Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Thankful

I've heard that somewhere it is fall. Somewhere the leaves are changing into beautiful yellows and oranges, drifting softly to the ground on a breeze that smells like cinnamon pine cones, annoying the crap out of parents who have to rake them into big piles the kids jump into, and then have to rake again.

Not in Arizona. Here in Arizona the high should be about 88 today. I will be wearing long sleeves with my shorts, because, well, it's November and I've sick of all the short sleeve tops I own after wearing them non-stop for the last 8 months.

So after clearing up Halloween decorations (note to self: NO fake cobwebs next year!), I opened my "Fall" decor box. Which essentially is a bunch of pumpkins that are too pretty to be used for Halloween, a cornucopia, some brown and red ribbon and a handful of fake leaves.

Two years ago I asked my kids (then aged 3 and 5) to come up with things they were thankful for and I wrote them on these fake red and orange leaves. Finding those leaves in the decoration box made me pause and smile at what my kids were thankful for.

Hansa. (The dog we had when the kids were this age. She died four months later.)
The White House. Bald eagles. The Liberty Bell. (Bjorn was studying history of the US in Kindergarten that year.)
Bjorn. (Written by his sister, who has always been his biggest fan.)
God and Food.

That year, we hung the leaves from a decorative tree and called it our "Thankful Tree".  While we no longer had the decorative tree (it was actually an old jewelry tree, designed for hanging earrings and necklaces!), we did have lots of extra fake leaves, a sharpie and an unused wreath.

I asked the kids to fill out more leaves with their thankful prayers. They dove in to help (mostly, i think, because they love Sharpies and I let them use them so few times), filling out leaf after leaf with what they were thankful for.

Bjorn. Peanut. Mommy. Daddy.
Lucy. ("Even though she eats all my Barbies and all your shoes," said Peanut.)
Goldy. (Goldy is my childhood dog. "You still miss her, right, Mom?" asked Peanut. "And you're thankful she was yours when you were little?" Yes. Yes, I am.)

When they were finished, I gathered all the leaves, hot gluing them around the wreath. A wreath - a never ending circle - of thankfulness.





Last week I was thisclose to the siren song of Target clearance and almost bought a harvest wreath for my front door. I am so glad I didn't. Today, I made a wreath out of materials found in my garage that announce to me every time I enter or leave my home:

You are blessed. Look at everything wonderful you have. Be thankful for your family, even when they whine for Happy Meals or because you made them turn off Wild Kratts. Be thankful for the dog that eats your shoes and your doormat and your glasses - she is your faithful companion who demonstrates unconditional love and joy. Be thankful for the Liberty Bell and the White House and the Marines for they are all part of a rich history of the country we live in. Be thankful for food, we know that so many go without it. 

With every word my children wrote, I see it. You are blessed. Be grateful. Be thankful. And then, pass it on.


Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Election: elementary school style

This election season has been crazy. Between the fighting among strangers to those among friends, I have seen enough angst and bickering to last me for the next four years. 

My wish for today? Peace. Respect. Kindness. 

I want to hug, to shake hands and apologize when something wrong is done. I choose to cooperate and work together. I hope for all the things I try and teach my kids to do every day with their friends and siblings. Maybe we should just ask ourselves "What would my kindergartner do?"

In that spirit, last night I asked the kiddos some of the questions from the presidential debate to see what they have to say. I messed up a few times trying to make the questions kid-friendly, or to clarify what they were saying a little bit, but you get the idea. This moderating stuff ain't easy!

I found questions here, and I chose to use three: one concerning american jobs, one concerning cyber security and one about supporting the other candidate. 

Take a few minutes to get a quick laugh, and see how our country would be run by a 5 and 7 year old.



Also, check out what happens AFTER the moderator finishes moderating and they think they are on their own with the debate. 



Friday, August 12, 2016

Tooth Fairy: Take Five (or six or something like that)

Over the past year or so, Bjorn has lost a few teeth. (And had his first orthodontist appointment, yay!) His first tooth, if you remember, he lost....and then lost again.

