Tuesday, July 30, 2013

We Have an Owl!

The major reorganization buried one of the big headlines from Friday: we have an owl!!!

Issa's school mails out postcards every summer with the teacher assignments for the coming year. Issa has been watching the mailbox, desperately hoping she would be one of Miss Howell's Owls. She likes the mascot, but she also likes that when you get to be a "good enough head reader" Miss Howell lets you read while you are walking in the hallways. How cool is that? I like that Miss Howell uses the next academic challenge as the reward.

Issa and I had already planned to do a little back to school shopping Friday afternoon, so when the neighbor called to say they had gotten the postcard it was perfect timing. I actually intercepted the card first; I wanted to brace myself for either reaction. When I saw Miss Howell's name, though, I knew I was about to need earplugs for the squealing. I was right. The neighbor girls are all in different classes, but Issa doesn't seem to mind one bit because she is an owl.

I took a very excited girl shopping, and she found an owl backpack and lunchbox. She also chose some first week of school outfits, but I am sworn to secrecy on the blog until the first week of school--you might need that much time to brace yourself.

Monday, July 29, 2013

A Little Reorganization

Every morning, Brad calls on his way to work to let me know how drop off for Evan went. We have done it since Issa was an infant, and we will probably do it until they go off to college. It gives us a few minutes to catch up after the morning rush.
Friday during this conversation, we were innocently discussing how frustrated the kids were by having to clean up the playroom every day. It's not the cleaning itself that was the problem. They didn't like having to reset whatever game they were planning to continue the next day. It was a valid frustration, but since the playroom was downstairs it was necessary for my nerves. This all lead to us brainstorming some reorganizing around here. My desk was upstairs, but since I went back to work full-time I don't use it. If we took it out, it opened up a lot of options for some shifting.
We pitched the idea of moving the playroom upstairs to the landing over dinner Friday night, and the kids were sold. And since Brad is more of a doer than a talker, we started this move about 9:00 Friday night.
My type A self wanted to discuss how we would do this and maybe move a section at a time. Brad's get it done self started moving and I just scurried to keep up. (This is a pattern I both love and am driven insane by. Had it been up to me, we would still be working on this but I probably would have gotten teary a lot less.) By the end of Friday night, my laundry room had also become my office:
 There wasn't a lot of time for before pictures, so this is a really quick one Saturday morning of the playroom:
 And the family room:
We were clearly already well into the process when this picture was taken.

By yesterday afternoon, we were completely finished! The new family room from the front door: 
 And looking towards the kitchen:
 Yes, Brad was taking a much deserved nap.

The fireplace:
 And the playroom landing from the stairs:
 The kids' movies all moved up here, too, so they can watch them in the playroom:
 Evan loves his truck corner:
 All of his cars and "guys" are in that cabinet.

The doll wall:
 We did go out and invest less than $50 in storage bins--the only cost of the transformation. And we did dress the baby once her clothes came out of the washer.

Their junk buckets moved upstairs, too:
 We were really proud of the kids. Not everything is exactly where I would put it, but it makes sense to them. They also donated or pitched a lot of stuff this weekend!

And looking into the now music room from the family room:
 The books, blocks, and games stayed downstairs:
 I didn't want the kids to feel completely sequestered upstairs! Gram's cart came down, which makes me happy:
 And we took down the huge gold mirror that came with the house and replaced it with a print that had been hidden upstairs:
We are all thrilled with the changes...although I think we are a little tired from the moving.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Dinner and a Movie

Menu planning this week revolved around all of the fresh garden produce. We had so many pretty squash and tomatoes, and I wanted to use them well. We made the bread and just ate some on salad. I also found a great fiesta soup recipe that made used of a bunch of produce. Last night might have been my favorite, though. Ratatouille Pizza:
We made whole wheat crust, and then cooked nothing but the squash, tomatoes, onion, garlic, and basil--no oil or anything. Once that softened a bit, it went on top of the crust with a sprinkle of mozzarella. In short, it was loveliness.

When I mentioned this recipe to the kids, though, they were a bit confused. They thought I was making mouse pizza. The movie was their only experience with Ratatouille. So...we made it into dinner and a movie night. I would say it was a win all around!

Thursday, July 25, 2013

This is Marriage

While we were at camp this weekend, we noticed some kids playing the cup game. Brad and I instantly flashed back to when we were HOBY counselors together, but we couldn't quite remember the rhythm. We did know enough to realize we were way too old and uncool to go ask to play with the tween girls...and then we moved on.

