August 19, 2014

The soundtrack of our summer: kids' music that doesn't suck

We're in our final week of summer. A is spending her mornings at a camp she's been looking forward to all summer, and all of us are getting into the swing of being out the door early in the morning again. I had grand plans to make last week activity-filled and send summer out with a grand bang wasn't what the kids wanted, so I let them take the lead. We spent lazy days in pajamas, filled afternoons with important sticker-and-crayon projects, and soaked in our last few unstructured days before A marches off to kindergarten on Monday morning.

As as been the case every summer that I've been at home with the kids, we didn't come close to crossing off the summer to do list I wrote out at the beginning of the summer. But there was one thing we did do a lot of (aside from pajama-lounging and art-project-partying): rock out at some fantastic kids' concerts. We collected a handful of new CDs at those shows, and we've been enjoying them all summer long. If you're looking for some new tunes you and your kids can enjoy together as you get back into the carpool swing of the school year, these are ones you won't want to miss.

No, that isn't a typo - WE have been enjoying these CDs, not just the kids. Like many parents, I can sing along to the full Frozen soundtrack, but it's definitely not the one I hope the kids pick when they call out their music requests from the backseat. These three bands? These are the ones I suggest when it's time to pop a different CD in as we hit the road.

The Pop Ups - Appetite for Construction

We saw The Pop Ups last summer, and they were our lone repeat concert this summer. Their new album, Appetite for Construction, is one of my very favorite kids' CDs in our car. Their songs manage to be kid-friendly without sounding like kid music.

A's favorite: Bug Out
My favorite: Glitter Everywhere

Tim and the Space Cadets! - Anthems for Adventure

If your kids watch Sprout, then you know Tim from the Good Morning Show. This was one of the most fun shows we went to this summer, and Anthems for Adventure is in heavy rotation in our car right now.

A's favorite: a tie between Blackout and Double Knot
My favorite: Blackout

Mister G - Bugs

Mister G puts on a high-energy bilingual show, and I love that his newest CD The Bossy E has a reading theme. We bought one of his older CDs over the summer, because A and D wanted to bring home songs we'd heard at the show.

A's favorite: a tie between Bugs and Cocodrilo
My favorite: Vamos a la Playa

Note: this isn't a sponsored post - just sharing some music we've enjoyed this summer and bought at the shows we attended!

August 15, 2014

Catch the Moment 365: Week 33

I had grand plans for this week, our last unscheduled week of summer. We were going to check off a laundry list of fun summer activities before A heads to camp next week and kindergarten the week after. Instead...we had a quiet week at home, with some summer fun tucked in here and there. There won't be much chance to laze around in pajamas once school starts, and if home is where my girl wanted to spend most of this week then that's where we needed to be.

 219/365: Playing on the same playground his daddy visited as a little boy.

220/365: Counting geese.

221/365: On her very first ride at the fair...I think she liked it, no?

222/365: Happy girl in the fountain.

223/365: Rainy days call for very important sticker and notebook work.

224/365: A had a lunch date with her daddy on Wednesday, so I took this boy out on his own.

225/365: This sums up how well one ukelele for two kids is working out for us. 

As always, thank you to our hosts: Simply Stavish, Nurse Loves Farmer, and 

August 10, 2014

Sisterly support at the county fair

Today we went to our county fair. Is it still summer if you don't go to the fair? Not in our house. Every summer, we pack up and head to the fairgrounds for an afternoon, and every summer I make the kids take a picture in front of the same cow cutout.
2014: Not everyone was in the mood to say "moo!"

2013: Happy A, brand new walker D

2012: Babies, both of them - and daddy is just out of frame, ready to leap into action
 in case A decided to let go of her brother.

Change is in the air in our house. School is starting soon and that's part of it, but it's also A developing some big kid skills that feel like they came out of nowhere and D adopting an adventurous spirit we've never seen in him before. He's always been the more cautious of our two, but in the last few days he's taken on challenges I wondered if he might ever take an interest in.

High on the list of our boy's loves in this world are tractors, and when he spied one meant to be climbed on with a giant slide inside he wanted in. He climbed onto the bottom step. But as bigger, faster kids rushed past him, he froze. Just as I was ready to step in and pick him up, A ran around the side of the tractor. She stepped on the ladder behind her brother and stretched her arms out on the handrails. And she stopped.

With his sister by his side and the path clear, D climbed the steps. A followed behind him slowly, and the steps behind the two of them filled up. "You have to wait for my brother," A announced to the other kids.

