Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Piñata Creating. Mayo es, ¿verdad?

So I'm a little late.

The day before Cinco de Mayo, I saw a picture of a friend making a pinata with her daughter and it occurred to me that we didn't have a thing to do that afternoon. Paper mache is easy to manage and the kids would love it. I texted my neighbor for her leftover newspaper (she receives, we don't) and grabbed those up before mixing up a batch of flour and water for the afternoon indoor fun activity (since it appears it may never get warm in the Midwest ever).

Jumped on the bandwagon and the kids mostly enjoyed he process. Claire wasn't a fan of the mess (though typically she's ALL GOOD with coloring herself in full arm sleeve tattoos with marker). Benjamin kinda took the bull by the horns and jumped right in. I ended up finishing it, like almost all projects, because attention span was lacking after 30+ minutes. I'd say Benjamin tackled 60% of the paper mache solo, so I consider it a success.
It wasn't dry in time for a Cinco de Mayo celebration smash, so we had it laying on the deck in the sunshine to bake for some days. And finally, on May 16th, we decorated with pieces of colorful tissue paper and the hot glue gun. I stuck some twine in the sides and we popped popcorn on the stove to add to the inside as confetti/treat. The kids stuffed it before we hung it. Benjamin received some fairly negative marks from his teacher via email that day, so there was no chance I was putting anything sugary in there.
I hung it from a tree in the backyard and Benjamin took some major whacks to it and eventually we gave up on our incredibly sturdy construction and dumped the popcorn in bags and snacked away.
Sometimes it really is all about the process, as the product lay there, somewhat forgotten for ten days before we picked it back up and continued on (when I was just ready to send it out for trash pickup instead). Believe it or not, the breaking was rather anticlimactic.

I'd be remiss if I didn't mention that every single Easter while growing up, my adorable husband and his equally adorable family would make these very same balloon pinatas and break them open as an Easter celebration activity with the cousins. The tradition lives on.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Little Free Libraries

Have you ever seen one? Opened one up? They're usually located in front of private residences, just like a mailbox would be. Each one is decorated a bit different and contents are unique, of course.

{stock photo from Pinterest of a LFL in Poulsbo, WA. Obvi I love it because
it's in one of my favorite states and the hippie culture is legit.}
I'm kind of obsessed. It all started with a simple geocache about a year ago that led me to one, and now every time I stumble upon one, I'm usually sitting in front of it for a half hour after just reading books with the kids.

Last week I had about 15 minutes to kill before the children's museum opened after dropping Benjamin off at school, so I drove a few blocks to find a geocache. I never did seek or find the cache, but stumbled upon a Little Free Library instead and easily wasted away those free minutes. I traded out some books I had in the car and vowed to go through the books we've outgrown or tired of for trading at other little libraries.

We met a friend and her daughter for a walk to her local park today and on the s-l-o-w walk back with two small kids who stop to touch and feel ants and small rocks and dandelions, we finally made it to our car, but not before stumbling upon another little free library. (I have ditched the stroller recently in favor of walking to close parks because exercise feels good and for the additional tactile exposure to nature). It was one of the cutest I've seen and was stocked with books of all genres and age groups. We probably read 6 of the 30+ books before having to peel my kids away to head home for dinnertime.

Benjamin was sad to leave behind two he fell in love with (one about Lord Licorice from the CandyLand board game that he cheats at) and another, The Gingerbread Cookie Mystery. We read the princess book and saw the Fancy Nancy books and read the Curious George, but he chose these two obscure books because he's kind of obsessed with sweet treats. So after buckling them into the car, I grabbed a couple books from the car stash and drove back over to the library for a quick exchange to grab those two new beloved books. He sat "reading" them the whole way home and requested them read the moment we walked in the door. He's always been a book nut and I love what these adventure walks and little libraries do for their curiosity.

More than the little library itself, I want to know who lives inside these homes that make it their mission to maintain these little adventure containers and promote literacy for neighborhood people of all ages. It's just super cool. The teacher in me has full on emoji heart eyes for these little libraries. And really, who doesn't love mini things? I mean, really.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Accident Prone Runner

I've never considered myself clumsy, but apparently running has really done it to me. Over the last six months since joining the gym, I've spent quite a few hours and miles on the treadmill (and then on the streets for more miles). Running is something I've always been able to do with decent endurance and the treadmill is a pretty easy machine to figure out.

