Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Chicken Soup with Rice (and Other Great Kid Literature)

It's nearly midnight and we literally leave Illinois in our packed car for our new home in Reno in like 30 hours. And somehow there are two more sleeps in there and a movie trip with the kids and dinner with friends and many hours spent at the pool for the last time.

But all I can think about is this book. As I pack away boxes, I recite the words in my head and can't let them go. ...Sipping once, sipping twice, sipping chicken soup with rice... I first heard it in a Kindergarten classroom here in Illinois and thought it was totally weird. I didn't know what to think of it. But then, I slowly developed a love affair with it.

It made me wonder what other people's stories are related to this book. What an obscure book (like many of Maurice Sendak's books). He's mostly known for Where the Wild Things Are, but I think some of his other works are largely underrepresented.

The kids love this one though. Benjamin asked me to take a picture as I dropped it in the library return box today so we would remember to find it at our new library (but I'll probably just buy a copy). A little bit egocentric because he deems February to be his page and Claire is fairly fond of January, but also adorable because their family members also share their pages and own their own months. Aunt Mansa is not forgotten on the January ownership. "Oh, Mommy, this is your month!"

If you have a chance, rent that one and Pierre from your local library. And then come back and tell me what you think. Pierre is troubling and possibly disturbing to some kids (spoiler alert: lion eats disobedient child!), and also awesome if you have a little mischief in your midst (ehm, Benjamin). I'm still out with the jury whether I think it brings to light poor behavior or if a lion eating a child is enough to scare the wits out of the kid to never act out again, but it's decent coffee table convo to say the least. Maybe a juvenile high school Sophomore essay prompt? As it turns out, they have a mini anthology of these Maurice Sendak short stories all in one book. I think that's my hot ticket and now in my Amazon cart.

And if you want your kids to start using please a little more often in speech, I totally recommend Please, Mr. Panda. It's a simple and sort of obvious book that has caught on like wildfire with my kids. Needless to say, we've found an alternate way (referencing literature) to get them to "say the magic word" that has me singing its praises.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Sell, Baby, Sell

For years now, I've honestly felt like I was swimming in space. It was sometimes nice and totally the American dream to own all the crap and have the big fat house to store it all in. But it was always way more than we needed. And when Andrew died, it was way more than I ever wanted. I felt like the space was mocking me.

I truly don't know what people do with larger houses. The basement has remained mostly empty for our 6+ years in this 2,640 square feet + 1,320 square feet house. Basements are a funny thing. People literally buy houses with basements here with the sole priority being to store crap they never use in it. It's incredibly perplexing to someone like me who grew up in small houses in Los Angeles (because that's what people do there). Our 1,320 square foot basement is literally bigger than most houses I grew up in. And yes, houses. Because renting in Los Angeles is totally normal. Almost none of my friends have Christmas at their childhood home they lived in from birth. It's a transient lifestyle, all made well by the incredible weather and killer outdoor scene.

Quaint, they say. Cute, they say. Reality is more like it. In Los Angeles, two to three bedrooms is standard and alllllll the peoples share a single bathroom. With a single sink. GASP. I know. I know. Share. a. sink. I seriously remember invading my brother's space while he was showering so I could pee. Because that one bathroom? Also housed the only toilet in the whole house.

This house we own currently? There are FOUR. There is nothing quaint about this living space. It's large.

When we left the kiddos with my mom for 2 days to hop on a plane (and then another because, connections and expensive flights!), we expected to find ourselves a decent-sized house that will hold all of our crap in Reno. I was thinking 2,000 square feet. And we found it over and over again, but I wasn't feeling the vibe in any of those entirely.

Well, the house that we found to be the best fit for us that felt like home was an 1,800 square foot ranch house. Crazy. It's only a rental and if we don't like it, fine. We can just move. But that's unrealistic unless we're moving states again, because moving is expensive and timely and we would have to pay for it ourselves. (GASP again.) So we kind of wanted to like the place for a hot second.

Which meant for me, a fenced-in backyard that is nice. Reno is 300 sunshine days a year, and so I want to spend those lovely days outside. We have a massive deck at our Chicago house and we spend most of our time outside when the weather is nice.

I'm kind of excited to live in a ranch house again. No pile of crap at the bottom of the stairs to transport back on your next trip to the upper level. No schlepping the (better) vacuum up and down stairs. And NO cleaning stairs! Can I get an amen to that?

With the downsize in space means a downsize in crap. Because us Wilsons, we actually do like parking in the 2-car garage (though a 3-car would've solved all of our space issues...). The closets in this joint will be packed to the gills, but at least we love the layout, school district (though one year left to use it), neighborhood, proximity to skiing (14.8 miles!!!) and overall feel. And the backyard is KILLER. It's hard to beat our current backyard, so we're pretty excited to have one that just might.

The left is the sliding glass door (from the living room/kitchen area) and this covered lanai thing is a great shade without blocking all of the sunshine. And that cute patch of grass over there (high end astroturf, brilliant, selling our mower!) is perfect for a playhouse. Which I am totally buying. I refused to buy one for our current house because we have trails that run through our neighborhood and almost no one has a fence. I didn't like the "trail appeal" it had and we really had nowhere to put it since our deck spans the majority of our backyard useable space. Anyone have a playhouse for their kiddos?

I was thinking this one from Amazon. They have red and tan. I want something affordable but also cute and I love the little flag holder. My kids are kind of obsessed with flags. And ever-so-fitting, we are moving in July 4! Kinda feels like that's the winner.

