Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Catching Up - before I left

I had a work trip to Omaha the week before Memorial Day.  But it’s been even longer than that since I posted.  Life, I guess.  So here’s what we were up to since my last post up until just before I left for Omaha.

Bekah and Scott had their spring piano and violin recital.  Bekah’s violin teacher is moving away so this was her last year having her.  They both did a fantastic job on their pieces.  We’ve taken a break from practice since then and will pick it up again a few days a week over the summer.

With the nice weather we had, I had lots of time to shoot bow.  This was one of my better groupings.  And no, Alarik wasn’t sitting there while I shot!

Besides shooting bow, we had fun over the nice, sunny afternoons just hanging out in the backyard.

The kids all got new fishing poles from Grandpa Tom and had been itching to use them.  We went out to Lake of the Isles the day before I left on my trip and we had such a great time!

Alarik caught his first fish and he was PUMPED!  It was a smallmouth which it wasn't season for yet, but he was still really excited and he ran up and down the fishing pier pumping his fists in the air and yelling, "MY FIRST FISH IS A CHAMPION!!!"

Bekah caught a little slimer.  She was excited, but not touching it!

Just one little mishap; while trying to take a photo of the kids all fishing, someone dropped their phone in the lake.  The water was 30 feet deep at the end of the pier so there was no going in for it.  Ugh!

Monday, May 30, 2016

Don't Fear the "I'm Bored"

Do you hate the feeling of being the family entertainer?  Is the thought of the upcoming summer with all those open-ended hours giving you a knot in your stomach?  Not this mom.

You might think I'm about to point you to all those great posts online about idea jars, bucket lists, summer boredom busters, etc.  I'm not going to do that.  While those ideas are really great and have their place, for sure, they still leave you with the work of planning and organizing, not to mention the expense that may go along with some of them.  No thanks.

My standard response to a kid saying "I'm bored" or "There's nothing to do" is...


And I leave it at that.  Because being bored really is ok.  I haven't done the research to confirm this, but I'm 100% sure that no child has ever died, or even become ill, due to boredom.

When I first started doing this, I got a lot of blank stares, but when the kids realized I was not going to drop what I was doing in order to create an elaborate treasure hunt to keep them busy for the next three hours, they eventually wandered off and found something to do.

Boredom is the impetus for creativity and invention.  It's been my experience that a bored child will only stay bored for five to ten minutes, tops, if you just let them be.  And, as a silver lining, the thing they come up with to do is usually creative, engages them with their siblings, and keeps them busy for a lot longer than, say, my playing a board game with them would.  Especially if screen time is not an option.

Now, before you think I'm too mean, this is not all to say that I never use some of those super-cool, super-fun ideas or that I never take the time to sit down and play with my kids.  It's important to spend that quality time with them.  I'm just careful to make sure that my spending time with them does not morph into my being their personal event planner.

And besides, I think my response of "Ok" is a lot softer and gentler than another popular response I've heard mentioned which is, "Only boring people get bored".  Ouch.  And so not true! Sometimes kids DO need a little help coming up with a few ideas.  Especially in the summertime when they might have several days in a row being at home and kind of exhausting their options.  Everyone needs some variety in their life, after all.  You'll be able to recognize those times by your rapidly rising blood pressure as you listen to kids whine, complain and bicker after you've tried the "ok" approach.  When that happens, I'll go ahead and consult Pinterest for some boredom busters and mom's-sanity-savers!

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

5th Grade Accomlishments

Not to leave Bekah out, here is a list of her big milestones in her 5th grade year:
  1. Made the Math Masters Team
  2. Read over TWO million words
  3. Successfully juggled lessons and practice for three instruments: piano, violin and oboe
  4. Completed the D.A.R.E. program
  5. Personalized her signature
  6. Continued rockin' her own style, regardless of what anyone else thinks!