I've ran so much lately that lots of my old pants no longer fit and some I wore 10 years ago, including a pair of my running shorts, finally look great! It's not really a loss of weight, because I maintain the same weight now as I did before my kids and between each of them as well. It's my sweet spot, but the rest of my body is looking healthier. It's sort of exciting. Hardly noticeable from the outsider, but my husband and mom have commented. Cool, but not the reason I have been running. But heck yes, I'll take it! I am even starting to get a smidge of ab definition!

But, I'm not 20 anymore and it's obviously showing. A few months after starting regularly running again, I had this random bump appear on the back of my leg that is more of a soft protrusion that really doesn't bother me. I only noticed because I was shaving my legs and felt a bulge. I had an ultrasound on it to rule out a DVT and forgetting the proper diagnosis now, it was a benign issue.

And then my other foot randomly for a few days began to get hot flashes. I loosened the shoelaces up a tad and it hasn't happened since. I think that one was a nerve issue.

And then last Wednesday. My mom was home with the kids and they were distracted, so I figured I'd clock a few miles outside since I had the luxury of a babysitter and didn't have to push the dreaded double stroller of 100 pound resistance around. The kids only remained distracted for a few minutes before realizing I was gone and went #codefreakingred on my mom. And knowing this might occur, I was trying to be speedy and grabbed an old pair of running shoes (big mistake) and laced them up. I was running paths I didn't typically run through the neighborhood and taking some sharp turns. And then I felt it. A kind of burning pull in the groin. The pain has fluctuated between 1 and 4, but never more. It flairs when I run, so I've been taking a break.

Except that 10k on Sunday I signed up for because, DUH. I had to earn that $35 beer at the finish. And I couldn't exactly wear the shirt if I didn't complete the race. Thanks to an awesome PT and a ton of stretching beforehand, I felt almost totally pain free at the start and up to mile 5. I would've upped my speed, but didn't want to stretch things further, so I stayed at a healthy 8:30 pace. But I did it. And I can't wait for another race. But I can actually. Because I want this to heal.

So I'm cooling my jets and taking some time off running, which is super hard. I've kind of turned it into my "me time" outlet. As much as I adore my little chickens, they can wear on me and I'm not ashamed to admit it.

I've been dabbling at the weights but feel like a total idiot in a weight room. And there's just something about finishing a cardio workout that has me so refreshed.

I dusted off my yoga mat for an intermediate/advanced class with my neighbor friend this morning. Well friends, it was quite evident I've taken quite a few years off since my last yoga class! I was wobbling every which way, but was fairly proud with myself when the instructor commented that I was "in that crane pose like a boss."

Which is good, because I can't touch my toes and I simply don't know how I'll ever get my torso to come that close to the floor. Like ever. And the class was way less zen and way more chatterbox than I would've liked.

This groin thing better figure itself out pretty soon, because while I do enjoy looking like a total idiot in yoga positions (and planning to take another class next week), I really want to clock some more miles on foot.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Just Monday Stuff

It's funny how weather really can affect your mood. The last three days have been nothing short of incredible here in the Midwest. The bugs are (mildy) suddenly back, but the kids are playing on the deck, in the dirt, at the parks. They are eating lunch outside (can I get a HECK YEAH for not having to sweep?) and exploring and painting rocks with cornstarch + water + food coloring paint.

Tomorrow will be cooler and rainy, but the last few days have been praiseworthy.

I'm kinda pulling a Tiger Mom approach to this whole handwriting situation. I typically spend about 20 minutes each day working with Benjamin solo on handwriting just after Claire goes down for her nap. He's required to write his name alone a couple times anywhere he chooses and we usually do another fine motor workbook page or something. He usually picks and in order to keep him cooperating, I let my Type-A slide when he wants to do 5% of each page and move on to other pages. But he's practicing writing and I have to let that go. He was eager to use sidewalk chalk yesterday and so I had him write his name. He is a whiz at the short name but the whole name is trickier. He can spell it, but the A and M have him a little perplexed. With a little help, he managed both his name and Claire's name.


