Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Little broken heart

She was so excited. A play date with one of her best friends from school. Anna hadn’t seen this friend since the last day of school and missed her terribly.

Schedules had filled up quickly this summer. We all had trips. The kids entertained themselves so well that I really let the whole play date thing slide.

We were scheduled to swing by and pick up her friend, followed by lunch and playtime at our house. The fun would begin right after swimming lessons.

Until I got the tragic text during swim lessons. Her little friend had just thrown up. Play date cancelled.

When I broke the news to her, Anna’s face crumpled. Tears followed.

It had all been planned out. How could everything be so good one minute and then so broken the next. Her face told the whole story and I knew just how she felt. It hurts when we see a glimmer of fun and friendship ahead of us and then it’s cancelled abruptly.

As much as children are entertained and occupied by toys and electronics and books, there is no true substitute for the promise of friendship and laughter.

So I scrambled. I texted the mother of another little girl in our neighborhood. Can she play?? No dice. I asked Anna if she wanted to just hang out at the pool instead this afternoon. No, not really.

How about fast food chicken nuggets and the giant plastic play place?

Well… okay. So we switched gears and drove to a restaurant the kids like. I ordered two kids meals and juice boxes, enough to sufficiently grease up their intestinal tracks and let them run around and climb for considerably longer than I typically do.

Distraction. Salty food. The heartache seemed to ease up. She was laughing and enjoying this loud crazy place, filled with strangers and plastic tubes. Her heart started to mend. 

It would be okay, we would salvage the afternoon.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Monday, July 21, 2014

Summer friends gathered

This weekend was a microcosm of how I’d like my life to actually be. We were lucky to be able to spend time with two of my closest friends and their families, the weather was gorgeous, there was plenty of activity, but also just enough plain old home time to round things out.

This make-believe world is something I think about every so often. In my perfect scenario, all my close friends live on the same block. Our kids are all roughly the same age. We have different household assets… a pool, a trampoline, a forest, a lake. We have different household professions… a doctor, a teacher, a counselor, a builder/construction professional, and someone who can cut hair.

We would make the most awesome village.

However, my village turned out very different. Friends and family scattered. And not a single one of us can cut hair. So while the make-believe awesome sauce village continues to percolate in my mind, I am quite happy to enjoy the small glimpses I get of it.

Take this weekend. My dear friend from Missouri, who I have known since preschool, brought her cuties pies to visit us. They stayed with another close friend in our town. We joined up for swimming and grilling on Friday afternoon. The kids ran and played and screamed and splashed and cried and laughed. It makes me so happy to see them picking up the roles that we had as children ourselves.  It’s not perfect, of course, there’s oddball behavior, an unusual emphasis on reading with the oldest children – even in the midst of other activities – and some tears and misunderstandings. It’s life.

But when these particular folks gather together, we have the added benefit of being all in with one another. There’s not much that they can say that I won’t understand and/or accept on some level. I think they feel the same way.

Growing old together, even as friends, has its perks. We just kinda get one another now. We aren’t carbon copies. Our lives in some ways are very different. But we just get it. We pick up like normal even when we haven’t seen one another for months.

We spent our weekend both playing and messing around at home and taking a city outing. Our families trekked into the Chicago for an El ride around town, a picnic in our old neighborhood, and grabbed some Italian ice from a vendor in a little storefront building in Logan Square. I hadn’t been to our old neighborhood for a year or so. Watching it change and grow is fascinating. I do miss it. The energy, the excitement, the anonymity. It was such fun.

After our adventure, everyone headed over to our place for backyard fun and grilling. Watching the kids take turns piling into our red wagon, and pulling one another around, brought laughter (and tears) as they attempted to defy the laws of gravity and movement.

You can see the ideas swarming in their little brains… if we all pile in this way and then she pulls us that way… yes, it’s going to work!!

Until it didn’t, and then the tears and band-aids followed.

And all too soon it was time to shove the paper plates into the garbage bags and fold up the tables and chairs. Hugs, goodbyes, and slight heartaches, knowing it will be awhile before we are all together again.

The kids went to bed feeling bone-tired. Or maybe that was Mike and me. The summer air and grilled food and laughter has a magical way of simultaneously draining us and filling us up. 

We are lucky for these days and moments. I am no good at capturing photos, but I want to capture this feeling anyway. Even if it’s just a few words.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Can we write our way out of a funk?

I'm in a funk. Maybe it's summer. Lack of schedule, lack of ambition.

Maybe it's the fact that I'm realizing I haven't completed any of my summer goals. The kinda goals where I help one kid with her math and writing and help another kid with numbers and letters.

