summer

The Worst March Mom

I’m convinced March and August are the absolute worst months out of the year.

The first is a month that sounds like it’s supposed to be spring. Can we all just agree that March, April, and May are spring months? (June, July, and August get summer, September, October, and November claim fall, while December, January, and February are clearly winter. This is basic science and logic.) Apparently Mother Nature is not on board, since she often sends blizzards of snow in late March just to remind us of where we all live. By that point, the snow isn’t magical anymore. It’s something to survive. We’re all sick of the sixth straight month of living in the same few square feet of space and the sibling fights become truly epic.

And August. I just can’t with August. It’s too hot. I don’t like stepping outside and immediately sweating. All the summer activities have ended but the fall ones have yet to begin. It makes for a very long month. I’m over the whole sunscreen thing. I don’t want to wear shorts and tanktops. I’m also sick of coming up with no-cook meal ideas because who wants to cook when it’s 97 degrees outside? Nobody, that’s who.

Now listen, lest you think I’m the grumpiest mom ever, let me tell you that I’m a great beginning-of-season parent.The first real days where it smells like summer or hints at the chill of winter? I am freaking fantastic. My mom game is on point in May and October.

We kick off the first snowfall by drinking hot chocolate. With marshmallows. We watch Frozen as our landscape transforms, even if it’s only a little white dusting across the grass. I drink hot tea again. I break our day into a routine complete with designated snack, art, and quiet times. The fireplace is turned on, our warmest blankets are pulled out, and we are a hunker-down-in-this-house, hygge machine.

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Read more over on the Twin Cities Moms Blog.

The Summer Neighborhood

It's a wet and muggy first day today. Not for us, preschool doesn't get going until next week, but for the rest of the neighborhood. Most years the day after Labor Day has dawned sunny and bright. I usually forget it's not just another Tuesday until we walk down to the park after 9:00 am to find everything quieter than usual. Windows and garage doors closed, empty yards, general stillness.

Our neighborhood comes alive in the summer. Most Midwestern ones do, I suppose. We have to enjoy it while we can. The big kids run around, free from school (or are shoved outside, away from their screens, reluctantly), little ones chalk in the driveway (or scream bloody murder because they “don’t want to get wet” even though they’re in the pool with their swimsuit on), everyone is out grilling burgers and kabobs and brats.

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One yard or another fills up with assorted neighborhood kids and parents. Some of the older kids’ parents stay inside their air-conditioned homes. I’m not sure what they do inside. I imagine they’re luxuriously soaking up stacks of books, enjoying Netflix marathons, and eating ice cream by the pint in their pristine and organized living rooms. (I’ll report back in about a decade or so to let you know if that is in fact true.) It’s a win all around. The older kids help referee the little ones while us parents chat and occasionally crack open an adult beverage.

I’ve been taking advantage of some of those bigger kids this summer, putting them to use. As babysitters for date nights or, more importantly, as “mommy’s helpers” because I desperately need a break in the afternoon. Others wander the neighborhood, offering their services. One neighbor girl came along to pull the ever-present weeds from our landscaping. (Her rate? “$2.30 for 30 minutes”. You can’t beat that, people.) Another mows our grass. For FREE. (Okay, I guess you can beat the $2.30 girl. Though we paid the grass-mower anyway.)

For the most part I’m doing a little dance inside at this time of year. With the days cooling and the leaves about to change and the pumpkins and the apples and the sweaters all headed our way, what’s not to love? I come alive again at this time of year, a fall girl who glories in the lack of humidity, the wearing of booties, and returning to the routine of a school-year schedule.

At the same time something is lost. Not quite yet but soon. The chill will go from a literal breath of fresh air to something more brutal. Everyone will turn to the warmth of their homes and blankets and fireplaces. Backyards, sidewalks, and driveways will be empty. I’ll admit there’s a beauty to this rhythm, too. I do love cozying up, decorating for the holidays, hunkering down during the first snow, and remembering how to play inside again. But a couple months of that and I’m ready for people. For the ease of social interaction without the coordination of text messages and calendars. For the easy-breezy days of stepping just outside our door to find friends. For afternoons that aren’t quite as long and tedious since we can spend them at the park. Or in the backyard. Or anywhere but the same four walls surrounding us all day every day.

