Sunday, September 30, 2012

Weekend Top Five 9/30/12

What an absolutely beautiful weekend in West Michigan. As you are about to read, I spent a good deal of time in the car this weekend and the drive both days were so incredible with the changing trees. The colors this year seem to much more vibrant than in the past few years and even the boys commented a few times on how pretty they were. I can't imagine living in a climate that didn't have changing seasons. That's one of the nicest things about Michigan...just when you get sick of the weather, it changes to another season that holds all new experiences.

So it was definitely a busy-ish weekend. Hubby was gone for some of it with his new quartet so the boys and I were on our own, which is always fun.

5. Paper Lanterns
As I mentioned last week, the three week art competition that takes over our city is in full swing. One of the entries was a person who purchased 20,000 lanterns (like in the movie Tangled) to be released on cue Friday night. We headed down to face the crowds and found our spot in the grass to wait. The experience was a mixed bag. In one way, it was absolutely stunning and beautiful to see them all released from four sides of the river and see the sky FILL with lit lanterns. Absolutely breathtaking! Unfortunately, we didn't get to enjoy it as much as we could have since I had two little boys FREAKING OUT over the fire that was in close proximity on all sides of us, since people weren't waiting for lanterns to fill before releasing them and people's hair around us was getting singed. Either way you look at it, it was definitely a memorable experience. It was beautiful and terrifying at the same time.

4. Glasses Fiasco
Hubby and first born are both spectacle wearers and that does cause a bit of stress once in awhile. Hubby sat on and broke his glasses Friday and came home to find that his "spare" broken set are also missing since Noah had been trying to use them when HIS glasses were lost. So take a family with a checking account balance of less than five dollars and try to buy new glasses for the head of household and that was our dilemma Saturday morning. For now, the glasses are Jerry rigged and we will go without buying food this week so daddy can get them fixed. At least one more week of mac and cheese and hot dogs for dinner every night for the Wheelz Home.

3. Road Trip One
Saturday afternoon my sister held a grand opening of the preschool she has been working so hard to create for a very long time. The facility is very nice and I took the boys over to the center for awhile. The boys were all excited to do face painting and then disappear to grandpa and grandma's house with their cousins.  It was a beautiful drive north and home. I am so lucky to have so much family close and part of the boys (and mine) lives.

2. A Friend Reunion
The campus ministry in which Hubby and I were involved held a reunion on Saturday but given the other conflicts, I was unable to go but still had wanted to spend time with a friend of mine from college who was in town for the reunion. Her two boys are the same age as my two boys so we drive down to Kalamazoo to spend some time with them Sunday morning/afternoon. It was a wonderful visit. We took the boys out to a local nature center and hiked on a couple of trails, including finding the place that Hubby and I spent MANY weekends together while we were in college. Afterward, we took the boys to Steak and Shake and they had more fun playing with cardboard cars than I ever believed possible. It was just such a good visit and all three of us are anxious to have another visit with them before another three years passes.

1. Family Business
After meeting with my friend (she had a six hour drive ahead of her back to Wisconsin) I drove down to my aunt and uncle's house in which I lived for a couple of years in college. We had a really nice visit for a couple of hours and we took care of some business left over from my grandma. I came home with another box of piano music from my grandma that I am looking forward to sifting through and a few other things that will make life a little better for a little while. The rest was just talking more about grandma and her final days. Another part of this that came from this weekend was scheduling a final day for my two siblings and I to get together in a few weeks and go through the remaining things from grandma's apartment to see what we would like to keep as heirlooms to pass on to our kids and grandkids.

The Week Ahead:
I have two mornings off from work this week in which to take care of some needed business in several areas of my life and get my house in order.  I have a lot of things on the list and I am so thankful to have some time without kids to try to cover as much as possible tomorrow. I am also hoping to make it downtown for one more visit to try to see more of the art I've missed. I keep hearing of more and more things that I've missed in the two times I've been down, probably because I had kids in tow.

All in all, a beautiful fall weekend in Michigan. Have a good week!

Monday, September 24, 2012

Weekend Top Five 9/24/12

It was a cool weekend finally for the start of Autumn. We are fighting the urge to turn on the furnace and so far so good.

