmeted-padded-up little boy who was ready to hit the street!

And away they went. I think my husband was a little disappointed that he hardly needed any help at all…and practically no running-along-side-the-bike action. He lit off on that thing like he’d never had training wheels on it at all. So exciting!

Of course we had to have a little party.

Nothing really fancy at all…literally a last-minute idea just to reinforce how proud we were and a chance for some family to come over the next day and see a demonstration of the new skills! He was beside himself all afternoon. And he helped with decorations – made obvious by those crazy scissor lines.

I was reminded of a great idea I heard several years ago called the “honor candle.” A mom of several kids had a special candle she kept in a closet…it only came out for special events which merited “honor.” At some time during the day she would put it out on the dining room table – indicating that someone would be the honoree at dinner time – but she wouldn’t say anything else. And then, when it was time to eat the candle would be lit and she would announce who was being honored and why. The thing I liked about this wasn’t just the overall concept but more the examples she gave of when the candle might come out. A brother “caught” sharing a prized toy with a younger sibling when he thought no one was watching. A fifth grader with a B on a test…in a class where she had struggled to even get Cs. A son who was beyond nervous to play in the big championship soccer game…and they didn’t win…but he showed dedication and sportsmanship. Maybe not the typical events one thinks of for celebration, but teaching moments for sure…supporting children in times of struggle, persistence and disappointment…and reinforcing the most important family values. I think we will probably come up with an honor candle ritual fairly soon – maybe when Kindergarten starts – but in the meantime a flurry of silly little decorations was a good substitute.

And such a cute helper!

Dinner was fairly no-fuss…chicken breasts and angelhair pasta in a lemon-garlic-cream sauce and a big salad eaten on the back patio. We looked up what Tour de France racers most commonly eat and he was so delighted to discover that it was “noodles!!”

I will admit that several times over the past couple of days I’ve been aware of what a metaphor the whole experience is for parenthood in general. As we were at the park the next day practicing more bike riding, I was watching in disbelief as he rode farther and farther ahead of us on the trail…suddenly thinking, “I think there’s a pretty big dip up there and then a little hill, and maybe even a ditch to the side of the trail.” The only thing I could say to myself was, “It’s OK. He knows the rules and he’s so careful. And he’s wearing a helmet. He’ll be fine.” And about that time I saw him heading back toward me at full speed with the biggest smile on his face, yelling how he had turned around all by himself without stopping. I laughed at myself for my moment of worry and thought, “This will be much harder when it’s a car.”

 

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Gingerbread Houses!!

While we were at my in-laws’ house last weekend for a birthday celebration, a gingerbread village was constructed.

Complete with streets and cars, of course! Aren’t they all so cute?

I didn’t make one. But my four-year-old helped with one (which means he paid close attention to the construction of one house in particular while trying to steal as many pieces of candy as possible.)

I was just thrilled to have the cute little creations around without having to do all that tedious work. And it can be tedious.

And this was one of my favorites…a snow angel!!!

Gingerbread houses make me feel festive (even if it is nearly 80 degrees outside!) At least it’s snowing somewhere!!

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I was just thinking how nice it is going to be to have a little break from packing lunches over the Christmas holidays. Not very long ago, I was gearing up to start packing lunches and even having some creative lunchbox moments… that was approximately 96 lunches ago. It’s fair to say the lunches have found their rut.

My 15-month-old is pretty set with cheese and crackers, some kind of fruit, some kind of pasta and hard-boiled eggs. This lunch is grapes and fruit cocktail, mozzarella and turkey with whole wheat Ritz crackers, and pasta with pesto and sautéed tofu cubes. Still not a vegetable in sight. I can get him to eat broccoli on occasion and he likes cooked carrots and potatoes – but only at home. It seems pesto is the greenest thing he eats. I just keep trying.

The four-and-a-half year old is a little bit easier. He loves sandwiches and requests them regularly. Sometimes I send soup. Or spaghetti. Usually some kind of fruit and/or yogurt. And a protein bar or crackers. This particular day it was feta-stuffed olives (one of his favorite snacks,) grapes, peanut butter crackers and pasta with pesto and sautéed tofu and edamame.

I’m hoping over the break I’ll find time to experiment with some new items…perhaps the spring will see a refreshed perspective on the lunchbox chore. Happy Holidays!

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I have some friends who like to give me a hard time about my from-scratch baking and the sometimes-semi-gourmet nature of my kids’ lunchbox contents. This post is for them. This past weekend was my mother-in-law’s 70th birthday celebration. And there had to be cake. My husband wanted to decorate a cake with our four-year-old…so they just needed a canvas. I had a box full of decorations and some fondant…so I handed over three layers of blank chocolate frosting…and somehow a monster truck came to be. And yes, the first “N” is actually a “Z” turned on its side. We ran out of “N”s.  And the other “N” might or might not have gotten broken.   My husband placed the letters and our son did the rest. Fondant. Cookie cutters. Sprinkles.

