Category Archives: me and my thoughts

Fifteen.

A couple of months ago, I was looking at Instagram, and a popular blogger that I follow on IG had posted a picture of her sweet family…they’d been travelling in an RV for a number of weeks together. She seems like a fun mom, and I love watching what she does with her kids through pictures. However, what caught my attention was the couple of comments that were visible under the picture.

I’m paraphrasing, but the gist was this, from 2 different moms: “We do EVERYTHING with our kids. We have never ever gotten a babysitter, even to go out for dinner, because we never want to be without them. Why would we want to go on an adventure and not include them?”

I almost choked on my tea.

Because, you see, I love my kids. So much. My only serious childhood ambition was to be a mom someday (and a cashier and an Avon lady. Which hasn’t happened yet, really. Who knows what the future holds though, right?), and I am one. I love travelling with them and seeing new things for the first time with them.

But are you even kidding me? Never getting a babysitter? Never doing anything without them? I’m sorry, but to me, that’s just not healthy for you as an adult human, or for your marriage. I’ve blogged before about how I think couples have to be careful not to lose sight of each other while they’re in the messy throes of raising kids (12 in ’12 was all about this for us), because before you know it, those kids are on their own, and you’re married to a stranger. No one wants that, right?

So, all that to justify say: Matt and I ran away to the beach last week for 5 days to celebrate our 15th anniversary, and it was truly, truly one of the highlights of my life. And we have Matt’s parents to majorly thank for totally stepping in and taking over the household for us while we were gone…they even left me with a clean house and garage, and the laundry done. Doesn’t get much better than that!!

We joked that we didn’t even know if we would be good at going on a sit-your-butt-on-the-beach vacation, since we’re usually go-do-a-ton-of-stuff vacationers (Nashville, Nashville again, Boston…). However, as it turns out, we killed it at laying in beach chairs. Literally for 4 full days, our only responsibility was making sure that we reapplied sunscreen regularly. We read books (you guys, my non-reader husband read TWO WHOLE BOOKS while we were gone), listened to music and the ocean, walked the beach and collected shells, and made getting back to the beach (or, just staying there all day) for sunset our job. Oh, and plenty of eating, and drinking Lime-a-Ritas like they were nutritious.

I don’t know if I can go back to do-something vacations after this. I’m afraid it ruined me in the best way possible.

It’s not that I ever would’ve shunned a vacation at the beach. I mean, hello, parenting babies and toddlers is incredibly exhausting, too. But as we reflected on the trip, and the time of year that we took it, it made sense why this felt like perfect timing. For the past couple of years, and the foreseeable future, our March-September is c-r-a-z-y with baseball. And you all know we wouldn’t have it any other way! The rest of the year feels so much more regular-busy-family manageable.

October is the perfect time to go to the beach. I’m polishing up my persuasive speech skills to talk Matt into this again. :)

I didn’t even mention where we went, did I? Siesta Key, Florida, right outside Sarasota. We visited a few neighboring beaches, too, to compare, and none of them even came close. I’d choose Siesta Key again in a heartbeat.

Sigh. So that’s it. Here are a few pictures, to make you want to go, too.

Next week, if I’m brave enough, I’ll blog about body image and what living in a bikini for a few days taught me. We’ll see.

Simplicity.

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**Major disclaimer: please read this knowing it is my opinion and parenting approach, and not a rip on the way other people choose to approach this as parents. There’s plenty of that elsewhere in other blogs. I just thought that there might be some other moms out there, maybe younger moms especially, who could use some insight and encouragement in this area. That’s it.**

I know I’ve mentioned on the blog before that I’m not much of a birthday party mom. I generally find it stressful, and overwhelming, and not fun. And yes, I know it’s not about me, but when I am all of the above, it doesn’t make for a happy household. That doesn’t mean that we don’t celebrate birthdays, or skip parties with friends. It just means that I like to keep things simple.

Part of my issue is how huge, in both numbers of kids invited and expenses, birthday parties have become. I’m simply not interested in keeping up with the Joneses. The potential expense completely overwhelms me, and the excessive amount of planning time to make everything creative and perfect makes me break out in hives. And I’m a creative person. Who adores Pinterest. I think part of my aversion is that all of this effort is put into something that lasts 2 hours.