We will transport our current patio chaise loungers and leave the awesome picnic table that works so well for our current deck behind. It's going to be hard though, because I love that table.

So that's the backyard. The rest is super nice, adorable and totally our style. And the shower? It has a pebble rock floor. I'm kinda stoked about it. And did I mention only 2 toilets to clean instead of my current four?

I've been selling like a mad woman on all the apps and used garage sale sites you can imagine. So. much. stuff. And we have way less than most people. But still, it's stuff. If we buy again in a few years (or 10), we will buy all those home project items again, but at least we won't have to schlep them from house to house in the interim. Every sale I do makes me feel lighter and lighter.

Totally ready to have the rest of those boxes stacked to the ceiling and minimal storage in favor of a killer outdoor living space and weekend trips to the mountains instead of house work. Moving out this week. Reno or bust.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Westward Movement

Currently, I'm sitting on a flight to Reno, our new home state. We both have middle seats, but I can't complain, because this is my first flight without a kid on my lap in 4.5 years and it. is. magical.

Life is so thrilling right now and I'm feeling so crazy grateful that we are all healthy and able to see and live in parts of the country we haven't been before. 

As most of my readers know, Chicago was never my first choice in places to live, but when we made the decision to move there, we were elated. We had been married just a year before taking off on our month-long road trip that took us to countless national parks, many states, up through Canada and ultimately to our new state where we would create a beautiful life together, buy our first home, populate it with adorably pasty white babies and live happily ever after. Nothing could stop us. Not even those terrible winters.

And some of that happened. We made fantastic friends. We did. We bought the beautiful house and populated it with babies and also went through the worst heartbreak of our lives in that home. The ups and downs of home ownership were weathered together and the husband successfully became president of his company before choosing to leave for another opportunity at the start of 2016. 

There has been some soul searching and lots of family togetherness and building some new dreams and even newer dreams now that are leading us west. 

Before ultimately accepting the position in Reno as the west coast director of distribution for a Fortune 500 company (LinkedIn stalking might be necessary for some of you, though title won't be officially changed until start date of July 5). There were decisions to be made for our family which led to the final decision which wasn't the sexiest company (compared to others he interviewed with and turned down) but a solidly great one. Many interviews with the coolest and most well known companies on the planet (of which YOU use everyday) occurred and offers were extended (in Silicon Valley, which happens to be the most expensive place to live in the entire west). You guys, I married a really, really smart guy. Decisions were both hard and easy, but we knew that no matter where we were headed, we were up for new scenery and a new adventure. And so, Reno is our new stomping ground. For now.

And selling our house for easy (rental) living in favor of weekends in Lake Tahoe instead is basically fireworks status exciting. The home sale process and all that jazz is coming at you soon. I am ever-so-elated to take back family time and forego home projects for the easy life. 

Reno is almost definitely not going to be our final stop of adventure living. Oddly, leaving his position late last year in Chicago made us both feel like we have a new lease on life and we are pretty excited to see which way the wind blows and takes us (which is also the metaphor I shall assume when keeping the blog domain the same... but changing the header to one that includes our new backyard view.) Spoiler: mountains. YOU GUYS. Mountains!!!!

Until then, we left the kids in our mostly barren and meticulously clean going-on-the-market-very-soon home with their Gawbee to seek out a landing place for when we head west at the end of this month with the two munchkins (and Andrew in the cup holder. Too dark? Honest.) on our westward movement road trip. Wish us luck. The requests have been solidly made for a pink and orange bedroom for each of them. #stylishkids #whatcanisay

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Duckling Dash

Benjamin's preschool (mascot: ducklings) hosted an end-of-the-year race for the kids. Instead of a party or picnic, they had been practicing running with the kids and finally finished things off with this dash, which consisted of about 1/10 of a parking lot mile.

There was a sign hanging in the school office entryway that had a countdown to the duckling dash. In teacher speak, this was a countdown to summer break for teachers. Mmm hmm.

But really, it was a cute event. I did my own few mile stroller dash with Claire to the school and even had to cut my run a bit early to make it in time. Except I arrived on time and then had to wait another 30 minutes for his heat. Apparently they were in the business of lying to parents to make sure we didn't miss the 3-minute event. Solid move.

They ran as a class wearing special school t-shirts donated by a local hospital and then received medals, took a picture with their class, received 1/2 banana and a personalized school water bottle (of which Claire was totally jelly since her Buh Buh got a "special drink" and she did not. He also declined the banana and she would've never done that.)

Benjamin was pumped and ready and then... he fell. He and the boy next to him crossed paths a little too close and he took the fall. But instead of being sour about it like I was afraid would happen, he got right back up and his teacher grabbed his hand. He ran the rest of the way. I was totally proud of him, even though he ended up being a total crabpot the rest of the day after. One of the moms I chat with at the playground after school each day had her husband snap some shots of Benjamin racing away. I didn't ask her to, so it was a pleasant surprise.
I love how excited and determined he looks. He was not a fan of soccer and he has no interest in riding his bike, but he's a killer swimmer for his age and he likes to run. They're all different, I'm just glad he's finding his (healthy) niche. Now to just help him grow another inch so the sticklers at the pool will let him go down the slide since he's about 39.75" and needs to be 40". He's been down about 10 times now, but the cranky lifeguards are pushing back this year and he's all kinds of devastated over it.

That air shot above though? Totally my fave. Game face. Determined. Go-getter.

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.