Last night, we watched Pitch Perfect again because, well, I find it hysterical and the music is great. Anna Kendrick does the cup game in that movie, which sent Brad google-ing. As it turns out, she also made a music video of the cup game song. And then it happened...we relearned the cup song. We broke out the plastic cups and we laughed together on the couch, playing the cup game...and my heart was happy.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Miss Wizard

Last week at the library, Issa hit up the science section. Two of the books were filled with experiments, and since this is our two weeks of true summer break, she and I decided to work our way through them yesterday.
We did a whole series of experiments on density first:
 That is syrup, water, and oil layered in that class. The plastic dog sank; the duck floated. Various other objects stopped at various levels. It was super fun--and sticky--and slimy. We also played with eggs floating versus sinking in salt and plain water.

We played with static electricity next:
 After the hair raising, we used the static to pick up various substances: pepper, salt, sugar. It was super fun.

We then moved on to oobleck:
Every one's favorite weird liquid/solid. Issa was not at all sure about the stuff.

We now have seeds hanging out in a baggie on our window, and we played with some leaves. In short, we had a wonderful afternoon playing with science. We'll see what adventures we find for today before I go in to teach!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Really Summer

I think yesterday was the first day that truly felt like summer for me. Issa and I went to take care of the school garden, and as soon as we got home she invited Briana over to play. I made them lunch, and then listened to them play crazy imaginative games with the doll house and dolls. They giggled and played while I worked and did laundry and cleaned the house. It was just summer--kids playing without any kind of plan...and I'm looking forward to another day of the same today.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Family Camping Fun!

We had a perfectly perfect weekend at Family Camp! The weather was perfect, and we all had a fabulous time.
We arrived on Friday evening and were able to pitch our tent in a prime location. As it turns out, we were the only tent campers, so we had the field (and the bath house) to ourselves! We were able to pitch behind some small hills and beside the basketball court. In short, it was a perfect site.
After we set up camp, we headed to the fire circle to roast hotdogs:
 We also had watermelon and squash straight from the camp garden. It was so delicious! After a few camp games, we roasted s'mores and then crashed for the night.

The next morning, the kids were up bright and early and we had two hours to fill before breakfast:
 It seemed the perfect time to take a picture of our home away from home. This tent really is awesome, and I have to brag about my packing. We took a large, locking Tupperware bin, which lived outside of the tent on a tarp in the vestibule. Inside, each person had a reusable shopping bag that help ziplocks of outfits. All we had to do was grab a ziplock to get dressed. I also packed a shower bag and a swimming bag in there. It made it much, much easier to find things, and everything stayed clean and dry. We also had a bathmat right outside of the tent to make sure we didn't track anything into the tent, and there was plenty of room on the tarp to hold shoes.

We decided to take a short hike to the lake chapel before breakfast:
 It was the perfect place to skip stones.

After breakfast, we took a hayride out to the camp farm. Issa got to help feed the goats:
 Evan loved feeding the pigs:
 And the chickens:
 Issa just loved the chickens:
 She did a great job catching them!

We also got to help move the ducklings to their new home on the pond:
 The farm purchased ducklings to take care of the duck weed in the pond. They have been raised in an enclosure, and now they are big enough to be on the pond. We helped carry the ducks over and tie their shelter close enough to the shore that they will feel safe.

We had so much fun we plan to join the farm in March! You can join for the season, which means you commit to working there two hours a month in exchange for some of the produce. I have a feeling we will do much more than the two hours, though!

Issa almost caught a butterfly, too:
 We returned from the farm in time for lunch, and then we went for a swim. As we were laying out our swimsuits to dry, we discovered we had a mascot for the tent:
 Once we were dry, we headed up to do some camp crafts:
 Lanyards and friendship bracelets were made by all before we headed out to fish:
 This is all we caught:
 But...we still had a blast! The kids loved casting and reeling. We also saw some turtles and frogs, so it was not a loss. We enjoyed dinner and more s'mores before we crashed.

Sunday morning, we woke up just in time for breakfast. After breakfast, we played with new friends:
Evan and Beckett were quite the duo! Then we headed out to the Lake Chapel for worship. After one last hike through the woods, we struck camp and headed for home, determined to go camping again soon.

In short, it was exactly what we had hoped for. The kids have fallen in love with camping, and we all had a really great time. There is something wonderful about listening to crickets and watching the stars as you fall asleep, all cuddled up together in the chill air--it's pure magic.

Friday, July 19, 2013


So...I am worse than my children right now. I am absolutely giddy. We are headed out to family camp as soon as Daddy gets home tonight, and I can't wait. Issa and I rounded up the last few supplies we needed yesterday, and today we will do the packing.

I'm not by nature a camper. I like being outdoors, but I'm not a fan of hot or dirty. But...somehow...that just doesn't matter right now. I can't wait for two days of uninterrupted family time. No phones. No TV. No computers. Just us. It also helps that someone else is doing the cooking and the activity planning. We are just along for the ride. Pictures and stories to come on Monday...