Monday, May 16, 2016

One Million Words and Other 3rd grade Accomplishments

Scott hit the 1,000,000 word milestone in Accelerated Reader this year.  This is a goal that he set for himself at the beginning of the year and he started off with a bang, making great headway through the first several months of school.  His reading tapered off mid-year and I wasn't sure if he was still on pace to make it or not.  In the spring, he buckled down and plowed through books 2 through 4 of the Harry Potter series and made it to the million word mark.  Jesse and I are very proud of him but, even better, he is SUPER proud of himself as well.

The rest of Scott's 3rd grade year has been great as well.  He had another successful year in piano and he added basketball to his repertoire, even though Jesse and I said we would not be letting him play on a traveling team.  It ended up being pretty convenient since neighbor John is the coach so Scott always had a ride to and from practice and out of town tournaments.  Our main reason for saying he couldn't play was the time commitment involved for us and the other kids (i.e. giving up Saturdays at home) so this worked out well for all of us.  Though he enjoyed it, he says he's not going to play next year because "basketball's just not my sport".  We'll see if that holds once football season is over next fall.

Scott's also held on to his own unique snacking style.  What's this he's eating you ask?  Oh yes. That's peanut butter and a banana on a hotdog bun topped with honey. Yummmm?

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Fruit Salad, Ice Cream Sculpting and Hockey Hair

Sometimes the many scents of womens' bath products is overwhelming.  You've got your pomegranate shampoo, fresh lime conditioner, coconut body scrub and passion fruit shave gel.  Scott asked me to buy him some "guy" body wash and I asked him what kind he wanted.  He replied, "I don't care as long as I don't have to walk around smelling like a fruit salad any more."

I took the kids to dinner at Park Rec and we were enjoying our dessert afterwards.  Bekah was teasing Scott about his Alfalfa-style cowlick on the top of his head.  He was soon laughing that the curlicue on top of his ice cream cone when he licked it made it look like him.  Pretty soon he had poked two eyes and licked a smiley mouth to go with it.  A perfect likeness:
Jesse cuts our boys' hair and he just buzzes them with the clippers.  Scott hates it.  He likes his hair long but it usually doesn't last long before Jesse is on it.  Scott was lamenting the other day that he wished Bigfork had hockey.  Surprised, I asked him if he thought he'd like to play hockey more than basketball.  He said "I don't know but maybe if we had hockey and I played, Dad would let my hair get longer."

Friday, May 13, 2016

8 Eyes and Funny Stuff

Alarik got this pair of glasses as a birthday party favor last weekend and he's loving them.  What do you think of the newest 4-eyes in our house?

He's been cracking us up tons lately.

In the car a few days ago, he and Bekah were arguing back and forth about something and he was getting very frustrated with her.  Finally he screams at her, "I am THROUGH with you!  Just like I was THROUGH with Gagey at daycare today!!!"  Gage is his best little buddy at daycare so I said, "You're through with Gagey?"  and Alarik replied "YES!" but then quickly added in a normal tone of voice, "Not for forever though."  I asked how long and he resumed his angry voice and stated, "For a VERY LONG TIME!"

Then there was this great little conversation:
A:  Mom, name the people I love who aren't married.
M:  Well, Grandma Linda, Jade...
A:  NO, I can't marry my Grandma!
M:  Oh, you mean people you could marry?
A:  Yes.
M:  Well, Sophia, Tovah, Violet...
A:  Not Tovah or Violet.
M:  Harper...
A:  It'll be Soph.
M:  You know, she has to agree to marry you.
A:  Yeah. And she'll be the one to have the babies.
M:  Yes.  How many babies do you think you'll have?
A?  You can PICK how many BABIES you have???  I wish you could pick if they were boys or girls.  I guess we will have four babies.

And Alarik is getting to be as good at the random question as Scott is.  He asked me out of nowhere the other day if I thought Morgan believed in God.  Morgan is our 14 year-old dog.  Alarik must have been worried about the status of her salvation.  Then he asked me about some friends of our family who just had their second child, "Mom, are the Maxas done growing babies?"