Big sister also rescued him when he got inside and was afraid to go down the slide...we could hear her trying to coax him down, saying, "you have to, Peanut, it's the only way out!" And out he finally came, followed by his sister.

A and D are a sweet sister and brother team. Sure, they screech at each other and swipe one another's favorite toys every now and then, but on the whole they're good friends and a funny little pair.

I worry about what D will do without his big sister around when she heads to kindergarten in two weeks. His whole life has revolved around A's schedule...soon we'll be on his schedule on weekdays. What will that be like? Will he be bolder as a daytime only, or will he hold back without his sister by his side?

How will A fare as an independent girl out on her own for the school day? I still can't completely believe that I won't be dropping her off in the classroom. I've always dropped her off, from her baby days in daycare through preschool. But that's not how elementary school works, so we'll adapt. I've even stopped joking about sending her to school with a phone and teaching her how to text me to let me know she's arrived at school.

This week is our last unplanned week of the summer. A heads to a long-awaited week of morning theater camp the week before school starts, so this will be sister and brother's last full week together until...Christmas. My plan has been to cram it full of all the summer fun we can manage: water park! zoo! berry picking! museums! But now I'm wondering if it wouldn't be better to relax and take a deep breath and let them lead the way before they go their separate ways in a few weeks.

Here's to a fantastic last unscheduled week of summer, whatever these two decide that should look like.

August 7, 2014

Catch the Moment 365: Week 32

Last week, I decided to recommit to Catch the Moment after a few lazy weeks. This week? Every single picture comes from my "real" camera, though I took plenty of iPod pictures keeping D occupied during his sister's swim lessons. Next week is our last week of unscheduled swim lessons, no camp, just a blank calendar. Hoping to fill it up with some photo-worthy adventures!

212/365: I love his post-nap rumpled hair...and that I caught a picture of him in his beloved sleeping pants. Once upon a time these were actual pants he wore as a baby...they're size 12-18 months and this skinny boy still has room in the waist, though they're now capri length on him. These are definitely going in the pile of things I can't part with when he finally outgrows them.

213/365: What big is doing, little wants to do too. After dinner workbooks for everyone.

214/365: My poor baby...D tripped over my foot at the playground and cut his lip. Hours later we realized he'd also chipped a tooth! Doctor A gave him a thorough check up and was only mildly offended when we took him to the dentist following her exam.

215/365: These little signs are his favorite toy these days...on this day, he told us he made a game. "Is called ping pong!" he proudly announced. Slightly different than the usual ping pong.

216/365: I call this one "what most of my attempts to get a smiling picture of both kids turns out to be." Haircuts for everyone, poses from no one.

217/365: This girl never wants to run errands with me, and I may have bribed her to get 
her to get in the car. Once we were out she decided it was fun after all.

218/365: A study in contrasts today - a little girl in the pool with goggles askew; 
a big girl on deck with her swimming class certificate at the end of the session.

As always, thank you to our hosts: Simply Stavish, Nurse Loves Farmer, and 

August 6, 2014

The sisterhood of the sticky socks

I have never been an athlete. My lone athletic accomplishment in life? Lettering in tennis my freshman and sophomore years of high school. I'm not sure why I felt compelled to join a team in high school, but I did, and there were two sports that didn't require try outs at my high school: tennis and cheerleading. I wasn't happy enough to be a cheerleader, I decided, so tennis it was. And it was miserable.

The handful of friendly girls on the team were seniors when I was a freshman, and when they graduated practices were decidedly lonely. My teammates threw parties and didn't invite me, then talked about them loudly at practice. I gritted my teeth and kept coming back anyways, half out of spite and half out of fascination that for once I, the girl who managed to go three weeks without having to bat during P.E. softball season, was trying to participate in rather than avoid a sport (and actually enjoyed playing).

We moved midway through my junior year to a school that required tryouts for the tennis team, and I happily passed in favor of joining the newspaper staff and whiling away my hours writing and laying out extremely important high school news in PageMaker. I found my people, and I was happy to stay indoors with them while my racquet gathered dust.

Fast forward oh...close to 20 years, and I'm five months into my love affair with Pure Barre. When I took my first class, I walked into the studio alone. I stared down at my new sticky socks and did my best not to make eye contact with anyone in the mirror. I was pleasantly surprised to find I liked the workout, and I liked it so much I signed up for a 30 day package. Somewhere around my third or fourth class, something happened (and not just the time when I thought my appendix had burst and it turned out to be abdominal muscles crying out in pain from years of neglect).