We're planning to glory in our own last week of summer. Plans to spend our last few days at the park (when it's not wet), our own backyard, the farm, and topping it all off with an overnight at a local waterpark. A last hurrah. We'll enjoy our summer neighborhood while we can before embracing the indoors all over again.

Life Lately (Summer edition)

We’ve been living up summer over here. Most afternoons have found us in the backyard, in the pool, the kids splashing and swimming and running off to the swingset while I occasionally get some reading done. They’re at their best outside: less inclined to fight, to exclude, to tantrum. Of course that still does happen. But not nearly as much as when we’re all cooped up.

I love our backyard. It’s shaded and somehow there’s always a breeze back there, even on the hottest of days where the branches are still everywhere else. It’s comfortable and cool and the perfect spot to summer with a book and some water and my lawn chair and the occasional (read: daily) freezee pop.

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True confessions: I wrote the above two paragraphs a couple of weeks ago. August is actually the absolute worst. I'm sure next year I'll be wishing it were longer (because KINDERGARTENNNNNNN) but, well, it's still this year and the kids have basically forgotten how to play outside and just wander around in circles whining and/or fighting. So. Yeah. I'm over it.

(And yes I realize that mere months ago I was complaining about winter but that was after a literal six months of snow. My self-awareness has grown as I've realized that my tolerance for any given season is about a two month time period (with the exception of fall) so my new proposal is an eight-month year with two months each for spring, summer, fall, and winter. Who's with me? Let's get on that.)

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We went on our annual family vacation up north in July. It was the most enjoyable year in awhile. I wasn’t breastfeeding anyone, we didn’t really care about nap schedules since it was just easier to wear them out and then put them to bed at night, we were more comfortable with the kids in the water given their recent swimming lessons and the magic of life jackets.

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Brooklyn was the fishiest of fish and I’m amazed we got her out of the water at all. Caden loved any boat he could con a ride on, from the paddleboat to the pontoon to the stand-up paddleboard. Nolan gloried in being his full summer-kid self and also ate all the snacks he could get his hands on. I enjoyed more time in the surprisingly warm lake than in the past few years combined, enjoyed a drink or three, and devoted entire chunks of time to reading. It was glorious.

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NOLAN IS USING THE POTTY. The kid I thought would be in diapers forever due to all of his “I a BABY!” and “I no YIKE it!” and all that running away from the actual potty up and decided out of the blue that hey, the potty isn’t so bad, after all.

About a month ago he was pulling at the front of his pants so I asked him, as I’ve asked him one hundred million times before, “You look like you have to go potty. Do you want to go on the potty?” and instead of screaming "NOOOO" he gave me a spirited “YEAH!” and ran to the potty, where he pulled down his pants, sat down, and went like he’s been doing it all his life. (I had a slight moment of “Are you KIDDING me?” as he probably could have been potty trained six months ago, but whatever.)

So. We’re going potty. And for the first time in about 4 ½ years, I have exactly ZERO children in diapers. Praise the Lord.

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Nolan also sometimes doesn't nap. And rarely naps for more than 60 minutes. It’s the worst thing ever. Fix it, Jesus.

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Caden obsessively and compulsively saved up for a $99.99 LEGO Batman set. Specifically this LEGO Batman set or as he calls it, “The one hundred dollar Batman LEGO set that has the Batcave and Bruce Wayne and Alfred Dad and the Penguin.” Yeah. That one. Then he obsessively and compulsively carved out time each day to work on putting it together (often by himself and please just go look at that "8-14"-year old age suggestion on it again) and spent the rest of the time keeping Nolan away from it. Every night he thanks God for “my Batman LEGO set with the Batcave because it makes me so happy.” 

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Earlier this month I spent some time in Denver with my favorite group of women - a group of mamas and writers just like me. It was also the first time we met in person. Little did I know that my favorite group of people could also be ones I'd never actually "met" before, but I guess that's the Internet for ya. 

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They were smart, fierce, funny, passionate, wonderful, lovely, extraordinary women. We may start our own commune just so we don't have to hop on a plane in order to see each other and can help each other take care of babies and make meals and give each other time off to go write for days at a time. Okay, probably not, but we can dream. It was perfect and wonderful (besides a four-hour flight delay on my way out of town) and I can't wait to do it again.

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Upon my (very, very late at night) return from Denver, Tyson told me, "If anything is too hard today, don't do it." I took that as my cue to procure Happy Meals for lunch.

Please note that nobody complained about this situation.

Please note that nobody complained about this situation.

