♫ Take Me Out on a Wednesday ♫

I’ll totally honest: Jim and I are NOT spontaneous.

Throughout the (almost) fifteen years we’ve been married, we have had many adventures, but they are always well-planned. We travel frequently, but always after doing our research. We are creatures of habit. We like to eat at a certain time, we go to bed at a reasonable hour, and we never leave town on a whim. So, when my aunt called on Tuesday to let me know she had two tickets she couldn’t use for the Phillies/Diamondbacks game the next evening, I wasn’t hopeful that I could convince Jim to travel the 2.5 hours to Philadelphia on a work night.

To my surprise, his response was: “You know, I think we could do that.”

So, as soon as he got home from work yesterday, we kissed the kids, hopped in the car, and headed to Citizens Bank Park. The weather was beautiful, but the traffic was terrible, and we pulled into the parking lot as National Anthem was being sung. After wandering the stadium looking for dinner and the perfect beer, we made our way to our seats.

Despite being in the top tier, they were really excellent seats. We could clearly see the ball go over the plate. The Jumbotron was right in front of us and the Philadelphia skyline hovered over left field. The weather was gorgeous and not to hot or cold. All the fans sitting around us were lovely.

Unfortunately, the Phillies lost 2-0, and we only got to watch Bryce Harper bat once as a pinch hitter because he was on rest in preparation for their important upcoming series with Atlanta. It figures: he has started all 68 games of this season and the one we go to is the one he doesn’t play. Still, the crowd reaction when he stepped out of the dugout to bat for pitcher Zach Elfin in the bottom of the 8th inning was electrifying.

The drive home was late and my eyes were exhausted from staring at a dark, empty turnpike for hours, but the trip was well worth it. Jim, who napped lightly as I drove home, still managed to get up and get to work on time this morning.

As we pulled into the driveway in the middle of the night, Jim said, “That was a fun trip. I would almost do it again.” Perhaps more spontaneity is in our near future after all.

The “Lie-Down”: A Nap-time Solution

The other day, I was talking with a friend who has a toddler and I shared with him this parenting trick that has worked for all my children when it comes to nap-time.

Whenever my kids have reached a certain age, they have all insisted they no longer need naps – even when it’s obvious they still do. I’m sure they are not unique in this, but it makes for a very frustrating parenting stage. For my oldest, just saying the word “nap” would elicit whining and crying that would make you think she was headed to the doctor for shots. She slept more than the other two ever did, but she always insisted she was not tired.

Photo by Tracey Hocking

One day, on the way home from a morning activity, I was mentally preparing her for the idea that she was going to take a nap after lunch and she was predictably insisting she did not need one. That’s when I came up with the “Lie-down.”  I probably should have come up with a better name, but as long as it wasn’t a “nap” she was on board.

The most torturous thing about naps for my daughter was the perceived infinity of naptime. The waiting to fall asleep seemed like a lifetime – a toddler purgatory. She would have to stay in bed until she fell asleep, then she could get up after she napped, but that all seemed so vague to her. Because she likes order, routine, and certainty, I made her a deal:

“You do not have to nap today, but you have to lie down in your bed. I’m going to turn on your sleepy music. If you are still awake when the music ends, you may get up.”

She wasn’t entirely convinced, but the idea of it not being a nap was attractive. Knowing there was a definite ending also appealed to her. After lunch, she crawled into bed with little fuss and I started her CD. Before it ended, she was asleep and stayed that way for a few hours. It worked!

I know my kids well enough to know that, if they don’t fall asleep within 45 minutes, they aren’t falling asleep. A 45 minute CD was just enough time to let her rest and relax. After that, if she didn’t fall asleep, I could at least be assured she had rested and relaxed for 45 minutes, which is better than nothing.

Since, that day, I have used this method with all my kids. The younger two did not listen to music when they went to bed, so instead we just used the digital clocks in their rooms. At two, they didn’t really understand time, but they knew their numbers. I would put them down shortly after 1:00pm and tell them they couldn’t get up again until the first number was a 2. Sometimes, if my 7yo is particularly cranky on a weekend, I will still use this method and he falls asleep almost every time.

We are almost out of the nap-time stage for good in our house. The “Lie-Down” has served us well. I hope you find it useful. Maybe you can also come up with a better name!

 

Summer Break: Not Just a Vacation

I saw a meme the other day and, despite a 15-minute Google search, I cannot find it now.

What it said was this:
“Teachers are not on summer break. They are in recovery.”

Truer words were never spoken.

I recognize other stressful professions don’t get nine weeks every year to recover. I am grateful for people who do those jobs. That doesn’t change the fact that teaching is an emotional roller-coaster. Through the year, I invest so much of myself in my students, my curriculum, and my fellow teachers that the experience leaves me feeling paper thin. As I age, my skills in the classroom continue to evolve and develop, but my stamina decreases with every year. I enter each summer break more tired and worn than the previous.

