Dec 082014
 

Socializing and partying this time of year are BIG EVENTS!  And knowing how to do it with grace and class can be daunting. Check in here for some tips--and a few laughs to help take the bite out of the nerves!It’s a big night around these parts, friends. To restate, I am leaving the house. Before you fall over in shock, let me tell you the whole story–it’s to ATTEND A GALA. Okay, now I’ll pause a minute while this sinks in…

Not sinking in? I know, I get it.  This is truly an unbelievable occurrence. Mostly for me, who has never, ever attended a gala. Has never even imagined attending a gala. Will never attend a gala again.

But you see, my husband got an invite to a fancy-pants one at The Philly Art Museum tonight. For a machine. That’s right, a machine. In his science world, apparently new machines warrant celebrations of epic proportions. While I remain marginally concerned about hanging with a crowd who likes to dress-up on a Monday night to celebrate machines, the simple fact remains: I am being offered a night out. AT A GALA.

So while I madly fret over what to wear and prepare to meet Condoleezza Rice (In my understanding, there is never a gala that Condoleezza Rice does not attend, correct? This notion is partially fueled by my obsession with People magazine and limited awareness of galas, but I’m pretty sure I’m right), I remain very aware that I might be screwed.

I do not know how to behave at galas.

Should I start stroking the machine in awe immediately upon seeing it? On the other hand, will I be arrested if I touch the machine?

What if I accidentally knock over the waiter’s tray when grabbing a champagne? Please God, tell me there will be champagne.

Forget Condoleezza, will I have to shake hands with Angelina Jolie? I am strictly Team Jennifer and will always be; for this I will not apologize.

The eventualities are daunting.

Knowing how to act and what to/do say at a work holiday party can be tricky. Here are tips for not only surviving, but having a fantastic time out amidst all the glitz and glitter!

In any case, I have decided I need to commit to a few ground-rules to help see myself through the night. I always function better when boundaries are firmly in place.

1) I WILL NOT robot-dance if there if fast music. I am really quite good at The Robot, but I am not sure this will be fully appreciated at this event. Best saved for a more appropriate occasion.

2) I WILL order a fancy drink–because I can. And I will feel fantastically elaborate when I do–because I owe it to the yoga pants I wear ever other single day of the year.

3) I WILL NOT fantasize about going home and watching Hallmark movies. I WILL appreciate that I’m in the company of other adults and this can be pleasant even if there are no Santa Clauses in snow globes winking in the background.

4) I WILL NOT sneak into the ladies’ room to check in on my Amazon lightening deals. Horribly tempting, but potentially better done at another time.

5) I WILL allow myself to soak up the sweetness of a night out, flirt with my husband and enjoy the gift of a fancy night out during the holiday season. It’s a total win–how could I go wrong?

Friends, I’m SO acing out the gala–I can totally feel a win coming on ;)

 

First image credit: depositphotos.com, image ID:6584928, copyright:nikascorpionka

Second image credit: depositphotos.com, image ID: 10709258, copyright:pressmaster

Nov 282014
 

I love my deals and steals, and because of this story I will always love Black Friday! Crowded malls and crazy people don't matter so much when you think about the money savings!Trust me, I completely understand the frustration with how Black Friday edges into Thanksgiving.  At some stores, it’s even completely taken over the holiday with doors opening early Thursday morning or deals running all week long.

My husband loathes pre-Black Friday Christmas. It’s one of the things he can rant about for hours, similar to his disdain for mini cupcakes. I know, I don’t get it either, but don’t ask him about it unless you have a spare afternoon to burn. In any case, in our home any and all Christmas decorations, lights, music and other festivities are banned until after the turkey has been served and the leftovers are stuffed in the fridge.

No, our Black Friday truly means Black FRIDAY. We give our thanks on Thursday, and then get busy with a very important task the day after. What task? Saving money.

I’ve written about tricks and tips I use to save my family cash and shared about my love for shopping and product finds, so it makes sense that Black Friday is kind of a big deal around here. It actually has very little to do with buying Christmas gifts and a whole lot to do with saving money on things we’ll use throughout the year.

Sure the crazy shoppers and impossible-to-find parking spaces can be a beast. But not really that much of a beast because I find the energy of the hustle-and-bustle to be sort of exhilarating.

Forgoing sleep is not my favorite, though being able to cross off your whole list and be home by 7am is a high in its own right.

So really, for us, the sticky wickets of the day are just that–sticky, but don’t really matter that much because, again, we are saving money.