Thursday, July 18, 2013

It Finally Happened

Well...when you are a hermit crab pet parent you know it is bound to happen. You are bound to get pinched.

Issa has been taking great care of hermit crabs for almost a year now, and last night it finally happened. She got pinched--hard.

I taught last night, and I always call when I'm leaving campus to let my crew know I am on my way. As Daddy and I were exchanging reports, I heard Issa shriek and then I heard the tears. There is no worse feeling than knowing your child in in pain, and I knew that cry, and not being able to get to her. Daddy sprang into action, and by the time I got home she was just a little teary and a lot mad at Tiny.

He didn't break the skin, but he did leave a nice mark. To Issa's credit, she very carefully put Tiny in time out in his little hut rather than throwing the little bugger after he pinched her. By this morning, they are friends again, although she did patiently warn him not to pinch as she picked him up.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Two Weeks of Normal

I have declared this week and next Issa's two weeks of "normal summer." No camps. No tagging along to anyone's work (mostly). No schedules during the day. We are just hanging out. I think she deserves a little time to chill.
Yesterday, she played outside while I mowed. We did some of her summer homework, and we read together. She did some crafting while I cleaned and worked. It wasn't all sunshine; there were a few moments when she wanted me to do something and I needed to finish something else, but for the most part, I think it was just what we needed--both of us. A little room and time to breathe.
The highlight, however, was when we headed into the kitchen. I remember baking with Mom and Gram in the summer, and I was more than happy to oblige when Issa asked if we could bake something. Remember all that produce? How about some zucchini bread:
 Issa is getting to be pretty good in the kitchen, and we decided she was big enough to try the box grater. She really wanted the mandolin, but I don't think we're quite there yet!
She grated all the zucchini and measured and added everything but the flour and sugar. She cracked the eggs, and she did all of the mixing. All I did was grease the pans and slide them in the oven. The results were most delicious last night, too! I can't wait to see what today has in store for us.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Community Gardening

Issa's school has a community vegetable garden. During the school year, the students plant and tend the vegetables. During the summer, they ask families to volunteer to come in on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays to tend the vegetables. Anything harvested is distributed to families who may have limited access to fresh produce. In short, it's a wonderful learning opportunity that gives back to the community in so many ways.
We volunteered to come in yesterday and next Monday. A couple of weeks ago, though, we got an email stating that we could bring home anything we harvested. The garden had a bumper crop of zucchini, cucumbers, and tomatoes, and everyone was virtually drowning in them.
Yesterday, we set off to take care of the garden. Issa was thrilled, and I was excited, too. I really do love working in gardens. Unfortunately, when we arrived we realized that whoever had last week (and maybe the week before) had not come. The weeds were out of control. We have also had a ton of rain, so we were weeding in a bit of a swamp. It was not ideal. But...Issa got a little more excited when we found the first cucumber, and we both got to giggling when we realized we needed to just take off our shoes since they were getting stuck with every step.
At the end of the morning, we had a great time. Issa is already talking about going back on Monday, and we have big plans for these beauties:

Monday, July 15, 2013

Camp Bower

Next weekend is family camp, so we decided to do a little trial run in our backyard this weekend. Welcome to Camp Bower:
 We love our new tent! We can fit two air mattresses in, so we sleep very comfortably. Daddy gets a twin to himself and the kids and I share a queen. (I don't really believe in roughing it.) It was a great trial run to see how packing needs to go next weekend and, more importantly, to give the kids some experience sleeping outside. They loved falling asleep listening to the frogs and watching the lightning bugs. Viv was pretty excited, too; she slept there in the vestibule.

Daddy also set the pool up this weekend:
 I think the kids like it:
The countdown has begun for the real camp!

Friday, July 12, 2013

We're All in This Together

Yesterday when I picked Issa up at camp, I had one of those mom interactions that breaks my heart. I walked in to find Issa very happily playing, and she asked for five more minutes to finish building whatever they were building. No problem. As I watching my girl, another mom glared at me, "So, you're Issa's mom."

Deep breath. "Yes."

Before I could say anything else, "Well, my daughter told me this morning that Issa has great lunches and she wanted lunches like Issa."

I couldn't help but giggle a little, even though her tone was not genial. "They're just leftovers or whatever I piece together from the refrigerator. I promise they are not fancy, and I'm just as tired of packing them as you probably are."

"Well, I'm doing good to get a peanut butter sandwich made every morning."

"That's awesome! I wish I could do that. Issa won't eat peanut butter sandwiches--or any sandwich. She doesn't like soft bread."

"Well, I just wish you would stop ruining lunch for us." And she turned on her heel and left.

Issa was oblivious to the whole conversation, thankfully, but I couldn't let it go. Frankly, it's not about the lunch. It's not even that she was so angry at me. It wasn't about me. None of that conversation was about me. It was about her.

