Friday, July 11, 2014

Explorers' Club

One of the many things I want to pass on to the girls is a love for exploring their world. I want them to see the beauty and intrigue among the mundane. 

So, we started a mini explorers club. Our first adventure is a nine-mile trail that winds through town. We have been exploring it as often as we can. The girls usually make it about 20-30 minutes and then we have to turn around. We found, at first, that we were only making it to about the same spot every time and when we tried to force them to go a bit more, we'd end up with crying kids who were begging to be carried. So, now we drive to the spot that we left off and walk a new part of the trail each time. 

The girls love it. And so do we. 

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Summer 2014: Part I

It was cool enough last night that I opened all the windows and doors. I didn't notice it at first, but after the girls went to bed and I was downstairs turning lights off and picking up toys, I felt it. 


A warm-cool breeze floated through the door with the sounds of crickets and the smell of grass. 

It immediately took me back to childhood and all those long hours spent outside soaking up every minute of summer. 

I sat down in my dark living room, closed my eyes and just took in that moment of serenity. 

It's obviously been summer for weeks, but in that moment last night, I actually felt it. When we were kids, we were lucky enough to have a stay-at-home mom, so our summers were always super relaxed. We woke up when we were done being tired, played outside for hours, and inside for hours, with only our imaginations fueling our playtime. We controlled our destiny back then (or at least it felt like we did). Summer meant freedom. 

I felt that freedom last night -- more in my memories than in real life, but it reminded me that sometimes we have to force life to slow down a little. 

We're going camping this weekend with my family and I'm planning on soaking up as much summer as I can.

A few pictures from our summer so far:

Thursday, May 29, 2014


Grace has always been a bit sneaky, but lately she's being super sneaky. Well, as super sneaky as a four-year-old can be. 

The other day, I was upstairs when she went into the bathroom. In an out-of-the-ordinary move, she closed the bathroom door. I got suspicious and peeked my head in. 

Me: Whatcha doing, Grace? 
Grace: Nothing. Um. Just going. Um. Potty.  
Me: Ok, why'd you close the door?   
Grace: *Silence* …. Mom, I need you to leave. And can you close the door? 

I pretended this was about privacy, left the room but stayed close by. When I heard the sound of cabinets banging and drawers shutting, I poked my head in again. 

And there it was - the smile, the dimples. The look of guilt. 

She tries to get away with all kinds of things. Stealing extra chips. Hiding my chapstick in her purse. Putting things away in the wrong places. Sneaking Teddy in her backpack before school. 

And every time I catch her - because she's just a four-year-old with some pretty identifiable tells - she smiles at me with those dimples and that look of "aren't I just the cutest?" 

Yes, you are the cutest. And yes, you're still in trouble. 

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Best Purchases Ever. Probably. Maybe.

In the past week, we made two of the best purchases we have made in a long time. 

The first was getting headphones for our in-car DVD players. I have no idea what took us so long. Because. Oh. My. Heavens. We took a trip to Salina and didn't once have to listen Dora talk to her pet Monkey about what three places they needed to go before they could make it to Grandma's house. I don't believe in zoning my kids out often, but every once in awhile, you just need a little peace and quiet. 

Oh and Grace's head is too small to keep her headphones on her ears so I suggested we put that pair of shorts under them to help keep them on. Every time I see her wearing them, it makes me giggle. 

The other best purchase was a trail-a-bike - or rather two of them. (So maybe that's three best purchases?) They are half-bikes that attach to our bikes and allow our whole family to take a bike ride. Since we purchased them, we've been on about seven bike rides. (My legs are sooo tired). But hearing the girls giggle and yell "hooray" as we soar down our hill has been enough motivation to feel the burn again and again. Right now, we're just riding in the neighborhood as we build up our stamina, but if in a few weeks you see two tandem-looking bikes with a very tall man, a short woman and two red-headed girls giggling the whole way, just wave because that's our crazy family. 

Also, there's this picture. I think this is a yearbook-contender. 

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Life After the Swagger Wagon

I swore I'd never be the owner of a min-van. I have nothing against the mini-van.  I just never saw myself in one. But then we had kids. And well, you know how it goes. 

If you have kids, you just can't beat the utility of a van. I could stand up in the third row and buckle up the kiddos, while also reaching the DVD player with my right foot and opening the sliding door with my left. I could pack in $400 worth of groceries, my two kids, my niece and a partridge in a pear tree. 

It was nothing short of amazing. Sure, I'd catch myself in the reflection and wonder who that kid was driving that Mom-mobile, but then I'd look in the rearview mirror and saw we had two kids plus a Christmas tree INSIDE the van and I'd get over it.

A few weeks ago, for reasons outside of our control, we made the decision to get a new car. We looked at every option with a third row -- mini-vans and SUVs. I kept going back and forth between loving the utility of the van and remembering my previous no-van self. 

Scott and I settled on an SUV. Mostly because of the dollar and cents, but also because I wasn't sure I wanted to be rocking the van for the next decade. 

