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Travel complete

We are back in MN.  We didn’t follow the original travel plan but the best part of driving is you can change the plan.

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The transition back to ‘normal summer’ took just a little bit.  Kids are playing, swimming, friends visiting, bikes are ridden, chores are somewhat done and a little bit too much TV is watched.  I made the rule that as soon as I get up the TV goes off, that does get me a little more time in the morning.  It doesn’t go on again until late afternoon and the plan was they had their chores and list stuff done but see sentence 2 about how plans go sometimes.  They actually don’t ask much anymore because if they know they didn’t do ‘the list’ they are going to get sent on a task so they mostly fill the time with epic imagination games.

I also had a good conversation with a friend about how boredom is good for kids.  Gives them time to reflect and think about stuff.  Their little brains need time to marinate and mature.  They are also quite ready for school to start even though we still have about 2 weeks to go still.

Our 2 weeks in PA were fun.  Got to see nearly everyone we wanted to and some people we didn’t even expect.  A random ‘best moment’ happened when a bunch of us were actually waiting for someone.  We decided to just sit on the ground under a great shade tree and it was like transporting back in time to the teen years with no pressing responsibility and just hanging out with friends.  The moment was fleeting as time passed and we actually were responsible for things but it was a memorable moment.

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I got home early enough to actually get to another SCA event.  Semi-independent kids make all the difference, they went to classes and played with kids – thanks to the kind kid-friendly teachers willing to let a pleasant 7-year-old bang away on leather for an hour or more. **I actually do watch them and do ‘drive-bys’ but I don’t want them to see me so unless I see trouble I keep away.**  They are learning independence in a very safe place but I also don’t want people reading and thinking I just let them free range and be other peoples responsibility.   It was a nice little event overall even though it ended with some drama, this isn’t the place for details but I want the note to future self if I ever need it.

Earlier in the summer, I came to the realization that summer is NOT the time to try and do big projects since we are actually pretty busy with kids and travel and fun summer stuff.  We got some things done early on but I’m putting a hold on my personal expectations until after school starts because then I’ll have some uninterrupted time to work with.  Without the pressure to constantly do stuff, I’ve gotten stuff done anyway.  We got our ring doorbells installed, replaced a ceiling fan, added electronic door locks, and super cleaned the pantry.  The to-do list still exists and I still try to do something productive daily but giving myself the break was a good idea – highly recommend it.

And now we are as up to date as a blog post covering nearly a month can be.  Onward to back to school shopping today, state fair this weekend, friends visiting next weekend and who knows what all in between.

Mid vacation

Today I opened my laptop for the first time in nearly 2 weeks.  It sounded like a pinball machine dinging with all the alerts and messages that it had qued up in its little body.  I’ve been having a great time with just my phone, a few facebook posts, skim the emails for anything urgent and basically back in the bag.

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ready for my role, I don’t usually wear this outfit but I enjoyed visiting an early period fashion

I’m on our traditional 2-week camping adventure in PA.  Every year is a little different, every year it is nicely the same.  I can nearly walk the site with my eyes closed but each year there are new areas I become more acquainted with.  This year I got to participate in a cool ceremony for a person I think is great, it was a once in a lifetime experience and I’m am so glad I was in a position to do it.  This year is also 100% less stressful.  Sure, still a bit of stress over this or that – a difficult person, random drama, or, an uncontrollable situation but since I’m not at max stress from moving it is all much more manageable.

Why do I vacation in a place that is built to be not relaxing?  I’m trying harder this year to take a break here and there but old habits die hard.

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our camp

The positives, aside from the role I got to play included giving a fun camp tour, watching my kids excel at boffer, seeing my kingdom have a great time on the field, seeing two friends new babies, tons of time to have conversations with friends from various points in my life, I’ve helped a few people out, built a great camp, attended a class I’ve been meaning to get to and even the weather has been really pretty good.  The kids have hit a milestone of being able to be (even) more independent and it is very nice to know they are happy and taken care of by our fabulous nanny, and, she isn’t frazzled because they are overall less needy.  We are growing into the tween phase that includes boys stopping over but I gave a stern lecture to my camp family against any threats against any boy.  The adults do mean well, but, “I’ve got a shovel” is a threat that we need to let go of.  It isn’t cool the threaten kids, and, if you don’t mean it (and they really never did) don’t waste your words on something people auto-dismiss. Slowly slowly we can shift away from empty threats that imply our children are helpless.  I think the phrase that actually hit home was when I asked them to think about if they had a son and someone said that to them – I’m sure the parents of the boy who has been hanging around did as good a job as me, and, I would be pretty offended if I heard someone threaten my child based on nothing but their age and gender.  I also want the kids where I can see them so having the camp that is friendly is one of my goals.

