Summer Wrap Up

August 27, 2014 at 2:14 pm (Family, GOJ, MJ, Parenthood, PJ, WJ) ()

Every time someone asks my kids what they’ve been up to this summer, and this is a favorite question of adults to kids and other adults alike, my kids’ response is “Nothin'” and a shrugging of their shoulders.

I started the summer practicing, and really have always used, an “Embrace the Bored” parenting style. I don’t over schedule my kids (generally). And I don’t feel the need to prepare specific activities for home either. We have plenty of toys, plenty of yard, plenty of books, plenty of craft supplies. Go.

I have a box for our unfolded socks that is labeled “Are you bored? Fold socks.” Translation- don’t talk to me about nothing to do or I’ll find something for you to do. My kids know that mentioning boredom will get them either an instruction to do a chore, a recitation of my motto “Only boring people are bored”, or a lecture on how being bored is a privilege of the rich. Or all three.

Still, I know what irks me about them being ho-hum about their summer is that I wish we’d done more. There were days we lazed around and bickered all day, and I knew we’d be better off getting out, but just didn’t quite have it in me. In practice, “Embrace the Bored” seemed to lead to kids stretched out on couches, clearly bored, but smart enough not to say so. What do bored school-aged children tend to do, I found? Not find a great book to read, but pester various siblings until they find the sibling that yields the biggest reaction. The littlest one, interestingly, is happiest to occupy herself. You can usually find her at the kitchen table, drawing.

I can’t say I’m ready to give up “Embrace the Bored”. I’m not sure why there was not much taking up of interesting projects or play this summer. Perhaps that’s just my point of view. Maybe there was internal processing going on that will bear fruit later, during those hours sprawled on the couch, repeatedly and unfruitfully asking for more screen time (my rule was an hour after your morning chore was done, no more until Dad gets home and we may decide to watch something as a family, may not).

I do wish I’d arranged a few more get-togethers with some of the boys’ school friends. They did play nearly daily with their neighborhood friends. That may have gone a long way to feeling “fun”, more than anything you can pay to go see. But arranging such things is not really my forte, and I was also looking for a job all summer. So I was trying not to commit to anything too far out, such as a camp they could have done with friends. We mostly did family day trips. Even then, some of us like to leave the house more than others. The same kids that complain we didn’t do much this summer have to be dragged out of the house more often than not.

At any rate, all these Nothin’ replies and my usual self-criticism had me feeling some major Mama-guilt about their summer. So I made a list*. Turns out, it wasn’t Nothin’. I had a lot of fun at some of these activities, and I believe the rest of the family did too. Maybe it’s just that the older kids get, the less they know how to do Enthusiastic well. Teenagers are not known for their enthusiasm. Maybe we should have done much less and we’d have gotten over the Bored hump. Maybe many things. My conclusion after some reflection is that we tried to do some fun things, and you win some you lose some. They can choose to believe they had an awesome summer, and they can choose to believe it sucked. Like all things, I can’t control what anybody else thinks.

I will show them this list, though, so in case their teacher asked, they might have something to say. ūüôā

*Here, for the record, so you don’t believe what you hear from my kids, is

What We Did This Summer (June – August 2014)

