Category Archives: parenting

Dear Boys of Mine, Do As We Say…

…not as we do.

Not a place I really intended to parent from, but, you know, sometimes you find yourself in situations where there is really no alternative but to utter those words.

For me, it’s been with my tattoos. I’ve told the boys repeatedly that when they’re fully grown ups (I’m going to go ahead and put myself solidly in this category), they can make choices like I did, but that no one better walk in the door at 18 with a skull and crossbones inked on his body. Matt has jokingly/not jokingly said that this is all on me, and he’s right.

And then Matt went and added his own example to the “not as I do” list last week.

He had a conference in NYC. His original flight on Monday was cancelled due to stormy weather on the east coast; he worked that morning to secure an alternate route, which ended up connecting through DC instead of being a direct flight.

Long story short: hours of delay on the tarmac in DC, with the flight eventually being cancelled. While Matt was trying to figure out what to do, a guy approached him about riding to NYC in the car he’d rented. Initially Matt wasn’t in; I mean, weird. But when another guy sitting close by said he was starting his new job in NYC tomorrow and he’d ride with the guy with the car, Matt decided to join them.

So yes. He drove 4+ hours in bad weather in the middle of the night with 2 strangers WHOSE LAST NAMES HE DID NOT EVEN GET (men, I tell you…3 women in a car together would have been Facebook friends before the end of the first hour).

So to my boys: we still do NOT get in cars with strangers. Ever.

The end.

They’re Back. 

Muddy, grass-stained baseball pants, that is.

Last weekend kicked off our season, with Jack Henry playing in a tournament. Bennett’s team played in a tournament this past week – Saturday, and Luke’s is next week. regular-season games begin next week, too.

I’ve missed it. I love watching the boys play. I haven’t missed supper on the run, or the whole “we need a fourth meal because we ate before the game, and we’re hungry again at 8:30pm” thing, but that’s just part of the deal.

I have not, however, missed the rush to get the uniform clean again. I used to FREAK OUT over removing the stains from the white pants, but no more. A quick spray of Shout, a little scrub of detergent if there’s a grass stain, and that’s it. No soaking, no painstaking scrubbing and multiple steps. If it doesn’t come out after what I do to them, it wasn’t meant to. That means that their pants look hideous by early May, but oh well.

Obviously, if you need me, I’ll be sitting in the bleachers.

They’re worth it :)

Happy Easter from my cleaned-up crew!

Spring Break 2015

I can’t believe it, but we’re on the other side of spring break already, which means the countdown to the end of the school year is on…39 days! 

The first several days of spring break were here in STL, and we stayed busy hanging out with friends, going to a St. Patrick’s Day celebration (we are the absolute least Irish people ever, but this was so fun), and enjoying a few 70 degree days outside all day long. 

The end of the week was spent in Chicago and the burbs. The boys couldn’t remember being at the Shedd Aquarium (I don’t even remember how long ago we took them), so that was the activity for Thursday when we got to the city. The entire family’s opinion post-visit is this: we’re pretty much over aquariums. I mean, it was cool, we saw some fun stuff, but meh. 

 Now, I LOVE downtown Chicago. I love the hustle and bustle, the crowd, the hotels and restaurants. Since the boys hadn’t ever stayed right on Michigan Ave, we decided that’s what we would do, and stayed at the Hard Rock. Love its location, and it’s a nice place. 

Overall, though, the boys weren’t all that impressed. I mean, they liked the hotel, they thought Michigan Ave was OK but not that big of a deal [mostly they were like, “we have to walk everywhere?” Suburban kids (shakes head)]. Millennium Park and the food were probably the highlights of our 24 hours in the city. I can’t say I blame them on the food: they had Garrett’s popcorn, Giordano’s pizza for supper, and Wildberry for breakfast. Plus Starbucks hot chocolate in the morning with their dad while I snuck in a workout at the hotel (see above list of food to know why this was necessary).

 We headed out to Wheaton Friday late morning for the next part of our trip: seeing Matt’s sister Heidi and her family in their new house! This was just so much fun for all of us…the boys all left in the afternoon to play baseball, and Heidi and I stayed home while her two little girls napped, which gave us a great chance to talk for a while. It was just so good to catch up! 