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tour group photo opp!

I’m short on my hour of internet here, I got the mundane life details dialed in and the bills paid.  No matter how vacation brain I am, bills still need attention and an hour now prevents a ton of problems later.  Next up I pack up Lars who could only join us for a few days and then Friday we put this all back it the box and move on to vacation part 2 – the NY phase.   I’m visiting family and friends and I can’t wait to see them even though I’ll be missing Lars and the house and pets and friends at home.  Pennsic, as always, is a special time and place and I’m glad we can come.

 

Checking in before checking out

Hello internet friends!

Last week I had the pleasure of a week of kid’s at day camp where they had a fantastic time and came home not just dirty but also sticky and at the same time crunchy?  Girl Scout day camp is totally different from YMCA camp.  Far less structure, far more messy fun.  2 of my 3 like it better but I think the hold out is more a rules follower, and, she didn’t have any of her particular friends there.

The positive of camp is that I got all day (kinda) solo to get stuff done around the house.  The negative is that means all I did for a week was head down work around the house.  By the end, I was talking to strangers in the grocery store for the company.  I did get a bunch of computer work up to date and fixed our insurance and worked on other grown-up money and house things that weren’t broken but needed solid attention.  I did not get the sewing or cleaning done as intended but who thought I would?

I volunteered to be a bus parent, meaning I had a list of kids that should get on and off the bus.  Pretty easy job especially since an Alpha Mom took over the job because ‘she already knew everyone’.  The other volunteer and I let it go, she did know everyone, and the times we tried to do a more formal parent sign to get child method she really fussed over how long it took.  ANYWAY, she asked if we could do it solo the last afternoon and morning since her child was doing the sleepover and that is reasonable except suddenly we were in charge of a crowd of untrained parents who expected us to know them all by sight.  Oh well.  AND.  That was the day that the one kid, you know the kid, the kid who you know would be trouble at some point because of the sass rolling off her like waves at the ocean – well she hops off the bus and no parent is there for her.  No problem, her parent has been late the last few days, who of us hasn’t had a tight drive.  Then I ask why she isn’t sleeping over like all the others her age are, her reply is she has lacross and is going back later that night.  A reasonable explanation, sure.  We wait 15 min and call her mom, she tells us that mom is at work she is expecting dad.  Ok, what is dad’s number?  She has no idea… I call my leader friend who is running things and she finds a number in the permanent file.  We call it.  Oh, did we mention she meant her stepdad?  We called her dad who lives 4 hours away to say we had his kid… bet that was a fun call between former partners (perpetual parents though!).  Actually, he did help and we got the step dad’s number who was on his way. We wait for another 15 and get the feeling he may have been ‘on the way’ to the wrong place… yup, we get a call he is at camp, she was indeed going to lacross but stepdad was picking her up at camp for it since it was that end of town.  In the end, he collected her and there were smiles all around since we all were pretty chill about a random spare child.  It wasn’t a bad day to hang out in a parking lot for an hour and hey, I would rather have an extra kid then be missing one.

The camp week also had all of the afternoon rushes that school does so that was something I didn’t miss.  The race to gymnastics, jujitsu etc worked out but I’m glad we are at home most of the summer.  The crowning moment of the week and my motherhood career is from that Friday when #3’s very good friend invited her to a sleepover on one of the few days between their vacation and ours.  I had a drop off window but it would only work if I went directly from the bus.  Recall the sticky, crunchy child comment?  Well, I dropped off a filthy child, hungry child to her friend’s house.  Good thing the mom is super nice and we get along really well.  I actually don’t feel bad because I know they have so much fun and #3 really can shower solo.  She came back the next day full of bounty from the farmers market clean and with clean clothes in her bag!  It was a sleepover miracle.

This past week has been all about getting ready for being gone for a month.  We are going on our traditional 2 weeks in NY and 2 weeks camping event in PA – we just don’t usually string them together.  Poor Lars can’t come to much, work is very work right now and I’m proud of his efforts but a solo month is slightly daunting.  I truly won’t be alone, I travel with one friends out there, have my parents and a ton of friends at the event, and the hardest thing will be driving from PA to NY.  I’ll kidnap my mom to drive NY to MN with me at the end and I know it will be fun and relaxing in a crazy sort of way.

