Today, I read a story that made me realize that I've been spending the first 4 weeks of my sacred summer vacation focused on what I can't give my kids instead of what I can. It made me realize that that I've been letting a little of my happiness be taken every day. Social media plays a large roll in this. People always post the happy. They post the "look at my perfect life". They post the "look at where we go". Those posts have made me hurt for what I can't give my children. I can't give them vacations. Daddy doesn't have the time off work and we don't have the money. I can't give them new rollerblades or new bikes every year. They have to deal with hand me downs. I have been letting the feeling of not being enough and having enough ruin parts of my day. I'm done. I'm taking back my happiness. I'm taking back my sacred summer. I'm done focusing on what I can't give my kids. They certainly don't focus on it. They are thrilled that they get to play baseball and go to camp and play in the pool and just hang out. They are thrilled to go get ice cream uptown in the middle of the day for no reason. They are happy playing with Legos and riding hand me down bikes. They are happy playing in our cramped, one bathroom house. I only have seven weeks left with my babies and I won't let my happiness be taken away one moment longer. Especially when the one taking away the happiness is me. I've been trying so hard to make this summer as perfect as last summer that I haven't stopped to look and see that it is perfect. It is perfect because we are family and we are together. What matters is what I can give my children, not what I can't. And I can give them me. All of me.
It's the little things that matter most to children. Those little things are what bring pure happiness.
It's getting to ride in the front seat of Papa's car through a parking lot when it's just you and Papa.
It's Daddy getting the highest score on Just Dance and all the giggles that come with it.
It's sleeping over at Grandma's.
It's Nana making you a hat or scarf.
It's the secret club you and Papa have.
It's coloring with Grandpa.
It's getting to walk over to the neighbors' houses, alone, to deliver baked goods.
It's being allowed to call Nana and Aunt C for no reason other than to use the phone.
It's being able to slide down the huge pile of snow at the end of the street on the way home from school.
It's the impromptu sword fight with Mommy.
It's being the only one in the house who can "properly" load the dishwasher, other than Mommy, of course.
It's making the pizza dough all by yourself.
It's the small conversation with your sister's teacher after school.
It's being including to play with the big kids.
It's shining the flashlight all over the house so Puppy will chase it.
It's glow in the dark anything.
It's walks with Papa.
It's getting to polish Grandma's nails.
It's building with Grandpa.
It's lunch with Nana.
It's sitting on Daddy's lap playing the piano.
The little things matter.
My mom sent me a cute email that had answers that kids gave all about why God Made Moms. The answers were so cute, I wanted to do it with my kids. I had them do these while the other wasn't around so they didn't know what each other answered. Sunshine (age 5) answers are red and Monster (age 8) answers are blue.
Why did God make mothers?
So we'd have a family.
Without mothers, there wouldn't be any people, since mothers produce all of boys, girls, everyone.
How did God make mothers?
He breathed life into their bodies.
What are some ingredients mothers are made of?
I just said that! Bones and skeletons!
Exploded stars. Gravity, molecules, minerals, atoms.
Why did God give you your mother and not some other mother?
I picked her.
Because my mom is the best mother in the world.
What kind of little girl was your mother?
A good one.
What did mom need to know about dad before she married him?
That she loved him.
If he was a nice husband.
Who is the boss at your house?
What's the difference between dads and moms?
That they're girls and boys.
One's a boy and one's a girl.
What does your mom do in her spare time?
Laundry and watch shows.
What would it take to make your mom perfect?
To be good.
Nothing. She is perfect.
If you could change one thing about your mom, what would it be?
Hair, right now, because I don't like it wavy that much or in a pony.
I've read this article before. I know I have. But it wasn't until a friend of mine reposted it that it truly hit home. This is us. I actually can't tell you how many times over the past three weeks I've actually told people this and Husband and I have talked about it. We didn't refer to it as "the sweet spot", but we referred to it as our kids being the perfect ages. It's true, 8 and 5 are perfect. They are old enough to do things on their own, but young enough to still want to be with us. We're hoping we get at least 2 more years out these perfect ages. This summer has really proven to be completely awesome. I know people are probably getting sick of hearing how fantastic my summer is, but it's so true. My kids' ages have as much to do with it as their personalities and things we're doing. This year I took both kids to the zoo...alone. Last year that wouldn't have happened. Are my kids different? Nope. Still the same kids they were, but they are a little more mature and independent now. Their maturity and independence has caused me to be a little different though. I'm giving them more freedom, relaxing more, and trusting them more. At the zoo, there is a slide that you have to climb way up and wait in line to go down. Last year, I either a) wouldn't have let them go down it or b) wouldn't have let them go down it. Why? I couldn't be at the top helping them and at the bottom to catch them at the same time. This year, I put Monster in "charge", meaning I told him to watch his sister and help her. They climbed up to the top, waited their turns patiently. They didn't fight. They didn't complain when other people's kids pushed in front of them. They were perfect. Perfect.