Charter boat fishing off Westport for salmon (SUCCESS!)
Set up, played in, and maintained our 18 ft above-ground pool
Hosted my Aunt Elly and cousin Chris (in his twenties and therefore way cool for all of my kids) visiting from Alaska
Celebrated my Grandpa John’s 90th birthday camping in Corvallis, OR
Returned two weeks later to celebrate his life in memorium
Visited the Flying Heritage Museum three times, including their annual air show and the last flight of the White Knight)
Bought and lit fireworks for the first time
Visited my parents’ home in Port Angeles
Hiked to Marymere Falls
Had Date Night at Diamond Knot Brewery
Attended gymnastics classes
Backpacked up the Elwha River
Camped with family friends at Flowing Lake- canoed, fished, tubed, and attempted waterskiing
Played at Wild Waves
Celebrated Willa’s 4th birthday at Birch Bay Waterpark
Petted animals, ate junk food, rode ponies, and watched the Logger Show at the Evergreen State Fair
Boated with cousins on Lake Sammamish
Celebrated Father’s Day with a ferry ride and drive to Point No Point Lighthouse- fished
Toured Whidbey Island, visiting the Coupeville Arts Festival and toured Fort Casey bunkers and lighthouse
Hosted and attended several bbqs with friends
Hosted a family party for Willa’s 4th birthday
Attended a Glow Birthday Party at Jump Planet
Played at Auntie Laura’s house on Lake Jane twice- kayaked, swam the lake and in her neighborhood pool
Visited the library at least once a week
Swam at Rattlesnake Lake
Loaded and emptied the dishwasher ~130 times
Shopped for, fixed, and consumed ~360 meals and snacks
Dirtied, washed, sorted, and folded ~180 loads of laundry
Read at least one full book geared for adults
Read many many books geared for children
Climbed to the top of Guemes Island with friends
Celebrated Backwards Day
Swam at Lake Washington with cousins at least twice
Caught our first crab
Camped at Blue Mountain with Dad’s co-worker and son
Went to the Fremont Solstice Festival
Played at Edmonds Beach a couple times
Watched the Bothell Fourth of July Parade
Flew to San Diego for a job interview
Swam at McCollum Pool
Spent a couple days watching our road get repaved
Replaced electrical cables in Mark’s truck and got it running again (both boys helped)
Had friends over and played in the pool and Xbox (many times)
Attended eight doctors visits (caught up on all the check-ups and multiple specialist)
Attended three dentist visits (Holy Cavities!)


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Birthday Party Crasher

March 10, 2011 at 7:45 pm (GOJ, Uncategorized)

I took the kids (minus sicko Auden) to a birthday party at one of those indoor bouncy house funland/emporium/warehouses last weekend.

Greta started slow, but eventually ran wild with the best of them.

They had two birthday parties going.  Eventually the employees started rounding up the other party to take the Official Birthday Party Picture.  I noticed them lining up all the kids against a wall.  Parents and other adults were all snapping. 

And then I noticed: my 3 year old child lined up, smiling obediently.¬† With nobody she knew.¬† In some other random kid’s birthday picture.¬† For some reason, this struck me as so hysterical, I couldn’t stop laughing long enough to go intervene.¬† I kept picturing them looking at the photos later and asking each other, “Who is that kid?”¬† And then I’d start hysterically laughing again with tears running down my face.

The birthday kid was maybe turning 4.¬† Why didn’t his parents notice there was a stranger in the photo?¬† I don’t know, but I’m using that as my excuse for not immediately running over and grabbing her.¬† Judge me now.¬† Plus, she’s a cute kid; she only added to the loveliness of the birthday party documentation, right?¬† Who wouldn’t want this in their photo?
Outside the gate
Greta’s cheesiest smile on the first day of preschool

About halfway through, I realized there was no way I could go get her now, because why hadn’t I noticed where my child was earlier?¬† And why was I crying?¬† So I was stuck standing about 30 feet away, waiting for her to be done with¬†her photo shoot.¬† It seemed to take forever, with other kids sticking fingers up their noses and running out of the shot.¬† Then they called PIZZA, and Greta tried to run off towards their party room.

At that point, I quickly rescued Greta.¬† This may be an instance of you had to be there, or just bad writing, because re-reading this is doesn’t seem terribly funny.¬† But I promise you, it was.

Then we get home and relay the story to Dad.¬† He pulled out his high school yearbook.¬† I have a vague recollection, on high school picture day, they’d periodically call over the intercom, “It’s time for the Spanish Club picture.¬† All Spanish Club members, please come to the Student Center.”¬† Or Bowling Club, or Archery Club, whatever.¬† Mark figured out by his senior year this was an excuse for anybody to get up and leave class.¬† Rather than just ditch class, though, he actually went and stood in the picture.¬† He’s in the annual in clubs he had absolutely no association with no less than six times.¬†

I guess it’s an inherited trait?

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Halloween Anecdotes

November 2, 2010 at 4:49 am (AJ, Family, GOJ, PJ, Running, WJ)

Halloween magically went off without a hitch this year.¬† No fights about eating too much candy, no costume disasters.¬† The worst thing that happened was Greta tripping while trick-or-treating, trying to keep up with her brothers and friends, who were running from house to house.¬† Hopefully the magic of Halloween will spill over into the magic of Thanksgiving and the magic of Christmas, rather than meaning we’ve used up our one good holiday of the year and Christmas will suck.

