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A Super Birthday Party

It began last March-ish. Maybe slightly earlier. I actually think the superhero obsession began right around the time of their birthday party last year. I remember thinking that it was too late to change the theme. Gifts and decorations and cakes had already been bought.

“We can do a superhero party for your birthday next year,” I remember saying. In March. And in May. And in June, July and August. And in November. And now, here we are.

If you still like superheroes, I would think. It was the asterisk, the subtext of my promise to throw them a superhero party. However the kids who planned out their Halloween costumes seven months in advance without ever once deviating (as superheroes, of course) didn’t let me down.

It’s official. They got their superhero party. And I see no end in sight to this particular obsession…

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Cupcake sprinkles.

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Superhero clipart. Decorative fans. Batman garland (an ode to the superhero who started all this.)

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Superhero birthday shirts.

My “sheroes” sweatshirt, now officially my new favorite piece of clothing.

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The price of admission this year was a present. “Did you bring us presents?” was how they greeted everyone at the door. I’ve said it before, but just in case it hasn’t sunk in yet please remember that subtlety is not their specialty.

It was the first year in the past five where I didn’t have to watch the cake table like a hawk the entire time (though Nolan got a few frosting swipes and sprinkle steals in). They kind of ran around and did their own thing and opened presents and ate cake like it was their jam. And, at five and three, I guess it is.

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It’s officially birthday week in the Williamses house! And as hard as it is to believe we’re quickly leaving behind the years of toddlerhood, it’s also makes perfect sense as I see how far we’ve come. Here’s to three of the craziest, most loving, most talkative, smartest, most adventurous, and least subtle (almost) three and five-year olds around.

The Summer of Batman

Last summer was the summer of Moana. We watched at least part of the movie pretty much every day. Rainy days we usually watched the whole thing. Playing the soundtrack was a given at our house. I’d say it was in the background except it was really at the forefront, since the kids acted out the entire thing and everyone belted out the lyrics (including me) all the way from the breakfast table to dinner clean-up .

Their small plastic pool was Moana’s boat. Brooklyn was Moana and Caden embraced the role of Maui. I’m not really sure who Nolan was. Maybe Te Ká since they sure seemed to fight a lot. The shovels from their sandbox became paddles and I yelled at them more often than not for flinging all the water out of the pool as they “paddled”. (“I’m only refilling the pool ONE MORE TIME!”)

That was our entire summer. I completely forgot about it until Caden brought one of his plastic shovels into the pool the other day. I sat up expectantly in my lawn chair, waiting for the Moana reenactment to begin. Except it didn’t. Instead he went on and on about how it was some sort of Batman thing. Batrope, Batarang, Batshovel. I don’t even know.

Wait! I wanted to say, What about Moana? Aren’t you going to paddle across the ocean and battle Te Ká and Tamatoa? What about Te Fiti? Don’t you remember all that?

Nope. I guess we’ve moved on. Now it’s Batman or bust.

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I didn’t realize I was supposed to hold on to all of that from last summer. Twelve months later and we’re back outside. Here I thought we were going to settle right back into the same routine. I’m still sitting in my same little lounge chair, wearing the same old sandals, drinking either iced coffee or sparkling water out of the same clear tumbler, depending on the time of day. (Though not with the same plastic straw. Nolan bites through those like it’s his job. And apparently I’m supposed to stop using plastic now? Ugh. But I digress.)

Of course it’s not all the same. The clothes they’re wearing are mostly new, a size bigger, besides the hand-me-downs for Nolan. They ride bigger bikes, faster, and race around on new scooters like I’m running a neighborhood scooter gang. The swing set is getting small for them, probably too small. We’ll for sure need a new one next summer. Even the pool is different. A bigger, better, upgraded version complete with seats and cup holders. (Maybe the grown-ups need to get in on this pool action, too.)

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Batman has taken over. The level of obsession has been kicked up a notch. While I don’t think we owned a scrap of clothing with Moana’s face on it last year, now I have to pry Batman pajamas off of Caden’s body, plead with him to let me wash them after three days of dirt, yogurt smears, and general preschooler grossness. We’ve leveled up to the Batman Lego movie and all three chime in to chant Batman’s password to the Batcave, “Ironman sucks!” (Yup. Guess I’ve got other mountains to die on than the language one.) Caden schemes to own every Batman Lego set in existence and has conned Nana and Papa out of more money than they’d probably like to admit to fuel his addiction.

They race around with capes and masks, mastered the art of superhero poses, and have been plotting their Halloween costumes since February. Batman, Batgirl, and Robin. I told them they had nine months to wait. An eternity.

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Do I need to bottle this up, too? Should I be taking pictures, video, snapshots of all things Batman? Will I settle in next summer (same lawn chair, sandals, tumbler) just to have everything else change again?

