Tag Archives: parenthood

Charlotte is 5!

Dear Charlotte,

I almost can’t believe it, but you’re 5 years old! You are the baby of the family, but you are really turning in to a big girl. Bravery, hilarity and kindness are some of your best personality traits right now. Plus you’re the cutest little girl ever. I mean, look:

Charlotte - 5 years old

To say this has been a big year for you is an understatement. I think the year between 4 and 5 always is, but you’ve had a big one.

You started full time, all day school. Not by my choice, but by our school district’s. This fall, you began going to 4K all day every day. And you rocked it. I shouldn’t have doubted you for a minute.

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So proud to be in school with your brother all day. And I was a little surprised, though I shouldn’t have been, by how much you loved it and how much everyone loved you. All the teachers commented that you give the best hugs, that you’re the happiest little girl, and they’re right! You lost two pair of sunglasses and a fleece during your first year of full time school, but I can’t even be mad. You made tons of friends, learned to read, and couldn’t love school more. Score!

The other big event of the year was our move from the only house you’ve ever known to another one. And again, why did I doubt you? You rocked it, too! You love your new pink room. You love our big yard. You are just the happiest little girl and we couldn’t be happier.

I love the way you say things that you know aren’t true, with such conviction, just to see if we will actually believe them. I love that sometimes you call sneezes “bless yous”. I love that you always notice when I have my nails painted and make a fake angry face because I did it without painting yours, too. I love that you are a girly girl, wanting to wear dresses and necklaces, but then you can skateboard right alongside your big brother, too. I love that you are never, ever stingy with hugs and kisses and I love yous. Never lose this , sweet girl.

Happy 5th year, baby girl.

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Thanks for being my best friend!

Love, Mommy

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Tap, tap, tap

Last fall I started taking a tap dancing class. Yes, I am the queen of weird hobbies and it just made sense to start tapping. One of my friends and I had talked about taking a tap class for years and we finally found an adult, beginners class, so we signed up.

For the last six months I’ve been tapping every Thursday night all leading up to last week’s recital. I was reluctant to do it, especially because my friend couldn’t participate in the recital. Her husband was just living his dream running the Boston Marathon, so she thought her tapping should take second billing. Whatevs.

Anyway, I had to embark on the recital without my sidekick and with some older ladies. I was the youngest in the class by probably 10 years, but everyone was so nice and welcoming. They had all taken the class last year, so they knew what they were doing more than I was.

Recital day came, I put on my red sequinned halter top, and I was not really even nervous. Probably because it was too ridiculous for a 36 year old mother of two and to be nervous about a tap dancing recital. What?

I’m happy to report everything went great and even though I was blinded by the stage lights, I could see two tiny hands waving to me from the middle of the theater. I waved back, which you’re totally not supposed to do, but whatever. I wanted them to know that I saw them, that I knew they were proud of me and that even when you’re a grown up, you can still do the fun things you want to do.

According to Derek, Riley was squealing and squirming in the seat before my class took the stage. He said he was so excited to see me dance. That’s what I want them to tell stories about when they’re older. I want them to forget the times I raise my voice, or give them PB&Js for dinner and the dog hair tumbleweed that just may be rolling across our living room right now.

I want them to remember that their old mom did fun things because she wanted to do them. That it may even be kind of ….cool? Inspiring? Goofy? All of the above?

Either way, I had lots of hugs and “you were awesomes” afterwards and it felt great.


P.S. This little boy yelled to a girl in a different class that performed before mine, “You’re beautiful and I want to marry you!” We’re going to be in trouble with that one…

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My Top Tips for Doing Disney with Little Kids

Disney is no joke, people. In my experience, this isn’t a vacation that prides itself on being spontaneous and go-with-the-flow. If you’re going to Disney, you need to be prepared ahead of time. We were there for 5 days in February with our 2 year old and 5 year old. As nervous as I was to take this big vacation with our kids, it turned out great and was worth every bit of money and effort. And believe me, it was a lot of both.

So here are my tips for traveling to Disney World with small children.

1. pack food! Don’t waste time or money in the morning by going out to breakfast. If your kids are like mine, a bowl of cereal or a bagel and a banana is all they really want anyway. We checked one suitcase and it was filled with breakfast foods. Those little boxes of sugary cereals you don’t normally buy? They’re a perfect vacation breakfast treat. Horizon Organic makes milk boxes that don’t require refrigeration before they’re opened, so I packed them in zip-locks and threw them into the suitcase. This way, we were up and out the door early enough without having to stop off for breakfast on the way to the parks. Oh and don’t forget to pack snacks (I mean, really, what mom would?) We actually didn’t go through as many snacks as I thought we would because since it was vacation and all, we let the kids get the Mickey-shaped ice cream bar, popcorn, or whatever they wanted in the parks.