I have a story about Black Friday. It’s a bit sentimental, and it is the one reason I will always love the day.

It was the first year we were married. We were the kind of poor that can’t eat out–at McDonalds. The kind that sobs a bit when you get sick because the $10 doctor’s office copay was simply not to be found. But my husband was doing this crazy thing and trying to be professional. He had a suit, but not a dress shirt to go with it. So we plotted and planned. We organized our sale papers and ads and got in line outside a department store at 4:30am (this was back when 5am openings were still a thing on Black Friday). We bee-lined to the men’s section and proudly found a nice shirt and tie set in his size.

We nervously handed it to the clerk along with our clipped coupons. $5. FIVE DOLLARS. And with that my husband and I fell in love with Black Friday and we’ll never look back.

The savings may never again be as sweet or as meaningful as they were this first year, but they are still there. And they still make our budget smile and allow us to victory dance a bit in pride when we catch them.

So if fighting through the crowds or stalking Amazon’s lightning deals happens to be your thing too, know that my husband and I right there with you–memory of a snazzy dress shirt fueling us on. Go get your savings, friends!

This video explaining our Black Friday passion was shared in this post last year. And yeah, nothing’s changed ;)

Image credit: depositphotos.com, image ID:1375537, copyright:shirotie

Nov 122014
 

Having kids makes it a bit tricky to get an evening out. Here's how my family figured out a way to have a fun night with friends while staying in--and keeping the kidsMy husband and I have never been very big on leaving the house. At first, it was money, or lack thereof. And then it was kids piled on top of money. Let’s be honest; even if we could manage to find a sitter, she probably doesn’t want to get paid in leftover Goldfish crackers?

So we’ve gotten good, very good, at the at-home date. Stash the kiddos in bed, crack open a bottle and cue up the latest episode of Parenthood. Or, if it’s a really adventurous night, it might just be worth a swing by that nifty Redbox. We cozy in and love it up. It works.

Most of the time.

But see, once in a while…I want a teensy bit more of a soiree. Rarely, as people generally scare me.

So when one of my very best friends mentioned she had to burn an hour every week during her daughter’s lesson across the street from our house, my wheels got to turning.

What if…? No, that would be insane.  But we could…

And as soon as the thought formulated, I knew it was meant to be. With a swift call to my friend and a bottle of wine snagged, it was official. Thursday night Happy Hour in our house was ON.

How does it work? My friend brings her kids. If it’s nice, they run wild on the yard while we chill on the deck. Now that it’s bit chillier, who really cares about a tidy house? I can put all the legos away tomorrow…or never. The point is that the kids are playing together and having a blast.

The adults, my husband, friend and I cozy up to the table, pour a glass and munch away on whatever culinary fail I’ve dreamed up for the week. I am not a chef.

(But truth told, it is kind of fun to put together some yummy bites I’d never normally serve. This week I’m doing homemade soft pretzels with cheese fondue. I know, my waistline is drooling with you. But what better excuse to make something so comfort food-worthy?)

After a few weeks of our weekly dates, I got smart and started beefing up the spread a bit so it could count as dinner and I didn’t have to cook again. Score!

While the food is yummy-ish and the company superb (my friend is amazingly cool and easy to hang with), the real win of the night is that we RELAX.

Come again?

I know, I said relax. Because we do. Yes, with the kids present. After our very first Thursday Happy Hour, my entire family was in bed and snoozling by 8:30pm. It was a miracle. Talking to my husband about it the next day he said, “But we actually stopped. Hanging out like that let us all relax.”

 

Kids tying you to the house? Have fun anyway! Invite friends (and their whole families!) over to hang out! No stress, easy family time for everyone.

Come Thursday night, I feel beaten up by the week. Something that can help my family chill and smile? A Godsend. We pour ourselves into our hours, our days, and forget to take minutes to come up for air. Thursday nights are a sweet reminder to lift our heads up and breathe deeply.

I love them. We all do. We all look forward to our weekly Happy Hour and all the sweet breathing room that it offers.

My excuses of no money or no childcare? Shove them under the kitchen table. Uber-cheap wine and allowance for kids’ temper tantrums between sips works perfectly well when the friends are real–and the value of time together supersedes all else.

Cheers, friends–however you find your Happy Hour or make it happen!