I almost thought I ruined it.¬† Meaning to fill them up on nutritious food prior to the candy, we prepared noodles, chicken, and sweet potato fries for dinner.¬† The noodles and chicken, at least, are one of the very few sure-fire eats for Greta and Auden.¬† Halloween night, though, Greta refused all of it.¬† Plain noodles, are you kidding me?¬† What’s objectionable about that?¬† I generally don’t believe in food ultimatums, but I made one.¬† “If you don’t eat a bite of sweet potato, you can’t eat any candy tonight.”¬†¬†¬†

It was time to leave, and she wasn’t going to budge.

I couldn’t figure out how in the hell I was going to stay true to my word and not have a tantruming 3-year-old on my hands.¬†¬†Before I could think of an exit strategy, we were on our way.¬† Keeping her from eating candy while hurrying from house to house was easy.¬† Time passed quickly; two hours later we arrived at home.¬† I reminded her that she could have candy tomorrow after she’d had better nutrition.¬† And her reply?¬† OK Mom.¬† What?¬† Seriously?¬† Hallelujah!¬† She went easily to bed, with me in disbelief putting her down.

How cute is this girl?

The Friday before I brought the girls to the Halloween party at Auden and Parker’s school.¬† They didn’t even load them up with cookies and candy.
Lots of fun Happy Halloween!

That night, the high school cross country team held a Pumpkin Run.  Nothing like candy to motivate kids to run.  Parker was just sure he was going to win a trophy.  I was doubtful.  Thankfully he was happy with a ribbon and three pieces of candy.
Nothing like candy to entice kids to run

I have recently become aware that I have failed in teaching my children how to pose for photographs.

This morning, November 1st, Parker says to me, “Let’s light the jack-o-lanterns again tonight. Then, tomorrow, let’s put up the Christmas tree. I just love celebrating the Holidays!”

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A Camping Alphabet Post

September 19, 2010 at 4:48 pm (AJ, Family, GOJ, MJ, PJ, School, WJ)

I’m the volunteer¬†“librarian” in Auden and Parker’s class.¬† Last week’s theme was alphabet books, which inspired this post on this weekend’s camping trip with Auden and Parker’s school.

A is for Auden, my favorite babysitter for Willa.¬† He’ll willingly sit next to her while I do things like go to the restroom or fetch water.

B is for Bailey’s, what I’m drinking in my coffee this morning to recover.

C is for coffee.  Which I needed Saturday morning and did not ever get.

D is for downpour, of the long-lasting kind.

E is for eagle, an animal our family is constantly on the lookout for.¬† It’s actually pretty amazing how often we can spy a bald eagle around here.¬† Me, I forget to look up, but the generally boys have less to pull their eyes downward.¬† Exactly the way it’s supposed to be.

F is for fort, that the boys and friends had ever so much fun making.  Bonus for mom is the exhaustion that carrying huge driftwood logs all day entails.

G is for Greta, a girl of her own mind.¬† You know how you see moms walking away from their children, saying, “OK, I’m going now,” and the kid eventually runs to catch up?¬† This does not work with Miss G.¬† I can get out-of-sight a hundred feet away, peek to look back,¬†and Greta¬†is still¬†squatting to look at rocks, completely unconcerned for her safety.

H is for Heather has a Headache.¬† When the sun appeared at noon, we were beachcombing with no sunglasses or hats.¬† Within an hour, I had a headache from squinting.¬† Within another hour, I had a really bad headache and was dragging four children back to the campsite so I could puke in the bushes in peace.¬† I certainly have experience with the combo of camping and throwing up, but it’s supposed to also involve whiskey and a rocking good night beforehand.

I is for insane, my mental state when I agreed Mark should go down to the Husky-Nebraska game from the camping spot.¬† Had I calculated between tail-gating, driving, traffic, and the game itself I’d be left alone for EIGHT hours with four kids of widely varying interests and walking speeds, I would not have said “Oh sure, honey, you’ve wanted to go to a game forever.”¬† Or more realistically, as he really has wanted to go forever, we would not have gone camping.

