Friday, September 11, 2015

Parks, picnics and pasta sauce

With about half an hour to go before school got out at lunchtime today, I was moving over some laundry and plotting how, exactly, I was going to go grocery shopping and give the kids lunch and still make it home in time for Gwen's nap and to do all of the other things I had on my list today. We could grab lunch while we were out (Wendy's is very conveniently next to Target), but Espen had already chosen to make chicken and fries for his dinner day tonight, and there's only so much fried chicken you can eat in a day, y'know?

Then inspiration struck. Today was one of those glorious early September days that Utah does so very well, and I decided to capitalize on it and pack up a quick picnic of juice, sandwiches and a handful of cookies and run out the door. Gwen and I pulled a very bewildered and excited Espen out of his carpool, and then headed off on our picnic adventure.

The park was more or less empty at lunchtime on a Friday afternoon, so we had a nice little lunch beneath the shade before the kids ran off to spend a happy half hour or so on the playground. As I watched them bask in the glory of having the entire playground to themselves, I knew that there was absolutely no way I was going to be able to do all of the things I had planned to do today. But I knew I had to (as Espen so enthusiastically belted out in the bathroom at Target a little later) let it go, and just make that time in the park with the kids my priority for today.

I forget that sometimes. In the rush to check things off my list and get things done and organized and into shape, I forget that the whole and entire point and purpose in life is to be with the people we love.  To serve others and allow ourselves to be served. To love them and to let them love us. Isn't that why we're really all here?

I got another reminder of that after we got home. Espen was in the backseat of the car, telling me that he could unbuckle Gwen from her seat "so you don't have to waste your time doing it, mom. I don't want you to have to do lots of work today." It was meant as a kindness and I so appreciate his good little heart and willingness to help, but it felt a little bit like a slap in the face. Waste my time? Is that really what I have been teaching them? That things I do to take care of them are work and chores, and that anything that takes a little while is wasting my precious time? That my time is somehow more important than them? Oh, I hope that's not what they're learning!

I was too stunned at the time to say much of anything, but what I should have said, and what I will say to Espen tonight when we snuggle up in his bed after his bedtime story is this: "Taking care of you and your sister is a gift, and if I have ever made you feel like any of the things I do in a day are more important than you, then I apologize. There is a lot of work involved in being a mom or a dad, or just a grownup in general, and sometimes there are things that just have to happen, like making our food, doing laundry, grocery shopping, cleaning up... But those things never, ever matter more than you or Gwen, and loving you and taking care of you is not a waste of my time, even if it just something small or not very fun like unbuckling a car seat or changing a diaper. If I ever make you feel like I care more about unloading the dishwasher then I do about you, please tell me, and I will be happy to remind you just how much I love you, and how much you really do matter to me."

Two more little events: yesterday afternoon I put Gwen down for her nap and then started to head downstairs to make a large batch of pasta sauce when the thought popped into my head to invite Espen to join me. I popped my head inside his bedroom door and asked if he would like to keep me company while I cooked, and his whole little face just lit up. He came downstairs and spent the next hour or so perched beside me on the kitchen counter, chatting about school and helping me with the occasional cooking task. It was so nice to and easy to just spend time together like that, and I felt like such a doofus for not thinking of it before. Which is exactly the reason why, when Gwen asked me to play Lego with her this morning when I was really planning to go upstairs and do some laundry, I said yes. And sure, I spent some time cleaning up the playroom around her while she played before I came to my senses and actually played some dang Lego with her, but I got there in the end, which help both of us remember that she is infinitely more important than even the longest to do-list.

So: yes to taking ten minutes to play Lego with Gwen before I go upstairs to do the laundry. Yes to letting Espen help me cook, even though it's messy. Yes to putting away the iPads and having a tickle fight. Yes to first things first. Yes to family first.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

In the middle of the week

All of the apples!

I have just successfully put Gwen down for an early nap (sing, choir of angels!), and Espen is playing at a friend's house, so I have a few minutes to spare before it's on to the next thing. How are you?

Espen has been in kindergarten for two weeks now, so we're starting to really get the hang of our new schedule. As much as I still don't like getting up in the mornings, I do like getting an early (for us!) start to the day, and really like being able to get the bulk of my errands and whatnot done before lunch, which frees up the afternoon quite a bit. Not that I do anything very exciting with it, but I have steam cleaned the couch and put together a couple of storage shelves for the basement, so things are happening, and I'm happy about that.

