I Don’t Wanna

I don’t know about you, but the evening of January 2nd in our house wasn’t pretty. After some time off to rest and recharge, including a visit with family and playing in the snow, we had reached the eve of needing to go back to work and school, and we were all collectively bummed out about it.

“I don’t wanna go back to school,” said my oldest. “Me either,” chimed in my youngest. I’m not particularly excited myself, I thought. It’s hard to let go of the joy you feel from vacation, from experiencing something new (location, activity), or anew (like reconnecting with family and friends). I had to remind myself several times over break to stay in the moment and not let my thoughts drift too far into what awaited for me to pick back up on January 3rd.

On Tuesday morning, we started getting back into our old schedule. While it would have been nice to sleep in later, or have free time to do what we wanted, there was a peace to getting back into our daily routine. I could even see my kids coming to the same conclusion as they started thinking about gifts they had received over break and how they couldn’t wait to show them off. There was anticipation over seeing friends they hadn’t seen in a few weeks. Tuesday morning was turning out to be not that bad.  While we had been dreading going back, the dread was wearing off.

“I know what will help,” my son shared as we were driving to school, “we should plan another trip!” The idea of getting to plan another vacation (even a short one) seemed to put us over the top — we were happy and January 3rd was going to be a fine day (and it was).

How do you help your child transition between something they are enjoying and something they dread?

Happy New Year!

Summer’s Simple Pleasures

What is your favorite summer activity?  Camping, going on a picnic, or to the lake, riding bikes or something else?  Mine is always hosting or attending a BBQ.

There is just something about having good friends around you. Being about to relax and enjoy each other’s company. I treasure watching the kids playing in the yard–whether they are battling with water guns, chasing each other or playing in the sprinkler. It’s all so simple, and makes me so happy.

I equate the experience to when I saw my first fireflies during a warm summer evening decades ago. I realized it was special and I wanted it to last. And if it couldn’t last forever, I hoped it would happen again. That’s what summer BBQs are for me. They are one of those special moments I look forward to every year.

What summer activity does your family enjoy? Which of summer’s simple pleasures are special for you?

Hawaiian Rainbow

Have you ever sang a silly song with your child?

My son was in a music concert a few months ago. His class sang the song, “Hawaiian Rainbow.” It had a catchy tune, and told my son when he was finished, “We’re going to sing this song the next time we see a rainbow!” He looked at me like, oh, mom!

Sure enough when we were on Spring Break, we saw a rainbow and I burst into song, only I couldn’t remember the lyrics, so I improvised.

Here is how the song is supposed to go:

Hawaiian rainbows white clouds roll by
I see your colors against the sky
Hawaiian rainbows it seems to me
Come from the mountains down to the sea

And here is how I sang it:

Hawaiian rainbows white clouds roll by
You show your colors against the sky
Hawaiian rainbows it seems to me
That I’ve got two boys who are very wiggly

My boys squealed with delight. “Mom, that’s not how the song goes!” “It isn’t?,” I protested. They knew I was kidding. That was the beginning of singing Hawaiian Rainbow numerous times over the next several days. Every time getting the lyrics just slightly wrong. It always made us laugh, and it made the trip that much more memorable and enjoyable. I know I’ll think of it every time I see a rainbow.

How do you make your family trips more memorable?

Jackpot!

When was the last time you felt like you struck it rich? Whether it was winning money unexpectedly or having an outcome or experience better than expected?

I had one in an unexpected place…a local family fun center. We went to the family fun center to pass the time on a rainy day. My boys were off playing separate games. I was with my younger son and we joined his brother to an atmosphere of excitement. Lights were flashing and the machine was dispensing tickets at a fast rate. My older son exclaimed, “I hit the jackpot!” When he said this, I thought he won maybe 50 tickets or so. But then I looked at the game and saw he indeed hit The Jackpot — 1500 tickets. He was ecstatic, and I was stunned. How often does someone hit a jackpot, I thought.

We can so often think the jackpot is out of our reach in life. While we might not win the lottery or the jackpot at our local family fun center, I’d argue that we’ve all hit the jackpot many times without realizing it. I felt like I hit the jackpot when I met my husband, we bought our first house and when our kids were born. I feel like I’ve hit the jackpot anytime I see a beautiful landscape, hear a song that I love, I connect with others in my writing or speaking, run into a friend in an unexpected place, or get an “I love you” from one of my boys. When I think about it, I’ve hit the ‘jackpot’ many times. It isn’t a rare thing, as much as it is a special thing.

When do you feel like you’ve hit the jackpot?

Holiday Cards

Dear Friend,

I hope this card finds you well. Another year has flown by again…

Holiday cards are nice to receive, right? I love getting cards from friends. I really enjoy getting holiday cards from friends, particularly those I haven’t seen in a while or do not speak to on a regular basis, that include details about what they’ve been up to the last year. It seems like getting details lessens every year.

I can certainly appreciate how busy everyone is. There always seems to be something to do: get your child some place, get yourself some place, pick up something, drop off something, make something, do something. The list of ‘to-dos’ seems endless. Getting holiday cards done can seem like one more ‘to-do’ on a very long list.

I appreciate the effort and the thought of being included on friend’s mailing list, but oh, how I miss details of what is going on in our friends lives when they are not included. I know there are many reasons why people don’t do this:

  • They don’t want to be seen as bragging (most letters include highlights vs. low lights — you see more “we took a trip to Hawaii” vs. “Jimmy’s failing math and we’re super stressed about it.” right?),
  • They don’t think others are that interested in what’s going on with them (we are, we really are), or
  • They don’t have the energy to sit down to write the letter–there is just too much to get done, and this isn’t high on the list (we can all relate to this).