The positive of my 3 at home with me is we have fun doing stuff and I plan differently. We got stuff done but we also had a book club, friends over, park time, swim time – all the good parts were back.  I still wanted some solo time to gather my leaking brains because of their various urgent needs but it has been a fun week overall.

Anytime I’m overwhelmed these past two weeks I just think about last year.  I may be packing for a month but I’m NOT packing 100% of my possessions to move to storage since the new house wasn’t ready yet.  I may be cleaning so I don’t come back to something sentient but I’m not waking up at 4am to scrub tubs and clean the shell of our former home.  I might be stressing the details of camping and travel but they are peanuts compared to juggling mortgage, closing, crazy buyers, behind builders, where my kids will physically sleep and eat the vast unknown of a giant life change that is mostly out of your hands.  Any emotion I feel this week about being gone for a month is minuscule when measured against the emotions of leaving the place I brought home each child.  On the other hand, just because I’ve handled worse does not mean this is nothing but I think this year things will be better overall because I actually have brain space.

Ok, this is my last day and while my list isn’t crazy, I still have a list.  Off to do the things that I can and tomorrow we drive.

Summer of 6 Part II

Still Alive!  All of us!  And back in our original locations

I attempted to write something partway through the experience but if  I thought me sitting at a computer was a signal for 3 to line up to ask questions, fight, gush blood and generally interrupt my flow of typing – it was doubled with 6.  We also went out more.

There were crazy moments but nothing too crazy.  Nobody actually gushed blood, there was one minor fireworks related burn, and I don’t think we wrecked anything too badly with Mr Diabetic/No Gluten.  We didn’t even lose anyone or leave anybody behind on any of our many many outings (although it was occasionally tempting).

The positives absolutely outweigh the negatives.  We had tons of cousin interaction time where they could just play and get to know each other.  Like the magic of adding a friend, there were actually fewer “I’m bored” and general fights then if I just had my 3.  We did have quite a few visits from local friends to keep the fresh fun rolling, and, sent a kid off on a playdate a time or two to keep things fun.  It totally helped that all 6 are self-sufficient in the basics and 5 of the 6 can be left home alone so grocery shopping was not me + 6 every time (only 3 times, that was plenty).

Ever notice that you do more when you have guests?  That was absolutely the case here.  We didn’t do some of the ‘normal’ things we do in summer like tennis lessons but we did get the opportunity to get out and show off our awesome state.  The cousins are living in Texas, the word hot does not accurately describe their daily weather – I think you can make driveway jerky from the long slow dry heat baking through their neighborhood.  Here we hit 85 a couple times but we also went down to 65 and sweatshirts were required.  TONs of outside time and I never felt guilty about kicking them out to use up some energy.  In our 3 weeks together we:

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Went to the MN sculpture garden after picking up #1 from camp.  This is ‘the’ famous sculpture for the Twin Cities.  (don’t have a clue why)

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Hiked the interstate trail from MN to WI and climbed around all over the pothole area on the MN side.  Kids hiking is always an adventure, it was only a couple miles but to some of them, it was a very long walk.img_1619

We hit the weather jackpot for our Duluth day, sunny but cool and perfect for playing on the shore, building rock sculptures and general sightseeing on the great lake Superior.

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We also took a boat tour in Duluth, it was actually cold out on the lake.  PS, this is the last we saw of Zoe’s sweater, she left it at the park in Duluth shortly after.  I hope someone adopts it.img_1504

Lots and lots of trips to our local parks, we were waiting on a particular park to reopen so we went more than once to be disappointed that it *still* wasn’t open but they had fun anyway.  Helps that I bring snacks.

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Everyone enjoyed our only rainy day at the bowling ally.

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Can’t visit the land of 10,000 lakes without swimming in at least 1 or 2.  This is one of them and even Prima got in the water.

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#1 suggested that we participate in a volunteer event at Feed My Starving Children where we packed food for kids in other countries.  Our session packed enough for 65 kids for a year!  It was a nice change from frivolous summer or boring regular life and we did a good job working together.