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Batman whooshes past me. “Pew! Pew! Pew!” he cries with his stick-turned-gun. (I don’t know what it is with four-year olds, but we hit that age and now everything is a gun.) Robin follows behind, “Pew! Pew!” He doesn’t really know what he’s doing, but he’ll follow along with whatever Batman does. “Come on, Batgirl!” Batman cries, and she rushes off to join them in a chorus of more pew-pew-pew-ing, rolling around in the grass, and some impressively large jumps off the slide. It may look like regular old toddler play, but I know they’re fighting off bad guys.

(Fight scenes. Always blurry.)

“I Robitt!” Nolan growls as he runs up to me. He hasn’t quite mastered the “n” in Robin yet. Then he runs off again.

“Batman talks like this,” Caden says in a gravelly voice as he marches up to me with his hands on his hips. It makes me laugh every time, this low voice he takes on to portray his hero such a funny contrast to his regular, high-pitched one. His stick arms and legs and lack of a butt to hold up the shorts that are forever falling down his bottom are the antithesis to Batman’s ripped physique.

I watch them play, scream, tumble. I take pictures and store up memories.

Because next summer, things will change.

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Ahem. It should be noted that I wrote this post off and on over the course of two weeks. Yesterday afternoon, as I was thinking it over in my head knowing I was going to hit "publish" at night, they played Moana in the pool all. freaking. afternoon. So there's that. Really, what do I know, anyway?

Slow

Slow. That’s how we’ve been moving lately. My usual up and at ‘em, “where are we going today?”, ready and raring by 8:30 am children have settled this August into the ease of summer. Early risers to the core, they wake with the sun but have found contentment sitting around in pajamas, eating later breakfasts, and finding plenty to do in their own playroom, sorting through piles of books and choo-choo tracks and dolls and Moana figures.

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It’s been a struggle some days to get out of the house before 9:30 - a first for us, really. Not that we have much to do. August makes me want to pull my hair out. This in-between period (summer activities having ended a solid six weeks before the fall ones begin) needs something - anything - to give us some routine. There’s no more t-ball or story time at the library, preschool and dance class have yet to begin. Thinking of something to do every morning and afternoon is proving to be a bit much, to put it mildly. Yesterday found me paralyzed by overwhelm on the couch, as the long stretch of afternoon lay before me: what on earth were we going to do for the rest of the day? Did I really have to entertain three little people for another three entire hours before dinner time? (Solution: pull out the pool and water table, invite a neighbor over, drink some water. But not before I lay there filled with dread for a few minutes too long. Jesus, take the wheel.)

Some days it’s as simple as that. And while I try to keep on top of planning playdates and giving some sort of structure to our days, five mornings and five afternoons is waaayyyy too much free time. One morning goes to grocery shopping, another one or two to cleaning, but after our 12th trip to the park in ten days I’m ready to move on to something more regular. Activities that require me to show up with children in tow and plan approximately nothing besides having snacks on hand for hangry toddlers.

In other news, living at the park for days on end means that your small children learn pretty fast how to climb  up  the death slide. 

In other news, living at the park for days on end means that your small children learn pretty fast how to climb up the death slide. 

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The upside to all this is that they’ve found their footing in independent play. Caden and Brooklyn rush away after breakfast to build elaborate train tracks that wind their way through the main level (a tripping hazard for the rest of the day), zoom their cars around the street-pattered rug, and play complicated games of “neighborhood” that involve going to the store, sleeping, waking up (“The sun is up! It’s morning!”), going to work, and giving each other time-outs (a three-year old’s perspective of Life As A Grown-Up). “Do you want to play neighborhood?” one asks the other, and they rush away, Nolan tagging along behind.

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So I don’t do super great with slow. I am more than ready for routine, a reason to be out of the house before the clock rolls over to 10:00. Summer is great and all, but even as a kid I was always ready for school to start back up again.

Fast isn’t exactly my speed either. Every-day-all-day-go-go-go sounds equally unappealing. I just need a bit more structure. Some options, so that the days we don’t have plans feel actually relaxing, instead of another in a long line of do-nothing days.

Can I crave something a bit more medium? Medium sounds good. A medium pace I can get behind. I think we’ve got that set up for fall. A few mornings of commitment, afternoons mostly free, one evening activity. The countdown is on.

Love ya summer, but I’m ready to move on. It’s not you, it’s me. (Well, maybe it’s a little bit you with that hot, humid weather and all. But mostly it's me.)

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This afternoon, I leaned into the slow a bit, as best I could. The semi-cool weather has me dreaming of fall, and with the apple orchard opening for the season, my destination was clear. We sure as heck weren't going to the park again. (Not to mention the apple orchard is a 30-minute drive. An hour in the car where it only feels like I’m parenting because Wheels on the Bus is on repeat? Yes, please.)

Fall hasn't quite taken over the orchard yet: the hayrides, props for photo ops, the elaborate stacks of hay bales and dried corn stalks were not yet the decor of choice. I knew as much, but also knew that an open field next to a lake would provide just as much opportunity for entertainment.

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And a stop inside for the first apple treats of the season? Pretty much perfect. (Apple donuts FTW!)