Writing a letter, for my husband and I, is a good way for us to pause and reflect on the past 12 months. We are often in awe of all that has occurred–good and bad, and what we look forward to in the New Year. It feels like by capturing our experiences on paper, we’re somehow permanently entering them into our family time capsule (which is made up solely of our memory, and what we capture in pictures, and on paper). The letter is a brief snapshot in time of our family history, that without writing down on paper, we’d too easily forget. When we finish our letter, I normally experience a range of emotions from grateful to sad: grateful we made it through another year and we are all healthy, and sad that precious time has passed.

A friend, this year, sent a simple fold out card with pictures of her kids and family. While it could have stopped there, she made the card even more special by adding text over each child’s picture with what everyone was grateful for. It gave me a quick sense of what the kids were into (grateful for certain toys, or their pets, friends, etc.), and that they were doing okay (when you share that you are grateful, it tells me that things must be pretty okay…it’s difficult to be grateful when you are in a low spot or something terrible has happened).

She shared those details I crave. I really appreciated it.

How do you stay connected with others? What types of cards do you like to send, and receive?

I want to wish everyone safe and happy holidays. I will be taking time off and will return in January.

Soaking Wet

When was the last time you got into a water gun (or water balloon) fight? For me, it had been several decades, that was, until this week.

Each year, my husband and I encourage our boys to complete a math software-based program that includes upward of 200 assignments. The work that is not assigned by the school, but encouraged as an aid to help the student practice and hone their math skills. We think it benefits our children, so we have them work on it throughout the year. When they are done, we celebrate by letting them get something they want (within reason) to celebrate their accomplishment. This year, my oldest wanted a water gun.

When I was growing up, a water gun was small and made of see-through plastic. The water gun my son selected was large and had multiple water spray mechanisms. Water guns have come a long way since I was a kid.

Once my son had the water gun in his hands at home, he couldn’t wait to fill it with water and take it out the backyard to see what it could do. The minute my husband got home, my son determined a water gun fight needed to ensue. My husband had a different idea, he suggested the boys help him with some projects outside, and when they were done, they could have a water gun fight. The boys eagerly agreed.

It couldn’t help but smile watching my boys help their father out in the backyard, and it brought me great joy to see the water gun fight that commenced following. My oldest was relentless in getting his father soaking wet, and my husband wasn’t about to let his son get him wet without returning the favor. My youngest occasionally got into the battle, but was happy just to observe, like me. When the fight was over, everyone came back into the house. There was panting, and laughing about what had just happened. They were soaking wet, and I loved it.

I’m guessing we’ll have several more water gun fights in upcoming years, and think about how long it will be before my boys re-engage in a water gun fight once they are grown. I hope it isn’t as long as it was for me. I clearly missed out on having fun with water.

As an adult, what games have you reconnected with from your childhood? What activities do you do as a family that bring you the most joy?

 

Let’s Have an Adventure

What family vacations come to mind from your childhood?  Road trips? Camping? Visiting friends or family?

As a child, my family was a ‘road trip’ kind of family. We drove everywhere, regardless of the distance. Our trips were educational. We saw a lot, learned a lot, and after a while, got on each other’s nerves a lot. But we enjoyed the experience together and have many great memories as a result. As a young adult, I often felt like many of our family vacations were FFF – Forced Family Fun, but in reality, they were an adventure.

An adventure is defined as an exciting or remarkable experience. I can remember getting ready for our trips, packing our suitcases, and thinking about the games we’d play in the car. It was exciting, we were going to see and do something new. Even if we were going to see our relatives or go to a new place, our road trips were never quite the same.

This summer, we have planned many adventures for our family. There will be camping, long drives, and lots of time together. My husband and I can’t wait. The kids seem excited too. I wonder if they’ll think back and have fond memories of our time together, or if they’ll think of these trips as Forced Family Fun.

We are building memories, and I’m treasuring each one. To see my sons faces once we get to our destination, to see them enjoying finding bugs in the outdoors, roasting marshmallows over the campfire, watching waterfalls in awe, or seeing their joy as they jump into a pool, I’m not sure being a parent gets much better than these moments.

What adventures do you have planned for this year?

Gingerbread Dream House

Every year I am amazed at the creativity and great lengths people go to for the holidays. Homes and yards I didn’t pay much mind to before, are now filled with lights and decorations and have my full attention. I love how it brings the streets to life giving off that warm feeling you normally only experience inside someone’s home.

While we decorate our home for the holidays, we don’t hold a candle to some of our neighbors (note: we truly appreciate our neighbors decorations, it gives us a great reason to look out our front windows).  Since meeting my husband the art of making, or more accurately decorating, gingerbread houses has become a tradition for our family.  This was a tradition in his family and we incorporated it into ours.

Decorating a gingerbread house is all about how you envision it in its final state. It’s about making (baking), constructing and adding the final touches. It’s about sugar, lots of sugar; colors, the more the better; and details, a great house has a lot of fine detail like a cat in the window or a wreath on the door.

It’s fun to work on a gingerbread house. There is no judgment or expected perfection. It’s about trial and error, being together as a family and building something together.

I’ve thought about what a real dream home might look like for my family in the future. And while I may fantasize about increased square footage, and the number of bedrooms or baths it may have, I’m reminded I need look no further than my family’s gingerbread house, it’s more like our home than I realized. Each year it never changes in size but does in appearance, and most importantly it always brings us together as a family.  I think it’s the perfect dream house.

What holiday traditions do you have that brings your family together?