He came in my bedroom and asked what I was doing one evening.  I said I was reading.  He watched for a while and then said, "You're not reading.  I can't hear you."  I told him I was reading to myself, in my head.  He watched me a bit longer, then wandered away, but was back soon watching me.  "You still reading in your head mom?" he asked.  When I said I was he gave me this look that said he thought I was trying to pull his leg.

Alarik is a big Dean Martin fan.  His favorite song is "Hey Mambo" and he can sing most of the words.  He even calls me "Mom-bo" now instead of just mom sometimes.  I love it!

Thursday, May 12, 2016

A Royal Feast

Bekah has continued to cook dinner about once a week.  She always has to come up with a theme.  So far we have had "Shrek" night where everything we ate had layers (you know, because ogres are like onions - they have layers).  We had a layered taco dip with parfaits for dessert.

The theme on this night was "Royal Feast".  It was grilled venison steaks, potatoes and Brussels sprouts...yum!!!

 In keeping with the Royal theme, Bekah made each of us a crown out of Zoobs.  How fun is that?

I'm looking forward to what our next themed dinner by Bekah will be!

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Cleaning Treasure Hunt

Rather than getting overwhelmed and bored with spring/deep cleaning, I've decided to make a hobby and a kind of game out of it.  There are thousands of tips, hacks and homemade cleaning concoctions to be had on Pinterest.  Every once in a while I have a Pinterest Cleaning Day where I go though looking for cleaning pins and then try the ones out that pique my interest at that moment.  Or, as in the cast of my stove vent, the ones about things that I didn't even realize I should be cleaning!  It's kind of like a cleaning hack treasure hunt.

I've been particularly interested in homemade, chemical-free cleaners recently.  I mean, I'm reading simple living blogs, bullet journaling and listening to lifestyle podcasts so could I really avoid the stereotype of now making my own cleaning products?  I think not.  It was a given.

On my last Pinterest Cleaning Day, I cleaned:
-grimy silicon caulking around the bathtub and toilet base
-the glass top stove
-the vent cover for the oven/stove exhaust fan
- under and behind the refrigerator, including the back and sides of the fridge

Here's where I found the cleaning solutions I mixed up:
Young House Love blog
and then we saved blog
One Good Thing by Jillee
(all were links that I followed from Pinterest)

I found that the paste of baking soda and peroxide worked great right off the bat for the bathroom caulking, but it didn't last.  I think it's because the old toothbrush I was using to scrub with got too gunked up and the bristles got too spread out.  I'll have to buy some firmer ones to try out.

A paste of baking soda and castile soap worked wonderfully on the stove top.

As I mentioned, it never before crossed my mind to clean the exhaust fan cover.  I guess I just never even noticed it up there.  And we've lived in this house since 2003...ew!  Needless to say the water I boiled it in was disgusting, black and greasy by the time I was done, but the vent looked like new and it required very little elbow grease on my part.

Oh, one last lesson learned:  baking soda is hard on the hands!  Make sure to use a good hand cream after your cleaning session or your hands will be drier than the Sahara.

I would love to hear of any great cleaning tips or recipes you've picked up from Pinterest, or elsewhere, or any other good cleaning hacks that you use.

Monday, May 9, 2016

My Mother's Day Weekend

Our family had a great Mother's  Day weekend.  First thing Saturday morning I headed out with Bekah to meet up with my mom, sister, niece and a friend of ours and her daughter for some breakfast and junking fun at The Plum Tree in Marcell.  I saw and almost bought this unique little hanging planter but I'll show you what I ended up doing instead in a minute.