This summer we also took down the shutters and refinished them. It was years overdue. The dark green had turned into a gross yellowish, brownish, green. Last year, we painted Monster's ceiling. Just the ceiling. For the most part, the kids let us work, but there were a lot, and I mean a lot, of interruptions. We were prepared for that when we started our shutter project. Again, they were perfect. Not only did they let us get the work done, but they helped! So, they may not have helped of their own free will (at least Monster didn't, Sunshine begged us to let her help) but they didn't complain about helping when we asked them. Like most projects, it wasn't just as cut and dry as taking the shutters down and simply refinishing them. It lead to a whole other project of taking out the kids' windows, cleaning the windows and cleaning the tracks and then rinsing down the siding. Extra work took extra time, and we had it. There were no demands put on us. We didn't have interruptions. We didn't need to take breaks. The kids were perfect.
There have been so many moments like the zoo trip or the shutter project this summer. That's part of what is making this summer so amazing. I feel like, for the first time in 8 years, we are all truly enjoying ourselves. It's not that Husband and I didn't enjoy ourselves before, but now, we don't have to constantly be trying to meet a need. The kids are pretty much old enough to meet their own needs. They work it out. They problem solve. They explore. They live. Now, this does not, by any means, mean all I do is sit back and relax. They fight, I break it up. They need help, I work through it with them. Yesterday, I posted that I'm living my life with my kids. Well, these are the perfect ages because they are also living their lives with me. They haven't shut me out yet. The sweet spot. The perfect ages. I am making the most of each moment.
Article, after article, after article I read emphasizes not living your life for your kids. These articles have been driving me crazy since I disagree with that... to point. My kids are my life. My world does revolve around them. I get a ton of flack for that. However, I don't feel that I live my life for my kids. I believe I live my life with my kids. Yes, I schedule things around their schedules, but I also schedule their stuff around things that are important to me. We are family and we do what is important to each of us, even if it's not important to all of us.
My kids are my world (and Husband, too), but I also know that part of making them happy is making me happy as well. This summer, I have a babysitter every Monday morning so that I can go to yoga. Some people look at it and see selfish. I look at it and see sanity. My kids are not mentally scarred in anyway that I go out and do my own thing. They are happy they get to hang with the sitter! This isn't what all the articles I've been reading are saying though. These articles are either written by the wealthy who can pay sitters all the time or by those who have family support to watch their kids because all of the articles talk about taking time, every day, and doing your own thing. Great. I'd love to do that, and I do that, after the kids go to bed. Would I love to go to yoga more than one day a week? I sure would, but I can't afford the child care involved in that process or the price of more classes. With Husband's crazy work schedule, I can't schedule anything regular in the evenings because I never know if or when he'll be home. I really love it when these articles say that you have to make time to do things for yourself. Sure. No problem. Have you ever tried doing yoga at home with your kids around. Not very relaxing. Or maybe I should just leave my children at home alone for a half hour while I go running? Oh, wait, that's illegal. Obviously, these articles I'm reading are geared toward moms who have help or husbands who work normal hours. I guess these articles don't take into account not having money for a sitter every day or a husband who, at 5 am, still doesn't know if he'll be in town or out of town that night (yeah, that's been my morning so far). So, are these articles designed to make those of us who can't get hours to ourselves feel badly about ourselves if we can't take out hours a day to pamper ourselves? It's just not realistic in my world.
I believe the key isn't about making sure you take time out, but it's enjoying the time you get. A person can take time every day, but if they are worrying about things or not appreciative of the time they are given, it really doesn't matter. I actually see that a lot with people who have help. They have family or someone else who take their children for hours on end, yet they still complain that they need a break. Sometimes, these people are complaining they need a break while they are getting their break. After the kids go to be each night, Husband and I rarely do any sort of work. We take a few moments and do some dishes or Husband finishes up some work (he's always doing some sort of work), but for the most part, we have about an hour and a half to two hours of time for just us. Usually we spend it together since we actually enjoy each other's company, but occasionally, we spend it doing our own things. We take that time and we relish in it, knowing we may not get it again the next night depending on how the kids are sleeping, feeling, or where Husband happens to be working. Not having a lot time is a curse as well as a blessing. It's taught me how to be more appreciative of the time I do get as well as how to live my life with my kids.
