June 29, 2015

Three years later

Three years ago today, I closed the door to my office on my last day of work. I said goodbye to the university world and went home with my three year old daughter and almost six month old son. I was equal parts excited and terrified about making such a huge change.

I had no idea what I was doing.

Three years later, we're heading into our third week of summer with a six year old A and an almost three and a half year old D. We've entered a new era of no naps, and that means we have a freedom this summer that we've never had before. Preschool and first grade are months away, and summer stretches out before us with weeks and weeks to fill.

Something is always wet thanks to swimming lessons and splash fountains, and the washing machine is perpetually running. A is determined to swim well enough to pass the test at our neighborhood pool so she can use the diving board.

Two little voices are reading in our house now, and both kids zoomed through our county library's reading program in record time. They are now the proud owners of sticker books, water bottles, free book coupons, and baseball tickets. I used to think learning to walk was the defining line between baby and kid, between little and big, the big milestone...but it's nothing compared to hearing our children read and watching them fall in love with books.

Three years ago I wrote here while one or both kids were asleep. Now one of them is at my elbow, asking me why it says water bottle on the computer. It's a big part of why there are less words here, but not the only one.

This summer I made a commitment to spend more time being present and less time online. As a stay-at-home mom, the internet has been a link to the outside world and an escape over the last three years. But the older my kids get, the less I need that escape, and the more I feel guilty about the time I spend in front of a screen. I'm also feeling especially aware that our time at home together won't last forever. So this summer, we're spending more time having fun and making memories.

Three years ago, I compulsively made a multi-page calendar and list of activities and events to occupy our time during our first summer at home. I think we might have done one or two of the things on that monster of a list. This year, we're finally going to get to some of those fun things.

Here's to a summer of adventure!

June 3, 2015

Summer thoughts

Summer is almost here, and it has me feeling reflective. I look forward to summer all school year long, and this one is a special one. It's our first summer after a real big kid school year for A. D has already finished his preschool year, and A has nine days of kindergarten left. Two years of preschool were good preparation for kindergarten, but I don't think any of us were truly prepared for how different and big elementary school really is. A has earned a summer of fun after learning to read and write and make a PowerPoint presentation (no, that's not a joke). D has missed his big sister intensely, and he will be happy to have her at home with him soon (me too).

The upcoming summer will be our first with no naps, meaning we'll have the freedom to play and plan without needing to keep an eye on the clock. I found swim lessons for brother and sister at the same time, which means no more trying to keep one out of the pool while the other swims as we did last year.


A few weeks ago, I applied for a job that would have meant cobbling together camps and babysitters for the summer. I was excited for the possibility to be heading back to work full time a bit ahead of schedule, but sad at the thought of missing out on the summer fun I've been planning and thinking about for months. The process moved faster than I expected and...then I didn't get the job. It hurt me more than I'd expected, especially since I'd felt so sad about the prospect of "losing" this summer with the kids. And then I bid on and didn't get a large editing project, and I dropped down lower than I've been in a long, long time.

It's taken me more time than I'd like to admit to get over both of these things, and I'm still climbing out of my own self-pity. But if there is a good side here, it's that I'm determined to appreciate this summer because I realize it could be one of our last at home together. Kids grow up and move on to sleep away camp and bigger and better plans with friends, and eventually I will head back to work outside the house.

But this summer is still ours. My two are six and three and we will play and explore and create without needing to come home for a nap. We'll go to plays and movies and museums I've been meaning to take them to for the last two years. I am lucky to have this time with them and I wouldn't wish it away for anything, but I realize that the at home years are drawing to a close and so we will send them out with a bang, starting now.

Summer, we're coming for you.

May 14, 2015

Heroes of the City YouTube Channel Review and Giveaway

Waiting is a big part of the life of the little brother. Wait for sister to finish talent show rehearsal. Wait for sister to finish her homework. Wait for sister's Girl Scout meeting to be over. Oh, and if you could wait AND be quiet that would be great. This is easier said than done at three years old, so we find ourselves running through a list of distractions for D on days when he needs to wait for his sister. When all else fails, we turn to the iPad - and the Heroes of the City YouTube channel.

We have been Heroes of the City fans for a long time, and if you're not familiar, it's a Swedish cartoon about rescue vehicles in a small town where everyone has a chance to be a hero. Aimed at children ages 3-7, Heroes of the City emphasizes friendship and teamwork as Paulie Police Car, Fiona Fire Engine and others work together to keep their town running smoothly. 

Though both A and D enjoy the Heroes of the City apps, which include video clips, I was hesitant to introduce them to the Heroes YouTube channel. Why? Because so much of what's on YouTube isn't kid friendly, and the videos that pop up in the sidebar aren't always ones that are appropriate for little eyes. 

We gave the Heroes channel a try one day when all other distractions failed, and I'm so glad we did. The channel has everything from full episodes of Heroes of the City to short videos aimed specifically at toddlers to memory games. I've been pleasantly surprised that we've yet to run into something I'm not okay clicking on in the sidebar on this channel too.