Bekah and I were planning to meet the boys in Deer River for a visit with Grandpa Tom and Grandma Lorraine while Alarik went to Sophie's birthday party at the DR golf course.  We had some spare time so we went to the consignment store in Deer River and found a few summer dresses for Bekah.  We ate subs for lunch and also shopped at a fun little variety store.  We hung out with Grandma Tom and Grandma Lorraine for a few hours, then carried on to Remer for some yard work at Grandma Helen's.  Thanks to our full day already, we got there about clean up and dinner time!

Scott rode home with me after we picked my Jeep back up in Deer River.  he wanted us to be "selfie buddies".

Sunday morning started off with waffles by Dad, my favorite!  Alarik got these glasses at Soph's party and wore them all day long.

Scott took some artistic liberties with the bathroom mirror after his shower.

We went to church where Bekah played some special music with two other violin students.  They did a great job.  After church we came home and did all kinds of yard work; moving plants, weeding and putting in plants that we'd dug up at Grandma Helen's the day before.

I decided a couple hours of work on Mother's Day was enough so we loaded up in the truck to go greenhouse hopping in Grand Rapids and out to dinner.  Alarik picked out this "pretty red flower" for me for Mother's Day.

Bekah and Scott had the money they'd earned doing chores with them (carted in a Tootsie Roll bank, no less) and they spent a looong time perusing the different fruit plants and deciding what to spend their hard-earned money on.

They settled on ten strawberry plants and decided to save the rest of their money toward a cherry tree.  They made a strawberry bed in front of their log cabin, on the opposite side as the raspberry bed made with plants dug up from Grandma Helen's.  They will have quite the little orchard going hopefully!

With Jesse's help I made my own version of the hanging planter.  I bought 6 metal pots and 2 table legs at The Plum Tree for two dollars less than the planter was priced at and then I had enough to make a pair!

Besides the chartreuse string that Jesse used to hang them, I think they turned out pretty cool.  I've already texted my mom and sister to scrounge up some twine or rusty wire to hang them with instead, then they'll be perfect.

Friday, May 6, 2016

Kicking Off Mother's Day Weekend

Mother's Day weekend is upon us!  We have some fun plans for the weekend including a little antiquing with my mom and sister, and visiting all the other Grandmas.  My first fun gift was this little tidbit from the newspaper.  Bekah had told me that she wrote something about me for the paper but I had forgotten to even look for it so I was glad when a friend texted me this photo of it.

What a creative and funny girl and what sweet words for this mom to hear!  

Thursday, May 5, 2016

My 8-step Plan for Seed-Starting Failure

  1. I start four flats of various seeds and place them in my nifty little portable greenhouse that was a Mother's Day gift two years ago (the year I otherwise would have quit trying to plant my own seeds except then the kids and Jesse got me this greenhouse and I felt guilty so I kept on)
  2. Half the seeds sprout, half do not.
  3. Once the sprouts have outgrown their starter pots, I transplant the plants and re-sow the flats with another round of seeds, hoping for a better outcome.
  4. Half of the transplanted plants shrivel up and die.
  5. I repeat steps two through four at least once, maybe twice, to ensure maximum frustration levels are reached
  6. One (or more) of the following happens:
    • I forget to water the surviving plants
    • the wind blows over my portable greenhouse one nice breezy day when I'm at work
    • I forget to bring the greenhouse back inside one night and everything freezes
    • I leave the cover zipped up on an especially warm and sunny spring day and everything bakes to death.
  7. If, by chance anything has survived all of this, I plant it in the garden and it dies approximately three days later.
  8. I go to the greenhouse and buy plants to put in the garden and they do just fine.

Well, I've had it.  I've followed my 8-step plan pretty perfectly for the last several years, always thinking that one of these times I'm going to get it right.  Yesterday was the day I came home to this - Step 6 in action:
So I am done.  Done with seeds.  The only seeds I want to see now are the ones I'm eating from the vegetables I've grown in my garden from greenhouse-purchased plants.  I'll be seeing you soon, Forevergreen Greenhouse staff!

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Let's Go Fly A Kite!

