This, That and the Other - Summer Edition

Ah, the lull of summer. The big road trip is over (although we have a few more smaller fun times planned) and we haven't hit the upcoming craziness of swimming lessons or the return of school planning. A nice big break is just what this mama needed. I left off last term feeling very worn out. Yes, part of that was the hospitalization and the related medical stuff that is resolving but not resolved.

So there I was, feeling a bit worn out and guilty about it when I stumbled upon a blog post (that I thought was by Brandy at Afterthoughts but I can't find it now so I'm sorry if I steal your thoughts without attribution but mama brain strikes hard sometimes!) and one idea that she threw out there that really resonated was the idea that was should end a term feeling spent. It totally changed my perspective. I should feel like I put it all out there. I worked hard this term to keep us all going. I'm worn out. I didn't want to plan a schedule or look at a book list or think about school even one little bit. But that isn't a sign that something went wrong. It's just a sign I need a break. Which is good, because I scheduled us a break! Now, if I always felt stressed or tired, then maybe something would need to be adjusted. But 80% of the time, I'd say our school time is relaxed and delightful. Another 10% (okay, maybe 15%) is crazy small children stuff that isn't going away - until everyone learns to share, use markers responsible, use the potty and fix their own snacks! Just that little perspective shift really helped me enjoy this much needed break without spending it worrying about what I needed to change next term. I'm just enjoying the break! Imagine that! 

Now, I do need to get back into school planning sometime because I do think we'll start right back after the 4th of July. So I'm made a list of the the things I need to plan (how type A am I?!  A list of things to PLAN! I crack myself up sometimes) that I add too whenever I feel like "I'm not doing enough prep" and then I let it go for now. Instead, we've

Had a backyard campfire. Norah can't be bothered to look at the camera when there are smore's to be eaten. The big kids and daddy actually slept in the tree house. Norah and I slept in our nice beds. Except she did't sleep. She must have missed having Lucy and Jonah in her room because she woke up every hour that night. 

Played at the park. We've been to this one before but I wasn't prepared then. This time, I knew about the sand and the water and actually dress them in swim clothes and brought buckets and shovels (okay, I just raided my tupperware drawer) and it was a much better experience. They loved this place. So much that I was able to actually TALK to the girlfriend I went with instead of spending the whole time trying to have a conversation over my shoulder while walking away from her. You know you've been there fellow moms!

Eating pickles and ice cream. No, she's not pregnant. Neither am I. She just really loves pickles. I bought a jar at Costco pretty much just for her. 

Getting some little home projects done. 

Built a pantry shelf for my 5 gallon buckets. I've used an old bookshelf for my "Costco stash" for a while now but the 5 gallon bulk food buckets were just stacked in a corner. It was really inconvenient to get at them so I had really stopped buying more in bulk. But now that the shower door is out of this space, I could make one that was just what I needed. I designed and built it all by myself so its probably not done the "right" way but it works and I love it. And now that the food is all contained in one area, that opens up more projects in the basement! It's a vicious home improvement cycle. 

I also installed lights in the garage which I didn't take pictures of because it's literally just two box, two light bulb attachment things and two bulbs. Super ugly. Super helpful at night. 

Not as ugly are our new porch lights. The old ones weren't hideous but one was broken and it would tip over at hang at a 45 angle. It drove me crazy every time I went outside. I couldn't help fixing it even thought I knew by the time I got back with the mail, it would have tipped again. I even had to fix it for the picture. So when we were at Lowe's getting building supplies, I told Craig to swing in the fixture section. And these were only $25 each so I was sold! I'm totally a believer in the slow and steady approach to having a fixer-upper and I have no shame in the remaining wood paneling or dated stuff in our house but I really should have done this one 5 years ago when it first started to crack. 



