Sunday, April 20, 2014

Easter and Weekend Things.

We did some Easter celebrating this weekend...

Smashed right in between birthdays this year sat Easter, and it was a beautiful weekend for celebrating indeed.  

Things have felt busy.  I'm okay with busy, but sometimes it comes to a point where I feel overwhelmed by it.  Birthdays, parties, class celebrations, holidays, activities...I know it's bad when it's hard to schedule a dinner out with family or friends.  I try to keep our lives low-key, but sometimes it simply doesn't happen.  During these moments I have to remind myself to slow down, take it one day at a time and don't let it carry me away.  By Friday night I felt frazzled so tried my best to slow things down.  Family home, dying eggs.  

It has become a very independent thing for these girls.  No longer do they need us to assist.  All I need to do is boil the eggs and they go about their business of creating.  

Afterwards experiments were done with the extra dye...

To keep with slowing things down, we had a very simple at home date night that evening. My three favorite ingredients always make for a simple, delicious meal.  Tomato.  Basil. Mozzarella.  It's all ya need.

Add a Gorgonzola, pear, pecan salad with creamy balsamic and date night done.  There are nights I feel like going all out and making an elaborate meal and there are nights when simple is best.  Both have their place.  Both are good.

Saturday was spent at our first basketball tournament.  Ava has been playing on an intramural team with a friend and they entered a three on three tournament.  It was such fun to see my girl out on the court.  We officially named our gentle girl the Gandhi of basketball.  Never getting aggressive, happy to turn the ball over to the other team.  Happy and all smiles to be playing and taking the opportunity to toss a few shots, but in her own laid back way.  I quite enjoyed seeing this.

There is a place for every type of player on a team.  The one who goes after it with all their might.  The one who plays hard and aggressive.  The one who makes all the shots.  And the one who hangs back, finding opportunity present itself.  The one having a good time.  I quite like that our Ava is the gentle one.  And I love this low-key opportunity we had into the introduction of basketball.  A coach who treats them all like he does his own daughters, doesn't care that they lost all their games.  Had Ava been on a more formal, serious team her outlook on basketball may have been different.  At 9 years old, I find this laid back approach to be more appropriate.  

The next day we woke up to notes from the Easter bunny...

That feisty bunny made a mess of the carrots laid out for him.  But, he did leave us some magic beans to plant and lots of eggs to find.  

Montana delivered us a lovely spring morning and we had a pleasant hunt outside as well. We always hide the dyed eggs outside and there have been years they have searched in snow.  This year it was flip flops in grass beginning to turn green.

Sometimes you miss what is right in front of you.  Notice the pink egg in the lower left corner...

Easter is a fun, easy holiday to me.  None of the big hoopla of Christmas.  Focused on family, friends and kid type things like dyeing eggs, candy and egg hunts.  We filled our day with a quiet morning at home, brunch with friends and dinner with family.  Pretty perfect in my book.  The evening egg hunt with cousins got to be outside also....

Added to the fun of this hunt was my 3 year old nephew continuing to tell his cousins "That rabbit can be tricky.  He's sneaky hiding the eggs".  Love him.  

I feel so grateful for the beautiful weekend and holiday we had.  It may have started with me feeling frazzled from a busy week and there certainly was no lack of activity throughout the weekend, but it ended with a feeling of calm and contentment.

Happy Easter.  

Thursday, April 17, 2014

First Hikes and Birthday Celebrations.

Baby girl turned 9 this week.  Holy crap, NINE!!
I have plenty of thoughts on this.  

But before I get into was the day I got my hiking legs back on.  I slowly watch the snow melt from the mountains, waiting for my turn to get up there.  This morning was the day and although there was still some snow hidden on the dark parts of the trail, most of it was rough, dry dirt and rock.  It felt so good.

I have an article up at Distinctly Montana about my love for this popular local trail.  I think reading it again is what pushed me to get back out there.  You can check it out here.  I have a couple more months to sneak in these runs while the girls are at school.  Then they will join me on any hiking adventures throughout the summer.  I like having them with me, but today it felt so good to be on the mountain solo.  Pushing my way up and then flying down on very tired and sore from a power yoga class legs.  Grateful for the strength to be able to do just this.

Anyways.  Back to the birthday girl...

Oh this girl.  She is growing so fast and I love the young lady she is becoming.  She has a heart of gold and imagination like no one I know. And such a dreamer.  From her dreams of owning a horse ranch to leaving notes and treats for various fairies in hopes they will visit her.  I want her to hang on to this whole hearted trust in make believe for as long as possible.  It's so very sweet.  Her kindness radiates and she's just a good kid.  I can't believe she's nine.  One more year until we enter the tween years.  Who knows what that will bring.   All I know is we are enjoying the ride right now.  In these moments.  