While I was involved in a very competitive game of 1-on-2 with Bekah and Scott one day, Jesse and Alarik hiked back to the field to try out a new kite that Grandma Dianna had just dropped off.  

I am thankful that Jesse is a picture-taking Dad.  He knows I love pictures and especially ones from his perspective.  For his part, he enjoys looking at the scrapbooks I make and our photo albums so he's willing to do his part.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

My Bullet Journal

I first heard about bullet journaling at Tsh Oxenreider's Art of Simple blog.  I've mentioned Tsh's blog and podcast before here.  (Side note: I need to do a round-up post of my favorite podcasts and blogs since all of my posts lately are inspired by things I hear and read on them.  I'll add that to the "to-do" list)

As a list-making aficionado, I was totally intrigued by the idea of a bullet journal.  I was also a little intimidated though.  I mean, what kind of journal needs a "how-to" video to introduce it and has its own Facebook group and hashtag (#bujo)??? And, as Tsh noted, some bullet journals are so gorgeous, I could never live up.  I was encouraged however by the rest of her post that explained how she let go of any expectations associated with using a bullet journal and tweaked the system to work for her.  And so I did the same.

I had started jotting notes about my de-cluttering progress in a pretty little journal that a friend gave me for my last birthday.  I wrote about that here (also where my sister calls me "Queen Nerd") and showed you one page of my notes.  That kind of morphed into more of a traditional journal where I wrote about the projects I was completing and the inspiration behind it and also the positive changes I saw or hoped to see because of it.  These notes are a good reminder of why I'm doing this.

Then I heard about bullet journaling and decided to apply the principal to my already-in-progress journal about de-cluttering.

If there's one thing I've learned so far, it's that if you are going to talk about your bullet journal, you have to take a photo of said journal, preferably next to your coffee mug.  At least that's what a good percentage of people who blog or instagram about bullet journaling do.  So let me just take a moment to do that.
There we go, that's better.  Now you know what my journal looks like, what my favorite pen is and also that I drank all my coffee before I snapped this picture. 

I had left the first page of my journal blank when I started using it which ended up to be just perfect because then I could start creating my table of contents on that first page.  I don't worry at all about keeping like things together.  For example, you can see that a list of books I've read this year is on page 14 but I filled the page recently and the next blank page was page 50 so I just continued it on this page and noted that.

I don't use the same setup at all or the dashes, dots and arrows that the true bullet journal method uses.  I don't even make a task or to-do list every day; just when I have lots that I don't want to forget to do.  I like to add stuff to my list that wasn't on there to begin with but that I got done that day.  Feels good to see all that accomplishment in black and white.  Er...blue and white, that is.
I tried using washi tape wherever a task list would start up after some other type of page was used, but I kind of did away with that.  It was my one attempt to be just a little bit cute and artistic, but it didn't really work for me.

I like the flexibility of this method.  I like being able to use the same notebook for my to-do list and all those other random lists and thoughts that accumulate throughout the day, week, month.

So all that to say that I started bullet journaling but basically it's not at all like a real bullet journal.  It's more just like my life - in a notebook -  with a table of contents.  And it works for me!

Monday, May 2, 2016

Twins Game, Squirrel Hunting and Chase Point Hike

It was a weekend full of beautiful weather!  Jesse chaperoned Bekah's 5th grade class on their D.A.R.E. trip to the Twins game on Sunday.  They left at 5:15 a.m. - rode a school bus for 4.5 hours to the Twin Cities, watched the game, then boarded the bus and rode home.  That makes for a loooong day! They had a great time but they were both totally wiped when they got home about 10:15 last night. 

Meanwhile, back at the ranch...

Grandma Linda asked for the boys' help in eradicating her resident squirrel population as they have been a real nuisance for her lately.  They got two.

Since the day was too gorgeous to not spend it outside, we decided to head to Scenic State Park after our lunch and squirrel hunt.  Auntie Stephie drove, which Alarik was very excited about, until he experienced riding dirty with Rhet & Frodo!  He plugged his nose and asked how much further the whole way there - good thing it's just a mile or so away!