Of course, even the smooth days aren't always so smooth. You can't make it through summer without an injury or two. I just didn't expect it to be while they were playing nicely inside. But Norah accidentally poked Lucy in the eye. A trip to the optometrist revealed it was a pretty bad corneal abrasion. After spending 24 hours in her lights off/blacklight curtained room with nothing but audiobooks (and tears) to accompany her, she emerged feeling better as long as she had her spiffy shades on. We've got a few more days of eye drops but she's back to her happy healthy self. Now if my nerves could only get a month off! (The more kids I have, the more I sympathize with Mrs. Bennett!)

Eye issues meant no Shakespeare in the Park (yet, we'll try to fit it in somehow!) but Jonah and Craig had a daddy-son date to the rodeo. Jonah had to dress up - he even took his stick pony. This kid. He drives me crazy but he's super adorable at time too. 

Ah, the joys of summer when you aren't worried about school. But guess what, we've still done a fair amount of learning. Lucy got a cup of caterpillars kit for her birthday and we all enjoyed watching their life cycle. Here's a release pictures (odd angle for naked/pantless kid avoidance :-) 


We Stood Upon Stars - A Review

Things I love: travel, both doing it myself and reading about it in memoirs and essay type literature  and camping and all things nature - except the lack of toilets. So I was pretty excited about reviewing We Stood Upon Stars.

Things I hate: Giving a negative review of a book. I even hated given a less than stellar review about The Thirty-nine Steps and the author that has been dead for almost 80 years now so it's not like I'm hurting his feelings. But in this case, I just didn't click with this book. In fact, I didn't even finish it. I got a good portion of the way through and I also hate leaving a book unfinished but I just had no desire to keep going. I found the essays a bit disjointed, like I was always trying to figure out why the author was (in a basic sense) and who he was talking about. It almost felt more like a set of blog posts than a collection of essays with a cohesive theme.

That said, I also felt like I wasn't really the target audience. I like travel. I like memoirs. I like books that talk about God's influence in life without hitting you over the head with it and all those things apply to this one. But ...I'm not a guy. This really felt like a "guy book." Like in one story about a trip where they get a bit lost and end up in a kinda scary situation, I just kept thinking "Why are you being idiots?!" and was not getting the humor or the life lessons he was offering. But that's me as a mom. A young guy or even a dad would probably have a totally different view and relate much more to what he was trying to express. Now, I don't blame the author for that (or anyone, I don't consider my not being a guy a bad thing), I just wish I had known before I got it to review. And I will be passing it out to Craig to see if it resonates with him better. Because he is a guy.

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review."


What we did on our summer vacation - North Dakota Edition

We just got home from a week away. It was fun but I'm exhausted. That toddler of mine is a super good traveler EXCEPT when it comes to sleeping away from home outside of a car.

We did an overnight drive to get us up to Grandpa and Grandma's. So about 16 hours in a car in a 21 hour period. It was intense but it worked!

Then we had four whole days to spend visiting family and...

playing some basketball with Aunt Steph

gardening with grandpa

playing with the puppy. Norah only says 10 or so words but knows both "Puppy" and "Doggy!"

Visiting the Great-grandmothers

Taking Tractor rides!

Enjoying the pretty North Dakota views - a double rainbow!

My SIL Steph is newly engaged and my in-laws 40th anniversary is this month so we had a little wedding dress party. She wore her mom's dress and I tried on mine that we have been storing at their house. The kids enjoyed seeing all the prettiness. 

Now I don't seem to have any pictures of Craig's mom but I promise she was around. I think every time I saw a good shot of her and the kids, we used her phone. Good for her, not for me. Eventually it was time to go. Lucy was super sad but we had several fun things to do on our slower journey back home.

First stop was the International Vinegar Museum. It's small but interesting. We got a personal tour and vinegar tasting session. Jonah politely declined but Lucy and Norah but tasted right along with us. Norah really liked it!

There are a lot of types of vinegar. Lucy know wants to experiment and try different types in recipes. They're normally ranch kids but she and I made a creamy balsamic vinaigrette tonight and everyone tried it and the bigger two said they liked it. Norah didn't say anything but I think she missed the ranch.