2. Let them nap when and where they can. I had read a bunch of things online about leaving the parks to head back to your hotel in the afternoon to allow for nap time. Great idea in theory, but logistically, I didn’t think it was worth it. We stayed at the Art of Animation, one of the Disney resorts, and for some lucky reason, the bus stop for that resort always seemed to be the farthest away. Not to mention how huge the resort is and that we had to walk what felt like miles to get to our hotel room. We would’ve eaten up the majority of the afternoon if we had gone to the bus stop, waited for our bus, walked to our room, let our girl nap/rest, pack everything back up, walk back to the bus stop, wait for the bus and head back to the parks. No thanks. So what did we do? In Magic Kingdom, there is a real, working steam train that travels the perimeter of the parks. It makes three different stops but you can ride it as long as you like. We rode that baby for about an hour while Charlotte napped in the crook of her daddy’s arm. Riley, our 5 year old, even splayed out on the seat with his head in my lap for some down time of his own. It was a great break for us adults too, since we welcomed a chance to get off our feet for a while. (According to my Fitbit, I walked about 20,000 steps every day we spent at one of the parks!)

She snuggled into the crook of Daddy's arm and that was it.

She snuggled into the crook of Daddy’s arm and that was it.

3. Don’t think 2 is too young for Disney. How many times have you heard someone asking why you would bring such a young child on a memorable trip that they will not remember? There are lots of reasons to bring your 2 year old to Disney, in my opinion, so listen up. First of all, kids under 3 are free to get into the parks. That’s savings of $93/day. Woohoo! Second of all, kids this age love Disney movies, which means they love seeing their favorite characters. Luckily, my girl was happy enough to see Anna, Elsa and all the others in the Disney parades so we didn’t have to wait 2 hours to meet them in person. Disney is a magical place, especially for 2 year olds. And it’s a little easier financially to bring young ones than older ones. Besides, now that you’ve experienced Disney with your kids, you know they’re going to keep asking you to take them back. So if your little ones don’t remember their first time, they’ll remember their second time. Besides, you’ll have amazing pictures like this:

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4. Stock up at the Dollar Store. All the blogs and Pinterest articles will tell you this and they’re not kidding. The most important thing to stock up on in my opinion is ponchos, glow sticks for fireworks and cheapie toys to entertain them on the airplane.

5. Buy souvineers. I admit it, I am a cheapskate. But vacation is different. When my son asked and asked for a talking, $30 Buzz Lightyear at Hollywood Studios, I didn’t hesitate. He hugged it and held it for the rest of the trip. He’ll always remember that we got him that at a kiosk outside Pizza Planet, and I will too. Yes, I probably could’ve bought it at Target for $10 cheaper, but that is not what vacation is about. This is what it’s about:

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6. No pressure. Yes, my 5-year old who is obsessed with race cars and outer space was tall enough to ride Test Track and Mission Space. But did he want to? NOPE. Would he have loved it? Probably. But those rides seemed scary to him and, in the spirit of fun, we didn’t make our normally-cautious boy ride anything he didn’t want to. The last thing we wanted was to end our day at a park with someone in tears. Or, you know, scarred for life.

7. Cancel your dining reservations. Three months before our trip I made lunch reservations at one of the sit-down restaurants in Magic Kingdom. I had heard horror stories about having to eat a cold hot dog balancing on a curb because no restaurants will seat you without a reservation. The day before we headed to Magic Kingdom, I looked at a map. Between the times we had reserved for FastPass and this lunch reservation, we would be running like maniacs from the Dumbo ride to the restaurant. No thank you. Vacation is about fun! And while Disney is not the place to be spontaneous, I didn’t want to be a slave to a clock. So I cancelled the (expensive) sit-d0wn restaurant and the kids ate grilled cheese with us at a table we wiped down ourselves. It was fine! Kids this young don’t care what they’re eating. They want to get back to the fun. And actually, so did we!

8. Pass on the Memory Maker photo package. I’m surprised to be saying this one. I went back and forth and talked to everyone I could about whether or not to purchase the $169 photo package ($199 if you purchase on-site). Again, trying to make our time at the parks more spontaneous and less rigid, I didn’t want the pressure of getting to every photographer we could so we would have enough great photos to make the investment worth it. Plus, I’ll let you in on a little secret. Those Disney photographers? They’re more than happy to take the same exact photo with your camera or phone, or both, like ours did. Score!

