Friday, August 31, 2012

Uncharacteristic: The Best Morning Wake-Up

I'm a sucker for quick and easy activities that are both family friendly and educational, which basically can totally sum me up: I'm a Momma who loves to laugh and learn with my kids. However, in the event that said activity goes beyond the point where we all lose interest or patience or would rather bang our heads against a concrete floor than listen to each other for ONE MORE SECOND then yeeeaah, not gonna happen.

My New Years resolution in January of 2011 was to start a "Word of the Day" with the kids. A simple ten minute activity that we could all do together and create a worksheet that documents our word with artwork and application etc. 

It's been a huge hit. Well, except for that one day, The Day of the Living Dead

After taking a WOTD break this summer we started it up again last night. My rules are simple:

1) Each day one child picks a letter to chose from
2) I'll flip through that letter's pages in our childrens dictionary until my child tells me to stop
3) They'll point to any word on the page, cannot be a picture.
4) No matter what the word is--it's the WOTD.

We'll then learn it, apply it, write it and draw it. Let's use last night's word as an example, shall we? Bella chose the letter U. I flipped through the U's until she said stop, she pointed to the first word she saw and it was UNCHARACTERISTIC.

So we highlighted it in the book

and wrote the definition on a plain piece of paper. I talked about a few examples of how people can do things that are uncharacteristic of themselves yadda, yadda, yadda and then let the girls apply the word in a sentence.

This is where it ALWAYS gets nasty. Like Kardashian nasty. They argue over who the story is about, they argue over the names, they argue over the plot line and disagree about pretty much everything! But somehow, someway they both came up with this:

Of course Mia had a shit-fit over the fact that Bella chose "monkey bars" and went ahead and crossed through it which meant that Bella  outright refused to draw the picture leaving Mia to quickly do a pencil sketch of a playground with SWINGS--because people that's what she wanted to chose, SWINGS!!! But I think she felt bad and drew the monkey bars anyway. UUGH, it's enough to make you wanna chuck the dictionary out the window, huh? It did for me! Thankfully, it was right before bedtime so the arguing moved from the kitchen to the bedroom and before I knew it they were fast asleep.

This morning, while totally asleep laying on my side, I was tapped awake at 6:30 by Mia. Half asleep, and totally bleary eyed I leaned my head forward and kissed her good morning.

And you know what she said?

"Good thing you just kissed me mommy, it would be very uncharacter-issic if you didn't"

I would have married her right there if it would have been legal.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

A Little Recital

I've been around nursing homes quite a bit since I spent most of my summer breaks working at one. It can be terribly heartbreaking one day and thoroughly uplifting the next. Yet some of my greatest advice has been given to me by my "friends" I met there. Without a doubt, I adored that job above any other.

Every so often my kids will perform a little recital at our local nursing home in hopes of brightening someone's day and making someone smile. We've been doing this for a couple of years now and each time is special and funny and adorably cute. But beneath it all, I want my kids to know the real meaning of compassion. And selflessness. And maybe they won't understand all of it right away, but I hope one day they will.

Until then, baby steps.

And here's some bonus material. Mia, my 4 year old, closed out our nursing home recital with a little solo that she learned in school. 

She signs the song What a Wonderful World and every single time I see it,  I smile. 

And tear up. 

It's my job.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

I tried convincing her to be homeschooled-it didn't work.

"How much fun are YOU having today, Mom?" screamed Bella, rather loudly from the bathroom stall next to mine. Ya know, she's old enough to go without me now, in her own stall with her own toilet seat cover, which is exactly how she sounds when she says it to me, like a teenager!! Normally, I might high-five this independent streak, but not today.

"So much fun Bella," I responded a little quieter since I knew everyone in this mall bathroom must be listening to us right now.

"Well, I'm having one hundred-thousand-percent fun today Mom!" I smiled and teared up right there in the public bathroom. She and I were on a shopping date, for new school clothes and new shoes. The entire time I walked around holding her hand I was in shock, wondering when did she get so tall? We tried on new shoes, and somehow-somewhere in the past month her foot decided to grow a size. What? Now? How dare it! I stared at the shoe attendant in disbelief. Not that I wasn't willing to go up a size but that the truth was harder for me to swallow. Yet another sign of her impending growth which made this day, the day before her 1st grade, harder than normal.

She picked out her "1st grade 1st day" dress and twirled around the dressing room with the hugest grin. All I could do is smile back at her. I couldn't help thinking that one day I'll be sitting in the same seat watching her twirl in a prom dress or even further down the line, twirl around in a wedding dress. And probably feel the same sort of emotion, on a much grander scale-yes, but the feeling will still be the same--this tugging emotion of both happiness and excitement and sadness to see this last stage pass.

This is motherhood. 

She woke this morning three hours before the bus was to arrive. And brushed her hair and teeth in record time. Excited? You betcha!

We made our celebratory 1st grade pancakes.

We packed her lunch (in her fancy bento) which she had planned out for months.

And as a family, we all helped hoist up her heavy backpack.
With the weight of every school supply imaginable, she smiled so confidently.

And just like that, she left me again...

Happy-Sad, 1st Day of 1st Grade, Bella.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Movie Under the Stars

Let me shout from the rooftops, "THIS WAS THE BEST DAMN SUMMER EVER."

Because, it really was. Late nights, sunscreen, watermelon, I could go on: swimming, dancing, lemonade--all the ingredients that made our summer perfect.

But just when we were getting a little too used to our carefree schedule, lazy mornings and playing until we're dirty-- ding! our summer timer went off, reminding us that the end is near.

But over here, we go out with a bang.

This past Friday we bid farewell to our favorite summer by hosting a "Movie Under the Stars" backyard party and invited all our friends and family, and the girls' school friends and their families.

We were giddy all week planning. In fact, watching my kids help party plan was so adorable. They had a say in every decision that we made, from decorations to which candy is most preferred--they were a part of it. This was their party.

Bella even painted a huge banner--after a little lesson in proportions and letter spacing, homegirl was ret-to-go but get this, she went back and forth for several days debating over whether her sign should say "so long summer" or "farewell summer." I mean, tough choices, huh?

Movie choice was another HUGE debate in our household. First it was Toy Story 3, then it was The Lorax both really good choices, but then in a moment of brilliance I thought about  The Muppets. 
Talk about a win-win. All us parents got a little mushy over reliving our childhood through the Rainbow Connection and all our children got to laugh along with Fozzie and the was full circle in oh so many ways.

After rescheduling because of thunderstorms the day before, we couldn't have asked for better weather. Picture perfect sunshine all day long that dried the grass and warmed us all.

The candles were glowing and the tiki torches were lit. At dusk, families descended on our yard, chairs and blankets and cookies in hand.

What movie party wouldn't be complete without freshly popped popcorn?  And we had plenty!

We even had a Popcorn Bar where guests could add some of their favorite snacks to their popcorn boxes. Which btw, THE KIDS LOVED. Okay, so did I. Have you ever tried M&M's with popcorn? Delish!

I scored those little chalkboard tin pails from the $1 bin at Target!

The crisp cool night air was perfect sweatshirt weather, befitting to our summer departure, we all glimpsed Autumn right around the corner and gathered together for a final farewell.

Looking out seeing a sea of neon glow sticks and glow necklaces being twirled and tossed around made me so happy, knowing that these moments, here and now, are defining my kids' childhood. That they'll look back and see that we really do know how to have fun. I swear, we do.

For a moment, I wanted so badly to get all the moms together and gab about the upcoming school year or gossip about the Real Housewives or coerce all the adults into a round of drinking games. But had that happened, then it would have taken away from the real spirit of the night--which was families huddling together as their own unit, cuddling under the blankets, sharing their popcorn, and enjoying these last minutes of freedom, together.

 I looked out and saw 10 or more families in our yard and I felt so grateful to be a part of a community that cares about their families as much as we do.

We're all on this journey of parenthood together, why not make the very most of it, right?

This picture might have been cute had Amy Adams not stole our spotlight!

Way past their bedtime, my kids fought off exhaustion running solely on sugar fumes and finally secumbed to their pajama's. As I pulled up their blankets and kissed them goodnight Bella waved me in closer and whispered in my ear, "look Mommy, I crossed off the last of our summer list."

I glanced to the closet door, the one that has safeguarded our summer list for these past three months and sure enough, there in white chalk, she checked off "look at stars."

And my heart lit up all over again.

Farewell Summer

Friday, August 10, 2012

Big Yellow Taxi!!

That summer to-do list of ours? We're totally rockin and rollin' it.

This pic was taken back in June upon the creation of our summer bucket list. Since then we've crossed off a lemonade stand, a beach outing, and a carnival which have all added to an already awesome summer scrapbook. But that boat ride has been staring at me for a month now. In fact, I'd be reminded every time I was in their room. I'd repeat it over and over in my head, with an oddly strange voice,

Go on a boat. Go on a boat ride Gina. You know you want to. 

I think it was wishful thinking when we created that list, as if writing it would suddenly mean we would JUST HAVE to take a carribbean sunset cruise. But was on the list!!!

With the horrific thought of having to rent a kayak and paddle my children through a friggin' creek, I knew we'd have to think of something quick.

Bingo! Chicago water taxi.

Giddy with the thought of crossing off the most challenging dare, we gathered the kids and headed to Chinatown. 

And yet again was reminded of how little pockets of this great city 
can transform you somewhere else. 

Someplace new.

With the feel of someplace old.

My kids loved this change of scenery, as did I.

We found the most amazing weeping willow tree just along the bank and sweet baby ray they had a ball swinging from it!

We could have left right then and there and they would have been MORE than satisified but that wouldn't have crossed off my list, now would it?

Watching the weeping willows get smaller and smaller behind us, we welcomed a new adventure.

Experiencing the city by boat is a MUST. Ever since My Best Friend's Wedding I've been itching to do this.

And you know what, to see the city from this angle is humbling.

The kids would ooh and aah as every new building came into view. 

And wave at EVERY SINGLE BOAT RIDER that passed their way and laugh when their friendly gesture was reciprocated. 

We debarked at Michigan Avenue, had a quick bite to eat and headed right back to the boat and awaited the next pick-up. A round trip ticket was $7 per person and maybe less for kids, can't quite remember but I know that it was completely economical and it accomplished EVERYTHING that we could have wanted on a boat with 3 kids. 

In hindsight I should have put on my summer bucket list: have an amazingly stress free, memorable and exciting family outing where no one argues, no one whines and no one bleeds.

Cuz, in that case?


Summer 2012 


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