Now. If crafting up an amazing party is your thing, go for it, sister. If you can afford a fun location, go all out! I don’t think badly of you, and I’m happy you’ve chosen to celebrate your kiddo in that way. Those parties can be really fun!

But if you can’t afford it? Or don’t want to spend that kind of money or time on a party? It’s ok. It really, really is ok to go against the grain. I honestly don’t think it’s going to impact your kids negatively in the long run. In fact, it might even lead to some really great discussions from an early age about family priorities and making hard choices (i.e. you may give your kid the option of an expensive party in lieu of a gift from you if it’s that important to him to have a big party).

We’ve had several small parties at the house, and we’ve also done the pick-three-friends-to-go-to-the-movies route. Each boy has been given the option of one bowling party (or similar expense), but Bennett didn’t even want that, and instead chose to have friends over to the house because that seemed more fun to him. One of B’s friends’ parents take a few kids camping at a local campground for their son’s birthday…super fun, doesn’t break the bank. There are tons of ways to celebrate your kid and his big day without forking over the equivalent of a car payment.

Clearly my kids aren’t grown yet, and this whole topic of how lame their birthday parties were compared to their friends could still lead them to the therapist’s couch. I hope not, but I don’t know. So take what I say with a grain of salt ;)

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Yesterday was Jack Henry’s first friend birthday party (he will be 7 next week!). With a September birthday, he didn’t know enough kids at school last year for us to have one, and having attended two different preschools didn’t allow for a good group of friends to form by the time his birthday came around each year.

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my happy birthday boy!

He invited 6 kids, and 4 were able to come over for a 2-hour party with pizza, homemade Oreo truffle cupcakes, and ice cream. We decorated the kitchen with streamers and a fun banner that my friend Corrie printed for me for Bennett’s last party. A couple of balloons were tied to the mailbox and to JH’s chair at the kitchen table. The kids played with a giant whoopie cushion we have in our basement, played one relay game I’d planned (and weren’t that into it, so I let go of any ideas I had of more organized games), ate, opened gifts, and just played. Jack Henry said it was really fun. The other kids seemed to be having a good time.

jh party popcorn game

popcorn shoe relay race, found on spoonful.com

ice cream pinterest idea

excellent time-saving idea from pinterest…scoop ice cream into cupcake liners ahead of time, and pull out of the freezer when it’s time to serve dessert!

I’m sure it wasn’t the most earth-shattering day of any of their young lives. But it was a great celebration of my boy. He had fun. I didn’t put us in debt.

Win-win.

Minus One

Last weekend, for the first time ever, Luke went away for the weekend on a church retreat for sixth graders. I have to admit, it was really, really weird to not have him with us… I felt like I was forgetting something all weekend.

However, it was really cool to spend some time with just the two younger boys while Luke was doing all of the Big Kid Things. Because we did not have a crazy overscheduled weekend for once, we had plenty of time to just do what we wanted.

Friday night, after Matt and I took care of the yard work and finishing up our bathroom remodel, we decided to have a bonfire in the cul-de-sac and let the boys have s’mores before dinner. Might’ve been our best decision all weekend.

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Saturday: early breakfast at The Shack (I’m obsessed with their berry granola pancake), a long walk on Grant’s Trail,

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and took some time to hang out at Grant’s Farm.

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It was just so much fun for Matt and me to focus on these 2. And even better, by far, was how they got along with each other. I’ve loooong known that just removing any one of them from the mix for a while totally changes the dynamic, but it’s such a pleasant surprise to see these two getting along.

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By Sunday afternoon we couldn’t wait to have Luke back! He was, of course, exhausted, but full of fun stories. Growing up Catholic, I didn’t have these kinds of experiences, so I’m excited for him that he got to experience something like this with his youth group!

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Things are totally (eyeroll) back to normal now, with B and JH resuming their roles as oil and water. Oh well. It was sure fun while it lasted.

Some Thoughts on Parenting a Middle Schooler, 3 Weeks In.