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9. Do a character meal. I know, I said not to make dining reservations, but this is the one caveat. We ALMOST bailed on the 9 a.m. breakfast I had reserved for us with characters at a different resort. Since the Art of Animation doesn’t offer this, I found a character breakfast buffet at a different resort. Which meant getting up early, taking a bus to Hollywood Studios, then taking a boat to the resort. That’s a LOT of effort. We were so close to bailing. Honestly, the main reason we didn’t bail is because they woul’dve charged our family of 4 $40 for cancelling the day of. No way! We woke the kids, left without showering, and met Minnie for breakfast! Looking back, it was one of the most fun, memorable moments of the trip. For all of us. It was work, but it was worth it. I mean, look!

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10. Trust. Disney World is not the No. 1 vacation spot in the world for nothing. They know what they’re doing. Trust that you will get to your destination and be well-taken care of. That’s why you’re giving them all that money. And yes, it’s worth every penny. Now to start saving for the next trip…

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6

Dear Riley,

Today you turn six years old. I want to document what you are like as a little boy so I can look back on this when you’re older and weep dramatically.

camping6As you can see from the photo above, you are a happy little boy who is a joy to be around. Yes, I’m your mom so I’m biased, but seriously, everyone feels this way about you. You make people happy.

You’re a sensitive boy who wants everyone to be his friend. This year you started a K5/1st grade class. I was nervous about you being in a class with “older” kids because I knew you’d want everyone to be your friend and some 7 year olds don’t want to be friends with a 5 year old. You’ve continually impressed us, though. You’re smart, you’re tough and you’re a good friend. I hope you never lose any of these qualities.

Goofy BFFs

Goofy BFFs

You’ve always loved your big brother role to Charlotte but lately we’ve seen that mature. You tell us if she’s doing something you know she shouldn’t and now you try to explain to her why she shouldn’t do something we wouldn’t approve of. You are her lifelong protector and buddy and really, you have been from day one. She’s a lucky girl.

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You LOVE your family. Just this week you came home with artwork you made in art class with “I love my mommy” randomly written across it. These little signs of love from you are not rare but they still make me smile every single time. You are a rare, special little boy and I can’t tell you how happy I am that you are mine.

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I love you to infinity and beyond, buddy.

Love,

Mommy

 

 

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The Happiest Place on Earth

We just got back from our biggest family trip ever – Disney World! The kids have never been on a plane before, and honestly, at ages 5 and 2, the kids really didn’t even comprehend the awesomeness they were about to experience until we walked through the gates.

I think I’ll just let the photos do the talking:

Ready for take off!

Ready for take off!

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In hindsight, I regret that this is the best family shot we got in front of the castle. I asked a random stranger to take our picture, like you do, but never in a million years would’ve thought to tell her to hold the camera vertical, instead of horizontal. I mean, really. There’s a castle behind us. There, now you know. Would’ve been an awesome picture, right?

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When I was 8 years old my parents took me to Disney and when I begged to ride the teacups they said no because the line was too long. This was waaaay before the days of Fast Pass +. What horrible parents, right???? Well I have never let them forget the injustice, so the very first ride I took my chlldren on was the teacups. Daddy got our cup spinning so fast that a woozy Charlotte fell forward and bonked her head. It was memorable for all involved.

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Hands down, Riley’s favorite ride was Dumbo. My little 5 year old really isn’t in to nail-biting adventure. And that is just fine by me.

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We got the full Florida experience when it poured buckets on us at the end of our day at Magic Kingdom. I tried to be all dainty under an umbrella at first, but that was just not cutting it. Ponchos for the win!

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We stayed at the Art of Animation, one of the “value” Disney resorts. This place was amazing. Especially for our Cars-loving little boy. These pictures are from our resort. No detail was missed. It was impressive.

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Before this day, the last time Derek and I were in Epcot was 9/11/01. We spent about an hour in the parks before they evacuated and shut all the parks down for the day. All we could do was sit in our hotel room, watch the news and cry. It was a horrible day, but 14 years later, we got our fun day at Epcot.

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As soon as we got to our hotel on the first day, Riley took the pad of paper in the room and started writing furiously. He told us he was writing a note to Mickey and was going to give it to him. Derek and I exchanged glances because we honestly didn’t know if we would get an opportunity to see the big guy. But we did. I got the Disney Visa card and one of the many perks is that they have a separate character meet and greet only for cardholders. We waited in line for about 10 minutes and then got our own personal time (and a free 5×7) with Mickey and Goofy. Charlotte, of course, had JUST fallen asleep in the stroller when it was our turn, so she was not pleased to be awoken and thrust into the face of a large mouse. But Riley. Oh, Riley loved it. Playing the part of the shy boy, he walked over to Mickey and handed him a note that said: “Dear Mickey, I love you. I watch all your shows. Love, Riley age 5”. When Mickey read it, he was ecstatic. Or as ecstatic as someone in a ginormous mouse costume could be. He gave Riley this genuine hug, some high fives and then we took our picture. When we left, Riley proudly said, “I bet no one ever brings anything for Mickey.” And actually, I think he might have been right.