 

First image credit: depositphotos.com, ID:3756992, copyright:Valdemar

Second image credit: depositphotos.com, ID:10836012,copyright:Wavebreakmedia

Nov 102014
 

Holiday shopping and budgeting is such a beast! Follow these tips to get your spending in line and under control! I like nice things. A lot. Probably too much, if you ask my husband...but here is the dirty secret of how I float tossing sweet stuff into our lives without breaking the budget: I shop online.

Almost entirely, exclusively online.

I took my son to the mall the other day for a soft pretzel/play area Mommy-and-Me date on a day he had off school. I planned to let him pick out a Christmas gift for his sister during our time. We managed to agree on an item which left me feeling robustly proud of my mothering skills. What an excellent use of time! Only November and I was schooling this holiday jazz!

I then picked up the selected boxed Frozen doll and upon checking the price, gasped in horror, quickly replacing it on the shelf. $15 over the Target price?! No way!

My mind was reeling with all the other online saving tricks I could score if I shopped for it online: cash back, loyalty rewards, PROMOS…The siren song of snatching an item easily off the shelves is alluring if you are out and about…but it’s not something you want to answer.

When my son was born, my interest in online shopping was piqued. We all know how tricky carting a kid around to stores can be…Two years later, when he landed himself in a full body cast and I had a 3 mo. old baby to boot, it became a necessity. I schooled myself in all the tips and tricks to getting anything sent to my door sans a shipping cost and with a discount.

How do I save all this money without ever setting foot in the brick-and-mortars?

1) Always, always go through Ebates. What is this? It’s the first-step landing page for all of your online shopping. Start here and then select the store you where you want to shop. By taking the 5 seconds to start your shopping through Ebates you get a certain percentage of your purchase credited to your account, which you get back in a quarterly check mailed to your door. Tempted to scoff at that 1.5% back from Walmart.com? Don’t! It adds up and many of the percentage-back rates are much higher.  When that Ebates check arrives every 3 months, it’s a happy day.

Also use this to shop for things you would never think to buy online. When we finally decided on a new refridgerator at Lowes, we went home and ordered it–online and through Ebates. It was delivered for free and the 2% back on a large purchase like that was a big bonus!

Save a boatload of money for yourself and your family with these online shopping tricks and techniques! Let the savings begin!2) Keep yourself in the loopShop It to Me, Busy Saving and a local e-mail subscribtion, Mama Cheaps, are easy ways I keep myself abreast of the latest deals and steals. It takes no more than a few seconds to scan through the e-mails and see if anything is for you; if it’s not, ditch it and move on. Information is power; how will you snag the amazing hot BOGO on Legos if you don’t know about it?

3) Know your promos! Retailmenot.com is my favorite resource for snagging online promos, but I have learned that there are other resources, sometimes better ones.  For example, if I have a cart at Kohls I want to process, I take the time to pop over to a general Google search for “Kohls promo codes” and see what pops up. It is a bit work to enter the suggested codes at check out to see if they work, and many times the codes are bunk, but I figure it’s worth a try.  When that 25% off code works and is stackable on top of the $15 off coupon? Sweet!

4) To get around shipping costs, I always order enough to get my purchase mailed for free. If there is a physical store close by, I might order multiples of the same item and then return what I don’t need. Or, if I’m unsure of sizing, I order a pair of pants in 3 sizes, try them on in the comfort of my own home, and then return the rest. In truth, I ask my husband to return items on his lunch break; this saves me from going to into the store and being lured by yet another purchase.

Be careful with buying from stores that are online-only.  Some, like Modcloth, offer free returns on any item, but if this isn’t an option, unless I am sure I want the item, I don’t order it.

If I don’t have enough things in my cart to get free shipping from such a store, I wait to order until I do. Or, I whip out my Christmas gift list (that I start keeping in the summer so I can grab items for cheap when I see them on sale), and check to see if there is a gift for someone I could throw in my cart to bump my total into free shipping territory. Free shipping for me and a gift crossed off my list is a win-win!

4) Leave it sit in your cart. Whaa?? I know, so hard to find a deal and not jump on it! But if time isn’t of the imperative, put it in your cart and walk away.  This does two things: 1) lets you make sure it truly is a smart purchase for you and 2) alerts the store that you are interested and allows them time to start sending you coupons. When you should avoid this trick? It’s a hot item that might sell out quickly. If you definitely want it, don’t wait.

5) Loyalty rewards are no joke. Listen, my life is insane. I don’t have time to sort my undies much less organize my shopping excursions. But if Target wants to float 5% my way with every visit, SURE! Similarly with The Children’s Place and any other shop that offers a recurring-visit discount. It adds up.