The rest of our time was spent with the boys playing with their little cousins and Rockit the dog, eating more amazing food, and the adults just enjoying each others’ company and a few good drinks, and a trip to a great museum on Saturday morning. 

On the way back to STL on Saturday afternoon (our Sunday was full of baseball practices and team pictures and the like, so we needed to get back), Matt asked the boys for their highlight of the trip, and all three said Aunt Heidi and Uncle Jeff’s! :) 

   

                 

 Here’s to the next few weeks flying by. The pool is calling my name…

Illini. Forever.

For Christmas, the boys all got new Illini pullovers and tickets to the basketball game against Northwestern. Saturday was finally the day we got to go to Champaign-Urbana!

We left early Saturday morning from STL, so that we could have several hours on campus for shopping and sightseeing before gametime, and also to ensure that we could eat two meals at our favorite Green Street locations. Priorities.

On our way out of town, my friend Kelli texted to see if we’d seen the latest forecast. I hadn’t, but it had changed from the 1″ of snow that I was expecting to 5-7″, on its way midday into the night. Great. But at this point…whatever. We were on the road, so not much we could do about it now.

We got to C-U, and I swear, I smiled all day long. I love being on campus so so much! We had lunch at Zorba’s, followed by shopping at the local bookstores for some new Illini gear.

zorba's entryway, full of 2004-5 newspaper clippings of final four team.

zorba’s entryway, full of 2004-5 newspaper clippings of final four team.

snowy quad + foellinger in the background. feels like yesterday that we were meeting up on the quad between classes :)

snowy quad + foellinger in the background. feels like yesterday that we were meeting up on the quad between classes :)

instilling a love for this beautiful campus early.

instilling a love for this beautiful campus early. #goodparenting #ftw

I posted this picture to Instagram/Facebook kind of early in the day.

me and alma. still annoyed that i didn't wait in line in my cap and gown for a pic here in '99.

me and alma. still annoyed that i didn’t wait in line in my cap and gown for a pic here in ’99.

My roommate Karen commented on that picture: “Um, not trying to be mean, but are you wearing orange? It looks like something cute and trendy, but it better be orange!”

Hilarious! Because every good Illini fan knows: YOU WEAR ORANGE TO ASSEMBLY HALL. I didn’t have anything to wear (my Illini gear was all old and too big), so part of the plan was for me to find a new tee while shopping and change clothes in the van in a parking garage. Which is exactly what I did (my kids: “Are you serious?” Me: “Totally. There is nothing weird about this.”).

We took the boys by all of our old res halls and apartments, which just made me grin even more…Wardall 6 and 502 w Green #205 were home to three of the greatest years of my life, and just getting to see them made me happy. (Matt did not feel the need to be photographed outside where he lived. Weird, right? ;) )

because you needed to know which rooms were mine.

because you needed to know which rooms were mine. and…there’s my orange!

oh hey, people who live here now. i almost knocked on the door so i could get a glimpse inside.

oh hey, people who live here now. i almost knocked on the door so i could get a glimpse inside.

And THEN, we got to spend some time with my other roommate, Kim, her husband Rich, and their daughter Zoe at our other favorite Green Street spot, Murphy’s Pub. Our boys love going there and scratching their names into the tables and benches, and, of course, the food is great. Loved catching up with our friends, and making big plans for a fall reunion!

kim and me. never enough time to get all of our words in on these visits :)

kim and me. never enough time to get all of our words in on these visits :)

yes, we take our kids to a pub every year.

yes, we take our kids to a pub every year.

By the time we left Murphy’s, snow had started falling on campus. Oh well. We got to the game about 30 minutes before tip-off, and the boys were so pumped. They just wholeheartedly love Illini basketball, even when the team isn’t that great.

assembly hall with these crazies.

assembly hall with these crazies.

Fortunately, it was an awesome game that saw the Illini hit 14 of 28 three-pointers and result in a 26-point victory. Less fortunately, it had really started snowing by the time the game was over, and our drive towards home got more treacherous the further south we got.

So, we made a decision about 15 miles outside of Effingham that we would take Matt’s parents up on their offer to let us stay there overnight instead of continuing on with horrible visibility and road conditions. They graciously took us in, and the boys crashed immediately.