Same thing happened to his second tooth. We were camping in Colorado and he woke up one morning to a Grand Canyon gap, where the night before had been a tooth.  Even though I searched every inch of our trailer, and our entire campsite, that tooth also was never to be found. Its either still in the campsite, disguised as a rock, or he swallowed it in his sleep.

Finally, on his third tooth, he was able to catch it and keep it. He put that tooth in his special Tooth Fairy pillow, put it on his bed and went to sleep.

Only I left for work at 3:30 am the following morning, and somehow between my leaving for work and the kid waking up early, The Tooth Fairy forgot to put in his hard-earned and much deserved tooth money. Oops. Bad Tooth Fairy.

The tooth business has not been by the book with this kid at all. I imagined a perfect world of a "tooth falling out" ceremonial ice cream, maybe even a string wrapped around a tooth and a slammed door or two.  Yes, I live in a fantasy world of parental fun and relaxation. But this kid, and this life, have other ideas.

A few weeks ago, Bjorn felt another tooth get loose. The last few days I knew it was getting looser, as he was avoiding certain foods (i.e.: sandwiches. He has avoided whole apples since the day he got his first loose tooth!) and he didn't want me to help him brush his teeth. Apparently, I brush "too hard". Psssh. Wimp.

So I wasn't surprised when he came home from school today and asked me if I noticed anything different about his mouth. 

"Yay, Bjorn! You finally lost your tooth! How did it happen?"

"Well, I was at lunch, eating a kiwi." he answered. 

"Ok......" 

My kid eats kiwis?!

"I bit into the kiwi and felt something weird. I swallowed the kiwi and then I noticed that I didn't have my tooth anymore! So I think I swallowed my tooth. And it went down my throat and into here."

He traced a hand from his mouth down his esophagus and stopped at his stomach.

"What did you do after that?" I asked.

"I ate the rest of my kiwi and went back to class." 

So matter of fact. So calm.

"Maybe you lost it on the playground before lunch and you just didn't notice?" Tell me my kid did not just swallow another tooth. 

"No. I was playing with it when I was in line for lunch because it was hurting. I think I ate it. I ate my tooth."

And another one bites the dust. 

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Easter 2016

For Easter this year, we tried a few new things and kept a few old traditions.

The kids still went to the golf course next to our house on Saturday to hunt for eggs and whine about the line for face painting and games.  They ration the eggs during the hunt (I guess so they don't run out early?), so they walked away with a whopping two eggs a piece! They did also get a coupon for a flight of beer when you purchase an entree at the course restaurant. Score for the parents!

The riches of their Easter egg hunt

In the tradition of my Grandma K, we made our annual Rice Krispie lamb, and talked about Jesus being the Lamb of God. Bjorn wanted to line our lamb in a bed of Marshmallows. Looks pretty comfy to me.

Grandma's Easter lamb


We still woke up early on Sunday morning for our church's outdoor Easter sunrise service.

As usual, the mass was beautiful and would have been serene had it not been for the screams of a tempestuous four year old who wanted to play with my phone during church, not play with her kids bible or other tiny toys she brought along. It was early, she was tired and it was the furthest thing from calm. Good thing the priest talked about forgiveness and patience in his homily. I needed to hear it that morning! So did Peanut.

She looks so sweet and innocent.

Siblings, Friends.


After mass we headed home for our Easter spoils and egg hunt.

This year, instead of a basket, I bought the kids big plastic eggs. Just like the ones in the YouTube videos they are always watching. Inside the eggs were all their Easter basket goodies - individually wrapped.  I wish I had taken a before picture.

Egg baskets!

They each got one chocolate bunny and a bag of Starburst jellybeans.  That was it for candy. I tried to be practical this year - less candy, more items they would actually use.