I had an inkling there could be some trouble once we told the girls, so I waited until we were sure about the decision and then told them. Grace was pretty OK with the plan, but Claire was very upset. She immediately started crying about how much she loved the van and didn't want to sell it. 

And when we got to the dealership to say goodbye to our trusty friend / clean out all the cheetos, I caught them hugging the van and telling it things like "we will miss you, van," "we will see you again soon" and "don't forget us."

The cleaning out process was therapeutic for us all. And a good reminder about the perils of letting a small child drink apple juice in your car. 

We said our final goodbyes and drove off into the sunset in our apple-juice-free SUV.  

Monday, May 26, 2014

Seven Years

Today is my seventh wedding anniversary. 

A friend once told me that she had heard the first seven years of marriage are the hardest. Who knows if this is true. And even if it's true for most people, I'm quite sure it isn't a universal rule. 

But seeing as how I'm celebrating No. 7 today, I'm just going to cross my fingers that it's the truth. 

Our marriage hasn't been what I would call easy. (Whose is?) Each year, I learn a little more about what marriage is and a little more about Scott and what makes him tick. (And what ticks me off about him). 

There have been moments that I have never felt closer to him and moments that I wanted to throw him off the roof. While it was hailing. During a tornado. 

People don't often talk about the hard times. Who wants to read about arguments and hurt feelings and slammed doors? Who wants to write about it? 

Today, I'm changing that. 

Scott and I argue. Sometimes loudly. Sometimes passionately. Sometimes in hurtful ways. A couple of years ago, we hit a peak. The girls were still little and so dependent. We were working crazy hours. Going to bed close to midnight, getting up at 4 a.m. for work and trudging through all day. We were so tired. And new things were coming up for us to navigate. New challenges with parenting, new challenges with juggling life's demands. Trying to figure out where our marriage fit into this new life we were building. And we were arguing almost daily. Sometimes in little ways. Sometimes in big ways. 

At the time, it felt nearly hopeless. I felt certain we would never find our way out. Never find our way back to Scott and Katie. 

I knew that marriage shouldn't be that hard. I was certain that we were all wrong for each other. Too much oil, too much water. True love was supposed to be easier than this. I was sure of it. 

I was wrong. Marriage is hard. Sometimes really hard. Sometimes unbearably hard. But this is the thing — the most important thing — it's so worth it. Having come out on the other side of those dark, stormy days, I can see how beautiful our marriage is. It's full of ups and downs and more ups and more downs, but we weathered them. 

I know that we will face challenges that threaten to swallow us, but I have faith that our love will be our strength.

This may seem like such a strange way to celebrate our seven years of marriage, but I think it's the perfect way. This is the rainbow after our storm. And although I know there will be more storms to come, I also know there will be more rainbows. 

So, here on this day, I'm pledging in front of all our friends, family and well, the Internet, to say I love Scott. More now than ever before. 

When we've grown old and you have lost your hair and mine is gray — I will love you more that day than today. Because each day I spend with you, I discover more reasons to fall in love. 

Thursday, May 22, 2014

On Raising Four-Year-Old Kiddos

I don't blog often. But you probably already knew that. 

It's crazy really, because when I look back at my life the last four years, I feel like I was WAY more exhausted when they were babies than now. I remember once looking at my dining room table and not being able to see the bottom of it. The crap piled on top was at least two feet deep. Friends would come over and there would be an entire trash bag of dirty diapers in the living room waiting to be carried to the dumpster. Laundry would exist only in laundry baskets and only in it's most accessible form -- unfolded. 

Yet somehow, I blogged more often. I'm sure the newness of being a Mom was part of it and only working part-time was most of it, but the craziest part is they did practically nothing all day long. Oh look, she's sleeping! Oh! Oh! Is she opening an eye lid? Nope. She's definitely still sleeping. For hours on end. Now, they do more in a 10-minute span than they would do for an entire week as babies. Maybe that's part of it, too. Back then, there was much more watching and of course, now, there's so much more doing. 

I can't tell you how many times I've been "the mean pony" in our My Little Pony play schemes. Or the "Grandma" while they played house. Or read books again and again and again. Or showed them how to roll the play-doh just right so you can make a sweet snowman. 

I wouldn't trade a single minute of the doing. Even on the days they are bickering so much that I feel like banging my head on the wall. Even though it means I write much less often. 

I know someday I will look back and say what the heck happened during their preschool years -- years that I'm finding are so incredibly fun. When hanging out with Mom and Dad is the coolest part of their day and yet Claire can still tell me her "hypothesis" for why lizards can "camouflage" themselves. When our opinions can differ on how or why things happen, but in the end, Mom is still their go-to expert. When bedtime snuggles are demanded, but they can also quietly play on their own for stretches at a time. 

It's a very special time in their lives (what age isn't?) and although I'm not blogging nearly as much as I wish I were, just know that I'm doing a pretty terrific cackling pony right about now.