I had a fabulous year this year. At the beginning of the school year, I moved into my brand-new classroom. I had a wonderful group of students who reached and then surpassed every expectation I set. My department worked together as a team, trying new things and collaborating to do what is best for students. The parents were so helpful and supportive. So many amazing things happened this year, and yet I am emotionally, mentally, and physically exhausted. I watched new hires go through what every new teacher experiences and reminded myself that this job is really difficult. Those of us who have been here for a while forget just how challenging teaching can be because we have learned to navigate the waters so well. Still, it takes a toll.

I (and I imagine most of my fellow teachers) will have a summer filled with planning new curriculum, selecting new concert repertoire, and teaching summer workshops and camps. Despite that, being able to step away from my normal routine will help me regain a fresh focus for another school year. I can only speak for myself, but I doubt I could keep doing this job if there wasn’t an opportunity to step away and regroup.

I am certainly open to exploring other forms of school years, like trimesters or quarterly sessions, but those sorts of mountains are hard to move. Until changes happen, I will relish the opportunity to rest, re-establish my intentions, and start the next school year with a clear head.

 

The Blessing of May Chaos

It’s May again! For us, that means concert season, field trips, soccer, baseball, dance recitals, gymnastics, Mother’s Day, spring weddings, and end-of-the-school-year celebrations.

Every May is crazy for us, and that’s ok. Throughout the year, our family rhythms vary from quiet to frenzied. We know each season is coming and we also know it will pass – whether we accomplish everything or not. I know some families who are constantly busy with no lulls. Props to them, but I don’t think I could survive this pace year-round. I need to know that the chaos is temporary in order to keep a level head while we wade through it.

7yo playing his favorite sport!

After two decades of adulting, there are a few truths I have learned to accept when it comes to busy seasons:

Our house will be messy. We are not neat freaks, but (for two working parents with three busy kids) we keep a pretty clean house. In May, however, that’s just not possible. I used to carry great shame and guilt about the state of my house during busy seasons, but we simply cannot keep up. With time, I have learned to live with the clutter, dirty floors, and dust because I know I will have time to clean once our schedule clears a bit.

We cannot go to everything. So much happens in May – especially on the weekends. Weddings, birthday parties, sporting events, and end-of-year school celebrations fill our calendar. We could never attend all of it, which means some feelings may be hurt. Until we figure out how to clone ourselves so we can be everywhere, my family is just going to have to make thoughtful choices about how we spend our time.

Sometimes, it’s OK to take short cuts. In quiet seasons, we have time to meal plan, cook at home, read lots of books before bed, and mop the floors weekly. In busy seasons, that is a pipe dream. We try our best, but I refuse to beat myself up over grabbing my kid dinner from the baseball concession stand instead of packing fruit and vegetable-filled meals for between games. If my child has to read for homework, it may happen in the car while we run from one event to another. My floors may get a speedy sweeping, but mopping is only going to happen if I spill something. We do what we can.

We will spend more money. Often, these May happenings come with a price tag. Obviously, weddings and birthday parties require gifts. Kids can’t play sports for free, and shortcuts like fast food cost way more than eating at home. We do our best to be mindful about our spending, but it’s hard to be frugal when you have 30 minutes to eat, change uniforms, and get your child to their next event.

June will come soon. I used to have meltdowns sometime around the third week of May. Ok, sometimes I still do. But through the years I’ve gained perspective on how much of a blip in life this season truly is.

12yo in her dance recital.

In the midst of it all, I try to remind myself how truly lucky we are. Having the means and ability to be this busy is a privilege and a blessing. Complaining about it is nonsensical because we’ve done it to ourselves. We make our schedules. We sign up for the activities. Traveling through this season is a challenge, but we are fortunate enough to have the means and ability to make it happen. A younger me never fully appreciated the comfort we live in that affords us the opportunity to fill our schedule, but the older and (slightly) wiser version of me certainly does.

So, bring it on, May! Here we go!

4yo running her first race!

 

 

P.S. – I only had time to write this because my dog doesn’t know what a weekend is and insists on sticking to our regular early-morning schedule – even on a Saturday.

Eckley Miners Village

Although it isn’t very far from home, we had never visited the Eckley Miners Village in Freeland, PA. So, a few weekends ago when the weather was nice, we decided to drive over and check it out. The village and museum are open year-round, but April is still off-season, so there were no guided tours available. Instead, we were able to grab some visitors guides and use the cell phone tour to make our way through the village.

You can check out our video HERE.

 

It was creepy, in a a cool way, because we were the only visitors for most of our time there. To be walking through the old mining village and see the ruins of old buildings in the silence of the afternoon gave the whole experience a very ghost-town kind of feel.

