Tuesday, June 28, 2011


And now you are nine...

It was a quiet day of celebration. No streamers, no balloons, no sleep-overs, no friends. There were your favorite foods all day. There was a movie in the afternoon. There was homemade ice cream in the afternoon. There was just the four of us. And I think that's what you wanted.

You grinned all day, knowing that you were older.

Overnight, you became taller. Smarter. Faster. Older. There were big, nine-year-old shoes to fill, and fill them you did.

How it that the things that make children the happiest make parents the most anxious. I'm not quite ready for you to grow up this quickly. But watching you zip around on your new (bigger) bike, watching you read more advanced books, watching you become more responsible, I realize that you are filling this new, little bit older role just fine.

Ready or not, now you are nine.

Friday, June 24, 2011

What It Says About Me: Refrigerator

While my bedside table may say that I'm organized and love pretty things and reading, my refrigerator tells a completely different story.

Take one look at my fridge, and the busyness that is our lives becomes apparent.

It probably looks like a thousand other busy family refrigerator doors. There is the expected child art work and a multitude of magnets.

But there is also a little bit more.

Chore charts for the boys: because it's important they learn responsibility and helping out.
Our Christmas card: because the boys' pictures were just too cute.
Birth announcement of a friends baby: The baby is nearly 4 months old now.
Shopping list: There are just too many things to keep track of otherwise.
Two of Bug's tests: He got 100%, and he should be honored.
Monkey's preschool graduation certificate: because he is so proud.
Homemade Father's Day card: The boys made it by themselves.
Leap Frog Alphabet Magnets: Best educational toy of all time!
Art work: All the "featured" artwork is Monkey's. He puts it up himself, and don't anyone dare go taking it down!
A post it note with my favorite recipe: I'll have to share this sometime.
Bits of paper behind souvenir magnets: Contain phone numbers for babysitters and doctors, appointment reminders, and random notes to myself.

Yes, it's a bit of a mess. Occasionally, I go through and thin the artwork, remove the old wedding and graduation invitations. I'll organize the magnets. But odds are that it will look exactly like this within 2 days.

We are a family with two creative, busy boys, and this is our refrigerator.

What does your refrigerator say about you?

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Grass Stains

Happiness is...

Playing baseball in the backyard and being able to think more about having fun than about the clothes.

Oh, the iconic symbol of summer boyhood.

Visit Leigh at Leigh vs. Laundry for 52 Weeks of Happiness and post a photo of something that makes you happy!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Halfway Point

It's been a while since I've updated my progress on Project 52. But with June flying by even faster than the previous months have, and realizing that the year will be over before I realize, I think an update is in order.

There are things on my list that intimidate me. There are things on my list that seems like no big deal when I first thought of them. There are things on my list that I'm just not sure how to accomplish.

I actually started looking at my list and realized that one third of my goals are things that it's starting to look like just might not happen. Some of them require money, which is always just a little short around here. Some require a schedule, and with my unpredictable hours, I haven't figured out how to do this. Most just require free time, which is my most precious commodity and has been spent running around the backyard, being chased by squirt guns.

Here are the things that have me worried:

3. Get my passport. Who knew a passport could be so expensive? And since I don't have any passport requiring trips planned in my near future, it's hard to justify the cost.

10. Paint at least once. This one shouldn't be so hard. But it requires the thought to actually occur to me. It's been such a long time since I've painted anything that pulling out a canvas and actually creating something does not come up on the radar of how to spend an afternoon.

14. Find 3 ways to be green. This one has me stumped. We do our best to be green. We fanatically recycle. We use reusable shopping bags. We eat local as much as we can (afford.) That would be three things right there. But we've been doing those things for a long time. The idea of this goal was to find three new things. Any ideas? Well, any ideas that don't break the bank and require the installation of solar panels, the purchase of an electric car, or raising all my food myself?

15. Use my crock pot once a month. I'm struggling with this one this year. Last year wasn't so bad. This year? I've taken the crock pot out twice. It requires advance planning, which I practically never do for meals. I just need to do it, and stop making excuses.

16. Catch up on my book reviews. This just requires time and inspiration. Hopefully, I'll get to it. Although lately, I've read quite a few books that I just don't feel like reviewing.

23. Go to the doctor and get my hand looked at. This started out being easy. I made an appointment, I got my hand looked at. And then they wanted me to see physical therapy. They wanted me to see rheumatology. They wanted me to make several follow up appointments. I'm not sure this is going to happen.

26. Donate blood. I just need to find the time.

28. Work on my kids' baby books at least once. My poor kids. Monkey's baby book doesn't even have the plastic wrapping removed from it.

30. Start looking at jobs. This one just intimidates me. I think about it, and I get all sweaty with the thought of rejection and failure and what if no one wants to work with me, and what if I'm not competent enough to get a job. Hopefully this fall/winter, I'll be able to get over all that and start this process.

35. Take my children to 3 different museums. I'm still looking for two more museums that are in reasonable driving distance.

