Looking ahead to summer

I am not really a working mom, but I am not a stay-at-home mom either.  I stay at home with my children, but I watch four children on a part time basis close to forty hours a week.  This year I feel like I identify more with working moms in terms of my schedule and availability.  But what I do now as a working mom versus what I did as a stay at home mom is not much different.  I stay home more, but I think I would have done that anyway this year.  The last two years being involved in morning Bible studies, preschool co-ops, daytime mom’s groups plus play dates got to be a little much. The house showed for it too.  

But this summer it’s just us.  I decided not to do summer daycare because I have quite a bit going on at church including directing VBS.  As much as I enjoy child care and our whole family is committed to it, we do need a break too.

We also talked about last night about activities and came to a conclusion we need a break from those too.  Aside from one or two weeks of swim lessons in June or July, VBS in late June, and my oldest does a one week theatre week in August–that might be it.  It will be very strange not having evening Bible Study, youth group, swim team, mom’s group, not to mention child care kids here every weekday.  However, I am craving the down time.  

My kids are at the age where we can all go running together at the track, bike on the cycling paths together, go swimming together at the pool, go for day hikes, and beach comb at the coast.  We need opportunities for that.  Summer is our prime time.  I tend to gravitate towards “the soccer mom” role wanting to put my kids in everything because I tend to try to do everything too, but the Lord has putting it on my heart the need to rest.  To slow down.  To stop.  I am greatly looking forward to Summer 2014.

 

Spring Break Plus A Bonus Week

So we had Spring Break plus “a bonus Spring Break” because my sister and her family ventured out to Oregon the week after our break. Since I had to dig my flip flops and shorts out of the attic for my trip to California and I am not about to put everything back, I feel like summer is on its way.  Especially with the warm sunny weather we are soaking up.  Yet I know well enough about the rain that sometimes invades in May and the June gloom here in Oregon so I am leaving a couple long sleeves and hoodies in the closet.

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So back in March we told the kids we were going to Washington because my husband had an all day meeting at a church. This was all made up.  There was no meeting. We told them they had to spend a full day entertaining themselves in the church nursery.  I hate holding the truth from my kids so I told them we’d stay in a motel with a pool.  Our plan was to surprise them and take them to Great Wolf Lodge in Grand Mound, Washington.  And yes, they were surprised.

ImageOne of the best things about Great Wolf Lodge with a 8,6, & 4 year old (we have gone when they were younger) is we could do almost everything including all ride on a tube slide together.  There was just one slide my younger two did not meet the height requirement on.  It was refreshing and fun to not have to spend the whole time in the little kid’s area. However, it was nice they still wanted to play there at times giving us a little break too.

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It was a great time for our family.  I am in this new phase of parenting where I am doing more with the kids versus for them.  It really makes events like this enjoyable.

ImageAfter Great Wolf, my family dropped me off at PDX where I flew to LA to visit my friend Linda.  Linda was in the youth group I lead back in Michigan, and somehow she got all grown up on me and is now a graduate student at USC.  I love seeing my youth group “kids” all grown up finding their place in the world.

My first full day in LA I drove in my rental car braving the crazy six lane highways I am not used to.  I headed to Santa Monica where I enjoyed the festivities on the pier and a run along the beach.

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And an amazing sunset!

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 Linda gave me an “inside” view of LA.  We ate at several ethnic restaurants, drove to the Hollywood sign, I went to her Ultimate Frisbee tournament, and we even got to visit the LA opera.

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I could not get enough of the warm, sunny, LA weather.  I am not sure I could live the pace of LA, but the weather and the beaches are pretty amazing.

After four days of being home and trying to revert back into some kind of routine, we were thrilled to have my sister, her husband, and kids come visit us in Oregon.  They live back in Michigan where we used to live so we don’t get to see one another often.

While they were here, my brother-in-law did the Beaver Freezer Triathlon on the campus of Oregon State.  It was my second sprint triathlon.  He has done more and even completed an Ironman Triathlon.  It was fun to do one with a family member.