J is for just barely, the way I held it together.

K is for Krispy¬†Treats, our contribution to Saturday night’s potluck.¬† (Parker’s contribution- I couldn’t think of K.)

L is for living room, where we had our cosy fire on Saturday night.

M is for Mark, who was a sight for sore eyes when he returned from the game.¬† How grateful I was at that moment that I am not a single mom.¬† Sometimes I love my husband because he’s my Man, sometimes I love him because he’s¬†Help. Picture “Oh, Help” as¬†asked for¬†by Julie Andrews in The Sound of Music.

N is for new friends.  All the craziness was worth watching my boys develop friendships with kids they will know for years to come.  And I met some very nice parents, also, although I had to get past my anxiety that they were all wondering what in the world I was doing there with four children by myself and beholden to their help.

O is for Oreo.  What is a mother to do to contain her four children while she vomits?  Give them Oreos in the tent!  Crumbs be damned!

P is for Parker.¬† Parker, who loves life to its fullest, then crumples and still needs his Mama’s fullest attention.

Q is for quit, which is what we did Saturday evening.  I have never made the decision to come home a day early from camping, but in this case- best decision EVER.

R is for Ranger Dave.  A very nice guy invited to give an instructional beach walk.  What happened instead, however, was a sit-quietly-at-a-picnic-table-listen-to-me-ramble.  My children were not amused.  School on a Saturday?  Too much to ask.

S is for Survivor Games, which Parker played with fifty other kids from his school.

T is for tent.  Thank goodness for rain flies.

U is for Urine.¬† Middle-of-the-night urine in sleeping bags, daytime urine puddling in shoes.¬† Urine, urine, urine.¬† Greta did not once use the actual campground bathrooms the entire time we were there, if that’s any indication of the clothing changes we had.¬† Though I’ve considered her potty trained since last January, I finally put her in a pull-up around the time I started throwing up.

V is for van.  A mini van is to be celebrated when packing up camp in the dark rain can be done by throwing it all in the back without rolling a camp pad or stuffing a bag.

W is for Willa, my sweet sweet easy baby.  Oh my goodness how I love this little (big!) bundle of fleece in my lap!

X is for the pedestrian X-Ray, which we did not need to examine the fish spines we found on the beach.

Y is for yurt, which we were not staying in, unlike many of the families.  But now we know how to spell it!

Z is for the zealous love that I feel for this camping family of mine.

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a beachy ten things

August 28, 2010 at 6:39 pm (Family, GOJ, WJ) (, , )

Inspired by SouleMama, ten things that are bringing me great joy right now:

◊ this weather: partly sunny, highs in the upper sixties

◊ Car Talk

◊ twenty-four hours alone with my girls

‚óä observing the last minutes of Willa’s night sleep, as often as I can.¬† She stretches her tightly-closed¬†fists as high as they will go.¬† Which,¬†in a baby-proportioned body, is an inch or so above her head.¬† She wiggles her head side-to-side.¬† Finally one eyelid parts slightly.¬† “Oh, you’re here”, she seems to think.¬† “Hi Mama.”¬† Both eyes open slowly and she starts to coo.¬† Telling me her thoughts.

‚óä an almost-three-year-old girl whose language is blossoming.¬† “Sorry” has finally entered her vocab!

◊ the independent spirit of that same three-year old.  This is where she spent most of our last beach trip, off by herself, enjoying the sand.
The old and the young at the water

‚óä my brother-in-law Justin, an awesome uncle.¬† The only adult in our family willing to brave the Pacific Ocean above his shins…
It takes dedicated swimmers