Clearly, as the title indicates, I so far have a lot of experience parenting a middle schooler.

For the sake of record-keeping, and my failing memory, I thought it might be good therapeutic to write these thoughts and feelings down.  Because though some stages move along quickly, and others d-r-a-g by painfully, time wipes away some of the day-to-day type memories, right?

So here are my thoughts in a nutshell: I’m pretty sure I’m a much better baby/toddler/preschooler/early elementary mom than I am a late elementary/middle school mom. This really comes as no surprise to me, as my college major focused on early childhood development. I feel like I’m probably too snarky and sarcastic to be good at this at all. 

And let me say: it’s not like these new attitudes and behaviors and whatnot just came on when school started.  By mid-5th grade, there was some evidence of this tween Luke sneaking into our home. I can only describe it as such: sometimes, he seems like an exceedingly mature teenager, and he knocks my socks off with his insight and knowledge and responsibility. And sometimes, he’s like a giant toddler. And ya never know what you’re gonna get.

I DO understand that this is a major time of growth/exploration/changing about who one is, and that there is a ton of science that indicates major brain function changes (like, parts of the brain literally don’t work like they used to while other grow and stuff – obviously, I’m majorly oversimplifying it, but you get the point). I don’t think Luke is abnormal.  I just think I’m not used to this, and we – both Matt and I – need to get there.

Case in point: last weekend, one of us *might* have jokingly/not jokingly asked the other if it was possible that Luke had gotten a concussion we didn’t about. So you know, we’re handling this well. And by well, I mean we’re having a drink after the kids’ bedtime.

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In other news: though Luke isn’t exceptionally organized in general, he’s so far (as I can tell) been successful at keeping his school work straight.  This was a major concern of mine, so I’m really happy that this is going well!

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Next, beginning band. Oh, beginning band.

Luke is doing a great job as he’s learning to play the trombone. From what I can ascertain, it’s a pretty hard instrument to learn (I played the flute, so I don’t know anything about this, really), and he’s taking his responsibility to practice at home seriously. He has an excellent band director who is making learning fun. I’m being supportive, and congratulating him when I recognize pieces he’s practicing.

But let’s talk about that practice. It’s 100 minutes a week, guys. ONE HUNDRED MINUTES. Bless. That’s a lot of beginning trombone practice every week. And yes, he’s only going to improve if he practices. It’s just…

…I’m pretty sure there aren’t trombones in heaven. Or at least, there aren’t trombones playing “Let’s Go Band” and “Hot Cross Buns.” It’s just a hunch, so don’t quote me on that. 

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Lastly, to middle school teachers and pastors the world over: I love you guys. I mean it. I don’t know what on Earth would possess you to choose to spend your time and career this way, but THANK YOU. Thank you for coming alongside us and wanting to help my child grow and figure things out. I have so much to learn from all of you. 

So Clean.

The first week of the kids being back in school consisted of me running errands, meeting people for lunch, and just generally skipping and floating through life because, hello, freedom.

Now with the second week here, I’ve settled into a routine of volunteering at the school, working out, actually preparing food ahead of time for my family to eat, and starting on all of the things that have accumulated over the last few months that I haven’t been able to tackle.

One of those was deep cleaning the bathrooms, and I decided that today was the day. The boys had kept up all summer with their weekly cleanings, so it’s not like they’ve gone uncleaned for months, but I knew it was time for me to do it.

Let me just sum it up like this:

1. I didn’t know how bad a housekeeper I really am until today.

2. Toilets have so, so many tiny gross places on them, and I’d really never cleaned one that well, apparently. What prompted this crazy cleaning is my super-sensitive sense of smell, so, you know, gag.

3. I’d like to issue a blanket apology to anyone who has used the bathroom at our house the last, oh, say four years aka the whole time we’ve lived here. Because I guess our bathrooms really haven’t been that clean this whole time.

In the boys’ bathroom I realized that the shower curtain was due for a washing (extremely close proximity to the toilet), and in keeping with my previous low standards, as I rehung it, I asked the boys to please just do their best not to pee on the shower curtain. My comment was met with mostly-blank stares and some nods, like they didn’t have a clue what I was asking them to do. So we’ll see how that goes in the future.