Amy runningMy time was very similar (only a thirty second difference) from my first triathlon last spring in Stayton, Oregon.  But the swimming went so much better.  Last spring I felt nauseous swimming and could not get into a good swimming pattern.  I felt like I could have increased my speed on the bike, but I am still not totally comfortable “bike racing.”  This is something I hope to work on this summer.  The run for me was by far the best and my run time was only about 1 minute and half more than my normal 5K time.

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My brother-in-law is the guy in the back with the blue shirt and sunglasses.  I thought this picture was funny with the “happy runner” in the front.

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One of the greatest things about having my sister and her family here is seeing all the cousins playing together.  They are ages 12,10,8.6,4–there was a baby every two years.  My brother continued that pattern with an almost two year old and a baby due next month.

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The weather cooperated and we were able to spend most of Monday at Silver Falls State Park.  We have been there many times.  We appreciate it more going with people who have never gone before.

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My sister, her husband, my niece, my nephew, and my oldest two hiked to Double Falls which was about a four mile hike round trip.  My youngest and I made it just past the lower South Falls and took a breather while the rest went on.  We were able to hike back together.

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And then return home to a wonderful dinner cooked by my husband.

After my sister’s family left I cannot believe how tired everyone was.  It has taken us a few days to get our energy back.  My sister made the comment that there is something relaxing about getting back into your normal routine.  I have found that to be true.  The house is slowly getting put back together and everyone is returning back to work, school & regular activities.

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IMG_0216This is how we spent yesterday afternoon.  It was wonderful.  I cannot begin to tell you how good natural light and springy air feels to cooped up moms and stir crazy kids.

Unfortunately this is the forecast for the next few days:

cloudy with rain, periods of rain, breezy with rain, cloudy with a chance of rain, and occasional rain and drizzle, oh and colder temperatures too. Thank you, Oregon, for reminding us spring has not fully sprung yet.

13 Random Things I Learned in 2013 and 11 Goals for 2014

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Most people write these type of posts in January. But if everyone drops their New Years resolutions by mid January, maybe we should make resolutions in early February.  But first…

13 random things I learned in 2013.  They are indeed very random…

  1. The Oldies Station became my radio station of choice.  Guess I’m getting older and have to accept that.
  2. Triathlon training is amazing for those who get Running ADD and need more variety in their workouts.
  3. Anxiety and panic are often caused by triggers.  Triggers can be obscure things like smells or songs on the radio or pictures on facebook.  Or everyday upsetting events.  The first step is recognizing it and identifying the trigger.
  4. Sometimes the best kids crafts are simply putting a bunch of materials on the table  and telling the kids to make something.  Sometimes the process is just as if not more important than the end product.
  5. Kids fight.  It’s important they learn how to work out their own conflicts–a life lesson they will take to college  and into adulthood.  How moms and dad react can be a catalyst or a detriment.
  6. Sparkling water is a great alternative if you’re trying to cut back on caffeinated beverages or soft drinks.  You get the “carbonation feel” without the extra calories or artificial sweeteners.
  7. Be careful when you tell someone you’re too busy or you don’t have time.  We’re all busy. Yet we all utilize our time differently.  The better question is how are you utilizing your time?
  8. Don’t go to church, youth group, Bible study to be inspired or worse out of guilt.  Go to pursue a deeper relationship with Christ.  Everything else seems to come together if that is your primary reason.
  9. Leave your keys in the same place every single day.
  10. Don’t judge an event’s success on how many people came to it.  Numbers are important but they do not determine the sole success of a program or event.
  11. Cut your time on Facebook by half or even more…you’d be surprised how much you don’t really need it.  And maybe you get even more done.
  12. Parents screw up sometimes and lose their cool.  Apologize.  Sometimes it’s not so much what you did, but what you did about it.
  13. If you’re married to a pastor and he’s on vacation, you should be on vacation too from church responsibilities. 089-DSC09035

These are 11 Simple Goals for 2014 that probably are attainable…I picked goals that were measurable.  Grow in my walk with Jesus, love my husband, spend time with my kids etc.–those are always goals.