…and throw a few boys around.
Uncle Justin is a great uncle

‚óä the success of my latest I-need-some-help-around-here plan.¬† I (un)imaginatively call it Half Hour of Work.¬† Every day my six-year¬†olds and I set a timer and choose jobs off a post-it list until it beeps.¬† Then we do something fun.¬† Before-hand I’ve gone around and determined what things need doing that are six-year-old¬†appropriate.¬† It is A-MA-ZING how much we can get done.¬† Thursday, for instance, the entire downstairs was picked up and vacuumed, clean laundry was hauled upstairs for folding, a couple of weeks¬†worth of socks were matched, and the dishwasher was un-¬†and re-loaded.¬† More importantly than the actual work is the improved moods all around.¬† You’d think they’d grumble, and they do, a little (and in one instance a LOT).¬† But it has ended up improving everybody’s day immensely.¬† I feel supported, and more able to devote fun¬†time to them afterwards.¬† Their¬†moods have improved and even fighting has decreased.¬† I know they like the attention afterwards and that’s most of the change.¬† But I think deep down (perhaps waaay¬†deep down) they like the feeling of having done a job that helps the family.¬† I had expected the physical result of a cleaner house but I seriously had no idea how much it would affect family relations.

◊ knitting again (I wonder for who?)
Apple blanket

‚óä Shutterfly and the completion of a family memorabilia project I’ve been working (ok, postponing) for close to two years.¬† Haven’t seen the finished product yet but I have high hopes.

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July 9, 2010 at 10:30 pm (AJ, Family, GOJ, MJ, PJ, WJ) (, )

I’m not sure these types of posts read well, but I feel the urge to write and it can only help my waiting-and-waiting-for-a-baby mental state.

Pretty much all from yesterday, ten things that bring me great joy right now:

– Having a husband who listens- at least some of the time, and more so when I’m 40 weeks pregnant…

– My sister Laura, who’s been helping me with my children from Day 1.¬† She moved in with us for the summer when we had newborn twins.¬† Yesterday she, my kids, and I hiked down to Lake Washington.¬† She took a crying Parker back up the trail after we were halfway down for a Band-Aid.¬† Without her, the trip would’ve ended there.¬† I wasn’t physically going to make it back up and start again, and Parker wasn’t going to brush off his injuries.¬† [Reminder to self: Pack Band-Aids for all walks, no matter how short.¬† 2/3 of my children needed them.]¬†¬†Auntie Lala carried Greta in the water, which I couldn’t have managed with my pregnant sense of balance, the rocky ground, and the boat wakes.¬† And, she chased Greta down in the grocery store parking lot during our post-hike popsicle run.

– Auden and Parker, who made the steep climb up from the lake in the 90 degree heat without a hint of whine.

– Living in the Pacific Northwest.¬† The heat of the last couple days reminds me to be grateful we don’t live somewhere this hot all the time.¬† I’ll try not to complain about our ten days of heat for the year, despite the coinciding of this year’s with my due date.

– No PNW list of yesterday’s joys could be complete without (if you have one)- our window A/C.¬† Even if it seems a little¬†tacky in the front window.

– Finally having the energy and gumption to make a decent meal.¬† The memory of last night’s chicken fajitas still makes me happy.

– Greta, who after all the day’s activities, went to sleep early SO easily in Parker’s bed.¬† She asks every day all day to sleep with one of her brothers.¬† Nevermind she’s fickle about which one and that they use it as a bargaining chip with her: “Greta, I’ll let you sleep with me if you give me that XYZ.”¬† There’s not anything¬†more precious¬†to a Mama than her children sleeping¬†together.
37/365 Sleeping quarters in the cabin
Sailing in the San Juans, July 2008

– Having my cell phone battery die yesterday and recognizing how much better I felt.¬† Various well-meaning family members keep texting, emailing, and calling me every day to see how I’m doing.¬† Fine, thanks!¬† Mostly woman who already have babies; don’t they remember?¬† With my previous pregnancies I was careful to fudge my due date a little and tell all a later date than true 40 weeks.¬† This time I didn’t think I needed that since I’ve never been overdue.¬† And I’m still not!¬† But as I’ve gotten close, I’m getting the¬†constant barrage¬†this time.¬† Yes, yes, I’m hormonal, and I know they are just excited.¬†¬†I’ve still decided to turn off my phone for peace of mind during part of every day.¬† (Which I know will just freak them out that I’m in labor.¬† Ha ha ha.)¬† There goes the phone now… seriously.

– My LightWedge, without which, I couldn’t survive the insomnia.

РWater- in the form of Lake Washington, wading pools, and clean ice cubes that no one has to think twice about consuming safely.

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