Jade took my kids on this hike last summer and Alarik only made it halfway before they all turned back to avoid any further whining from him.  This time he made it all the way to the end, no problem, and just a bit of complaining on the way back.  However when he wasn't complaining, he was running so I think he had plenty of energy left.  One good trick we picked up was to have a pack of fruit snacks to give him at the halfway point.  Since he's mentioned before that "fwuit nacks are how I get my energy" this was the perfect mind trick to get him to make it all the way

As for me, I'm sore today!  Kind of disappointing because I regularly work out and would say that I'm pretty in shape.  Obviously hiking uses different muscles than the gym equipment!  That should be motivation for me to branch out and do different types of workouts more often.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Here's to a Healthy May!

Like most moms, I've carried around an extra pound or thirty ever since my first pregnancy.  I've tried a variety of methods in the past to help me focus on healthier eating and trimming down.
-I've carried around a little notebook and meticulously counted calories.
-I've worked out regularly.
-I've tracked my weight.
-I've tried out a couple of different smart phone apps that track eating and workout data.
None of these methods ever stuck for me.  While I would start out with the best of intentions, I would never last more than a week, if that.  I always dug in hard but after a few days thought, "Eh...I'd rather eat whatever I want and just be a little overweight".

Lately it seems like I've resurrected every bad eating habit I've ever had and I'm bingeing on them all at the same time.  I still work out regularly; usually 3 or 4 times per week, but I notice that I keep on creeping up in the weight department.  I recently heard something on the Around the Table podcast that opened my eyes.  Of course, I've known this all along, but hearing it put so simply was a good wake up call.  One of the hosts of the show, Maggie, said,

"You cannot eat well enough to make up for not working out and you cannot work out enough to make up for poor eating."

Well, that's what I'd been trying to do.  I've been telling myself that as long as I keep working out, I can just keep eating whatever I want, whenever I want because...well, because I worked out!  I actually used that as my motivation to work out, telling myself, "you're doing this so you can drink pop and each junk food".  As I said, it's not working for me because I'm the heaviest I've ever been other than when I was pregnant.  And besides that, I'm setting a bad example for my kids.  It's a hard sell to tell them that pop is fine only in moderation when I'm drinking it every day.

Every article I've ever read with advice about weight loss and healthy living says to just make one small change at a time.  But I have so many things going wrong right now that I don't think that's a good idea.  In the past when I've tried to focus on making one change, it's just been a license to let the other areas fall waaaay off course.

I've come across a new and simple plan.  Besides Maggie's comment I shared above, a different episode of Around the Table featured her talking about her Healthy Christmas Crackdown.  See the show notes and listen to the episode here if you're interested.

I modified her idea.  I love to check something off a list and I need the program to be very specific but simple to follow (i.e. no counting calories).  So here's what I came up with for myself.  Introducing my healthy plan for May (complete with cheesy play-on-words):
Simple, right?  If I don't have a workout scheduled for a certain day, then I better make sure I can check off all the other good habit boxes for that same day.  If I get through the whole day and have checked off all my boxes and then get a little hungry after dinner, well I can sure grab a snack since I checked off everything else already.  Of course, maybe that will be motivation to check off ALL the boxes that day instead - or at the very least it could be the motivation to choose a healthy snack.

I'm taping this bad boy up on the wall right over my pillow.  I hope that is motivation enough to start breaking my bad habits.  If I start forgetting about it during the day, I may have to fold it up and carry it around with me instead.

I figure if I meet my goal of only one empty check box per day for most of the month, I'm almost guaranteed to start feeling better and noticing a trimmer body.  Even with the new plan and mindset, I know it won't be easy.  I'll have to forget about my past failure and lack of commitment.  Wish me luck!  No, I take that back.  Wish me will power and dedication!