38. Schedule date night with Hubster at least once a month. This one always feels like my biggest failure. I know so many people that have date night once a week, and Hubster and I can't manage once a month. We've gone on two, maybe three dates this year. We had all these plans to do date night at home. So far, that has consisted of me mentioning it, and then promptly falling asleep on the couch. I really need to look at this and figure out how to make this happen. Once again, any ideas?

39. Get a better sleep schedule. Ha, ha. Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha.

40. Scan my wedding pictures into my computer. I should have just planned better and gotten married in the time of digital photos. Or time travel back with a digital camera. That serious might be just as easy.

41. Take a multivitamin daily. I realize now that any daily goal is a huge mistake.

42. Look into getting a pet with fur. This is not going to happen. No matter how much fun I think it would be to have a kitten or a puppy, I need to be realistic. We have two boys. And a fish.

49. Get our home videos transferred to DVD. What we should have done is bought a digital video camera all those years ago.

50. Organize my children's boxes of art work. I've transferred it from one box to a different box. But it just doesn't quite feel like it should count.

52. Get my hair done. Right now, I'd settle for brushing my hair. That would be a step in the right direction.


These aren't impossible things. They are all reasonable, manageable goals. It's not like I resolved to visit three different countries and speak for a national charity. These should be things I can accomplish by the time December is finishing up.

I just need to refocus, reorganize, and recommit.

And figure out the whole time travel thing.

Friday, June 17, 2011


I've just gone through a huge parental failure.

Over the last, oh I don't know, several months? year? Whatever it was, it was too long. I've spent time being frustrated with Bug. We'd be bird watching, and all of us could clearly see the Baltimore oriole in the tree by the river, or the yellowthroat on top of the bush. Or we'd be on a bike ride, and see deer under the tree or a fox slinking under a fence. All of us could see it, except Bug. He would just keep saying "Where, where?" and then we'd all get frustrated, Bug because he thought we were doing a poor job of pointing to whatever we were looking at, and us because it felt like Bug just wasn't paying any attention.

And then Bug brings home a note from school that he failed his vision screening.

We quickly got an appointment with an ophthalmologist, and yes, my little Bug is significantly near sighted. It should have been obvious that the poor kid just couldn't see. Huge parental failure.

Bug, on the other hand, has been in complete denial. He keeps trying to convince us that he can see just fine. He doesn't need glasses. He likes things the way they are, thank you very much.

We spent a long time talking about how things are going to be fine. He's going to be even better at bird watching, and movies will be even more fun now that he can actually see them. He'll do better at school. And besides, all the really smart kids have glasses. And I wear glasses, so it won't be the same as when I was 12 and found out that I needed glasses . I was the only one in my family that needed them, and the teasing from my siblings was terrible.

The day after Bug's eye appointment, we took him to the optical store. There, we spent quite some time as he tried on pair after pair. He finally decided on a pair of Nike brand glasses in red, his favorite color. The next day they were ready.

I think he looks absolutely darling.

He, on the other hand, is still less than thrilled. While he admits that it's pretty cool to see things far away (he never realized he couldn't) he still would prefer to go without.

For our first outing with his new glasses, we took him to the Raptor Center to sit in the bird blind so that he could do some high quality bird watching with his new 20/20 vision. The entire time, he walked with his hands over his face so no one would see his glasses. He took them off as soon as we got in the car. Getting him to wear them at home is a struggle.

I'm hoping he gets used to them, that he starts wanting to see clearly. I've started wearing my glasses more often, to let him know that they are not a bad thing. I keep telling him how great they look on him, how much more grown up and smart he looks.

And when all else fails, I'll start with the bribery.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Counting the Storms

A few nights ago, a huge storm rolled through our area. Lightening continually lit up the sky, thunder constantly rumbled, and the windows and roof echoed from the heavy rain. Heavy thunderstorms are an iconic part of Iowa summer. And I love them.

When I was a small girl, my parents would wake us up in the middle of the night (or at least what felt like the middle of the night to me, but was in reality more like 10 pm) when thunderstorms would come through. They would have a bowl of popcorn and blankets by the window ready. We would eat popcorn while my parents taught up how to count, 1 Mississippi, 2 Mississippi, to see how far away the storm was.

Now, when thunderstorms arrive, I get that same comfortable feeling of being next to my parents, wrapped in blankets and counting the time between flash and boom.

As it turns out, my boys don't share these feelings.

As the storm grew into the night, Bug and Monkey grew more anxious. They started whimpering as bedtime approached, fearful of the thought of going to bed as lightening continued to flash and thunder continued to growl. Bedtime came and then went without us being able to calm their fears. Despite the repetition that they were safe and storms were exciting and fun, the anxiety continued.

I then realized that they didn't have the same context as I did.

So I gave up on bedtime. I popped a large bowl of popcorn, wrapped my pajama-ed boys in thick blankets and sat one on each side of me in front of our living room window. The sky was bright with the constant flash of lightening. The windows and house shook from thunder. I showed the boys how to count, 1 Mississippi, 2 Mississippi, gauging the distance of the storm. We ate warm buttered popcorn as we exclaimed over the pattern of bright, branching lightening bolts.