7yo was fascinated to learn about the boys his age who would have worked in the breakers, and he had the following revelation:

“I wouldn’t want to be a boy back then, because working in the breaker was dangerous and I could have died. I would rather have been a girl, because they only did laundry, and you can’t die doing laundry!”

12yo’s response: “Sometimes, when I have to do laundry, I die a little on the inside.”

“One Kiss” Confusion

A few weeks back, I was driving 7yo to his gymnastics class and “One Kiss” by Calvin Harris and Dua Lipa came on the radio. If you’re not familiar with it, the lyrics of the song go like this:

One kiss is all it takes to fall in love with me – the possibilities.

I wasn’t really paying attention to the music, but my thoughts were interrupted by 7yo halfway through the song:

7yo: Wait! This song doesn’t make any sense!

Me: No? In what way?

7yo: Well, you don’t kiss someone until you love them, so why would they be kissing in the first place?

Me (smiling): That’s a very good point, buddy.

7yo: I mean, are these people at a party somewhere and they trip and fall face first into each other and when their lips smash into each other they accidentally fall in love? That doesn’t make any sense. I don’t think that’s how it works.

Me: You’re right, buddy. This song doesn’t make any sense.

 

Ah, if only life were so simple.

 

Reliving Game of Thrones: No Thanks

(For those of you dwelling in caves: spoilers ahead!)

Like millions of people around the world, Jim and I are anxiously awaiting the return of Game of Thrones for it’s final (and shortest) season. We already have plans with friends to get together every week to see if Jon Snow (aka Aegon Targaryen) is actually Azor Ahai.

(I would also like to point out here that Aegon, Targaryen, Azor, and Ahai are all accepted words in Google Docs, and Google knew that I actually meant “Jon” and not “John” as I originally typed. So creepy.)

In preparation, Jim has decided to re-watch all seven existing seasons. This is where I bow out.

Don’t get me wrong, I love GOT. But I also can’t stand it. Even when I know something is coming (because I looked it up online ahead of time to appease my anxiety) I still can barely stand to watch it. We were one season late coming to the party, so I had already heard that Ned Stark, the apparent hero of season 1, gets beheaded during the penultimate episode.  That didn’t get to me. The first actual warning I got that GOT may be too much for my sensibilities was when Cersei Lannister sent soldiers to Littlefinger’s brothel to stab bastard Baratheon babies. That sword sliced through a pretend baby and I was like, “Nope, I’m outa here!”

I was so intrigued by the story, however, that I came back. Every time the show passed my emotional limit, I still came back. The Red Wedding, the killing of direwolves, the burning of Shireen Baratheon, and even the death of Hodor ripped me apart. And yet, I came back.

What I won’t do, however, is watch it all again. I will not submit myself to four seasons of King Joffrey or Ramsey Bolton again. I will not watch half of my favorite characters die again. As satisfying as it would be to watch Daenerys (also in the autocorrect, btw) walk through fire not once, but twice, I think I’ll just look those scenes up on YouTube.

More power to Jim if he can spend two days, 15 hours, and 30 minutes watching the whole thing again. I’ll be there for the season premiere in April, watching through my fingers with a nice glass of wine. Until then, no thank you.

I Made A Cake!

I am usually pretty lazy when it comes to cake-baking. Often, I give 12yo the task because she enjoys it and then I don’t have to do it. Lately, however, I’ve been watching the Great British Bake-Off. So, when my mother asked me to make the cake for my grandmother’s 85th birthday party, I was inspired to try something new.

I have almost no knowledge of how to decorate cakes, and I am definitely missing some essential tools (off-set scraper, turn table, etc.). I DO have YouTube, so I watched a few videos and gave it a try. It didn’t quite turn out how I would have liked it in my head, but it was not bad for a first decorated cake. It looked pretty AND tasted quite good, so everyone was happy.


We haven’t travelled for a while, so I’ve been missing a creative outlet since I don’t have any videos to edit. This was the perfect task to give my creativity a boost, and it has inspired me to try it again.

Happy Birthday, Gram!

 

It’s only Wednesday!?

Some weeks are hard. This week has been hard for me. I’ve cried a couple times already and it’s only Wednesday. I’ll be fine, my family will be fine, but some weeks just sit on your shoulders and heart. This is one of those weeks.

To pick myself up, I googled “cute puppies.”  Try it, it helps.

Our New Truck!

Jim and I are so excited to share our new truck with you! We brought our new 2018 F250 home with us yesterday!

 

We are especially excited because, although we have needed a new truck for quite some time, we wanted to pay off our car first. By the time we managed to do that last month, Jim had already picked out the truck he wanted. Now, we can’t wait to use it to pull the camper!