  1. Get back into reading to the kids especially reading with my eight year old at night.
  2. Clean the house as I go.  Declutter throughout the day.
  3.   Eat more healthy.
  4. Learn to swim in the open water and do an open water triathlon.
  5. Continue my kid’s running club
  6. Quit reading a book I can’t get into and not feel like I have to stick with it to the end.
  7. Fast from Facebook on Wednesdays.
  8. Deal with some of my perfectionist tendencies (I can be really hard on myself)
  9. Not spend my “spending money” on stuff in the moment that I probably don’t need.  Save it and use it for things I need more.
  10. Try to keep up with the Bible Study I am a part of but not be hard on myself if I am not caught up i.e. #8
  11. Run with other people but not be hard on myself if I skip workouts and choose to run alone instead. Especially because the people in my tri club are super fast i.e. also #8

 

The “I Don’t Know What To Do With Myself Box”

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We said from the very beginning our son has two modes “Off” and “On.” He has a crazy amount of energy. This fall when he started kindergarten, he was not one of those kids who come home tired and exhausted. Some of my friends said their five year olds would take naps every afternoon the first week of school. Not him. We actually had him run laps around the backyard or ride his bike after kindergarten because he was in that mode we refer to “silly crazy.” It really helped utilize his energy and get him to calmer and more focused state.

We live in a very rainy area of the country and we are pretty much stuck inside a good part of the winter. Even though once in awhile I don’t mind the muddy boots, and wet clothes, I needed to find a way to help him find things to do in the house. So we made a “I Don’t Know What To Do With Myself Box.” If I see him moping around or getting into things he is not supposed to or reverting to “silly crazy” I ask him to draw something out of the box. Whatever he draws he has to do. I put all kinds of ideas such as “Play restaurant with the play food,” or “Build a train with the folding chairs and ride in it,” or “Practice handwriting for 15 minutes.” I have puzzles and worksheets available he can do. It has worked every single time. Even the day it was pouring rain and he drew “Go outside.” He did not want to go outside and protested profusely. Once he got on the rain boots, rain coat, and went splashing around the backyard–he was content. I told him he had to stay out for at least 15 minutes, but he was outside for at least a half hour.

Such a simple thing–I wish I would have thought of it earlier. It is not a punishment. It is just a tool to help him be more focused.

Post Christmas Happenings

I love Christmas Break.  It takes on a whole new meaning when you have multiple kids in school.  I have greatly enjoyed the last few post Christmas days with my kids.  Sleeping in, a loose schedule, a chance to get caught on projects (the house is REALLY clean!), family game nights, meals out, and new toys to play with.

For New Years Eve we really wanted to get together with friends.  Back when we lived in Michigan we spent almost every single New Years from the time I was a senior in high school until we moved to Oregon with the friends I went to high school with.  Since moving here we have not had a long standing New Years tradition and it gets a little difficult with young children.  We did have a few friends over–kids and all–and everyone stayed up until midnight.  The News Years ball dropping on TV was followed by the neighbors setting off massive amounts of fireworks.  Thankfully everyone slept in until at least 9 AM and the younger two took LONG afternoon naps on New Years Day.  

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I was going to take the kids our local carousel downtown on News Years Day (because it’s free) but the younger two pretty much slept the entire afternoon.  So we made the day after News Years Day a “Mom and Kids Outing Day.”  The library was having free winter crafts stations.  It was nice break doing lots of crafts with them and not being responsible for the supplies…or the clean-up.

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Then we went upstairs to check out more books and do some light reading.  My younger two love these “silly chairs.”

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And even though the carousel was not free on January 2nd we still went to it.  Since I am a sucker for outings, I let the kids ride twice.  My independent youngest does not like Mom standing by her or holding on to her horse anymore. I actually watched the kids from the side for the first time.  I am OK with this as two rides in a row usually makes me a tad queasy.
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After the carousel we went to Starbucks where I was grateful to use my gift card for a java chip frap and let the kids get something from the bakery case.  We saw the most beautiful sunset and I was quickly snapping photos in the parking lot.  I looked over and saw a gentlemen doing the same thing.  When I returned home Facebook was flooded with “sunset pictures.” Some were even on the news and in the local paper. A winter sunset let alone one this beautiful is very rare here in the Pacific Northwest.  We’re used to clouds, rain, and general blah grayness.  Our rainfall has been extremely low this winter and I am hoping that doesn’t mean we make up for it in the spring.
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My oldest got a rubber band bracelet kit for Christmas.  I was eager to make bracelets with her. After about a half hour of trying and my frustration level rising, I decided to put it away.  I can’t sew anything and did not inherit my mom’s amazing seamstress ability.  But I figured I am pretty good at braiding so this shouldn’t be that hard, right? Well after watching a You Tube video over and over this morning, I completed it!  Now I need to teach her how to do it.