Someone talked to me before class. I was surprised, because I'd been feeling like an awkward misfit in class after class of graceful, fit women. And I was grateful, because it was so nice to feel welcome. As I kept going back for more classes, I started to notice more familiar faces. More of us chatted before classes and on the way out the door. Five months after my first class, I'm surprised and happy to have found not only a great workout but also new friends.

We chat online between classes, complaining about particularly tricky moves and celebrating our successes. Only my Pure Barre friends know what it means to hear the instructor call out your name in class, a combination of I am awesome and NAILING THIS and oh my god you are KILLING ME and I need to put my leg down for a minute and now I can't because you just said I have great form! I look forward to seeing them most weekday evenings, and I miss them when one of us takes a night off from class.

A week ago, half a dozen of us went out for a post-workout drink with one of our instructors. We talked for hours, about the dreaded pretzel under the barre move, about our families, about nothing in particular. Of all the benefits of Pure Barre, finding friends has been one of the most unexpected and best things I've gained in the last few months. 

August 2, 2014

Ready or not

Once upon a time I started this blog as my world changed: I left my office behind to stay home with a six month old D and a three year old A. I did much of my writing in the wee hours of the morning, cradling a sleeping baby boy in my arms as I typed one-handed in the dark. That baby boy grew, and finally spent more time sleeping in his bed than in our arms. A started preschool, and I wrote as she learned letters while her brother napped.

This summer my little blog turned two years old, and I'm finding it hard to write even as my world braces for another seismic shift. In 23 days, A starts kindergarten, something she's been dreaming and talking about since she first heard one of her beloved big girls at daycare say she was headed to kindergarten. Next month, D starts preschool two days a week, and I'll only be with him about once a month rather than every day like last year. I will be, for the first time in two years, home and alone (at least for a few hours). Maybe it's time to rename the blog?

I have been surprised and a little disappointed in my own reaction to the approach of the big K, which can be summed up in two words: not yet. I know she's ready and I know she's excited and yet...I don't want her to go. True, she had a bit of a rocky year in preschool last year that's left me worrying that my bold and outspoken girl may once again turn quiet in the face of unkind behavior from classmates, but that's not it. It's not even realizing that when I think about her climbing onto the big yellow school bus that's been her dream for so long, I'm picturing a two year old version of A heading off on her own.

It's that I can't picture this house without her all day. And I'm having a hard time picturing me without her.

And if my big girl is going to be gone all day five days a week, and my little boy is going to be gone a few hours twice a week...what about me? It's a childish and petty little voice that asks this question, and I've tried hard to silence it. I've bought all the school supplies on A's list (along with some extras for at home art supplies). I ordered fall jackets during the heat of July because it was one more thing I could do to be ready for school. I washed all the coats and gloves in our hall closet because...well, now everything will be clean and ready to go when the weather turns cool. I've hit Pure Barre for a workout nearly every weeknight.

What I haven't done? Is write. It's a hard thing to say I have petty, small feelings about being left behind when my baby goes to kindergarten. But now that I've said it, I feel a bit better.

We have three weeks of summer left, and I'm determined to make these last few weeks count. And when the first day of school comes, I'm going to send my girl off with a smile and mean it when I tell her to have a great day.

August 1, 2014

Catch the Moment 365: Week 31

Another week of missed photos and Instagrammed iPod pictures. For the last few weeks this project has felt like a chore, and I don't like that it's turned into one for me. I started off the year so excited about this chance to push myself to grow my photography skills, and as the summer has sped by I've found myself picking up the camera less and less. Today I'm recommitting to the project. My daughter heads to kindergarten in 24 days, and I don't want to miss these last days of summer before "big kid school" starts. Today I'm picking up the real camera again, and I'm going to do it every day this month.

I missed both Friday (day 205) and Saturday (day 206) this week, so jumping in with...

207/365: Crawling through a tunnel at our favorite local farm during our county's
 farm days weekend.

208/365: This water table was the first toy they really played with together,
 and I'm glad to see it going strong a year later. 

209/365: Swim lessons for my seahorse suited girl.

210/365: Check up time.

211/365: Because everyone needs to water the tomatoes.

As always, thank you to our hosts: Simply Stavish, Nurse Loves Farmer, and