It was about the same feelings I think every mama finds herself feeling at some point. Exhaustion--because really packing lunches gets old. Guilt--because her kids were in camp instead of home doing the sixteen million crafts she's probably pinned to boards on Pinterest. Hurt--because sometimes kids innocently say things that cut us to our cores because of our own hang-ups and crazy expectations of ourselves. For all I know, she had a horrible day at work and was facing a pile of housework and that pesky dinner that insists on being made every night. I just happened to walk in and remind her of the rocky start to her day.

In that moment, what I should have done was simply said, "You're doing good, Mama." That's what the conversation was really about--insecurity. This motherhood gig is a tough one--on a good day. It can be lonely and daunting and exhausting. We all know our kids only get one childhood and they grow up way too fast. We set standards for ourselves, and we fall short because we are human first and mamas second.

Here is my wish and my mission. I wish that we, as mamas, remembered that we are all in this together. They say it takes a village to raise a children, but it takes an even stronger village to support the mamas (and I'm sure daddies, but since I'm not one of those I won't speak for them).  We have to be the village for our kids and each other. My mission is to be brave enough to live that wish. The next time I see the mama overwhelmed and lashing out, my mission is to simply say, "You're doing good, Mama."

Thursday, July 11, 2013

On Story Books

I've mentioned before that I hold writing my children's story books as one of the most sacred roles I have as a mother. Filling their pages with adventures and experiences and love--with an occasional unicorn thrown in for good measure. Some days, especially summer days, this can be daunting. The longer days and less structured time leaves more blank space on the pages. While I love the moments, sometimes the weeks get long...especially when I'm looking for the week's unicorn.

Yesterday, I was reminded that sometimes the best pages, though, aren't filled with unicorns and rainbows--a lesson that gave me a little grace in the dog days of motherhood. My family got some nasty weather up in Ohio. Everyone is safe, but my grandmother's basement was a bit flooded. One of my cousins posted this update on Facebook, and before long another cousin and I were remembering the floods of our childhood. I don't remember the exact number of times the basement in my grandmother's old home flooded, but I remember the adventure that would ensue. Molly and I reminisced about bucket brigades and water coming out of light sockets and rolling down stairs. Family scrambling to Grandma's basement to bail and dry. Other grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins: we were all there, working side by side. I'm sure to the adults it was a mess, and I'm sure the eyes of childhood might remember a bit of hyperbole. But in my memory, for us kids, it was fun. In those floods, I learned how to pitch in no matter how small. I learned that stuff is just stuff. And most importantly, I learned my family will always be there--always. These lessons went unspoken but were certainly felt as we stomped in puddles and made squishy footprints in the carpet.

There were no unicorns in that basement. There didn't need to be. But there was adventure, and knowledge, and love...all in the every day work of life. I think I can write those pages today....

Wednesday, July 10, 2013


July is my month "off." I am using that term very loosely. Basically, I'm still working but I can do it from the comfort of my own couch and only go into the office two afternoons a week. I know--a truly first world problem. I am very lucky I have a job I love and that I do have the amount of flexibility I do. I just had visions of a carefree month--not so much.
Since I am home, though, I've made a list of small projects I want to tackle. The first was our ugly old mailbox:
 It actually looks better than it did in this picture because I had already scrubbed the worst of the ick off. After a little sanding, I gave it a coat of outdoor, heat resistant, rust resistant paint. Voila:
I have a nice shiny mailbox again! Sometimes it's the little things in life.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Good Bad Decision

This morning, my laundry baskets are overflowing and my kitchen is a disaster area. The landing looks like a hurricane hit it, and Issa slept in her sleeping bag on a stripped bed. In short, the house is a hot mess because I made a series of good bad decisions.

I flew back in Wednesday night, we enjoyed a family day sans any work on Thursday, and Friday I unpacked and cleaned the house from top to bottom before Brad's college roommate, Tim, arrived. We spent the weekend reminiscing, eating fabulous food, taking the kids to see Despicable Me 2, and laughing. I did no laundry and minimal dishes. I just enjoyed the time with a good friend, a friend my children adore and who adores my children.

He left yesterday afternoon, and exhaustion set in. I took a nap, and when I woke up I read my book--a complete fluff read I am loving. I did no laundry and no dishes. We even used a gift card and went out for dinner. It all feels a little hedonistic.

It was a series of poor decisions. It was not particularly responsible, and I will need to do some major cleaning today before I can start the grading and then go teach. But...I wouldn't change a single bad decision.

Friday, July 5, 2013

I'm Home!

I'm home! I have spent the past five days at a conference, and while I enjoyed presenting and seeing old friends again, I am so, so glad to be home. I missed my people!
Today is filled with errands and cleaning, but I wanted to share Issa's pop star camp videos! I think they speak for themselves.