Husband and I get date night once every other month, on average. We take full advantage of it just being the two of us and we truly enjoy our time together. When thinking of things to do though, we realize that most of what we would like to do is with our children. It's not that we don't want time to ourselves, it's just that there are more things we want to do with our kids than without. There are so many firsts that I got to experience with my children. Until I had children, I had never gone apple, blueberry or strawberry picking. That just wasn't something my family ever did. I never did cool science experiments (and truth be told, though I think all the stuff we do is super cool, I still don't like science, but I love seeing how involved my kids get). Then there are the experiences I've had and I want to experience all over again with my kids. I want to go on roller coasters with my kids. I want to run through sprinklers with them. I want to build snowmen. I want to go canoeing. I want to live my life with my kids. No, not only my kids, but Husband, too. Of course I want a free moment to just pee in peace, but I also want moments where I'm sharing my life with my family! Even on rainy Sundays when we're all sitting around reading, we're together and sharing a great moment. Living life is about taking the time that do you have and making happy moments out of it, whether it be time by yourself or time with your family. I'm not living my life for my kids. I'm living my life with them. And, I hope, I'm teaching them how to make the most of each moment.
I just had that OMG moment. That moment where I realized I'm the mom people hate. Yes, I'm THAT mom. I was reading this article and my first thought, after thinking there was no way I'd ever make moon sand, was "Of course I'd pack up and drive to take my kids to a science museum 2 hours away, explore every inch of it and then discuss it for days." Then I read further. Uh, oh. I'm the mom this article is making fun of. My kids barely ever watch television, and even less in the summer. They need to be out doing things while the weather is nice, not sitting inside. Even on rainy days, I insist my kids do something other than veg out in front of the TV. Also, my kids don't eat junk. Sure, once in a while, but, honestly, we just don't eat like that. I actually enjoy making my own popsicles that are a whole lot healthier than sugar water with added food coloring. My kids enjoy ice cream, but equally enjoy homemade granola bars (unless I make them quinoa...total Pinterest fail). My kids get excited to get candy, and then forget they even have it and don't eat it. So, why bother giving them stuff they're not missing? Then there's the one about teaching my kids to sneak from theater to theater to watch movies all day. No way. I never even did that. And, let's say I have low morals and did that, it would still cost me at least $40 to send them to watch a movie! Here, movies at the theater are extremely rare, and extremely special, treats. I'm not teaching my kids to lie to get to have those treats more often. And sending my kids to their best friends' houses for days on end? No problem...other than the fact that their friends are way busier than we are and don't have time for that! I'd be the house people would send their kids to, and I'm OK with that. I like having kids here, probably because I like my kids and love seeing them have a good time. No, I'm not saying other people don't like their kids. I'm saying I like being the house all the kids come to (though a good portion of kids don't seem to care for our snacks...hmmm).
The rest of the article I think is OK, but with so much more added in there. I will help make that fort in the backyard or the living room. I'm happy to get the race car kit from Target. That helps with learning how to follow directions. So no, I will not put it together for them. Paint it whatever colors. If they mess up, well, they learn. Build stuff out of found stuff, too, but I have nothing against kits. I'm going to actually play games with my kids. Games we all like, or at least 2 of us and then it's majority rules. I actually enjoy playing with my children. I let them play by themselves, too, but 99.9% of the time, they'd rather I play with them. I try to teach my kids to take time and be. It's so hard in this fast paced society, but it's something everyone needs to remember and do more often. Take the time to look at the clouds. Get out the magnifying glass and look examine everything. Then, come tell me all about it because I want to hear! I want to share in those extraordinary experiences. I want to see the amazement, pride, happiness, etc, on my kids' faces as they discover all the wonders life has to offer. I also want them to feel confident enough to do it on their own but know I'm here if they need or want me. So, yes, I guess I'm THAT mom.
After all these thoughts go through my head, another realization came to me. We are all THAT mom in someway. There are those moms out there that are perfectly dressed, no hair out of place and make done, all by the time they drop their kids off at school. I'm not that mom. There are those moms that spend hours planning birthday parties and making cute little goody bags for every single holiday at school. I'm not that mom. There are the moms who make the homemade moon sand and dye it with the skins of organic vegetables. I'm not that mom. There are moms who decorate their houses and children's rooms so beautifully they look as if they come from a magazine. I'm not that mom, either. In our own ways, we are all THAT mom. THAT mom is the mom the we sort of wish we were in parts. We all have THAT mom in us, but we don't know it because to us, we're just moms trying to what we do. Even in our worse moments, when we feel like complete failures, we are THAT mom because we are doing our best to be the best for our kids. That's what really makes THAT mom.
For Christmas this year, we drove to Florida. Florida is nothing new for us for the holidays, but the driving part is. Let me say, I'm pretty damned proud. Out of about 38 hours total drive time, my kids played on electronic devices for about 3 hours, total....and that was because Husband and I needed a break from their playing and talking! Not one movie was watched in the van. Plus, the only games they had were educational ones for their Leapsters. Anyway....off of that proud note and on to another. Sunshine only had trouble sleeping on the way down in the hotel and the first night we at the house, the rest of the time, she slept like a champ! The girl doesn't sleep, which is why we are so very proud of her on this trip. Other than those two big things, there were so many other wonderful parts of this trip! We swam everyday. We went to the beach every day. We had true quality time together and with Grandpa. The trip was awesome! Husband put together a slide show of highlights. Hope everyone had as merry of a Christmas as we did!