I've been taking long roadtrips with Craig for a long time, we took our first one before we were even dating which is probably unusual*. So it's not a surprise to me that he always wants to stop and read the historical markers. I may or may not roll my eyes at times because when we've got three small kids with us - I just want to get to our next stop! But marriage is a compromise so - we stop as long as nobody is asleep. And this one was actually neat. It was about a lone cottonwood that grew here and played a role in saving the life of a teacher and her students during a blizzard. Which by itself is a good story but it reminded the kids and I of The Tree in the Trail, the story of another lone cottonwood that has saved a life or two. We speculated that maybe Holling had heard of this tree and used it as inspiration. Who knows, it could be true!

We also stopped on the highway (the things you can get away with in the Dakotas!) because off to the side was a Great Blue Heron. Just like the one that talked to Jeremy Vole! I didn't get a picture of it but we all got a good look.

The next stop was a planned one - Pipestone National Monument. We learned about pipestone, watched some being carved on site and then stretched our legs with a nice hike. 

The caterpillars were plentiful and reminded Lucy of the caterpillars we had waiting for us at home.  I was reminded several times by Lucy to make sure I wasn't stepping on any. All life is precious when you are seven. I promised them we'd try to figure out what type but we haven't yet. Caterpillar identification is not easy! (Update: I finally took a few minutes. I think its a tent caterpillar but am not 100% sure.)

We ended that day pretty early so we had to time to swim at the hotel pool. And then Craig walked Norah around the hotel for hours until she finally fell asleep. She hadn't even napped that much in the car so I'm not sure what was up with her but she was up bright and early with the rest for another fun day of travel. 

This day we hadn't planned in advance and everything I was finding for the 2-3 hours from our hotel range was closed or kinda pricey but the night before I just happened to see that the Josyln Art Museum in Omaha had a special exhibit featuring Children's Illustrator Alice Provenson. We love her Maple Hill Farm books! Our are practically in pieces and I've had to tape them up because we've read them so much. I probably have Our Animal Friends memorized. And the Museum is free! Perfect!

Jonah's not normally very cooperative when it comes to photographs but he wanted a picture with the Maple Hill Farm original cover art and I love how you can see his personality a lot in these.

I didn't realize that Alice Provenson had done as much Illustrating as she had. I recognized several of her Little Golden Books. And I've got more books added to my Amazon list now!

It was perfect. I didn't know it but they also have an interactive kids art room which is very neat. The kids made their own stop motion animation videos, did some still life and and portrait drawings, and designed their own pottery pieces.

And on our way out they had a sculpture garden with a kid-friendly wading pool. Norah went in with just a diaper and I told the bigger kids to do their best to stay dry. Which of course meant I had to dig through the car to find dry clothes for them afterwards but I knew it would end that way. Then Craig loaded them back up while I ran back into the art museum in search of Jonah's lost happy meal toy that he loved and couldn't do without. I found it! Off we went. 

We got to Kansas City by mid-afternoon and took a break there at my dad's house. They weren't there but we were able to let kids play a bit, use the neighborhood pool and cook dinner there. Then we changed the kids into pajamas, loaded them up and let them watch a few shows on the tablet then a fairy tale audiobook before sleeping through the rest of the drive home. We don't do a ton of movies on our drives but used strategically, they are pretty useful. The drive home was 5 states in 40 hours but most of that was awake time. Overall this trip was pretty awesome. They are all great travelers and having the extra space of the van really helped. Plus I was really surprised by how well Norah did. I'm already planning our next big trip!

*We were friends at college in TX. My family lived in Kansas but I didn't have a car. His family lived in North Dakota. At Christmas time, I bartered a ride to/from Kansas for a night in our guest room and a tasty breakfast cooked by my mom. I saved the cost of a flight, he saved the cost of a hotel room and I was able to put my secret "make my crush fall in love with me plan" into action. It totally worked!