Peanut opened her first goodie and squealed. "Jellies! Mommy! You know how much I love jellies!"  She had been asking for jelly shoes for a few weeks, and I had been putting her off since they were going into her basket. She immediately put them on. She also received a Hello Kitty bracelet, swimming goggles, and a pair of Olaf leggings.

Bjorn opened his first present and laughed. "Star Wars undies! You know I wanted these. Thanks, Mom!" Then he opened his second, third and fourth presents and couldn't stop laughing. "Mom! Why did you wrap all my undies? You're so silly!" It was pretty funny to see him get excited about his presents, and then to laugh and roll his eyes when it was more underwear. He also opened swimming goggles and a new pair of sunglasses.

Even our new pup got into the Easter fun with a huge squeaky Peep toy.

Even better than regular Peeps!

Next to their egg "baskets" was a note attached to a Lego instruction book.

Excuse my silly jingle. I had been up for 20+ hours at this point and this was the best I could do!


Bjorn read it first. "I need to find all the blue and green eggs! There are legos inside!"

He was right.

I had bought a box of Legos for each kid and divided them into the proper colored eggs: blue and green for Bjorn and pink and purple for Peanut. That left orange and yellow to be used for a few more small candies and some money. Again, it cut down on the candy factor, and it gave them something fun and useful to do.

They raced out to the backyard to start their egg hunt. I had expected them to go crazy finding all their eggs to start their Legos, but I hadn't expected what actually happened.



Our garden is growing eggs!


Instead of Bjorn trying to get as many as he could, so he could have all the candy, he knew that the pink and purple ones weren't for him. When he found one of those, he would call Peanut over so she could get her eggs. She did the same for him.  They were sharing. Helping. For the first time since they had started Easter egg hunting together, there was no fighting that "he found more" or "I saw it first".  They were actually getting along. It was an Easter miracle. And a happy, unexpected side effect of the Lego egg hunt.

They found all their eggs, headed inside and put together the Lego treasures.

That is his "The Storm Troopers are going to shoot you!" face 

Lego Friends
After all this excitement, we went for a walk and then brunch. A wonderful family day together.

Even Bjorn thinks so.


Happy Easter!




Saturday, March 5, 2016

To Do...

When I created my HUGE TO DO list (click here to check it out) a few years ago, I looked at it and thought,"I have almost three years to finish this. Plenty of time. Easy peasy."

Yes, I do actually say 'Easy Peasy' to myself. I'm kind of a big nerd.

Then, all of a sudden, it's two years later, I have 7 months left to finish the list and I have 68 left to go. Talk about procrastination.

But thanks to some awesome friends and family who have been pushing me and helping me with my list - even if they didn't know it! - I am able to cross a few more off just in the past few weeks.

#4 Take an overnight NON-KID vacation with The Hubs

Without either of our families living in the city, or even in the state, it seemed that we might not get to do this one. Then my parents retired and life was GOOD! They have flown cross-country to see us about once every 2-3 months, so we took advantage of that last time and drove up to Las Vegas for the weekend. The kids had a blast. Grandma and Grandpa took them to Chuck E Cheese, McDonald's and to play mini golf. They watched movies, had make your own pizza night and learned to color within the lines on the IPads coloring pages. Meanwhile, we met up with The Hubs' brothers and their girls in Vegas and spent three days losing money in penny slots, going back for fifths at the buffet and sleeping in until 9. (Okay, so I was still up at 745. But I let The Hubs sleep in until 9!) I had forgotten how relaxing it was to not think about if someone needs a snack, to go to the bathroom or has to nap. If their feet might hurt or if they are cranky and tired. It was so nice to think about just us and what we wanted to do and I WANT TO DO IT ALL THE TIME. Well, maybe not ALL the time. But definitely again.