If you want to save a boatload shopping for your family with the ease of online ordering, take these small steps. Together, they all add up–in a big way!

 

First image credit: depositphotos.com, image ID:15846951, copyright:viperagp

Second image credit: depositphotos.com, image ID:36193699, copyright:Syda_Productions 

Nov 052014
 

I am always, always scared of taking big leaps, but I've learned this is the smartest thing we can do in this world. Be open to new things and go for it!It was typical Tuesday night. I was desperately trying to crank out some overdue blog work while hollering at my husband to just give up on the chicken nuggets and “get the kids in the bath already!”. Then my phone rang, and it was Stephanie Giese of Binkies and Briefcases, “Hey, do you want to go down to Texas and be on Glenn Beck with me?”

For those of you who don’t know Stephanie, here’s the short story: SHE IS ROCKING THE WORLD. Her recent post about the astounding inappropriateness of girls’ clothing on the mass market went beyond viral. While she’s busy managing the response to this, she’s also running full speed ahead with the Blog U 2015 conference (the second annual installment of the insanely successful conference she founded last summer), and oh, raising three young children.

So basically, when the scary-fantastic Stephanie asks, you say yes.

Glenn Beck wanted us to come on his show and discuss appropriate Halloween costumes from a mom’s POV. I could do this??

Forget the chicken nuggets; I called out to my husband, “Hey babe, how do you feel about me popping down to Texas?”

We live in Pennsylvania.

Fast forward three weeks and a lot of finagling, and I found myself on a plane. And then in a green room. Like, a legit green room–you’ll excuse me while I pee myself a bit here.

And while I was hanging out in the very green room, forcing myself not to on-air nervous puke, post-show pal-ing it up with Glenn Beck and his very sweet daughter (who thanked me for doing the show because it “meant a lot to her dad”) and then madly snatching souvenirs for my kiddos in the airport while we dashed to our plane, I had some important realizations.

I have people. Not as in a “my people will call your people” situation, but as in, I’m not alone in this world. When Steph first asked, I thought, “yeah, right–I could never actually pull this off”. And then my husband offered to take a day off work, my mother-in-law drove out to help with the kids for a night, and my friend jumped at my plea to pick my kids up from school. When I asked my dad for airport transport, he simply told me give him the times–of course he would do it. Another friend was willing to cover a few-hour gap in childcare if need be and yet another friend quickly started helping me research Glenn Beck and reviewing talking points.  Hundreds of people on Facebook took the time to weigh in and help me sort out attire dilemnas–the most import element of the entire trip, obviously. The support and encouragement of others as I prepped for and then went on this wild-to-me adventure blew me away. And that people actually took the time to tune into the show and then encourage me afterwards? My eyes welled with tears as I checked my phone that night.

I know this life can all too often feel lonely, but sometimes it’s when you most need people that you realize you aren’t alone. Through this trip, I felt caught. I felt blessed. I felt grateful.

This life can be so mundane...fantasizing about how the other half lives can be so fun...really fun! Hop over for a minute with me!

Jumping is ALWAYS boss. I was the kid in college who had to take Ativan before any presentation so I didn’t faint away in panic of public speaking. Needless to say, this appearance on Glenn Beck was NOT “right up my alley”. It was very far removed from my alley, several lanes over, in fact. That and despite the nerves that left me literally shaking a few days prior and post-show, I will never, ever regret that I did it. Truth told? The green room, private hotel room and car service were pretty sweet perks that just make me feel boss. I’m okay with that.

I know how hard it is to manage this life. But listen, carving out a few minutes for friendship is one thing you will never, ever regret.  Do it now! Trust me ;)Real friendships are good. Steph and I have done a lot of huge life experiences together–cranked out a blog conference, thrown book signings, hosted a ladies’ night out, family-timed it up on the Fourth of July, and endlessly supported each other online. She wows me, of which I’ve made no secret.

The thing that you may not know is that she’s terrified of flying.  And I’m not uber-touchy-feely. I love greeting with hugs and kisses, but beyond this, not so much…Steph and I held hands on every take-off (and with lay-overs, there were several). As soon as the cameras cut on the show, she walked across the stage and I squeezed her hand for dear life. I needed support–emotionally and so I didn’t fall over in my heels. We prayed together before we went on set, and I endlessly told her how proud I was of her for accomplishing all that she has. We shared a messy steak sub in the airport and ignored the crumbs on each other’s faces. When I froze on camera, I will never, ever forget her mouthing “Isaac’s costume” from across the set to cue my talking points and help encourage me.