It was an okay weekend for the most part.  The weather was actually an interesting part of the weekend since it was so weird. It was bright blue skies and sunny at the exact same time as dark gray rain clouds, depending on which direction you were looking. We never knew when it was going to start raining or be sunny and hot, and it changed in the matter of seconds. Kind of spooky but cool at the same time :)

5. Gymboree Kids Day
I had to work an event Saturday morning that we do each year at my day job. We held a "Kids Day" to try to bring in more awareness of our classes and play facility. It was huge and we had over 200 kids in and out within the two and a half hour event. I was done by 1:00 and was even more happy to hear that the three "boys" (Daddy and boys) had gotten along fine while I was gone (which hasn't been the case much lately).

4. Football and a Bit of Maturity
I missed the deadline to be able to sign Aaron up for flag football this year but that hasn't stopped the interest. He has been trying so hard to kick and catch our football lately so when I got home, we headed over to a local park to play. It was a really fun time. I was proud of Aaron because not only is he trying very hard to kick the ball, he is trying very hard to catch them, even when they are super high and coming at him at pretty fast speeds. As a matter of fact, he got NAILED in the cheek while trying to catch one and after a small amount of whimpering, he got right back up and tried again, which is a HUGE improvement that we have seen in him since school started this year. Up until now, he has always just given up when things got discouraging. But since school started this year, Aaron seems to be more brave in giving things a second try. I am not sure why, but I know how much Noah improved in effort and positive attitude when he was in third grade with this teacher and I am wondering if that is the same thing with Aaron.  Whatever the reason, it is a fun change to watch in him.

3. Church
Noah was completely bummed that it wasn't his turn to run the soundboard at church this morning and then after church he said, "Mom, nobody ran the board today" so I encouraged him to ask next time if there is no one there and he was so excited at the idea that he could show some initiative on his own and is excited to ask next time. Aaron attended grown up church with us this week and did really well. Not sure which he will go to next week.

2. ArtPrize Round One
Grand Rapids has an annual event that completely takes over the city for about three weeks each Fall. Over 1500 works of art, both huge and small, of all various types are installed all over the city. So I took the boys downtown for a small viewing Sunday afternoon while Hubby was gone for a rehearsal. The weather kind of shortened things but we did see a few fun things that stood out. ArtPrize really is such a good thing for our city and I love just walking around downtown and being part of it. Both boys brought a small sketchpad to draw things they saw, which they do each time we go.

1. Sunday Night Stresses
School has been in session for a few weeks now and we are still trying to figure out the school routines and the changes it creates in family dynamics. Sunday night was a bit of a stress trying to figure out the week ahead and Noah had a rough time settling in for the week ahead. It was a first peek at the social stresses that we may be facing this year, which I was wondering when they would start. We'll keep working with him to help him the best we can and we also need to work better at hiding our own grown-up conflicts because I think it just exacerbates a difficult situation for him.

The Week Ahead:
We'll get through the week ahead, one day at a time, just like we work our way through every other week. I look forward to the day when we are actually "living" rather than "surviving" each day. There will be one fun day (hopefully) on Thursday when I go to the field trip with the classes to go see ArtPrize again.  Hopefully other happy moments will show their face as the week progresses as well. That would be a really nice thing.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Weekend Top Five September 19, 2012

So I've decided to try to bring the weekend top five back. I realized as I look back that I like having a kind of journal of our weekend activities through the years. There have been so many times that Steve and I have wondered "when was that?" and he is the one who usually says, "look back at your blog and check".

I am working to figure out how to structure this blog going forward, knowing that I kept a private one this summer as well. I think that I will keep the private one for my biggest struggles (of which there seem to be quite a few at the moment) and keep this blog as my family journal of sorts. I imagine there will be some overlap at times but that is just because life is not easily separated into neat sections :)

5. Bike Ride with a Purpose
Aaron and I got some one on one time in a physical capacity Friday night. It was a very stressful week and I decided that I needed to get some exercise and I told Aaron to grab his bike. We took a ride together to a local video store. The ride had some challenges for Aaron but I just reminded him that the more he rode, the less difficult the ride would be next time. We didn't ride much this summer since Noah doesn't have a bike but I really DO enjoy that mode of exercise and I am committing to riding my back much more as I find time

4. Steve Back Discussion
Hubby stayed home all week due to a pinched nerve and caused much stress to the household. So after a bit of bickering and not so nice words, we got through it and he ended up cancelling the performance in which he supposed to attend Saturday night. As I was driving home late Saturday night (see below) I called him after the kids had fallen asleep in the car and we finally had a decent (and calm) discussion about the back situation and I think we've come up with a plan of attack for the week. At least, I hope.