I'm also taking it as my motto for the rest of summer. We've summered and now we are surviving. I'm resting, reading, and yelling instructions or corrections from my chair. This is where we're at, people.

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Some toddler and preschooler-isms I'm loving lately:

  • "Oosp" (oops). Nolan always mixes up the last two letters. It's ridiculously endearing and part of the reason I want to read Blue Hat, Green Hat with him every. single. day. It also sounds like it should be a thing from IKEA. The Oosp floor lamp or something.
  • "Sun scream" (sunscreen). Those "m"s and those "n"s, man. They're tough.
  • "Nusic" (music). See above.
  • "Fly splatter" (fly swatter). You know their version is better.
  • "Constructions" (instructions). Like the booklets of instructions that come with all those LEGO sets. Another preschooler-ism that I'm convinced is better than the original.
  • "The day before this day" and "the day after this one". Because no matter how much we remind them, those four-year olds have a tough time remembering the words "yesterday" and "tomorrow" but can string their own set of words together pretty well to get the point across.

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?

Life Lately

“Come!” Nolan says, taking my hand and dragging me towards the TV. “Cooommmmeee!” And he points, expectantly, to watch another round of “You’re Welcome” from Moana. So much for no screen time before the age of two with this second-round kid. Enjoy, buddy. #thirdkidlife

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Though his actual favorite song is "Wheels on the Bus". "Bus!" he screams, "Buuuuusss!!!" Unfortunately, he knows that we have it on CD in the car. Just FYI, it takes us 3.5 rounds of "bus" to get to Target. 4 to get us to preschool. I don't even want to know how many it's going to take when we road trip it to Iowa.

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First day of Preschool:

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The outtakes:

Asked if they missed me and they both said, "No." In a tone like, duh, mom, why would you even ask that?

First day of dance:

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Stillwater is one of the more picturesque suburbs in the Twin Cities. I danced out there several times a week starting in elementary school, so I kind of feel like I grew up there. It's a bit of a drive, now - 45 minutes or so in light traffic from our house - so I don't get there much now. Saturday we were able to spend the day there, a first with the kids. 

We started out on a boat.

Only a matter of time before we get the "are they triplets?" question...

Only a matter of time before we get the "are they triplets?" question...

Caden was in his element and asked 4587 questions about water and boats. Though I think he was disappointed it wasn't a boat like Moana sails on. (Only a little, though.)

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We then moved on to ice cream.

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I would just like to point out that Nolan's ice cream is half of a normal kid's-sized portion, and Caden's, which includes both his cone and the entire cup of ice cream sitting next to him, is almost a full-sized kid's portion. Why is America so overweight anyway? The world may never know.

We ended at the park. But not just any park. Teddy Bear Park.

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Where Nolan and this bear became BFFs. (And he's not sunburned, and no I didn't up the saturation of these images, kid literaly gets that red the second he steps out the door in any sort of humidity. Combine that with running around the playground like a crazy person and the result is a face as red as his pants.)

A little braver every day.

A little braver every day.

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Every. Time. We. Bake.

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Their combined voice power when they run around playing is louder than ten mixers running at the same time, but sure guys, cover your ears while this single mixer whirrs around on medium. YOU GUYS MAKE NO SENSE.

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Speaking of running around playing, Caden and Brooklyn's favorite game lately is to play "Neighborhood". Which, to most kids, would probably be called playing house, but here it's an almost never-ending refrain of: "Do you want to play neighborhood?" "We're playing neighborhood!" "You be the dad and I'll be the mom so we can play neighborhood." Maybe I have Daniel Tiger to thank? I really don't know, but it's adorable. They go to sleep, wake up ("The sun's up! It's morning!"), make food, go to the store, go to work, take care of their babies, and I was especially proud of Caden the other day as I overheard him say, "Daddy's going to make dinner because mommy has to go to a meeting. Bye mommy! Have fun at your meeting!" And also: "Daddy's going to the store so he needs the diaper bag!" and he slung a pink purse over his shoulder. That's right little man, you rock that pink "diaper bag", and don't let anyone tell you otherwise. #feminism

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Let it be known that the summer of 2017 was the official summer of "Do you want to see a trick?"

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Flips, drops, jumps, twirls, slides, and ten types of climbing. Between them there's nothing these three haven't conquered on this playground. And Nolan is RIGHT THERE with the rest of them. Might as well be triplets, after all.