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I didn’t get many actual 4th of July pictures because I was IN the parade and they had fun watching.  Again a gorgeous day, not too hot and a good breeze.  My shoe broke at the very end but that was the only negative.  We did the BBQ thing with friends and then local fireworks.  This picture is actually from the weekend when we went to a friends house who really really loves 4th of July and the party was fantastic.  Over 30 kids all in the right ages, a river to swim in, shade trees, trampoline, as Zoe said: it was ‘paradise’.

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Obligatory sunset over the lake.  They swam in this one too

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They really got into putting mulch in the garden.  There may have been icecream bribes mentioned but I didn’t expect the team effort going on.  We didn’t get much done around the house over the 3 weeks beyond the basics of food, laundry and dishes but we did get the garden full of weed blocker.img_1712

Toward the end, we headed out to the Franconia sculpture garden.  It is way more fun than the downtown one.  This has stuff you can climb on, walk around and it is more a discovery than a walk in a park.  We had not been there in a few years and there are tons of new installations as well as old favorites

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Last but not least, we got this kid to his first SCA event.  He wanted to fight so badly that it made the day trip worth it.  Usually, we camp but this year with the extra kids we didn’t want to worry about overnights.  We wished we could stay but their flight was 8am the next day so we had to take what we could get.

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Not shown are the trips to the pool, many meals together, tablet and tv time where they all puppy piled together, books traded back and forth, adventure games spread over the entire playroom floor and board games all over the table tops.  Sure there were fights and short tempers and some moments where you wonder how they survived on earth this long and my attention was pulled 6 ways at all times but I would do it again for sure.

And now starts the next phase of summer.  A two-week interlude before our travels where 1 week all three kids are in summer camp and the next week we need to get ready to be gone for nearly a month.  I’m glad I’m not moving like last year,

Summer of 6 Pt1

Monday night I acquired 3 more kids, my only niece and 2 of my nephews.  It was a late pick up at the airport and claiming unaccompanied minors is not easy but it isn’t hard.  Home far too late but that’s the way it goes.

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Tuesday I had NOTHING planned on purpose.  This was the day to get used to here, to figure out the way, to deal with cranky kids who stayed up too late (that was all of them since mine stayed up excited to see their cousins).  It was a long day but overall fine, nothing out of the ordinary and we did achieve ‘the list’ of things to do pre-electronics.  For a day with no plans I feel like we ran through a ton of things, I was exhausted by 3 and didn’t feel bad about the TV going on because they had biked, played, eaten, read, done chores, and endless other odd little things that amounted to me feeling like air traffic control speaking in  3 different languages.

Wednesday and today were way more ‘normal’ with better moods, easier activities, and we actually went out and that makes the time fly.  Me trying to do anything is hit or miss, but when did I ever really have the luxury of enough time to do a project.  I’m getting decent at putting stuff down mid project, it has been a solid 7 years of major multitasking.

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Today we have our first book club.  My attempt to make a playdate sound smarter.  We invited two friends of #2’s to read a book and then come over to watch the movie.  So far they consumed a metric ton of popcorn but seem to be actually talking book v movie so the seed planted will grow.  Overall success, be it the movie, friends, or popcorn I’ll take the win.  They are now discussing next books to read, Princess Bride seems to be in the lead.

The odd thing about this week is feeling both like I’m missing someone and also having extra kids.  #1 is at sleep-away camp for the first time.  Looks like she is having a great time and I’m happy she is there and I don’t ‘miss’ her but I do miss her being part of my world.  Meals, car, bed, chores etc – I have her in my head automatically and NOT being here makes me feel like I ‘Just’ have 2.  Second, I’m missing the oldest of my sister’s kids, what should be four is ‘only’ 3.  He isn’t as ingrained as #1 in my head but he is missed and the unit is missing him.  On the other hand, I’m up 3, so, 5 kids is still a bunch to feed and manage.

Speaking of feeding… one of the new ones is diabetic and has an app to monitor his sugar.  Boy stats are addicting to me, I monitor this kid and the mysteries of his body chemistry like its my job.  A friend pointed out that I got myself a real-life tamagotchi.  Do you remember the electronic pet?  I nearly got in a car accident messing with the one I was babysitting for a friend.  Really, it is a bit of a game – he goes high get him to run around or adjusts, he goes low, toss an orange at him.  Calculating food and healthy choices are already part of my life but this is like major league.  Once I get a better feel for the trends I’m sure I won’t need to check so much but it is probably my top app at the moment.