3. Flea Bomb
This week, on top of all the other DRAMA in the house, I found  fleas on the dog. So, after a trip to the vet for flea treatments, we knew we needed to fix the house as well. In the past, I've always used the flea carpet spray but I really don't know how well it actually works so we broke out the big stuff this time. Since the boys and I were going to be gone for the day (see below) it seemed like the logical day for it. So after we left ( or got kicked out by hubby the Nervous Bomber) Steve set off the foggers and left for a few hours. After church Sunday was spent vacuuming every inch of the house and I was happily surprised that I found no fleas and a very small amount of "dust" on the dog when I checked her Sunday afternoon. As cute as Lily is, I will definitely NEVER have another dog and I would re home her in an instant if I could find the right family for her. She is alone all day every day and would be much happier with a family that could sit and snuggle/play with her much more.

2. Saturday Road Trip
We went to Illinois (with a spoken"S" when Aaron says it) for the day for my niece and nephew's birthday party. The kids had a blast playing with their cousins all day and the drive was somewhat uneventful both directions. One kind of cool thing was that as we were hitting the road to come home, a good Samaritan paid for my toll for me as I got onto the highway. That was kind of neat. I dealt with my bio mom without any difficulties and even came home with some glorious sparkly tattoos on my arm thanks to my seven year old niece.

1. Noah's New "job"
All of the fifth graders are expected to perform some sort of service at church and Noah had decided that he wanted to learn how to run the soundboard at church. Beforehand he had been quite nervous about it but we got there today and a nice man was there ready to help him out. Noah had a blast and is disappointed that he has to share the job with other kids :) He will "graduate" from this small board to one twice it's size next year in the middle school wing but the man helping them out said he did great and that all of the kids are ready for the bigger one by the time this year in the kids' church is over. I am just happy that maybe we found something that he will embrace and could do something with in the future. I guess we'll wait and see.

The Week Ahead:
School adjustments are definitely not smooth sailing yet so we'll hope for a better week in that front. I am working four out of five days at Gymbo this week as well as an extra event Saturday morning, which will most likely do me in. Hopefully Steve will be back to work by Tuesday so I can get my house back in working order, sans fleas finally.

Here's to a good week :)

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Thursday Thirteen Summer 2012

I sit writing this on Monday night. Kids are in bed, backpacks are full of supplies, clothes are laid out, and two young boys are anticipating what 3rd and 5th grade will be like beginning tomorrow morning.

I have had a child in school of some sort for 7 years now (starting with Noah in preschool in 2006) and I think the first days are actually getting more difficult, rather than easier. Each new school year means one more year closer to the time when I am no longer an important part of their lives. And each year I cry as I send them off.

I had wanted this to be the "best summer ever" but due to financial constraints, I was unable to make it happen...AGAIN.

Although Noah spent much of the time this summer explaining just how awful his summer was, when we sat down this weekend and talked about what we DID do, he was the first one to say, "We really have fun this summer". I'm not sure if he was just trying to be nice or being honest, but it was still nice to hear.

So this summer was quite a bit different than summers in the past.  There were quite a few things that used to be part of our summers that really don't factor in anymore, mostly because the boys are just older now. We didn't spend every other day at a new park like in past years. As a matter of fact, I think we only actually WENT to a park maybe a half dozen times the entire summer. I think one factor of that was because it was just really really hot this summer. 

We also spent fewer days at the beach this summer. We didn't even go to the tiny local beach a single time. We did get to Lake Michigan a handful of times this summer, but gas costs reduced our trips.  We also made it a new Lake Michigan beach (well, new to them, not to me) and it was our favorite beach day, despite the icky biting flies. We'll go back there next summer but earlier in the summer.  We also did not go to a couple of festivals that we have ALWAYS gone to in summers past, such as the Coast Guard Festival and Byron Days Festival. We also didn't spend a single night in a hotel this summer, which has always been a favorite of the boys in summers past.

Okay, so enough with the negativity. What DID we do this summer?