And how about a little talk of the littlest? She's fighting naptime. She dropped her morning nap at 9 months and never looked back. Now the afternoon nap? And really, she's totally unphased if she misses it and rallies to bedtime like a champ. It terrifies me! She's 27 months and I highly doubt she will be napping at 3. And yet, I know friends whose 4.5 or 5yo kids are napping. How come I am getting slighted here? She sat chatting in her crib the entire naptime today and I threw up the white flag.

Meanwhile, Benjamin is back on his obsessive kick with Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory that he watches during naps and tells me regularly that he wants to go to the chocolate park with Aunt Mansa. You know, Hershey Park in Pennsylvania. Just a hop, skip and jump. He thinks it's equivalent to like a neighborhood park or something and it's just not getting through. I told him today it would be a lot of money for airfare and then admission, to which he told me he had a Disney card to pay for it all (of which he discovered in our mail pile as a fake paper credit card he quickly confiscated which was sent by the kind people at Disney to incentivize me to apply for a real one).


I bought a running watch. I think I mentioned that before, but Amazon took their sweet time sending it to me since I don't have Prime. Am I the only one in America? Maybe. For awhile, I never justified it because I was always spending $35+ anyway with the free shipping. And now they raised it to $50 which has me a little annoyed. It shipped from the warehouse 1 hour and 15 minutes away in Kenosha, Wisconsin and yet it took 7 whole days to arrive at my doorstep. I'm certain they delay shipping for non-prime simply to get more people on the subscription model. And oddly, it arrived on a Sunday. So naturally, while the husband was heating the kids up some chicken nuggets for dinner, I took the new watch out for a quick loop in our neighborhood to test it out. And then the husband took it for another few miles that evening for more fun. I'm totally geeking out over the numbers. It's fun, fun, fun. Kinda like how I can barely remember how we survived without smart phones, I doubt I'll ever be able to run outside again without a running watch.


Our local grocery store is having this Monopoly promotion. When you buy certain products, you earn tickets, given to you at checkout. You open the tickets and put the stupid little pieces on a game board and cross your fingers hoping you win something. Four years back, we won $2. We play because we wouldn't be able to bear having the winning piece for something greater and not knowing, but it's annoying. They also have INSTANT WINNER tickets for random grocery products you can redeem and often, I get INSTANT WINNER tickets for... wait for it ... more tickets. I received my very first (maybe ever?) instant win today.

We don't have a dog. You know what would've been cooler to win? Anything else. #irony

Monday, April 11, 2016

Day in Pictures: Monday, April 11

6:00 Claire is up awfully early today, which is even worse when I couldn't get to sleep last night. Go in and tuck her again, hoping she's back to sleep soon.

6:45 She's up for good. Snuggle in bed, get gym clothes on and get Claire dressed for the day.

7:15 Benjamin's curtain is open, as I can see light under the door. Walk in, snuggles with him. Dress him while distracted with tickles because otherwise he would wear his Mickey superhero shirt or his creepy shirt and I would really like him to have a little variety so it looks like I actually buy him clothes.

7:25 Downstairs and Claire's crying over something. Get cinnamon toast started while B makes a "creation" out of the Hi-Ho-Cherry-O (butter + Vietnamese cinnamon I bought at a spice shop in Lincoln Park). Make smoothie (spinach, ice, apple, almond milk, banana). I hated the combo. Drank a cup despite hating it because I hate wasting food. Kids manage to eat at some point.

8:00 Teeth brushed, shoes on, jackets, on. Buckled in the car and off to the dropoff line at the Early Childhood Center B attends.
(I know about the jacket. It's SO rare, I promise. Not that it's an acceptable excuse, but we live .6 miles from school.)
8:15 Drive over to the YMCA and drop Claire in the kidcare. Run a quick treadmill 4 miles up tempo, practicing speedwork with inclines. Just bought a running watch to start running outside more since we're canceling our gym membership next month to save cash and because warmer weather means outdoor pool and outdoor running! Awkwardly avoid eye contact with one of Benjamin's former preschool classmate's mom as I walk by to grab the cleaner to wipe off my treadmill. She's nice, but she was running hard and I was in a hurry. And also, they go to different preschools now, so it's basically like the bloods and crips.