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The phrases "Let's go!" and "Hurry up!" are going to be peppering my speech a bit more in the coming weeks. If you couldn't tell (ha!), there's a big part of me that's totally and completely fine with that. At least we embraced the slow today: throwing sticks in the lake, jumping off the giant tree stump, and enjoying the apple orchard pretty much to ourselves before it becomes completely overtaken for the season. And for now, I have three more fresh apple donuts to get me through the meantime. Or at least the next few hours.

Summer

August. The last hurrah of summer. Though you wouldn't much know it looking out the window today (cool, clouds, rain). I don't mind it much. I'm ready to move on with it - let's get to fall already! - but the seasons aren't quite ready to shift yet. I know we'll have more 80 and 90 degree days in there somewhere. Probably in early September, when I really and truly am over it and ready for sweaters, boots, and cider-spiced lattes.

Whatever it looks like outside today, it is still summer. We still have plenty of time for late nights and ice cream, swimsuits and patio dining. 

We bottled up some of our summer a few weeks ago, during a fun photo session. Nothing fancy, nothing new, no insane online shopping sprees to find the exact right coordinating pi just a piece of our ordinary summer days in our own backyard. Major shoutout to Prall Photo for her talent once again! 

Also once again, I tried to narrow it down to just a few of my favorites. Impossible. Enjoy the photo dump.

Post (Big Chip) Weekend

Big Chip is the kind of place where, as a kid, you may pack your toothbrush and toothpaste but it's more a matter of habit than practicality since it never gets used. Same goes for shampoo, body wash, and anything else related to personal hygiene. You run around barefoot all day, indulge in freeze-pops, candy, and s'mores (depending on the hour), and wash off the accumulated layer of grime and stickyness by having another go in the lake. "Don't pack your good clothes!" my mom would warn every year. It's a place of sand, worms, dirt, and lake water, and somehow nothing around the place ever seems truly clean.

As an adult, a few things have changed. Vacation or not, I prefer to brush my teeth every day. Even if I don't get a shower in, you can bet I've put a can of dry shampoo to good use. I have good intentions when I pack that makeup, but usually only put on the foundation for it's SPF benefits. I pack 10 shirts too many (how many days were we up there again?) but end up rolling out of bed each morning to grab the same clothes I wore yesterday off the floor. They might be rumpled and have the smell of last night's bonfire lingering in them, but when today's schedule looks pretty much the same as yesterday's, there's not much use for clean ones.

Until the time comes to go home. Then you roll out of bed, throw some clean clothes on an otherwise unwashed body, and realize just how disgusting you really are. Somehow it takes the realization that you're leaving this place - trading lake country for your normal, city (ahem, suburban) life - to become desperate for a shower, your own bed, and a washing machine.

But while it lasts...

We made a quick trip this year, arriving early on Thursday and back on Saturday, but in a way that's the perfect amount of time with little kids. The only downside was the cold front that took over all day Thursday. I personally don't mind a day of downtime: reading, maybe a nap, a run into town, but with three little ones to entertain? They didn't quite know what to do with themselves. The big ones at least enjoyed the paddle boat. (Loling at thinking that Nolan would last longer than two minutes on there before trying to dive off into the water.)

Brooklyn: there's totes a tree in my face. Caden: you're welcome that I'm actually doing a normal smile for a picture for once. Nolan: I hate whatever has led me up to this point in life because wearing this stupid thing is the WORST EVER and I will now scream bloody murder anytime you come near me with this thing and its straps of death.

Brooklyn: there's totes a tree in my face. Caden: you're welcome that I'm actually doing a normal smile for a picture for once. Nolan: I hate whatever has led me up to this point in life because wearing this stupid thing is the WORST EVER and I will now scream bloody murder anytime you come near me with this thing and its straps of death.

At least the weather made it a good day for fishing, and the big kids also had a chance to catch their very first fish. Though it was a toss-up as to what was more fun: actually catching the fish or just throwing bread in the water.

Also: talk about a throwback.

Then, because these kids are Minnesotans, dammit, they decided that they'd had enough of just looking at the water and to hell with this 60 degrees in the middle of July nonsense, we're just going to go in this lake, swimsuits or no.

I am happy to report that the next day turned around for us

If we floated a steady supply of snacks out to them, they probably could have sat there all day.

If we floated a steady supply of snacks out to them, they probably could have sat there all day.

Livin that #lakelife.

Livin that #lakelife.

Learning the fine art of s'more making. (Graham cracker. Dark chocolate. Two marshmallows (toasted brown, maaaybe to the edge of burning for that extra crunch). Graham cracker. EAT.)

And then the time came to head home. The most beautiful of mornings, of course.

Which meant...

...we just couldn't resist...

...one more dip.

And since swimsuits were packed and everyone who participated was under the age of four, underwear, diapers, and bare bellies worked just fine.

And...

...a stop to see Ole the Viking on the way out of town. Caden could not get over the fact that he had a spear. His life’s goal is now to be a Viking, probably.

Maybe I'll learn my lesson next year and leave those pesky toothbrushes at home. Until next summer, Big Chip!