Well, after asking the boys what they will remember from this summer, and adding the things that I will remember the most, here is how the Summer of 2012 will be remembered:

13. DUNK TANK...Aaron's Dream Come True
I will never be able to explain why my youngest child has such an incredible OBSESSION with dunk tanks. I have no idea when it started or where it stems from, but it is real and it is here to stay. So when I found out that there was a fund raiser where kids got to be in a dunk tank, I would have paid an extraordinary amount of money for him to have the experience. Even better, it only cost a dollar and he spent an entire afternoon climbing into a very gross grass filled tank and getting dunked. His dream come true. Did it quash the obsession? Nope!

12. Birthday Parties...Noah's Dream Come True
Given a summer AND holiday birthday, a birthday party with school friends has never happened and he has always wanted one. So this summer was the year, in honor of entering Double Digits, we let Noah have a birthday party at a local game type place and also had a blast at a birthday party with all of his cousins at a local park. Definitely a memorable birthday for him. Even better, he got to spend fireworks with his gal pal as well, which he also talked about the rest of the summer.

11. Gymboree Summer/ McFlurries
One of the most obvious things of this summer was how much time the kids spent at work with me. As I was teaching 2-3 days a week, the boys spent a LOT of time in the little tiny office of our owner, with a minuscule DVD player and their handheld games in the dark. Real fun, right? Here's the funny thing...I figured it would be the WORST part of the summer. But not one single day did they complain about it the entire summer. To them, it meant a day of sitting watching TV and playing video games without mom regulating them. And even better, every Friday, since it was the longest day they had to be there (5-6 hours) we stopped for McFlurries on the way home. They thought it was the coolest thing ever. Who says you can't entertain children on a shoestring budget? :)

10. Camping, Cabin Style
Perhaps the best job I've ever done at planning ahead. Back in January when I got an email saying that you had to reserve (and pay for) summer camping sites for cabins at the campground we like in February. After some discussion, we took the small amount of money we got for tax refund and went ahead and scheduled our camping weekend. In hindsight, the best thing we've ever done since we would never have been able to do it otherwise. So even though we never took a "vacation" per say, we did get our weekend away and didn't have to "rough it" as much as in previous years since we rented a cabin at the campground. There were definitely ups and downs to our camping adventure this year, but it was a memorable weekend away as a family. Not sure if we'll do it again next year but we had an experience that hopefully the boys will remember fondly in years to come.

9. My Grandma
My grandma passed away in July, just four days shy of her 96th birthday. She was an extremely important part of my life and I am tearing up so this will be the most difficult paragraph to write. I wrote an entire tribute to  this woman on the private blog that I kept this summer so I won't elaborate here. In short, I was so grateful that I had some warning and was able to take the boys to Kalamazoo a few weeks before she passed so we had a short time with her to visit and say goodbye.  A couple weeks after her passing was a small gathering at the cemetery as her ashes were buried, followed by another gathering of family and friends the next day. The kids remember the weekend as time playing with their favorite cousins. I, however, had a very difficult weekend on so many levels and I am still hurting and very raw. So even though it's not a happy memory, it was a very huge part of my memories of the summer of 2012 and it needed to be part of this list.

8. The Grandmas, Grandpas, and Rebellion
My boys have the best grandma and grandpa ever in my parents. They will be the first to tell you that if you ask :) When asked, their first response is their favorite parts of the summer were the days they spent with the grandparents and cousins, playing in the forest, swimming at their aunt's pool and just being loved and doted upon. Every kid should be lucky enough to have these special people in their lives!

The flip side of this was the assertion of Noah's independence as he outright REFUSED to go for two overnights to my in-laws. It was a very difficult and awkward situation but we backed up Noah's decision and Aaron went to spend a couple of days alone with the in laws while Noah stayed home for some one-on-one time with us. Both boys had a fun time apart from each other. My MIL keeps asking about if Noah will come next summer. I know the answer but I will certainly not face that until it comes next summer. Anything can happen between now and then.

7. Reading, Writing, 'Rithmatic
Aaron is younger than everyone in his class by quite a lot, so with some encouragement from Aaron's teacher, it was very important to keep Aaron up to speed and even help him improve in some ways. So I did require the boys to keep up with reading , writing essays, and math worksheets this summer, including reading aloud to me.We also followed through on several local reading clubs, including the library one that treated us to a free trip to the local minor league baseball game. The game included a free kids meal and safety goggles night and was a lot of fun, even when it got rained out in the fifth inning and we went running for cover, soaked to the bone. I think (or at least hope) the work we did this summer paid off and I do feel like he is more prepared for third grade than he would have been otherwise. 