And none of it felt weird.  At 35, I’m not sure I was supposed to meet a genuine real-for-life friend that I can totally be myself around. But I did. And I don’t have the words to express the realness of this blessing.

I am also realizing the value of full-on supporting someone else in this world. I am so proud of what Steph is doing, and the opportunity to be there for her and help her promote her message? A gift in its truest form.

Regardless of what happens or doesn’t happen going forth with this whole blogging business, I will forever be grateful for the time I hung out in the green room with Steph–and for all the too-important lessons I learned while we were there.

To Texas, Glenn Beck, and crazy life experiences you were never supposed to have.

You can catch a longer clip of the 10/28/14 show and read about it here, but please pay the $1 and subscribe to 30 days of The Blaze TV so you can watch the whole show–I say way more semi-intelligent things in the second half so I don’t look quite as vapid. xo ;)

Oct 232014
 

Looking for a fun family fall treat? Dutch Wonderland in Lancaster has it all, or check out a similar amusement in your area--this truly was the perfect fall outing for our young family!

Remember that sweet place in Lancaster County where we love to hang out, Dutch Wonderland?

We are kind of totally in love with it.

So when they invited my family back to check out their Halloween Happy Hauntings, there wasn’t a whole lot of arm-twisting that had to happen to get us there. In fact, there was none.

We excitedly packed our daypack and costumes (yes, the park encourages guests to delight in the season and dress-up!), and headed off. Factor in a few temper tantrums and about 10 trips back to the house for things we forgot, and you’ll get the accurate picture of what goes down when my so-together family decides on a day out.

I like visiting Dutch Wonderland in the fall because all of the rides and attractions, excepting those with water, are still open.  Granted, my kids love the water park, but there is still loads to do on the drier side of the fun. This also allows for a cheaper admission price and a slightly less packed agenda–more time to simply explore and play always works for us!

Dutch Wonderland’s Happy Hauntings is perfect fit for young ones. The rides are still smaller-kid friendly as they always are, and the park does an excellent job of embracing the season–without being too scary. Pumpkins, costumes, and cobwebs galore adorn the park, but there are no horrifying super-spooky ghosts or goblins. This works for us–my children battle fears of the dark without any extra reasons for nightmares.

The smaller-kid friendly rides and attractions at Dutch Wonderland are a young family's dream come true! Visit next time you're in Lancaster County, PA, or check out a kid-friendly amusement park in your area!

The highlight of our visit was the Trick or Treat trail.  Crossing over the bridge into the back of the park, we found Exploration Island transformed into a Halloween wonderland! At each dinosaur exhibit, the kids were treated to some yummy candy by the very creatively costumed-employees. I won’t spoil all the fun in case you are planning to visit (Happy Hauntings is open both this weekend, 10/25-26, and next, 11/2-3), but my favorite dinosaur exhibit themes were the Dr. Seuss and the Crayola crayon box–you haven’t really lived until you’ve seen a dinosaur dressed as a pink crayon…

The Trick or Treat Trail was the perfect way for some safe trick-or-treating fun with a lot at some of the coolest costumes themes around!

 

I can’t say how fun it was to let the kids run around in their costumes and have a blast in a family-friendly environment. I even felt sort of vindicated when the hood of my son’s knight costume started to tear a bit after some very active sliding board fun. “See!”, I plead to my husband, “They DO get enough wear out of their costumes!” I may have slight obsession with gearing my children up in adorable coordinated costume themes each year.

The coordinated costume at mention, our little knight and princess combo couldn’t have been more perfect for the royalty theme that Dutch Wonderland is known for year round.  Now if they just start letting us bring in our dog dressed as the dragon, we’ll be all set…

Dutch Wonderland Happy Hauntings @meredithspidel

Head out to Dutch Wonderland, friends.  In a season when there are so many options for fall fun, this is the one that truly brings it all together and creates a whole autumn-full of special memories!

****Thanks to Dutch Wonderland for hosting my family for the day. All opinions expressed remain 100% my own.****

Aug 032014
 
We may have gotten our spots mixed up a bit...

We may have gotten our spots mixed up a bit…

Dutch Wonderland‘s tagline of “A Kingdom for Kids” couldn’t be more perfectly fitting.  Upon walking through the castle gates, you enter a land of fairytales-come-true.  There are princesses and dragons (all friendly, of course), kiddie rides galore, a water park, and magic.