***As a side note, Weebly has been down on my computer for some reason and Husband just got it back up and working by rerouting it through a different server, so that's why this took so long to get up.
This week, my uncle passed away. People keep asking, "Was it sudden?". I never really know how to answer that question. He was 82. He moved to Ohio because he was told by doctors he could have another massive stroke at any time. It's not like he didn't know this could happen. We should have all been prepared. But was it sudden? If that question means was he lying in a hospital bed sick and suffering then, yes, it was sudden. He was actually in pretty good health. So yes, it was sudden. Or do people mean did he die quickly with no pain? Maybe that's the part of this story that is so awful because the answer would be no. His death is the part of his life's story that is the saddest. I won't share exactly what happened, but he suffered, alone, trying to get help and not being able to. The thing is, if we focus on that, people would never know what a full and adventurous life he led.
My Uncle Bill was the most lively man you could have ever met. I don't usually use real names, but I want people to know him. There was not a single person who ever met him and didn't like him. Seriously. He was just that way. He embraced life. He thought it was worth living and he lived it to the fullest. He had adventures in his life most people, including myself, only dream of. He traveled to more places than I could possibly list. And he had stories from every last place. When he was right out of high school, Uncle Bill would get jobs here and there just to make enough money to go someplace. Once he saved a certain amount, he would pack up, and just go someplace. Once, he moved to Hawaii just to hang out on the beach. He did that until he ran out of money. Then he'd pack up and come back to the Cleveland area. He'd get another job and start the process all over. Even once he decided to "settle down" and take a job as a postal worker, he never stopped traveling. He would go on one or two trips a year to wherever he thought was an interesting place at the moment. He really enjoyed Switzerland. If I recall correctly, that's where he traveled to most. The last time he was in Switzerland was only about 5 years ago.
My uncle had a story for everything, but he was also great at listening. I think was part of what made him truly special. He didn't just listen to your story, he listened to your stories. It's one thing to be able to talk and talk and another to be able to sit and actually listen. And he remembered. He could remember people he met by stories they told him. He also would retell those stories as a way of passing along parts of history.
Uncle Bill was not one to live with the "what ifs". He also wasn't one to question the "why" in life. Things just were and he accepted them. Right now, if I stop to really think about his death, I have the "whys" and "what ifs". So I won't be thinking about his death. I'll be thinking about his full life. As I told my son, "We can be sad Uncle Bill is gone, but he lived such a full life. We need to be thankful that he was able to live such a great life for as long as he did." I'm hoping my dad will someday find comfort in this. I hope my dad will be able to find comfort in knowing how many lives Uncle Bill touched and how many people he helped along his journey. Death is sad for those left behind. We need to remember to keep celebrating the life he led.
***These are two of my favorite pictures of Uncle Bill with my kids. I'll be going through more pictures and adding more as time passes.***
I know I've said it before, but autumn is my absolute favorite time of the year. I love everything about it. It's also our busiest time of the year. For some reason, I feel like this particular autumn has been our busiest, and maybe it has since our only "free" day happens to be Fridays. We are booked with activities until December. To add to it, I've been advocating for the school levy coming up. I feel like everything I've been posting revolves around this levy, so sorry everyone who doesn't live here (and if you do live here, make sure you vote YES for the school levy!).
Even with all the craziness, we've been having a great time! We've spent every weekend hiking. The past two weekends, we just beat the rain. Well, last weekend we actually ended up eating lunch in the rain, but it held off through the hike! All of our new hiking boots have been put to great use!
Autumn wouldn't be autumn without many, many fall activities. We've hit several, but the best was this past weekend when we went on our annual trip to Pinecrest Farms. This was either our 5th or 6th year going with friends. In all those years, this was by far the nicest weather we've had! It was a sunny 75! We went on a hay ride, picked pumpkins, went through the hay maze and played in the soybean box!
Aside from all the outdoor stuff we've been doing, I've been doing a few crafts. I think our Halloween door hanging turned out pretty cute. My list of things I want to get done this fall is growing and my time is getting shorter. I'm just hoping I can make it to the end of October without completely burning out!
For months now, I've been counting down until Husband and I have known each other half our lives. I kept wanting to write this post but had to keep waiting until closer to the date. Then, I missed it. September 3rd marked the anniversary of meeting Husband. We have officially known each other half our lives. We are going on knowing each other longer than we haven't known each other. That's incredible to me. My life is so much better having Husband by my side. He has been my best friend from the moment we met. I can't wait to spend many, many, many more years together.