 9:15 Shower, blowdry my hair, apply makeup and make myself presentable. Listen to the senior women talk about how the maintenance workers aren't mopping properly and "sloshing" the lockers with the cleaner. They told the front desk people about the negligence, don't worry. I was worried.
Try to calm down about how much you love my gym "shower" shoes.
10:30 I was the Mystery Reader for B's class this morning. I brought 4 options and ended up reading In My Heart and Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus. B thinks that book is hilarious. Sister was stoked to come sit with brother in his class. The feeling was mutual.

Signing in (with official sticker with my face and labeled, "mystery reader" even.) You can tell she is thrilled.

She knows the way. It's the very last classroom in the school and she hasn't forgotten. #stoked
11:00 Finally leave B's school with two kids who wanted to sit and play in the lobby forever. Head to a store to buy something they were out of and let the kids walk through the toy aisle for a few minutes. Ended up buying a roll of washi tape and also lost my children for a solid three minutes. I guess at least they were together. Found them near the fresh flowers where there was a woman keeping them captive. (They would be in a cart but they fight over who gets to sit in the top part, so we had to walk.)

12:00 Home for lunch. They had PB/cream cheese sandwiches and for dessert, Lucky Charms marshmallow treat we made yesterday (because leftover cereal from St. Patty's and surplus of marshmallows).

The moment you realize your husband stole the last of the takeout pizza from last night.
"Mom, it's warm outside. Let's go lay out there and eat our lunch."

2:50 Brush Claire's teeth and upstairs to sing "How I Wonder What You Are" and kisses before nap. Kids kiss through railing. 

1:00 Claire is yelling about being cold because she intentionally removes her blankets so I have to come in there and cover her back up. Sly. Cover her back up and head downstairs where B is yelling my name because there's a big mess Claire created that he doesn't want to clean up. He writes his name twice on the whiteboard easel for me entirely unassisted (requirement) and then selects The Cat in the Hat old school DVD from the library to watch. We love us some Dr. Seuss.

1:15 I do the dishes, remove stinking gym clothes from bag and realize I left my makeup bag at the YMCA. Call YMCA and have them hold at the front desk for me. Also, jot down a quick meal plan for the week on a piece of mail form the Art Institute. Because not a gym day, tomorrow's look for storytime: hobo.

2:45 Hear Claire kicking the crib rails, signaling all free time is up and nap is officially over. She woke cranky. Super. I set up some puzzles for them to run and grab mixed pieces and place. It worked well until Benjamin started shoving. And then tears. Eventually the puzzles were completed.
3:30 Outside to pull some weeds, tend to a smidge of yard work and chalk art with the kiddos. Still in jackets and not quite park all afternoon sort of weather at upper 40s.

She reaches the pedals fully now. When did that happen? 
 5:00 Back inside and reading Highlights High Five Magazines and then time to think about dinner because Claire has already grabbed a string cheese and opened it at this point. Kids have PB & cream cheese sandwiches (same as lunch, their choice) and string cheese. B finishes quick (rare) and chooses an ice cream bar for dessert (I bought for myself and hate. Anyone else love pawning off crappy treats on their kids instead?). Claire never finishes but manages to eat some of my dinner later.

5:30 Call my mom while prepping dinner and kids are eating. Used mandoline to make french fries and whipped up a quick chili on the stove. Chili fries for dinner.
7:00 Upstairs for bath. B flips out because he has a real fear now that all his bath toys will get sucked down the drain. His face is almost in tears every night as we try to explain that the plug prevents them from going down, and that they are all too big anyway. Still emotional.

7:30 Pajamas on and requesting rocketships from Dad and then a book in B's bed.

7:45 Prayers and kisses and bedtime for Benjamin as Claire hops in my bed. I close/lock his door first and then take Claire in her bed, as they both insist Mom does the final goodnight. Bedtime for the littlest immediately follows and finally... rest.