For her birthday Little Miss wanted to invite a couple friends and go to the movies.  Easiest birthday party ever.  I really dig this simplifying birthdays thing.  There may be more of family party, one friend party and then an actual birthday, but they've all been low-key.  I made cupcakes, set out a couple snacks and the kids handled the business of fun...

Little sister tagged along and tried to keep up with the big girls.

There were a couple presents.  Happy Birthday was sang.
And then it was off to the movies.  Watching giggling girls gobble popcorn and stare at the big screen.

Ava had fun which means it was a success.  

The actual day of birthdays have become a lovely tradition in our family.  Ava woke to a balloon outside her bedroom door with one present attached.  Breakfast of pancakes with a single candle and singing of happy birthday.  Then off to school.  I grabbed her at lunch so Matt and I could take her out.  They get to pick whatever they want for dinner and then it's a scavenger hunt to find the few gifts from us.  And, of course there's birthday cake.

I may have cheated on the other birthday cream sandwich cake, store bought frosting...but for her real birthday cake it was all from scratch and full of love.  

After the cake and presents we all sat on the couch and looked through her baby books.  I can't help but pull them out on birthdays...reminisce on the day they were born.  I spent the evening before going over the day in my head...making sure the memories stay.  I don't ever want to forget that day.  The excitement we felt knowing we were going to meet our baby.  The fear and anticipation of becoming parents.  The blissful unawareness of how much our world was about to change.  The way my heart exploded with a love I didn't know was possible until I held that slippery, screaming baby girl in my arms for the first time.  The amazement at having her on the outside world after feeling her somersaulting inside me for 9 months.  At 7:47 pm on April 15 2005 knowing our world was forever changed.  As we sat on the couch that night 7:47 rolled around and I gave my baby a birthday kiss and told her thank you for making me a mama.  

I love birthdays for my girls.  I celebrate them because they are my babies and they are very special days indeed.  A couple weeks and someone will be turning 7...

Happy Thursday to ya.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Signs of Spring and Birthday Month Begins.

Signs of spring are popping up...

Yesterday I wore flip flops.  I rode my bike to the girls school.  When I drove by the bank, the temperature said 71.  71!  It was glorious.  It made me so happy.  It made everyone so happy.  It's like we are breathing fresh air after being stifled all winter long.  I know there are still spring snow storms in our future.  But each day the sunshine warms my face I know we are inching closer to summer.  And, we make sure to make it our business to get outside and soak up this sunshine when we can.  Last Friday the girls didn't have school and we worked on Operation Sunshine with a trip to the park.
Exploring long lost places no longer buried in snow...

Running in dry fields and taking in the beautiful cloud scattered blue sky...
When we left the park I suggested we go get a movie and have a movie night.  Ava came running over, gave me a huge hug and proclaimed "You're the best mommy ever".  That was just icing on my already full-of-happy-cuz-it's-springtime heart.  

I kept up the best mom title the next day when I took my girls to barrel racing at the rodeo.  This was the first of two cowboy-type events I went to Saturday.  I am not into cowboy-type things.  I grew up in the country (or Bozeman's version of country) and although I loved my childhood always wanted to live in town with my friends.  My girls have always lived in town and my oldest only wants to live in the country.  Where she can have a horse.  And a pick up truck with a horse trailer.  I have no idea where this came from, but my girl has passion for all things horse.

Because we try to live a fairly urban lifestyle in our small city this horse thing came about without influence from Matt or I.  Maybe it started with the first horse book she checked out.  Maybe because her beloved first grade teacher talked about the her own love of horses.  Whatever the reason it has stuck.  As we sat at the barrel racing and I observed all the young cowgirls with their large belt buckles, cowboy boots and hats I wondered if I was seeing a glimpse of our future.  Wondering if this is something that will stick with her or if it will fade.  Because it is not my thing, I have to admit there is a small part of me that hopes it will fade.  It feels very typical Montana to me and I have resisted this my whole life.  I am comfortable with my version of Montana...the outdoors, the mountains, the small communities.  I am not so comfortable with the farm, ranch and cowboy version that is also very much a part of our state.  I sat there thinking how easily we could immerse ourselves in that simply because of where we live, but not sure I would want to.  Right now I like to think we are encouraging our girl to dream.  Second horse event that day was Ava's horse back riding lesson and she adores it.  Again, I keep my thoughts to myself but honestly sit there counting the moments until she gets off the giant animal and safely back on the ground.  I think I like Layla's infatuation with pigs better...although I also wonder where in the world that came from.  