I still remember going here as a kid and being wowed.  (Most specifically, I remember my grandparents taking me, sailing down a sliding board into a puddle of mud and my grandma hauling me to a store across the street to get a new outfit because I was a hot mess, but this is another story…).

I remember the mezmerizing-to-kids Dutch Wonderland signature features: the giant pretzel, the milkable cow (not real), the mini church, the birthday cake you could walk through and the gingerbread house with the teeny bakers-at-work.

A few days ago, my family got to spend the day at Dutch Wonderland, and one of my favorite parts was watching my daughter as enraptured with those gingerbread bakers as I used to be:

Sweet captivation

Sweet captivation

We visited on a gorgeous day, and I think my son would have played in the water park area for forever if we had let him.  I love Dutch Wonderland‘s water area because it is truly little-kid friendly.  It is isn’t too huge, so it’s easy to keep track of your little ones.  There are three separate areas: one for little little kids, one for water gun-shooting and other water play, and another with three not-enormous slides that are very well-manned by life-guards.  All are closely lined by lounge chairs for parents who want to grab a seat, but still keep a close eye on their kids.  In short, it’s a paradise for both kids and adults.

He was in his bliss!

He was in his bliss!

After running around the water park all morning and breaking for lunch, it was then time to hit the rest of the park.  We were all excited to visit Exploration Island with its new-for-2104 dinosaur exhibit and take a spin on the remodeled Turnpike:

What I love most about the picture is that my daughter wasn't quite tall enough to make it in--out her hands are still peeking out.

My daughter wasn’t quite tall enough to make it in, but her little hands still make an appearance ;)

Nothing like a late-afternoon drive.

Nothing like a late-afternoon drive.

Then we were off to (not-so-scary) roller coasters, the big flume ride, bumper cars, a family boat cruise and few old-fashioned kiddie rides for good measure.

Seeing her delighted over this ride was especially sweet–the exact same first one I rode as a kid and then operated as a teen!

Let’s be honest: a day at an amusement park with kids is never a relaxing event as a parent, but Dutch Wonderland makes a big day out pretty darn easy and fun.  It is truly a child-friendly park.  All of the rides are geared for little ones.  While my husband took our son on some of the “bigger” rides that my daughter was still too small for (The Kingdom Coaster and the bumper cars), there were loads of toddler-friendly rides (and gingerbread exhibits) within easy reach to keep us amused as we waited for the guys.

All of us had fun and were thoroughly delighted with our day in the Kingdom.  The only thing I’m left wishing for? That we get to back again very soon.

*****Thank you to Dutch Wonderland for hosting our family for the day!  Our delight in the park is 100% genuine, as is our desire to return ASAP!*****

Despite my best intentions to get a cute photo of my guys playing at the park in their new Tom and Teddy swimsuits "the softest, most comfortable suit Ive ever worn", according to my husband), I had to settle for capture their summer cuteness at home!

Despite my intention to snag a cute photo of my guys playing at Dutch Wonderland in their new Tom and Teddy swimsuits (“the softest, most comfortable suit I’ve ever worn”, said my understated husband), I ended up capturing their summer fashionableness poolside.  They are loving these suits–and I’m loving them in them!

 

Jul 212014
 
Go ahead, Summer, throw us your best, we are suited up and ready to take it!

Go ahead, Summer, throw us your best, we are suited up and ready to take it!

I love summer.  I love swimming in the pool, walking barefoot, and the splash of freckles across my nose.  I love lazy evenings on our deck, the smell of fresh-cut grass and sleeping with the windows open.  I love the ease of trading in snowsuits for sandals and how ridiculously blue freeze pops turn my kids’ tongues.  I love watching them chase each other through the sprinkler in the sunshine and then chase fireflies in the moonlight.

I love summer so much I’ll even tolerate the not-fun things.  The infinite number of flies that always get inside our house no matter how many times I holler to shut the door, the inanely popular notion that I should expose my legs to the world at large by wearing shorts, and my endless non-sexy sweating.  For the chance to wear cute sandals, I’ll agree to repetitive toenail-painting.  And because I am a good sport, I’ll even put up with the fact that those popsicles make every single surface of my home sticky, including my children.

I won’t lie; I jumped for joy when the school year ended.  Mostly because I had spent nine months fruitlessly trying to figure out how be on time and I had to officially resign my title as The Late Mom. Darn.