We woke to a full foot of snow on the ground there, but were happy to hear that STL had only gotten about 4″. And by late morning when we headed out, roads were clear and the snow had nearly stopped, making travel much, much easier.

I think it’s safe to say that none of us will forget this trip soon.

Retreat.

Last weekend, my husband gave me the best gift.

I know that when I told him a few months ago that it was something I wanted, he thought I was a little crazy for making this request. However, over the last several months, I’ve sort of made a habit of telling him things that make him think I’m losing it, so what was one more?

{I am a joy to be married to. Bless.}

Anyway, my request was a one-night retreat, in a hotel right here in town, all alone. Just a little time to exhale, and sleep in a big bed all by myself. I emailed him 10 days ago with a link to a great hotels.com deal on a nice hotel in Clayton, along with last Saturday night’s date, explaining that our calendar was clear.

And he told me to book it. I think this is an acceptable trade for the 4 days he spent in Colorado last month skiing with guys from work, no?

I think moms too often feel like they can’t or don’t deserve time to themselves of some sort, but I wholeheartedly disagree. Obviously, I got to do this in a big way, but breaks of any kind are important. My friend Karen sent me this post last week, and I couldn’t agree more. Find a way to get yourself a break.

So late on Saturday afternoon, after my friend Kelli and I spent some time together, I checked into the hotel. It was perfect…if I ever get to do this again, I’d go back.

So what did I do? Walked to Pastaria a block away and sat at the bar and had a drink while they made my dinner, which I brought back to my room and destroyed.

FullSizeRender

first of all, they sent me with a million containers. but, i feel like you need to know that i can EAT. and since i’d skipped lunch, i did.

 

I did a little reading and writing, and crashed into that big bed with ALL FOUR PILLOWS TO MYSELF :) with the laptop and one of my favorite old movies I hadn’t seen for a while, When Harry Met Sally. I’d say I slept like a baby, but we all know babies don’t sleep well, soooo…just know, I slept so, so well. I love hotels*.

this was pretty much my setup. complete with u of i sweatshirt from 1995 that i will literally never, ever for my whole life get rid of.  i'm leaving it in my will to someone.

this was pretty much my setup. complete with u of i sweatshirt from 1995 that i will literally never, ever for my whole life get rid of. i’m leaving it in my will to someone.

Sunday morning was more of the same, except that I went out for breakfast at Half & Half. So yes, more food pictures.

you guys. these pancakes are tied with wildberry's in chicago for the best ever. go eat these.

you guys. these pancakes are tied with wildberry’s in chicago for the best ever. go eat these.

Not so long ago, going out to eat by myself would have been something that felt awkward, but not anymore. I sort of loved it. And I have a fun story from breakfast that I’ll save for another post.

I finished up my alone time by running by the mall to find a pair of black dress pants. I left with some dark magenta skinny jeans, so that went exactly as planned.

I met up with the fam at Bennett’s basketball game, totally refreshed and ready to dive into this week, which has already included pulling a tooth, hosting small group, and getting everyone out the door this morning with no yelling.

Boom.

*Let’s be clear: all 5 of us smashed into a regular-sized hotel room is not what I’m talking about here. For the record.

Santa! I Know Him!

In my lack of writing last fall/early winter, I neglected to record some important family updates along the way. A conversation with Jack Henry yesterday reminded me that I should write about this!

So after school one day in very early December, Jack Henry, Bennett and I were in the middle school parking lot, waiting for Luke. I don’t remember how the conversation started, but Jack Henry (age 7, first grade) asked, point-blank, if Santa was real. I took a deep breath as I hesitated for a moment, thinking, “Ok. This is how this is going to go down. Remember this,” and turned towards him in the back seat.

“What do you think?” I asked tentatively.

“That he’s not real,” came the reply.

I told him he was right, and he burst into tears. My giant 7-year-old boy climbed up into the front seat of the car and snuggled in on my lap (this makes me think of Will Ferrell sitting on Bob Newhart’s lap in Elf).