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Tomorrow we add back #1 in the afternoon and then pick up my mom at the airport late so our kid to adult ratio is getting better overall.  It is both a fun and exhausting week but I’m glad I can do it.

In this summer week

I felt like we got ‘nothing done’ but in reality we did tons, just did not finish any of the big things on the list.

Hot news first; Zoe and her softball team won their division!  They did not have a great record but it was actually a lot like a tv show.  At first the scrappy team of new girls learn to get along.  Then they have some early success but a long string of losses.  Some losses were close, some really not close – there were tears and talks about how they like seeing their friends and being on a team and learning the game.  Games were rained out, rescheduled, and we parents became acquainted with each other as we spent hours sitting together.  Finally, the day of the tournament everyone tried so hard and had practiced and through some really lucky hits and catches we found ourselves in the finals.  They were overjoyed and nervous as all eyes were on them.  Zoe made a fantastic catch for an out.  The pitcher reached deep and struck out a few girls.  Finally, the last girl hit the ball very short and our catcher got it and tagged home base as the runner was coming at her BUT it wasn’t a force situation (meaning nobody was going to 3rd so that runner could have gone back to safety) and in that situation, you have to tag the runner.  Neither girl knew what to do but about 50 adults were screaming at them and they were in a semi-frozen standoff on the 3rd baseline and finally, our catcher ran nearly to 3rd base and tagged the girl.  It was over!  It was exciting!  Nobody cried!  There were trophies!

Softball may never be as exciting at this fresh first year but Zoe is already excited to play next year.  The coach is willing to stay, the girls seem happy, and in my opinion, knowing what we are doing will only help us do better.  We were supposed to be in South Dakota with friends but since they couldn’t make it we choose not to go and I’m really glad we had the opportunity to do this tournament.

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the last run of the game for the team, next girl got out, next inning it was over!

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National anthem time, 

The other major theme of the week was getting #1 ready to go to her fancy science camp.  It has a dress code so we have been collecting the dullest clothing out there.  I updated her medical to show she has a broken arm, I hope it does not impact her ability to participate.  I’m double glad this year is a science camp since last year was rock climbing!  It is her first sleep-away camp and we are not all that nervous (yet) tomorrow might be different.  It is a little odd that I’ll be bringing her to the University campus, I had felt that was still a few years off, but it is a great choice for an academic camp since it is pretty empty of normal students during the summer.  Tomorrow’s instagram will show us dropping the happy camper for sure.

The other major thing #1 had to accomplish pre-camp was more or less moving out of her room because her boy cousins are coming for a few week visit starting Monday.  She might be bumped from her room but she does get a mom super clean in the deal.  Technically she was ‘helping’ but after enough help she slunk away to play really nicely with her sisters and I just did it my self – much easier actually.  I could throw away trash without discussion and now it looks neat as a pin.  It helps I put most of her ‘stuff’ in a box in the closet to be gone through when she returns.  However, only one bag of trash and one box of stuff is pretty good all things considered.

Did I bury the lead?  Yes, I’m importing 3 extra kids for the next few weeks so their parents can do a few super cool/important things that happened to overlap.  It was stressing my sister out so I just volunteered and now she can do her thing, he can do his and all the cousins can cavort like wild monkies here.  I think these Texans might really like it up here, I looked at the forecast and our temp for the next 15 days is between 60 and 90, and, where they live I saw a 105 on their list… that is super hot.  My mom is also coming to visit the crew at the end of week 1 and we are filling our time up fast so I’m sure it will be super fun.

The other days this week we had lunch with friends to celebrate the end of Ramadan (observed), we achieved passport submission so now we can travel internationally, celebrated our friends birthday with a middle of the day cake, #1 cut a foot of hair (and still has long hair) and the other two were trimmed up and we managed to get to the pool a couple times.  Books have been read, math practice done, food made and consumed, 168 stupid fights started and ended, yard mowed, and, we downloaded the harry potter themed Pokemon/Ingress game.  When I list it out it looks pretty cool, I wish it didn’t feel like a frantic paddle to stay above water half the time.

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trying on a new uniform skirt, and, sporting hair.  No, not crying just shy!

Ok, the longest day of the year here, it is nearly 7 and absolutely still bright.  I’ll go chip away a little more at the pagoda project of never-endingness.  Projects like this make me feel like I get nowhere but when they are finally done the impact will be worth it!

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