I longed for staying-in mornings, relaxed visits with friends, birthday parties, a beach vacation, precious help from my Mother’s Helper, an amusement park visit and lingering hours of daylight.  It was all going to be glorious.

And you know what?  It IS glorious–all of it.  I love every minute of our summer so much.  So much that it is actually starting to hurt. It hurts in the form of countless missed naps, running from dawn to past-dusk, endless fun with friends, completely obliterated schedules and lots of cherished US-ALL-BEING-TOGETHER-ALL-THE-TIME.

I was chatting about this with a friend who is experiencing the same “exciting summer intensity”. I went home, ruminated on it, and then had my epiphany.  “It’s the PACE of summer!”, I later declared to her.  “It’s the pace.  It’s all good, it just never ends.”

Those rare few minutes we could snag in the middle of winter of settling down into our couch? I’m honestly not sure if my couch is still there.  It might have been moved.  I’ll check in September and get back to you on this.

I know I have oft-shared how I pass out from exhaustion early in the evening, but let me give a true glimpse of how our summer nights go down:

My husband (who bizarrely has extended hours in the summer) walks in the door late.

I glare at him. I know, I know; he’s a lucky guy.

Shaking it off and coming back for more…

We may or may not eat dinner.  The kids and are in a fabulous state of mixed-dress combining elements of wet bathing suits, day wear and pajamas. If I attempted to put on make-up that day earlier, it is now streaming down my face and congealed in pretty globs as an effect of repetitively chlorine-bathing my face.  I am hot; again, he is lucky.

Somehow the kids land in their beds. I then romantically look at my husband and ask if he would like to watch an episode of Game of Thrones.  We cozy in, I pick up my knitting and then…

It is morning.  I have literally no clue how I landed in my bed or what happened after the yarn was broken out.  It’s sort of like wild college days with a more suburban, middle-age vibe and less booze.

Regardless, Summer has clearly won.  It has overtaken my life and weakened all my defenses of order and routine while exhausting me beyond capacity.  But like a classy victor, it leaves its adversary respecting its methods.  And in this case, it leaves me wanting more and more of all the sweet stuff it has to offer.

Well played, Summer.  Well played…

Jun 302014
 
Source aka Fantasy Land

Source
aka Fantasy Land

It was the stuff of fantasies–a Saturday, kids at the zoo with my in-laws and my husband and I were left peacefully alone to tackle our massive to-do list.  Despite the stymieing length of the list, there was hope in the air.  We had a boatload of errands to run, sure, but we could attack them without having to dedicate 16 minutes after every stop trying to wrangle children back into their car seats.

The mood was light, giddy with the potential of completing an entire task before the sun set.  Stopping on our way for coffee to celebrate our good fortune, we were off.

Two hours into all our running, we were still cheerful as we pulled into Sam’s Club.  Upon walking through the doors, I proudly yanked my membership card from the depths of my wallet and flashed it front of the bouncer.  “Look at me! Leaving the house without kids! Getting things done on a Saturday morning!”, my head shouted.  I was majorly bummed when the sweet elderly lady didn’t seem as impressed with me as I was.

Whatevs.  This shopping trip was ON. We had driven in separate vehicles, as we thought the van might have to be left for the day so it could be suited up with new tires. Surprised to learn it would only take 45 minutes, my husband suggested we leave, cross a few more things off our list, and then return to pick up the van.

Yes! Me! I want to be organized!

Yes! Me! I want to be organized!

“But,” I ventured, wild possibility boiling inside me, “Can I stay?”

“You mean stay here while I leave? What would you do?”, he struggled to make sense of the insanity.

“I think I would shop.”

“Will you get bored in 45 minutes?”

Eyeing up some adorable new oven mitts in the corner of my eye right next to a fabulous pile of margarita-maker ball gadgets, I breathed, “No, no I don’t think I will…”

Shooing him away, I immediately realized my error of not grabbing a cart.  What a fool I’d been!

Cart the size of a small flatbed secured, I dove into my glory and BEHOLD.  The things!  Clothing!  Not all of which looked like something my grandmother would have worn in the 70s!  And the most adorable pair of flipflops and a perfect baby gift for my sister.

Speaking of my sister, I’d better check to see if she needed any road atlases. Or cucumbers.  So very many cucumbers.  Do I eat enough cucumbers? Lots of quick texts sent to her.

I’d better send my husband and his friend a pic of the beekeeping novel I found too–might be fab for them to do some light hobby-relevant reading together?