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On Monday it’s back to school and back to early mornings and normal bedtimes.  Hopefully normal eating and exercising too–I’ve been a bit of a slacker.  I am grateful for the last two weeks.  

December 15 and beyond

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I missed posting December 15 – 25.  Life got full, busy, and chaotic as it usually does.  Blogging got put on hold.  But paper ginger bread men were decorated.

 

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Reindeer were made with hand prints.

 

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And snowmen made with footprints.

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And beautiful Christmas designs made with marbles dipped in paint and swished around in a pie plate.

 

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The Christmas story was shared by the cutest preschoolers and kindergarten kids.

 

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And the 1st – 8th grade members did an amazing job sharing about the real meaning of Christmas.

 

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We purchased a “new to us” van two days before Christmas.  We’ve gone 9 years and 6 months as a one car family and grateful for all the money saved. A second vehicle is now going to make driving kids places just a bit easier.

 

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Chocolate fondue was shared on Christmas Eve.

 

 

 

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Christmas Day included stocking and presents.

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And later on a relaxing trip to the coast–one of our favorite places.

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And a day trip to the Tillamook Cheese factory for some cheese sampling.

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A great last two weeks even if it wore some us out.  Looking forward to New Years Eve and a second week of Christmas Break.

December 6: Snow Day

We did not understand it when we moved to Oregon.  Why this would constitute a snow day.

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I remember the inches upon inches of snow in Michigan and the frigid cold air.  My husband grew up in Canada where it is common to get below zero.  But here in Oregon there’s a couple factors why this is indeed a snow day…and why everything shuts down.

For one we get dangerously icy roads.  There is no salt truck and no snow plows (which also means not as many pot holes or salt wear and tear on the car.)  Sometimes the snow melts quickly because the cold temperatures don’t last, but then when it gets cooler at night it turns to ice.  Also consider the fact no one here knows how to drive in it.  Us Michiganders forget too quickly as well.

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But the kids love snow.  They get giddy, excited, and can’t wait to run around in it.  I have to quickly scurry and find gloves and hats.  They own no snow boots and or snow pants.  I love watching them enjoy it.  Sometimes I’m sad they don’t get to do the sledding, snow forts, and ice skating I did as a kid.  Yet they are making their own memories.  Maybe one of these years we’ll venture to the mountains for winter activities.

To be honest I was very tired of the snow when we were getting ready to move.  I was not disappointed at all Oregon received little snow because I wanted a break from it.  There are times when I do miss the winter wonderland everywhere.

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This little sweetheart I get to watch two days a week.  It’s her first winter and her first Oregon snowfall.

The kids did go to school today, but the school closed at 1 PM.  Tomorrow is supposed to be only a high of 28 which is super cold for us.

December 4: Kindergarten Traditions

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When my oldest was in kindergarten she brought home a paper chain she made.  Each day you pull off a link until Christmas Day.  At the time I had to tape the chain in the highest place so infant and toddler hands could not rip apart my oldest’s artwork.  I love having a kindergartener in the house again this year so we can once again have a paper chain.

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The kindergarten kids also have to decorate their own Christmas tree. My son wanted real things from nature on his tree.  He also added glitter, fruit snacks and Rice Krispies.

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So not having to do with kindergarten traditions but so funny…as I say good-bye to my school kids and began planning out my day…my youngest spends part of her morning calling each of the My Little Ponies on a calculator.

Amazing Race Birthday Party

2013 is a birthday party year.  Growing up, my parents threw us a party with friends every other year.  The “off” year we did something special as a family or invited one friend along on an outing.