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We almost passed on doing a character breakfast on our last day there. It seemed like so much hassle to head to another resort early in the morning, but we did it and we’re all so glad we did. The food was great and the characters kept coming over to spend time with us. And finally, our little girl who was so terrified of all the characters warmed up to them. Even held Minnie’s hand!

I’ve got LOTS of suggestions for those planning a trip to Disney with young kids. I’m going to save them for a separate post, so stay tuned.

As I’ve told everyone since we came back. The trip was a lot of money and even more effort on our part, but it was worth every minute and every dollar.

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Time is a cruel beast

“I need a bigger towel,” he said.

“No, you don’t, this towel still works!” I said, cheerfully.

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Then I thought of something.

This hooded shark towel from Target was the towel we used after his first bath at home almost SIX years ago. Um…maybe he DID need a bigger bath towel. And probably one without a hood because, you know, he’s a big kid and all that stuff.

I got this towel as a baby shower gift six years ago. That first bath at home after getting back from the hospital resulted in a classic Riley picture:

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Clearly he was not feeling the bath OR the towel.

Fast forward a couple years to a cold Sunday night where I then tried to recreate this picture with an almost 6 year-old squirming on my lap while I tried to snap a pic on my phone:

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You get the gist. That first picture felt like it was only yesterday, but then again, it also feels like a lifetime ago. We had no idea what we were doing with this squirmy, floppy newborn. And we had no clue the awesome child he’d grow into. One who tells the best fart and poop jokes. One who is really sick with a bad cold right now and wrote a note to his daddy saying, “I love you daddy because you help me when I’m hurt.”

Oh time, why do you pass so quickly?

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The Year in Photos

I’m not Time Magazine but I like the idea of summing up 2014 with one photo I took for each month. Here they are:

January

Riley at skating lessons.

Riley at skating lessons.

February

We spent a February weekend at an indoor waterpark and it did wonders to cure our cabin fever.

We spent a February weekend at an indoor waterpark and it did wonders to cure our cabin fever.

March

Our little man was just a smidge happy during his 5th birthday party - Mario style.

Our little man was just a smidge happy during his 5th birthday party – Mario style.

April

The snow finally started to melt so we headed to Lapham Peak for a hike and to climb the look out tower.

The snow finally started to melt so we headed to Lapham Peak for a hike and to climb the look out tower.

May

Mother's Day - one of my favorite days of the year. Made better by the fact that it was actually warm and sunny. Miracle of miracles.

Mother’s Day – one of my favorite days of the year. Made better by the fact that it was actually warm and sunny. Miracle of miracles.

June

In June we visited one of my new favorite places in Wisconsin - Gov. Dodge State Park. We camped for a few days and discovered the beauty of this park. Seriously, it was like Fern Gully up in here.

In June we visited one of my new favorite places in Wisconsin – Gov. Dodge State Park. We camped for a few days and discovered the beauty of this park. Seriously, it was like Fern Gully up in here.

July

We celebrated Charlotte's 2nd birthday with a "neigh neigh party. One of my favorite times was watching her dive head-first into the horse cake Papa made her.

We celebrated Charlotte’s 2nd birthday with a “neigh neigh” party. One of my favorite times was watching her dive head-first into the horse cake Papa made her.

August

We finished our seemingly never-ending kitchen remodel in August. DIY for the win!

We finished our seemingly never-ending kitchen remodel in August. DIY for the win!

September

Riley started Kindergarten this year. We are in the big times now.

Riley started Kindergarten this year. We are in the big times now.

October

Riley's amazing homemade Emmett from the Lego Movie Halloween costume was the highlight of October.

Riley’s amazing homemade Emmett from the Lego Movie Halloween costume was the highlight of October.

November

Before I knew it, I was turning cough, cough 36 ugh. At least these cuties helped me blow out my candles.

Before I knew it, I was turning cough, cough 36 ugh. At least these cuties helped me blow out my candles.

Xmas came and went and now we can't wait to see what 2015 has in store for us!

Xmas came and went and now we can’t wait to see what 2015 has in store for us!

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