The weekend kicked off our official start to birthday month.  The girls birthdays are two weeks apart.  Birthdays and the celebrations involved are evolving around here.   Both are at the age where having friends at their parties is important to them.  However, we have a large family full of cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents.  Our house is not big enough for family and school friends so we had a combined family party this weekend and friends parties are to come.  I love birthdays for my girls and love to throw a party.  Over the past couple of years I have been caught up in the Pinterest world and gotten in over my head when it came to the parties.  I would have all these ideas and although they ended up fun, I got carried away and stressed.  This year I still wanted to throw fun parties, but they are simplified.  Finding the joy in cake, balloons, gifts, friends and family.  Nothing crazy, not a bunch of games and crafts.  Kids simply play.  

The family party we had with this theme of no theme was a hit.
The most "party" like thing we had was face paint in the corner if kids wanted to decorate with they could.  It actually ended up as a way for the girls to pass the time as they waited not-so-patiently for everyone to arrive.  The only games that were played were the ones the kids made up with the balloons.  Snacks were picked out by Ava and Layla and consisted of Pirates Bootie and Lays potato chips.  I didn't even make the cake from scratch.  Yep, you read right.  No homemade cake here.  I heard about this ice cream sandwich cake from a friend (who may have gotten it from Pinterest, but I'm not confirming this since I said I didn't do PInterest for these parties!)  It took about 15 minutes to make.  The girls helped and it went from this...

To this...

And Voila...

Because this was a combined party each girl picked their color of frosting for each side.  The frosting was the only thing about this whole, smaller party thing Ava questioned.  As I got out the Cool Whip for them to add food coloring to she exclaimed "You're not making your own FROSTING!!"  I didn't let guilt even come close as I replied " you want blue or green?"  I need to lower the expectations around here.  This means yes to homemade cake and frosting on actual birthdays and store bought being just fine for class treats and parties.  She'll get used to it.

Party one success and we're gearing up for Ava's this weekend.  Keeping with the simple theme...she invited two friends to go see Rio 2 at the theatre.  It will be movie, gifts and cupcakes to sing Happy Birthday to.  Easy, fun.  Done.  

The longer days are another happy sign of spring.  My early morning runs are no longer in the dark.  They have been replaced with pink clouds and sunrises....

I'll take it.  
Happy Thursday.  

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Average-My Messy Beautiful

This essay and I are part of the Messy, Beautiful Warrior Project.  To learn more, click here.  It is different than my usual everyday blog writing...much more personal, but something I was proud to be a part of.  
Please click HERE

At first glance my story will not show as messy.  It will not make you cry, it will not make your heart ache.  It is not tragic nor sad.  It is very average.  My whole life can be summed up with that word.  Average.  Happy, idyllic childhood, parents still married one of three daughters.  Grew up in a nice community, had nice friends, was a cheerleader with basketball player boyfriend.  Went to college in the same town, met my love, got married, adventured together, settled down, had two babies.  Bought a house, got a golden retriever.  The only thing missing is the white picket fence.  Not much messy about it.  But, sometimes hidden behind a beautiful life things can still be messy.  These stories don't come to the front when you think of a messy life.  You have to look closer.  Even when you feel perfectly happy and content with your life as I do, there's always the one closet where you shove everything in and if you open it, it will explode with a mess.  Yes, even a beautiful home has a messy closet.

My messy has always been Fear.  Because I have lived a comfortable life I have been afraid of pushing myself out of that comfort zone.  An average life can have the illusion, and sometimes true, vision of beauty.  But lying beneath that is an internal conflict.  Is there more?  Should I have done this?  What happens if  I do now?  Fear and it's nasty sister Regret go hand in hand for me.  I have great fear of trying new things.  Analyzing everything in my mind…weighing the pros and cons and ultimately not choosing to try the new thing.  This is because of Fear.  And right behind Fear is the Regret.  Why didn't I?  What if it would have been great?  Am I really contend with this simple life or am I faking it because I'm so freakin afraid?  Is telling myself, life is so good, I should be 100% happy all the time just a reassurance that it's okay to let Fear win and never try something else?  This back and forth truly becomes a jumbled mess inside my head.  Fear is my messy.

Tucked up in my messy closet along with Fear is Worry.  Just as with Regret, I'm pretty sure Worry is another mean sister of Fear.  The three of them hang out and mock me.  (Thank goodness I have two real sisters who always have my back and would kick that trio to the curb for me if necessary).  My daughters have this book called "Wemberly Worried".  It's about a little mouse named Wemberly who worries about EVERYTHING, all day long.  Often I feel like this.  Worried if the girls are safe at school.  Worried if my husband is safe on the road.  Worried if kids are being nice to my kids.  Worried if my kids are being nice to other kids.  Worried if I'm doing a good enough job at work.  Worried if I'm doing a good enough job at home.  Worried about what I'll make for dinner.  Worry, worry, worry.  And then there are the bigger ones.  Big picture worries.  Should we leave our comfortable life for a new adventure?  Worried if we do will we regret it?  Enter mean sister Regret.  Worried if we don't, will we also regret it?  Why can't she leave me alone!  