#17 Visit the Desert Botanical Gardens

Visiting the Botanical Gardens in Phoenix has been on my to do list since I moved here nine years ago. I wanted to see the plants and flowers in their natural desert habitat. I don't know what I expected, but it looked much like the rest of Phoenix does. Rocks, cacti, dirt, green shrubbery and plants throughout. My friend and her daughter went with Peanut and I, and it was such a great walk, but I really hoped for more flowers, more butterflies, more......different. It was like walking through my neighborhood (minus all the houses). We went in January, and I heard later that coming later in the spring was better. I think if I had waited until March or April, it would've been beautiful with all the blossoming flowers and plants. I might have to make a trip back. 



#39 Make 12 blessings bags and pass them out to the homeless

The kids and I have been making blessings bags for a few years now, and I wanted to make sure that we continued this tradition. With the nice weather in Arizona in the spring, fall and winter (notice I didn't say summer!), there tends to be a large number of homeless at street corners and in downtown. I don't like to pass out cash, not first of all because I don't usually have any! I try and keep blessings bags in my car and my handbag. These are gallon Ziploc bags filled with small non-perishables. I like to put in a granola bar or two, some water, an apple juice, beef jerky, cheese and crackers, etc. I also like to add travel shampoos and conditions, soap and lotion and toothpaste. Toothbrushes, a comb, a pair of socks, some Kleenex, chap stick. I like to pick things up at the dollar store or on sale and stuff them in to the blessing bags. If I remember to grab some, I like also like to put $5 gift cards to McDonald's, as the likelihood of a McDonald's near to them is pretty good. It is such a small thing to have with me, and I hope that it makes someone feel that I want them to be cared for. Best of all, the kids love to help me make them, usually throwing in a fruit snack or a lollipop from their candy stash. And they fight over who gets to hand them out. I love that they see how happy it makes people. Most volunteer organizations around here allow kids to start volunteering between the ages of 6-8, so this is a way to involve them before then.

#62 Go Zip lining.

I LOVE extreme sports. But I promised The Hubs that I wouldn't go skydiving while the kids were under the age of 18, and I have already been bungee jumping a few times. So what was next? While ziplining may not be extreme, it still has a big rush and I wanted to feel it!  So while in Las Vegas, my brother in law, future sister in law and I hooked ourselves up to a large slot machine in downtown Fremont Street and ziplined over drunk and half naked people to the casino at the end of the way. It's called SlotZilla and it really is shaped like a huge slot machine in the middle of the street. You can zipline or zoomline (zip line is shorter, lower and you sit, zoomline is higher, longer and you fly like superman) and of course we chose to go big or go home! We zoomlined past the casinos, and it was awesome! I supermaned the whole way across, flying over people, laughing all the way.





#90 Hike Camelback Mountain.

A friend of mine has been asking me to go hiking with her every week. The first week we went to Piestewa Peak and while I didn't make it to the top (let's be honest - I didn't even make it near to the top), I was hooked. I loved it! Why haven't I been hiking the entire time I lived here in Arizona? I had no idea it was this much fun. When she asked me to go the following week to Camelback Mountain, of course I said yes! They don't make it easy to get there, though. It was a good 45 minute drive from my house, and then I had to park about a mile away from the mountain. That was before we even started hiking! It wasn't very crowded and at times we had to stop and take a look around to make sure we were still even on the trail! It was not very well marked, except for some rocks that were more worn than others. Part of the trail was on the side of the mountain and only wide enough to go single file. And I'm pretty sure that someone caught me on their GoPro going down one part rock crawling, missing a foothold and sliding down ten feet on my butt. Not very graceful, but at least I caught myself before the big drop off!




Now I only have 60-something left to go. In seven months. Time to go!

Friday, November 6, 2015

All you need is....

A few weeks ago Peanut threw the mother of all tantrums. She was kicking me, punching me, screaming and sobbing. This little pint sized girl was trying any and every way to get her every way.

She had thrown a few more tantrums than normal lately, and nothing had worked. Time outs, Time ins, taking toys away, making apologies, etc. I was done. Fed up. Had it. My sweet little girl would turn into a terror with merely a shake of my head.