Heroes of the City sent us this fun prize pack - and they're letting me give one away to one of you too! The winner will receive a t-shirt, DVD, and a die-cast car.

Enter using the Rafflecopter widget below. The giveaway is open to residents of the US and Canada - good luck to all those who enter!

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Disclosure: I received the prize pack pictured above in exchange for my honest thoughts and opinions.

May 3, 2015

I believe if you believe

A turns six tomorrow...how has it been six years since we brought home our six pound baby girl? Six is little and big, and the worst insult in A's world is no longer you're not my friend but that's babyish. Nobody who is almost six and almost finished with kindergarten wants anything to do with things that are babyish. Babyish and first grade do not mix.

Not long ago, we hosted a Girl Scout meeting at our house, and after we'd finished planting seeds in recycled egg cartons the girls headed upstairs to play. I chatted with the other parents who'd stayed for the meeting until I heard the sounds of a squabble in A's room, and I headed upstairs to investigate.

The girls were on the floor in A's room, arguing over a small door near her closet. It's a fairy door, brought from Ireland by my mother on her last visit. One girl insisted fairies aren't real, and A said yes, they are. No, they aren't, said her friend. Yes, they are, said A. My grandma says so. Sometimes grown ups say things that aren't true, countered her friend. A stood her ground. I've seen Tinkerbell and fairies are REAL!

Later that afternoon I walked A to a birthday party in the neighborhood. I liked how you stood up for yourself today, I told her. Friends can have different ideas about things.

I know, A replied. That's what makes you you!

I worry often about whether or not we're doing a good job as parents, if we're doing and saying the right things. The big kid years bring lots of pressures from peers and the world at large, and in that moment I wished that A would always feel so free to march to the beat of her own drum.

I snuck into A's room that night after she fell asleep and sprinkled some of the pink fairy dust that came with her fairy door on the carpet so she'd see that her winged friends had visited her in the night. Because six is big enough to decide that Mickey Mouse cartoons are too babyish these days, big enough to stand her ground when a friend disagrees with her and be confident in her own opinions, but it's also little enough to still believe in fairies.

I'll believe as long as you do, sweet girl.

May 1, 2015

Giveaway: Taking the tears out of haircuts with Cartoon Cuts

Note: I received a Cartoon Cuts gift card exchange for my honest review.  No further compensation was received and all opinions are my own.  

Like many preschoolers, D is a boy of many opinions. He likes shirts with pockets, sticks, coloring, trains, and big machines. Chief among his dislikes? Haircuts. We go as long as possible between haircuts as a result, but eventually we have to head back to the salon chair (because mama can do many things but hair cutting is not one of them). 

We've tried a little bit of everything to see if we could find a place that could magically solve D's haircut woes: fancy kid salons with chairs shaped like vehicles, a trip to daddy's barbershop. I have learned the hard way that Cartoon Cuts is the only place that can give my son a good haircut in spite of his protests. If you've ever had a rocky trip to the salon with a small child, you know the end results of a stylist who isn't quite sure what to do with a fussy customer: uneven hair, fears that are a little worse after yet another bad experience, and frustration all around.

I've taken my children to Cartoon Cuts for haircuts on and off for more than five years, and I've yet to see one of their stylists fazed by a small client. They have cut D's hair while I sat in the chair with him, let him skip the cape, and on our latest visit, convinced him to let them clip a towel around his shoulders as a makeshift cape so he didn't go home covered in hair clippings. They can give an even haircut to the wiggliest of little customers and the stylists have plenty of tricks up their sleeves to keep kids entertained and distracted.

On our most recent visit, D was delighted to see Peppa Pig in the window of our local Cartoon Cuts.

My mother has been bringing the kids Peppa books from Ireland for awhile now and it can be hard to find Peppa things in the US. It was a fun surprise to find Peppa Pig DVDs, snacks, and coloring sets at Cartoon Cuts!

D arrived in desperate need of a haircut just a week  before preschool picture day. 

This is the face of a three year old boy who got out of the chair at the barbershop a week earlier and declared his haircut over. 

D's stylist at Cartoon Cuts not only convinced him to sit in the chair without me but got him to wear a towel as a cape - a haircut first for this boy. Every station at Cartoon Cuts has its own TV, and D was pleased to choose an episode of Thomas the Tank Engine. He was even more pleased when Debbye produced a Thomas for D to hold during his haircut! D also worked on two lacing cards as Debbye worked. She took the fear out of the clippers by letting him touch them before she started working. Before my boy knew it, his haircut was over.

Happy and ready for picture day now! D was such a good boy in the chair we brought home some Peppa Pig cookies as a treat. 

Want to see if Cartoon Cuts can make haircuts a breeze for your child too? I have a $25 gift card to give away to one lucky reader courtesy of Cartoon Cuts. Just fill out the Rafflecopter form below. Good luck!