6. Michigan's Adventure
We had decided that there was no way we were going to be able to make our annual trip to the only amusement park here in Michigan. But after much discussion and a very honest and sad plea from our firstborn, we squeezed some blood from lemons and made it happen. Aaron got to go on his first corkscrew. The biggest part of this day however was Noah's experience. He was determined to ride the one ride I had denied him in previous years...despite me saying that I still didn't think he was ready yet. 

Sometimes it stinks to be right and this was one of those times. The poor kid got jolted and jostled around, scratching up the entire side of his temples, and then losing his glasses completely, never to be found again. He came away crying and wishing we had never come in the first place.

We salvaged the day for the most part, but after quite a few other icky mishaps, Michigan's Adventure will probably not be our summer destination again for a very long time. 

5. Day trip to Lansing
This was probably the best family day of the summer. We took one Sunday and headed to the state's capital. It was a great day and one of the very few activities I actually posted about this summer.

4. Summer Bowling
 A national website, Kids Bowl Free, sponsored 2 free games of bowling every day for kids all summer long. We have signed up for three summers in a row, but this was the first summer we really took advantage.  Our local bowling alley, in additional to participating in this promotion, also offered dollar shoes, dollar games, and dollar pop days on Mondays so with both the free bowling coupons and the specials, the boys and I went bowling almost every Monday all summer long for only $8 a day. Pretty good frugal planning if I do say so myself. Noah achieved his high score of 115 and Aaron's of 98. These of course were with bumpers but by the end of the summer, they were trying to do one game without bumpers and one with each time we went. Noah is even asking to be part of a bowling league this fall. We'll have to see about that.

3. Chili Dogs and Slurpee's
Perhaps again because of the extreme heat this summer, Slurpee's became a treat often this summer. For $1 I could get a 44 oz Slurpee, divide it between two cups and make two young lads super happy after a hot day playing outside. Not exactly nutritious but still fun for them to go make crazy concoctions. In addition, Noah was determined to try his first chili dog. He loved it and asked for them almost daily for the rest of the summer. And they were really yummy!

2. The Swing
Boys grow up and the day came when we realized that the small swing set we had for the little boys doesn't really cut it anymore when little boys become big boys. So after a sad farewell to the swing set (selling it to the people across the street) we needed an additional outlet for our active boys, besides the trampoline we had gotten them earlier in the year. I had actually begged Hubby to hang a swing from our tree out front for  several years and after quite a bit of nagging begging requesting, he obliged. The kids spent hours on the swing for the entire summer. Given the construction, it is amazing that there were as few injuries from it as there were, even though the most serious of them happened just a few days ago, with a head gash to Noah. But he recuperated and was back on it the next day as if nothing had happened. And yes, there are bets going around  the neighborhood about how long the limb will actually hold before falling. Hopefully it won't happen while one of them is airborne.
1. Weekends together
Another thing that was different this summer was Daddy being home. He did work a few Saturdays in order to try to beef up his paycheck since things were really really horrible this summer, but at least he had the CHOICE for the first time, which meant many more weekend sleeping in together than ever before. Another nice change was that our church holds Sunday morning service "encores" on Monday nights during the summer for all the many Michiganders who are out on the water on the weekends. We attended many of  those Monday night services instead of Sunday morning and I liked the change. It made the week shorter as well :)

So, I guess we did make the best of our summer. The one biggest thing I learned this summer was that I don't ever ever ever want to have another summer where I feel like a complete loser as a mom again. The only way to change this is for me to make money....REAL MONEY. So for that reason, the decision was made this summer for me to head back to school come January.  I feel that this decision came directly as a result of truly feeling the poor factor this summer and I had to stoop lower than ever before to even try to keep food on my children's plates.  I hope the struggle this summer will pay off and after I am done with classes in a couple of years, then my summer post will have a very different feel to it. I don't necessarily want to be able to say yes to everything the kids ask for, but I never want another summer when the answer is always no.

I am so lucky to have had yet another summer with the boys, despite the circumstances. I have limited time left when the boys want anything to do with their mom so I will take each day as it comes and work to be grateful for each and every moment.