By the time the popcorn was gone, and the time from flash to boom had increased to 5 Mississippi, the boys were sleepy and calmer. We carried them upstairs and tucked them in bed, happy for the time we spent together and a little proud that we had helped calm their fears.

The storm continued throughout the night.

When I woke up the next morning, I found both boys curled up on the floor by my bed. Maybe I wasn't quite as successful as I had originally thought.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Afternoon Ride

Happiness is...

An afternoon family bike ride.

Now that the weather is nicer and the daylight lasts longer, there is time for us to explore the bike trails. We pedal along the river, listening to the croak of the frogs and watching the flash of the red-wing blackbirds atop the high grasses.

We take time to stop and point out new birds, to watch rabbits cross the path, and admire the onslaught of summer flowers.

We never hurry, except down big hills, but then just for the pure fun of it. Our pace is just as lazy as the summer afternoon.

Go visit Leigh at Leigh vs. Laundry for 52 Weeks of Happiness and post a photo of something that makes you happy.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

What It Says About Me: Bedside Table

We've all heard it. You can tell a lot about a woman by the contents of her purse. And it's absolutely true. Take a look in my purse, and there is evidence of my job, my family, and where I've been.

I got thinking that it's not just a purse. You can tell a lot about a person by many things. So I thought I would explore some of the things that say a lot about me. I'll eventually get to the purse and its enlightening contents. However, I thought I would start with something else. Something a little less public. My bedside table. Or more accurately, what's on my bedside table.

Here it is...

Nothing fancy.

As to what's on it? Well, there is:
-alarm clock: somedays it feels like my life is all about the alarm clock.
-lamp: for the occasional novel reading in bed
-glasses: because it's bad to leave my contacts in at night (I would never!)
-nail clippers: because I do my own manicures.
-picture of Hubster and me: isn't it just so cute?
-little jewelry box: for the special pieces that I don't actually wear.
-perfume: so I can smell so pretty.
-pack of seeds: this should be actually be planted instead of just sitting on my nightstand.
-stack of library books: let's be honest. These will be due before I get through them. And besides, the last Harry Potter movie comes out in just over a month, so I need to start re-reading series.

There's a few other things: a small stack of student loan statements, a back massager that has been used maybe twice in the last five years, and some dust bunnies.

So what does this say about me? I like to think it says I love to read, I'm blind as a bat, I love pretty things, and I'm a fairly tidy person, even if I'm not a fan of dusting. What do you think?

On the other hand, this is Hubster's bedside table.

I don't think there is any explanation needed.

What does your bedside table say about you?

Monday, June 6, 2011

Bridges of Madison County

I'm not talking about the book (which I read and didn't like) or the movie (which I haven't seen.)

I'm talking about the actual bridges of Madison County. Six historic covered bridges located in Madison County, Iowa.

I first fell in love with these bridges when I saw a sign along I-80 when we were moving here, indicating the exit for the bridges, long before I ever saw them.

When Hubster and I starting making plans for our 10 year anniversary, we initially had all sorts of plans. A weekend in Chicago, with fancy restaurants, shows, and a hotel with city views. A cabin at a lake in Minnesota. A bed and breakfast in Madison Country with the bridges. We quickly realized that a weekend away, just the two of us, was not going to happen. With no way to secure a babysitter for the boys for more than a few hours in an evening, two days sans children was impossible. But instead of feeling (too) sorry for ourselves and not doing anything, we decided that the children would just come with us.

We drove several hours to Winterset, Iowa, the small town that the bridges surround. The rest of the day was spent traveling dusty country back roads, following the crude map I had the best we could, making our way to each of the covered bridges.

This is the point where I attempt not to inundate you with photos. Because it turns out, I loved the bridges more than I imaging.

Despite the fact I haven't seen the movie and I didn't like the book, these bridges have a romantic air to the them. They make a person want to hold the hand of the person they love tightly, stroll quietly through each bridge, and then watch the water slip by underneath. Which is exactly what we did.

Along with hollering at our boys to please try not to fall off the bridge and for heaven's sake, stay out of the water!

Although most of the bridges have been renovated, many are still in their original locations and still have the original, now 100 year plus old wood planks making up the floor of each bridge. The floors have been worn down, until the knots in the wood stand higher than the surrounding wood, making me wonder how many other people in love have wandered across these bridges.

Along with the shape and the classic coloring, the thing I noticed quickly was the writing. At first, I thought it was simply vandalism. Then I realized that each bridge was acting as its own guest book. For the most part, the wood was densely covered in names and dates. But mingled in between (along with the occasional obscene graffiti) were messages. Messages of dreams coming true, of families traveling together, and of falling in love.

After the covered bridges, we continued to spend time exploring the roads of Madison County. As it turns out, there is more to the area than 140 year old bridges.

There were towers to climb,

stone bridges to stroll over,

mazes to explore,

and rolling Iowa country scenery to take in.

We spent a beautiful day driving through the heartland, tightly holding hands, falling more in love with Iowa, more in love with the bridges of Madison County, and more in love with each other.