And the Lysol–Holy Cow!  What an amazing price on Clean Linen scent spray.  And such a super deal on kids’ vitamins…now, actually, I was starting to get a little ticked, feeling as though I’d been thoughtlessly left in the dark.  I called my sister, “Why have you never told me how awesome this place was?!”

“I thought you knew.”

“Well, I knew in the way I knew all things before I had kids.  You were supposed to keep me updated.”

“I’m sorry.”

“You should be.  Do you want more books about The Civil War?”

“I don’t have any. I don’t want any because I don’t read about it.”

“Fine. I’m stocking up on pizza in case you get hungry.”

“I don’t live with you.”

“You still might get hungry.”, Gracious, I hate it when she’s so illogical.

Blissful meandering continued, delightful treasures at every turn. This was the best Saturday morning of my life.

And then, right there before my very eyes, I saw It.  The Post-it aisle.  I think my heart actually skipped several beats.  I whipped out my phone and immediately texted my husband and my sister, horrific feelings of being foolishly unaware flooding my being, “WHY HAS NO ONE EVER TOLD ME SAM’S CLUB SOLD SUCH CUTE POST-ITS?!”

Can you EVEN IMAGINE all the cute notes I could write with these?

Can you EVEN IMAGINE all the cute notes I could write with these?

Here's the thing: if you can stash your Sam's Club haul in the passenger side of a Honda Civic, you're a good woman.  A very good woman.

Here’s the thing: if you can stash your Sam’s Club haul in the passenger side of a Honda Civic, you’re a good woman. A very good woman.

My sister wrote back, “Jared, I’m so sorry.”

As I continued to shake my head in disbelief before the glorious stock of Post-Its, my husband returned from his errand run and walked up beside me.

“Jared…,” I exhaled and grabbed his arm.

“I know,” he said, “I know.”

Beautiful, beautiful Sam’s Club.

 

May 082014
 
Source Someday, my love, someday one foot will go in front of the other.

Source
Someday, my love…someday one foot will go in front of the other.

Sunday morning my husband rolled over and whispered some sweet, sweet nothings in my ear, “I just want to sit calmly with you over a cup of coffee.”

I swooned at his amorous words, “Me too.”

We then looked at each other, got up and wordlessly split duty, each wrangling one fussy child into their church clothes. Over a leisurely breakfast of repetitive screams to not spill milk, it became very apparent that we would have to table our coffee date.  Until about 2029. The estimated year that my daughter might leave for college.

This theme of tabling stuff until the kids get older has come up a lot recently.  The thing is, it didn’t occur to me until last week that I wouldn’t actually be able to physically take progressive steps until my children were older. I know, silly ignorant newbie mom…

We had some dear friends visiting one day, and much in need of a little exercise, we decided to trek down to the park.

The fact that we can walk to our local park is one of my favorite things about our house.  For years, it worked out super. I threw the kids in the stroller and off we rolled.  When they were very young we went to just spin around for fresh air.  When they were older, we crawled around the playground equipment while Mommy madly snapped pictures until someone fell and began sobbing.

The good old days…

Source But for now, this is the name of the game.

Source
But for now, this is the name of the game.

I was going to be smart this time.  The week prior I had gotten burned carrying three bikes, multiple helmets, and one scooter up a very large hill while my kids and their friend gleefully ran ahead.  The extensive bruising on my shins still hasn’t forgiven me.  I won’t be able to wear a mini dress without raising alarms of abuse until mid-summer.  Never again.

This time, Mommy was smart.  She pulled out the wagon.  Told each child they could pick one scooter and would have to walk the entire way to the park.

My daughter promptly sat down in the wagon and refused to move.

No sweat; we could still get this thing.  Undaunted, I threw her scooter in the front of the wagon and took off.  We covered at least a dozen steps and all appeared to be working out extremely well–until it occurred to me that two of the children in my care were nearly out of yelling range–in opposite directions.  I panicked a little, ran in circles herding everyone back together, and then we were back on track.

We pressed on further, threw several temper tantrums, and incurred more bruising of various type.

The sum total progress of our efforts at this point?  A half block.  I wrote a long time ago about the sheer difficulty of trying to get further than the end of my driveway with a baby and a toddler.  What I didn’t know is that several heavier-than-you-think tricycles and children who can walk later, I would be longing for those baby days.

As it stands now, I am firmly anticipating getting at least halfway to the park by July. Momentous forward progress is, for now, tabled.  In the meantime, I looked over at my friend, and said the most-true truth of motherhood, “I need a drink.”

Better make it a double?

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