My husband and I live quite frugally.  We’ve never had a party where we have rented a room or had it a play gym.  Maybe someday we will go that route.  But right now we love opening our home to kids…and we’re both pretty good at planning games and activities.

Birthday parties are not just a time to celebrate my child, but also a time for friends to hang out together outside of school. It’s a controlled and safe setting for kids to play together.  This is why I pour most of energy and finances into the activities and food.  Not that cakes and decorations aren’t special and important.  I am just not as gifted in that area.  I don’t enjoy making cakes.  I don’t look forward to it.  To save money, I will make my own cake and try to enjoy the process as much as possible.  My kids don’t care if it’s lop sided or the writing is sloppy…at least not at this age.

So I am going to do three separate posts about the parties I threw this year.  One of the parties has happened yet.  It is next week.  One was last week.  My oldest’s was back in September.  So I will start with hers.  Now I should mention we always try to pick a theme of something they are really interested in.  We’ve done bugs, a backyard camping party, and a bulldozer/construction party.  Since we’ve been letting my oldest stay up later on Sunday nights to watch the Amazing Race, we thought it would be fun to do an Amazing Race birthday party.

I have planned many Amazing Race events for youth groups so the planning was not terribly difficult.

For invitations I simply used the amazing race logo.  I also got my clue sheets from the same website. The Amazing Race colors are black and yellow.  I decorated our eating area with black and yellow balloons and streamers.  I bought cheapie yellow table cloths, cups, silverware, and plates from the dollar store.  I decorated the whole fireplace with signs from the Amazing Race show like “roadblock” and “detour.”  But I also included signs you might see people holding in a race. All my signs were made with a large sheet of yellow butcher paper and a couple of black markers.

For the cake I simply made the Amazing Race logo on a rectangular cake.  It was pretty easy–not that hard to mess up.  Again I am not a cake decorator.  You will never see my cakes on Pinterest.  But my daughter did not care and enjoyed. it.

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For the actual race, our original plan was to have it start at our house and end up in a park.  But Oregon decided to have a very rainy September so we had to move the whole race indoors.  We live next door to our church so we utilized our house, the garage, and our church.  I got quite a few ideas on roadblocks or detours from this blog post from Million of Miles.

We put the girls first in partners.  They first had to head over to the awning in front of our church and do a successful water balloon toss (back and forth three times).  Next they had to run to an office door and pick up a clue.  After they received this clue one of the team members had to memorize a poem and say it perfectly to a judge.

ImageAfter they said the poem perfectly, they had to run to our garage.  I had construction paper on the table with everyone’s name on a piece.  The girls had to write 1-2 sentences about what they appreciated about that person.

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Next they ran into the house and my friend had a box with small paper cups filled with snacks.  At the bottom of five of the cups was a Disney Princess sticker.  The girls had to find one of the stickers.  They can only find a sticker by eating the contents in the cups.  Some found one right away.  Others were not so lucky and had to eat several cups of crackers and cereal.  I tried to use all healthy snacks.

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Then the girls had to run back over to church and could choose between two activities Baby Words or Baby Food.  In Baby Words they had to complete a short word search with baby items (like crib, pacifier).  I make my own word searches on Puzzle Maker.  In Baby Food, each team member had to eat a whole jar of baby food.  I was surprised the girls (most of who are 2nd, 3rd, and 4th graders) were very reluctant to eat the baby food.  When I have done the same task with adults or middle schoolers, they guzzle it down.

After this task they had to find one more clue taped to a drinking fountain.  Then they had to run to the finish line which was in our backyard.  I had a box of dollar store prizes like a craft set, stickers, a princess puzzle etc.  I let every girl pick out a prize, but I let the winners and second place finishers pick first.  I did not do any special party favors.  Each girl walked away with a nice prize.

The race took up the majority of the party.  Afterwards we had pizza followed by cake and ending with presents.  All the girls had a fabulous time.

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I have learned with planning an Amazing Race event whether it’s a party or youth group outing requires a lot of adults to run the clue stations.  I asked two of my middle school girls from the youth group I lead to help along with a family friend.  They were happy to be involved.  Between them and my husband we had tons of help.  We don’t live near family so we have to rely on our friends.

It was a very busy but fun evening.