Maybe it's that I'm on the downward spiral of coming home from one big trip and realizing that nothing else is planned for awhile.

Maybe... maybe a lot of things.

I know that writing on this blog and reading are great ways for me to get myself through a funk, but then I have trouble committing to it. And I'm wondering if anyone else out there wants to join me in writing everyday (minus tragic accidents and Saturdays). It doesn't have to be anything fancy... or compelling or insightful. Just something. A few words. Or a picture.

Just something.

And this invitation is extended to all of you who comment and read and know me in real life... and those of you who read quietly and without any personal connection to me or my family. I think there are a few of you :-) Don't be shy.

Write in the comments if you're going to join me. Maybe we start next week? Maybe August 1? Maybe I already started today?

Let's do something!

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

When a five-year-old offers to chop your veggies

You really can't be too picky about things like size or shape...

Or safety. Kidding. It's a butter knife.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Abe turns FIVE

It seems impossible, but Abe has turned five. FIVE. Is this real? Could he really be starting kindergarten? Taking t-ball and soccer? Could we really be parents of children who are seven and five? Indeed, we are.

We surprised Abe last week with a castle tent and presents. As soon as he woke up, he stumbled into the living room and gasped! A tent!! Anna and I found a really cute one at IKEA and we couldn't resist. The idea was for this to be outside, but we have had nothing but rain for the last couple of weeks and so it will have to be an inside play item until the ground dries out a bit.

He was begging for a policeman outfit and REAL handcuffs...
I presume so he can arrest his sister.

The day was extremely busy. We had VBS in the morning and then I pulled him out early so he could attend his friend Jack's birthday party. Jack and Abe are only one day apart and his party fell on Abe's actual birthday.  

So Abe attended a birthday party, just not his!  Then we came home and went to the swimming pool, and got cleaned up for his birthday dinner at the... TRAIN RESTAURANT.

If you know Abe, you probably already guessed that one.

It may sound strange, but I did not make him a cake because we knew that he desperately wanted to have the train bring him his own cupcake and hear the birthday song being sung JUST for him. It didn't make sense for me to bake a cake after having just eaten a cake. Plus, we were leaving town the next day for my high school reunion. The kids were staying with my in-laws and Grandma and PaPa had planned to make a cake and sing and give out presents. So this was one of the easiest birthdays I've ever pulled together!

Is it coming? Is it coming?

Yes, it's coming!!

It's here! My cupcake is here!!

We headed home for bedtime and one more round of happy birthday. He loves it when people sing that to him. Abe actually came up into our bed and asked us if we wanted to sing it to him again. Of course, we do!!

Sure enough, Grandma baked an awesome gluten-free cake for Abe. And it was topped with transformers! Autobots UNITE!

We opened presents and played with new toys and then headed to bed after a very long day that included VBS AND a five-hour drive. The next morning, Mike and I took off for Columbia to attend my 20-year high school reunion. Abe and Anna got to hang with family in St. Louis and attend a graduation party for our niece Madison.

Abe's friend birthday party was this week. It may have been a slight delay, but we've been so busy it snuck up on us fast. We had a bunch of preschool and neighborhood buddies join us at a bouncy house place. I've decided this might be my favorite venue. The kids exhaust themselves running and jumping. I don't have to do anything except pick up a cake. The party place orders pizza (even a gluten free one) and provides all paper goods and drinks. And I do not have to clean up my house when it's all over!

We used our favorite friend to make an awesome shark cake! It was actually a gluten free carrot cake with cream cheese icing. I swear it was the best cake I've ever eaten in my life. And I can prove it because we ate the leftover hunk of cake with a fork the next day, straight out of the box. And when I say "we" ate it, I mean mostly me and Abe. We are gluttons. 

I'm not a huge proponent of birthday bags so I try to give out things that are edible. There is enough plastic junk in my house and I suspect in other folk's houses also. We typically give out cookies and that's what we did again this year.... SHARK cookies!

The kids were exhausted by the time we got them to the party room for pizza and cake. Sweaty, tired, and ready for bed. That's how we roll. Abe got to sit in the birthday throne thing and blow out candles and enjoy his last few moments of glory. It was fun. And simple for me to execute. 

This kid is such a crazy wonderful bundle of energy and life. He is still figuring out so much, his emotions, his interests, his whole being is in flux, ya know? It's fascinating and frustrating and beautiful to watch him learn how to approach life. He cares very deeply for certain things, such as his friendships and his family, and when he has a passion for things it really shows. 

We love him to bits. It's hard to put my mind around how fast he is growing up and changing. He's not a baby anymore. He's a rough and tumble kid. A FIVE-YEAR-OLD. And we're excited for what the next year will bring.