Oh, except for the border on the bottom of the cake – I might have had something to do with that.   Now, some of these friends of mine might imagine I had a hard time with this being THE birthday cake. I did not. (OK, there might have been a brief flash of panic for just a few moments as those four-year-old little hands starting placing fondant…but it went away. Really.)

And there’s a good reason I wasn’t as concerned with the cake as I usually am.   I’ve been a little busy with something else…

This was so much fun to make. Easily one of my favorite gifts I’ve ever given.

"Kitchen Memories: A Collection of Favorite Family Recipes"

Months ago my mother-in-law was talking about some very old family recipes – things made by her mother and her grandmother – and she was expressing some concern that, one day, when she is no longer making them, no one will be making them.

So the simple idea to gather and save all the meaningful family dishes into one collection was born.

Family members sent in their recipes and memories about the dishes and the people who made them…and some great old family photos.

I made most of the recipes, photographed them and compiled everything with the family photos and memories. My husband had several weeks of eating food from his childhood that he certainly did not complain about.

Some things I learned or was reminded of:

1. Most of people’s memories were only triggered by the food – the actual recollection was about the quality time spent in the kitchen or around the table. Grandchildren told of playing with bubbles in the sink and about making what seemed like a thousand batches of chocolate chip cookies (not necessarily about eating them!)

2. There was a strong theme of love demonstrated through the daily ritual of food preparation…the idea that this line of women dedicated a significant amount of themselves to the very careful and loving feeding of their families. Every day. Every meal. For years. And years.

3. I recognized that in the menus from two and three generations back there was such simplicity in the food. They ate what they had. Some of the old recipes literally called for the “canned tomatoes from the garden” and the chicken and beef came from their own land.

4. It also got me thinking about what my children and possible future grandchildren would submit to a similar project. And then I started to panic about not having enough regular “favorites” in the rotation…about not having holiday must-have recipes cemented into the line-up…reconsidering the notion of taco night or pizza night just to throw in another possibility for childhood memories…but then again, I tend to overthink those kinds of things and panic for no real reason. I know.

Mostly, I hope, my mother-in-law saw it as an expression of appreciation for the thousands of meals she’s put on the table in front of her family. And, as my husband put it, that she feels honored for “perfecting the tastes and smells that would help us define ‘home’ forever.”

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Whew! What a beautiful day yesterday full of great food, family and glorious fall weather. There is so much for which we are thankful.

Before we turn our minds completely toward Christmas, I wanted to wrap up the Tree of Thanks and also share some fun photos from friends who made the turkey cupcakes!

Look! It's a rafter of turkeys! My friend Heather made these.

Periodically I will get interested in what the proper names are for groups of animals. You know, a “gaggle” of geese, a “pod” of whales, a “host” of sparrows and an “unkindness” of ravens…the list goes on and on. Turns out a group of turkeys can be called a “rafter” or a “gang.” Even though I tend to refer to any group of birds as a “herd” just because it sounds funny. Go ahead, say it. “A herd of turkeys.”

Here's another gang of turkeys made by Heather's sister. Heather forgot to mention the tails, obviously!

Thanks ladies for sharing your turkey photos with us!

And today I took down the Tree of Thanks. What fun we had filling out those little cards each night and hearing what our 4-year-old came up with to be grateful for.

Here it is completed...25 leaves each with 3 notes of gratitude. Lots of thanks to give.

Today when I took all the little notes out of their pockets and stored them away (I mean, really, how fun is it going to be to read those in about 20 years?) I read through them all again. I must admit I was surprised to see that my son had not listed any “stuff” in his thankful notes. There was one mention of his train bed – which was a labor of love by his dad and grandfather – and another mention of a new Spiderman book – which was a reward for really good behavior one weekend we were away. Otherwise there wasn’t a toy listed. Here are some of my favorites:

“I’m thankful for my toad, Fuego.” (There were notes for the cat and dog as well.)

“I’m thankful for the whole Earth.”

“I’m thankful for my baby and that he’s OK.” (This was after a trip to the ER with his little brother. We were all thankful for the same thing that night.)

“I’m thankful for my mommy’s good cooking.” (My husband swears that response was unprompted.)

“I’m thankful for Spanish class.”

“I’m thankful for a bike ride with daddy.”

“I’m thankful for God.”

I’m hoping that in this coming year I can see our life more like my son sees it. Grateful for the simplest things. The things I’ve long taken for granted.

And now, just four days until the advent-calendar-countdown begins…so I must go start untangling lights and find those stockings…

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