And then there is the giant worry that looms over my head each day.  Am I being a good mama to my girls?  Am I doing this parenting thing the right  way?  Am I teaching them the right values?  What ARE the most important values I should be teaching them.  Do I focus on them being a good, kind person or being independent and strong?  Do I push them to always try harder or be cool with the average?  Do I focus on them being true to themselves or finding a way to comfortably fit into a crowd?  All of these are important, but which is the most…which should be THE thing they take from me?  What do I want them to remember the most when they are grown up…how do I want them to end this sentence…"My mom always told me…."  I don't know why I feel you only get one main point.  I know this is silly…they learn hundreds of things from us.  Each day we are shaping them to become the adults they will grow into.  But, what's the main idea?  I feel wishy-washy with this and the whole parenting thing in general.  I read way too many parenting books when they were babies trying to the right things.  I finally realized going with my gut was the best way and tossed the books.  However, now in a world of parenting blogs and Pinterest I continue to worry if I'm doing it right.  And with that comes the fear that I'm running out of time to fill them with all the things I want to.  Should I be super hands on, playing endless hours of Barbies with them or let them be?  How do I instill good manners and old school thinking while still being laid back and keep them up to date in this fast paced world?  I worry that on a daily basis I am screwing them up with mixed messages.  That they will grow up in an average, happy childhood and in turn will also get visits from their aunts Fear, Regret and Worry.  I don't want that for them.  I don't want them to experience that kind of messy…I only want them to have the beautiful.

I do know you can't have the beautiful without the messy.  I know everyones version of messy is different.  Some are a disaster of a mess, while some are simply sloppy.  In my beautiful life it truly is hard to say things are messy.  But just because you can't see it or have one turning point that has made things messy, doesn't mean it doesn't exist.  Acknowledging the mess is the first part.  I know it is okay to have Fear, Regret and Worry as a part of my life.  I know I have to stand up to them once in awhile so they don't cripple me.  I know as clean as the rest of the house may be, occasionally I need to open that closet and let it all fall out.  Because once it all falls out, you can go through it, pick things up, put them back and get on with your beautiful life.  

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Proud Versus Sad. A Parenting Dilema.

Yesterday I went on a field trip with Layla's first grade class.  I often try to participate in things like this while the kids are young and want their mom around.  That should last right into senior year, right?  On this particular trip I was struck by how much quicker  this is approaching and how vastly different my girls are.  One very much wanting her mama nearby and one wanting to fly her little social butterfly wings.  

When I asked Layla if she wanted me to ride the bus or meet them at the museum I was told I could "Just meet them there".  Oh, sad mama heart.  Ava always begged me to ride the bus and sit right next to her.  Luckily, one of Layla's friends piped up and said her mom was riding the bus therefore I was told I could also. When we got there she was a flurry of friends surrounding her.  Little girls, giggling, holding hands, running ahead.  I did get the occasional smile or hug from her, a reminder that I knew she was happy I was there.  But not so much that she wanted to sit next to me during the planetarium show.  No, she had two friends who wanted to sit by her.  Thank goodness for a sweet little girl in her group that asked to sit by me in case she got scared.  Someone needed me.  

These moments give me a mixture of pride and sadness.  Pride in having raised a girl with  confidence and independence.  Two things I so strongly want my girls to have.  It truly goes to show you we are all wired differently.  Aside from the normal ways you parent your first and second born differently, these two have had the same upbringing.  Yet, they are night and day from one another.  Even as a third grader, when I'm in Ava's class she wants to be right by my side.  She also is flocked with giggling girls, but in a quieter way.  It does make me sad, the not being needed as much.  Each year, a little less.  But, I do believe pride beats out the sadness.  I want to see them flourish.  Happy and confident.  It feels like maybe we did something right.  Like we give them enough love they know they can go out and try to conquer the world.  Yes, proud mama beats out the quiet sadness I felt when my baby girl choose to sit with her friends on the bus rather than me.  

Something that made me very happy this week.  Yesterday on my way to pick up the girls from school I saw flowers.  FLOWERS!!!  Small purple ones pushing their way through the cold ground to make my day.  Now, this morning on the same walk they looked a little sad after the frost from last night but I know they will recover as the sun warms up today.  Nevertheless, I was thrilled to see my first flowers of spring.  I felt this deserved celebration so that evening I put on flip flops and decided to cook outside.  It makes me so happy.

 It may not be totally here, but spring is coming people.  It is coming.

Happy Thursday.