Elf
(photo cred)

I explained that while Santa wasn’t real, and that Dad and I were the ones who bought the gifts, it didn’t really matter because that’s not what Christmas is all about anyway. He nodded, and then said, sweetly, “Wait. So you and Dad bought us the iPad last year?” So cute.

{BTW, Christmas with no Santa-believers was still beautiful and wonderful and magical. I know some of you out there are panicking at the thought of kids not believing anymore, but I can assure you that Christmas is not ruined. In fact, I absolutely love how it’s opened up the opportunity, as a whole family, to fully understand the impact we can have on others…none of the boys can fall back on that “Santa will just bring them what they need” mentality.}

>>>

So I didn’t go into specifics with JH when talking about Santa that the Tooth Fairy also isn’t real. I just assumed he’d put two and two together.

Uh, he didn’t right away.

He lost his top tooth in early December, after the big Santa revelation, and he still wrote the tooth fairy a note and left his tooth under his pillow. Matt and I just laughed, left the dollar under his pillow, and left well enough alone….he’d eventually figure it out.

IMG_4940

yesterday, just waiting to pick up one of the boys…he and i have lots of moments like these.

Yesterday at snack time after school, he said, “I have a question that isn’t about what we’re talking about right now. Is the Tooth Fairy real?”

I giggled, asked what he thought, and he said, “No. It has to be you. I thought so after I lost my last tooth, but I just didn’t say anything.”

So that’s settled. He has 2 teeth about to fall out (great…you know how much I love pulling teeth, and catching my kids as they faint), and I’m wondering if he’ll just present them to me for payment or stick them under his pillow for fun.

What’s Next.

Almost every Saturday morning of my childhood was spent in a dance studio. For the past several years, many, many Saturdays are consumed by the boys’ practices or games. For me, Saturday usually equals busyness and fun. Not quiet and time to reflect.

So it was really weird last Saturday to find our calendar empty (which ended up being a great thing, because Matt’s parents were able to come over for a quick visit later in the day!). Matt decided earlier in the week that he’d like to do something fun with the boys: take each of them out for a meal by themselves at a place of the boys’ choosing. Just some one-on-one time with each boy to hang out.

And in the semi-quiet of our house, something that I’ve been thinking about abstractly for the past several months came into better focus. I’ll try to put it into words as succinctly as possible.

We’re at a transitional stage of parenting where Matt needs to play a bigger role. I think this is particularly true because we’re raising all boys (not that girls don’t need their dads, clearly). Clarifications:
1) This is not because he’s been checked out to this point…on the contrary, he’s a great dad and has always been involved.
1b) This does not mean that I am checking out. I know I’m still very much needed. For at the very least rides, food, and help with homework ;)
2) THIS IS NOT A COMPLAINT FROM ME. The early years of parenting are hard, particularly on the primary caregiver. Which obviously was me, especially the last 8 years since I’ve been home. And we’re through those years, mostly unscathed, praise God.

ahem. yes. we so totally were.

However, can you see where this is going? It’s not even sadness, really, that I’m feeling. It’s simply that so much of me and my purpose (and the reason I quit my job) were enveloped in a stage that’s over. And I didn’t think much past this stage (because let’s face it; when you’re in the thick of those years, the light at the end of the tunnel seems very, very dim). PLUS, even though those infant/toddler/preschooler years are ridiculous and difficult and challenging and often gross, they’re my favorite. Parenting littles was so totally in my wheelhouse.

i had no idea what i was in for, even this many years into parenting.

2 Augusts ago, when Jack Henry went to full-day school, I felt none of this. There was just happiness over my newfound freedom. But starting last fall, I’ve been feeling like I’m ready for a new something. So I’ve spent a lot of time thinking. And the truth is, I’m still not at all clear what the next stage looks like for me and my family. I have lots of ideas…I am a fantastic daydreamer. Also, I am an excellent song-lyrics-memorizer, so if you can think of a way to parlay that skill into a perfect part-time job for me, feel free to let me know.

Truly, while I’m a terribly impatient person and the idea of waiting for the timing to be right for whatever is next does not thrill me, I’m excited. I’m excited to think about doing something I’m passionate about, and being challenged beyond what I’m doing right now.

And this is the second kinda vulnerable post I’ve written in the new year. I need to go back to easy fluff writing.