A few things I've had on my mind lately:

  • Gwen's naps. She still takes a nap most afternoons, but is often grumpy when we wake her, and then has a hard time getting to sleep at night, which isn't easy for anyone. I'm really hoping this won't be the end of nap time for Gwen, so we're experimenting with this and that to see what works. Today I put her to bed an hour earlier than usual, and I'm going to wake her after 90 minutes instead of her usual two hours, so we'll see how that goes. Any wise words would be much appreciated!
  • Nick's aunt and cousin stopped by this weekend with a huge box of freshly picked apples. What a great gift! So now we're trying to work out what to do with them all. We've made a few batches of apple fruit leather, and I think apple muffins are next on my list, but that barely scratches the surface. At least apples store well, so we have a couple of weeks to use them all!
  • Nick and I started watching A Path Appears  last night, and it has given me so much to think about. The first episode was about sex trafficking in the Unites States, and while it was so shocking and quite hard to watch at times, I really do believe that the more we know about a problem, the better we can solve it. So now my mind is buzzing with things I can do and ways to help. If you're interested in watching the series (I highly recommend it) you can find it on iTunes, Netflix and Amazon. 
  • Reading time with Espen. We've been working our way through the books his preschool gave him (about 60 short books that get increasingly challenging) and now he only has three left! We're hugely proud that he has plowed his way through all those books, but now we're trying to figure out what to have him read next. So now I'm looking for something simple enough for him to be able to read, but fun and engaging enough for him to want to read. Suggestions? 
  • Starting a new blog! A friend and I have a fun idea for a blog in the works, so I'm thinking through all of the nuts and bolts involved in getting that particular party started. Hopefully we'll move from the thinking to the doing stage pretty soon. 
  • Knitting! I've got a couple of projects going at once right now, so hopefully I'll have something to share with you soon. For now you can get a preview of the hat I'm making for Gwen here
OK, time to wake Gwen and start thinking about dinner. Enjoy the rest of your week!

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Espen goes to Kindergarten

He's got his new backpack and he's ready to go.
 Last week was another big milestone in our family when Espen started kindergarten. He's done joy school and preschool, so it wasn't our first first day of school, but now he is finally one of the kids going to the neighborhood school.

It's bittersweet, of course. There were tears when I dropped Espen off for his first day, and they weren't his! On the one hand it's scary and hard to send him off to a school with hundreds of kids to fend for himself (and it's every day!), especially knowing that he's a sensitive little guy who sometimes gets his feelings hurt. I worry about him making friends and kids being mean, and will his teacher "get" him and all of that motherly anxiety-ridden stuff. But then I'm also so excited for him to make friends (his preschool class was all boys, so we are super excited to make friend with girls!) and do all of the learning and growing that comes with going to school. Education is such an essential part of growing up and being human that I can't wait for Espen to fully experience.

I took a risk and let him pick his own First Day of School outfit.
Other than this being a 90 degree day, I think he did pretty great!

He's had a few nervous moments, of course, but mostly Espen has been happy and excited about going to school. His favorite part is playing with his best friend at recess, and he's already had a new friend  (a girl!)over for a play date already, so socially he's very happy, even if he was a bit shocked that a girl in his class had been "mean" to their teacher yesterday. And academically he is just fine. The pre-school that Espen went to last year was pretty academically focused (I mean, for a bunch of four-year olds!), so he already knows his numbers and can read or sound simple words already, so he's a little ahead of the curve - for now. But he's happily learning the alphabet and numbers all over again, and treats everything like it's valuable information to him, so if he's happy in the classroom and not getting bored, we really can't ask for anything more. Besides, a little review never hurt anyone.

I love this kid. 

So... so far, so good! Our days start a little earlier and our mornings are busier, but I feel like we've quickly settled into our new routine. Gwen and I drop Espen off at school at nine and then go and run errands and go shopping until it's time to pick Espen up at lunchtime, so I've had a lot of productive mornings! On Monday I was positively elated to have all of the week's grocery shopping done and dusted by 10 AM, which basically never happens at our house. And with our mornings being so productive, I've had more time to do other things in the afternoons; like working in the yard, reading, blogging, playing Lego or even painting with the kids. I really do feel so lucky that I am able to spend all of this time with the kids while they're small, and having more un-rushed time where I'm not constantly feeling guilty about all of the other things I should be doing is honestly pretty priceless. My least favorite thing about being a mom is when I feel like a stressed-out, snarly head case, so any time I don't have to do that is golden.

In conclusion: we're one week in, and school is great! Espen likes his school, we like his school and his school seems to like him too. I'm sure the time will come when things aren't as quite rosy at school as they are at the moment, but until that day comes, we're grateful that Espen is off to a good start.