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April 12, 2015

True confessions: hooked on the internet

I have a confession to make, blog friends: I am addicted to the internet. I think I've known this for a long time, but any doubt I had was erased the day my beloved iPod Touch stopped working on Easter Sunday. My immediate reaction was to rush out for a replacement, but since it was Easter most places were closed...and so I decided to see if I could wait a week to get a new one. Here is what happened.

Day One: 
We went to the park to enjoy the beautiful sunny weather. Instead of photographing my children, I watched them play.

I made bread and I was sad I couldn't Instagram it. I was embarrassed when I realized how sad this made me, even after I posted a picture of said bread on Facebook. Did my children refuse to eat the bread because it wasn't Instagrammed? We'll never know.

Day Two:
We spent a day sightseeing and I took not one selfie (okay, so I took one using my husband's iPod). I took pictures with a real camera instead, and when we went to lunch I did not immediately check to see if the restaurant had wifi. Embarrassing to realize how many times I have checked my email behind my children's backs in restaurants.

Day Three:
Rainy, cold, coughing day at home. Kids made paintings and I...was a little sad I couldn't Instagram them. Why? Organized two linen closets. Spent entirely too much time on the iPad, though I did try to hide it in the kitchen.

Day Four:
Home again, home again, jiggity jig thanks to a fever and more coughing. Our cherry tree is in full bloom and...I am a little sad I can't Instagram it. Have considered putting Instagram app on iPad, but iPad has bad camera. Is it better to Instagram  nothing than to post fuzzy pictures? Why am I spending so much time thinking about this?

Day Five:
Acceptance. Didn't miss immediate online access until we went out for a visit with some nearby family and I took a picture of the kids with their littlest cousin and I realized I had no way to send it to my sister-in-law when she asked if I'd share.

Day Six:
Progress! I went a full day without pining for my ability to check my email at the grocery store or feeling the desire to share a picture and a snappy caption. Also...miracle! Husband managed to rig up an onscreen home button in the evening, bringing my iPod back to the land of the living.

Today I had my old friend back in my pocket, and I managed to keep it there most of the day. We went to the farmers market and I took not a single picture. I read the newspaper instead of my email in the morning. And after nearly a week away, I Instagrammed just one picture: my daughter posing in a fancy chair before we saw a play together.

This week has been eye-opening, and I'm determined not to fall back into old habits. Here's to being more present and less dependent on a tiny screen.

April 7, 2015

Little tourists

A and D are both on spring break this week, and today we played tourist in our own backyard. Months ago, A spied a statue on TV. Who is that man? she wanted to know. It turned out to be the Martin Luther King, Jr., or more specifically his memorial in Washington, DC. Where is it? A asked. When we told her it was a Metro ride away from our house, she wanted to go.

The downside to the many lovely sights in Washington, DC is that very few of them are Metro accessible, or if I'm being completely honest: very few of them are close enough to a Metro stop/parking that little legs won't give out before you get to them. So today we decided to be tourists for the day and all four of us hopped on the Metro followed by a hop on/hop off trolley tour to save two little pairs of legs the extra walking between points of interest (and two big pairs of legs the whining and begging to be carried).

Our first stop was the Jefferson Memorial, and I watched D climb up stairs without putting his hands down for the first time. Stairs have long been tricky for him, and now it looks like he's shaking off that last bit of worry. We walked slowly around the inside of the rotunda, reading words off the wall together.

The cherry blossoms are just beginning to bloom, and it made for a beautiful walk around the Tidal Basin.

We walked from the Jefferson Memorial to the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial, a spot I haven't visited since I was a junior in college. A and D walked hand in hand as we walked through FDR's four terms backwards, because the short way around the Tidal Basin turns out to mean going in through the exit on this one. Lucky for us it is beautiful in reverse too!

One more short walk along the Tidal Basin and we reached the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial, A's original goal. None of us had visited it before and it was beautiful - peaceful and contemplative and ringed with white and pale pink cherry blossoms.

I asked A what she thought of it as we waited for the trolley. She liked it, and she was surprised there was more to it than just the statue we'd seen on TV.

We boarded the trolley and took a break for lunch, and as we ate the kids spied something out the window of the restaurant. "Look, it's a president!" A racing president, to be specific, one belonging to the Washington Nationals. When we came outside George Washington was gone, but A bravely approached the men standing outside the Nats truck parked at the curb and asked if they knew where any presidents were. They pointed her in the right direction and...we ran into good old Abe just before we headed home for the day.

When we got home, I asked A what was her favorite part of the day. The Lincoln Memorial, she replied. The Lincoln Memorial that we just saw out the window of the trolley today, by the way. Yes, she said. That was the best part. I asked D, and his favorite part was the trolley. Just the trolley? Yes. But Daniel Tiger is not on it.

It's probably a good thing preschoolers can't leave Yelp reviews.