This time, I carried her to her room - kicking and punching the whole way - and calmly sat her on her bed. She screamed to get out, to get up, and I very calmly told her that she would stay right there until she stopped screaming and punching, and then I would be back to talk to her.

I walked out her door to just down the hall. I almost immediately heard her sniffling her tears in, trying to calm down, so I went back into her room and sat on the bed next to her.

"Sometimes, when I get upset, I just need one thing to make me feel better." I said to her. "Do you know what that is?"

She looked up at me, tears still rapidly dripping. "No. What?"

"A hug."

She kept looking at me, tears slowing down, eyes wide.

 "Do you think you need a hug?" I asked.

She nodded and leaned into me. I hugged her. I could feel her little body quivering from the raw emotion of her tantrum, her breaths ragged and gasping.

I kept hugging her. We didn't talk. I didn't lecture. We just sat there and hugged. I could feel her anxiety and my frustration slip away as we just held each other, mother and daughter.

She whispered into my arm. "I'm sorry I hit you, Mommy."

It was only then that we talked about actions and emotions, apologies and anger. Words that can't be taken away and actions that hurt others physically and emotionally. We talked about loving each other unconditionally.

It felt good. For once I felt that she was listening to me, and that I was listening to her, rather than just doling out punishment. I told her that her actions were unacceptable, that hitting and screaming were disrespectful and not allowed. I asked her what she thought a proper punishment for her actions should be.

She started to tear up again, but said solidly,"You should take away my barbies until I can be more respectful." And she grabbed her box o'Barbies to put in my room.

"Except this one. You don't need to take Chelsea." she said as she grabbed Barbie's littlest sister. I let her keep her. She was respectful the rest of the day and next. All her Barbies eventually went back to her room with Chelsea.

Yesterday, Peanut woke up cranky from her nap, frustrated with everything. Her blanket wasn't on her feet right. She didn't like grapes any more . She wanted a different snack. She was cold. She was bored. She wanted to play a board game, but no, no no, not that board game. No, no that one either. The list kept going on, until I finally threw up my hands and told her I didn't know what she needed right now.  She started crying and said,"I just need a hug, Mommy. Please can I have a hug?"

I hugged her.

Hugs are band-aids for aching hearts, a balm for hurt feelings. They can heal faster than any medicine.

Sometimes I forget that my smart, social girl is only four. With all her independence and spirit, I forget that she is just a little girl, learning her way in this world. It shouldn't have taken me this long to realize it, but sometimes all she needs is a hug.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

I am thankful for my children.

I've been dealing with some super entitled, ungrateful children lately (and I have no one to blame but myself), so we have spent a lot of time lately talking about thankfulness. What we have, what others have. How we can help those around us, and what we really need vs. what we want.

Apparently, ungratefulness is not uncommon in this age range, and I am incredibly thankful (you see what I just did there?) to a friend of mine who posted a review for the book, 'The Me, Me, Me Epidemic' by Amy McCready. I'm only 1/5 of the way through, but I keep looking over my shoulder for the person is writing exactly about my life.

They aren't bad kids; they are very egocentric, as most are at the ages of 4 and 6, and always seem to want more. More toys, more books, more video game time and more snacks. They are very aware, at the same time, that there are people out there with a lot less than we have (less home, less toys, less food) and they love putting together more 'Blessings Bags' to pass out to the homeless and seeing all the goodies we bought for the food bank.  To further emphasize the giving to others,  I thought I would let Peanut sort through her own toys to find those she could donate.

I sat with her in her room to help, and she asked me, "Can I have a box to put all the toys for boys and girls that don't have any?"

Of course you can, I thought, grabbing a big plastic hamper, hoping that the bigger it was, the more she would give.

Her mighty donation pile

Why, yes, that is one small etch a sketch and the top 1/2 of a mermaid barbie.

This is only the playroom stuff....don't get me started on the Barbies in her room!

I think I will go over this donation thing with her one more time. I am positive I can find enough to fill that basket. And more.