Even though it was gross, I was surprised at how much today wasn’t horrible, even though I cleaned all day long…turns out being uninterrupted, with loud, favorite music playing, makes even the worst jobs tolerable.

Bennett, age 9 1/2

I’m very careful about what I write these days. (also, you might be thinking, “Nicole, you never write anything these days.” Fair enough.)  I have to be; the boys are getting older, and I would never write about something that would be embarrassing to them. So I’m wording this carefully, but as this blog is our scrapbook and this has become a huge part of Bennett’s life, I decided to record this.

this picture cracks me up...it was him, posing like a senior picture (he's seen them on the walls of his grandparents' houses)!

this picture cracks me up…it was his idea, posing like a senior picture (he’s seen them on the walls of his grandparents’ houses)!

By the end of last school year, I know I mentioned on the blog that Bennett had started getting in just a little bit of trouble at school.  Totally, totally minor…really, it was just him making some bad choices in the presence of certain friends. And it was right at the end of the year, so we discussed it some early in the summer.  Like how he might need to make some new friends, or really be aware of the choices he makes when around others, or else he may find himself in trouble.

Over the summer he also developed a bit of a negative attitude toward school.  This is a first for any of my kids, really, and it was unexpected. However, it boiled down to this: he just wants to be a baseball player.

So really, in his mind, he doesn’t need to be that educated. Like, he even came up with this gem this summer, completely on his own: “I want to go to a college that has a great baseball team and is just like, ok at academics. So it’s not too hard, and I can mostly focus on playing ball.”

Ohmygosh. Stop it. You’re nine.

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love that grin.

We talked a few different times over the summer about school. How important it is. How to choose (and behave around) friends. Of course, I tried to figure out what was causing this issue, and nothing bad happened to the best of my knowledge. What I do know is that Bennett is bright, a good student, much more confident in his math skills than reading (though he reads above grade level, he isn’t very sure of himself), and a middle child.

Yep, I think him being a middle is playing into this, too. He’s only 2 years behind Luke, so most teachers know him or have taught him by the time B gets them. And Luke is the kind of kid who volunteers for a lot of stuff, and he’s easygoing, and everyone in the school knew him, etc. Luke’s far from perfect, but you get the point…Bennett is second, and he’s a totally different kind of kid.

Then there’s Jack Henry, whose reading level is crazy-high for his age (which slays me, because as a toddler, I thought he was going to have some delays), and couple that with Bennett’s lack of confidence in his reading and comprehension skills, and you’ve got B feeling that middle-child pinch.

I made the following points, as lightheartedly as possible, but in a way that I hope got my point across:

1. If you want to be a pro baseball player, you first need to be a high school baseball player, then a college baseball player (I know that kids get drafted without playing college ball, and so does B, but he knows it’s rare), and then the draft/minors/MLB.

2. If you have to, view 4th grade as a step towards achieving your first big goal: high school baseball player. (This makes me roll my eyes, but I was grasping at straws to engage this child.)

3. My main point: no coach, at any point in this timeline, wants a dumb athlete. They want you to be able to critically think through plays. Plus, there’s the whole staying-eligible-to-play-based-on-your-grades thing.

Before school started, I got a chance to meet B’s teacher, who is new to our elementary school (ie hasn’t taught Luke) but isn’t a new teacher (and she has twin 7th grade boys!). I mentioned to her that Bennett’s attitude toward school had soured just a bit, and that he really wanted to be an athlete. Her immediate comment was, “Well, he will need to be able to read his contract, right?” I think this is going to be a good match. :)

School started 3 days ago, and Bennett has come home every day smiling and saying that things have been going well. So we’re off to a good start.

Only 175 days+/- to go.

Serious Question

I’ve come to the realization that are 2 kinds of people in this world: those who love the Robert Munsch book Love You Forever and those who hate it.

Friends, I must know which side you’re on. But you can be anonymous about it and just answer here:

Thanks for answering this super-important question. ;)

In case you’re wondering what made me think of this, it was this episode of Friends: