Tuesday, April 1, 2014

My Least Favorite Holiday

Can April Fool's Day even be called a holiday? There's lots of traditions around it, but no one is sure why it started or what the point is. I found an interesting blog post with facts about April Fool's Day: Twenty Interesting Things About April Fool's Day. And there are some funny and clever things on blogs like Make It and Love It--in previous years she's done posts like chocolate covered veggies and embellished disposable diapers on April 1. There's cutesy stuff to do for your kids like making a cupcake look like a piece of corn on the cob. But that's far beyond the kind of time I'm going to take on just about any holiday, especially April 1.

The real reason I don't like April Fool's Day is that for the most part, any pranks or practical jokes made on this "holiday" are at someone else's expense. It creates a mess or a problem for someone else, or makes them look stupid so other people can laugh at them. And any time a joke has to be at another person's expense, it's not really funny.

This sentiment has sometimes given me the label of "not having a sense of humor." Well, having a different idea of what's funny than someone else doesn't mean I don't have a sense of humor. And I wrote a published paper about that as an undergrad, so don't get me started unless you want to hear the arguments I made in that paper. (And no, that's not an April Fool's Day joke.)

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Farm Fresh Produce

One of the things that surprised (and disappointed) me the most about Florida was the lack of farmer's markets. There are farmer's markets, but they are all a half hour or more away. And now that we live in a place where we don't have to drive that far for most things, we never got around to making it to a farmer's market.

A few months ago, a farmer's market store a few miles away. It's still farther than the stores, but it's closer than the farmer's markets, and it's hours are better because it's open seven days a week.

Today as one of our spring break activities, we went to the farmer's market store and bought all the produce pictured above for $20. The price is good, the produce is fresh. But best of all, is having my girls walk through and pick out fruits and vegetables they want to try.

On the way home, my four year old kept sniffing and saying, "Smells so fresh!" And my two year old said, "Mom, we got fruits and vegetables. They delicious!"

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Spring Break

It's strange to think that last year, every week was like Spring Break week. We never had any school or any other regular obligations during the week. My oldest only does a half day of preschool now, but when she doesn't have school, she gets really bored. That on top of the fact that I'm trying to pack and clean a house, I decided I need a list of things to do during our upcoming Spring Break or my kids are going to watch way too much T.V. and end up cranky and fighting with each other.

Some friends are planning a day at the beach during Spring Break. And while Orlando has a ton of fun things to do, I know that I'm not going to enjoy a beach day alone with a preschooler, a toddler, and 6 months pregnant. So my list is a bit simpler and closer to home.

1. Visit the Science Center
2. Go to the library in the morning, then have a read-a-thon in the afternoon
3. Paint pictures
4. Go to a splash park
5. Play outside
6. Go on a walk
7. Bake something
8. Go to the farm market store
9. Ride bikes
10. Look at scrapbooks

With baby #3 due in June, I'm going to need lots more ideas of fun stuff to do at home this summer. What do you do with your kids during Spring Break and Summer Vacation?

Friday, March 14, 2014

Female Friendships

For book club this month I read The Girls from Ames by Jeffrey Zaslow. It's not something I would have picked up on my own, but it made me think and tore me in a few different directions.

One aspect I liked is that it made me think of This American Life where they interview average Americans and find that everyone has a unique story. If you delve deep enough, no one's life is boring.

The Girls from Ames is about a group of 11 women whose friendships go back forty years. They were (mostly) good friends through high school and kept in touch over the years. Now that they're in their forties, they meet together once a year even though they have completely different lives and live all over the country. It is inspiring how they support each other and how long they've kept in touch--even before social media was big.

On the other hand, as great as they treat each other, this kindness didn't always extend to outsiders--especially in high school. There is one girl in their group whom they gang up on and tell her all the things they don't like about her. She briefly leaves the group but ultimately forgives them and is accepted into the group again as adults. Many in their smallish town thought they were clique-ish and frequently excluded others.

As I read this book, I knew that they were girls I would not have liked in high school. And worse than not liking me, I would have been too unimportant to even notice. There's a character on the T.V. show The Middle. She's awkward and nerdy and unabashedly enthusiastic. And she's constantly having to convince people that she's lived there her whole life and isn't a foreign exchange student because they so rarely notice her. I was that girl, except that I was too shy to try to convince people that I did exist.

Today, I have exactly two Facebook friends who were friends from high school. I have plenty of "friends" who I barley know and haven't talked to in years. But I was important enough to two people in all my childhood and high school years for them to even bother "friending" me on Facebook where everyone has friends they barely know.

I do have some closer friends from college. Some who I can reconnect with even after years of silence between us. And there's a little comfort in that. But, I also have friends from college who I lived with for years and I thought we were really close even as the years have passed. And then they suddenly stopped speaking to me or replying to my messages. I don't really want to know what I did to either offend them or become so unimportant that I'm no longer worth the time to send a message to every few months. Now that I'm in my thirties, I wish I was beyond being hurt by such things, but it does make me second-guess myself and make me uneasy about new friendships. Do I dare get close enough to people for them to discover whatever unknown unlikable thing there is about me that has caused others to cut off years-long friendships without a word?

There are some bright spots in my close relationships with female friends (and if you read the book, as you age close female friendships are extremely important, even to your physical health). I have moved seven times in the eight years I've been married. And lived in five different states. But one of the great things about the church I belong to (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints), is that no matter where you go, you have a built-in network of people who will befriend you and help you. Especially in the Relief Society, the church's women's group. Though I'm still a reticent person and take a while to become close to someone, almost everywhere I go, I have women who are willing to help me out. I've noticed this blessing more as my husband has had to leave the country on business for weeks at a time. His co-workers' wives have reached out to me and worried that I'm pregnant and have young kids alone in a new place. While I'm grateful for this and happy to pursue friendships with them as well, I've known that I am not as alone and isolated as they fear.

And the brightest spot, is my female friendships that truly have and will last a lifetime--whether they want it to or not. I have three sisters. We did not always get a long as children, we don't always agree as adults, but we love and support each other anyway. I turn to them for advice and ranting and de-stressing all the time. It was one of the things that made me desperately want a sister for my daughter.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Read Aloud Chapter Books: Mercy Watson

My daughters and I finished reading the Mercy Watson series by Kate DiCamillo. They were the perfect chapter books for their ages. The chapters were short so we could read one in a short amount of time, though we often read the whole book in one sitting.

The pictures are bright and the stories are fun for kids (a pig named Mercy is kept like a pet by Mr. and Mrs. Watson and she has ridiculous adventures). There's repetition for comprehension and the names in the book are often silly. My preschooler liked them best and looked forward to seeing if the library had one we hadn't read yet (there are six in the series). But even my toddler loved turning the pages and looking at the pictures while saying, "Mercy Watson! Mercy Watson!"

Now I just have to find a new chapter book to read aloud to get us back in the habit. What are your favorite chapter books to read aloud to small children?

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Frogs and Snails and Puppy Dog Tails...

That's what little boys are made of.

With my first two children, I was terrified of having a boy. With this one, I knew it would be a boy. And it is. So I'm not freaking out.

But I know that there is no way of preparing for how different our lives will be by adding a boy to the mix. Watching the lives of my two sisters who have boys is enough to tell me that nothing will ever be the same.

My oldest girl was a little disappointed because she wanted it to be another girl. Today we're talking about cute baby boys we know and about how her best friend at school is a boy. Yesterday we went to Target and let her pick out the first outfit for baby brother. Just that simple act made me feel completely out of my element. I was looking at the opposite things than what I'm used to. No more skimming over the boy clothes in search of things for baby girls. We're trading in dresses and hair bows for tiny suits and bow ties.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Pretend Snow

Despite my weird dream last night, it doesn't snow in Florida. (I've heard rumors that it snows here occasionally, but it melts before it hits the ground.) We visited Oregon for Christmas, but it was too warm and rainy for snow. My husband and I both grew up in the West and snow was a prominent memory of childhood winters. It's strange to think our children won't have the same experiences (though with frequent beach days, I don't think they'll mind too much).

So with no real snow in sight, I tried a Pinterest "snow" recipe for sensory play. You just mix shave cream (not gel) and baking soda. There's no exact ratio, just add some of each and mix together until it stays together when squeezed into a ball.

The girls loved this. They built snowmen, scooped ice cream, and played with this stuff for much longer than play dough holds their attention. It's probably the novelty factor. It was also a little bit cold to the touch due to the shave cream.

It did make a mess, so this isn't something I'd do on a regular basis. But it brushed off of children and swept up pretty easily. Even if you have real snow to go play with, this would be a fun activity for kids when you're stuck indoors because of the snow.