On Getting The Behavior You Want…

It was the day after I returned from Haiti. I was tired and the morning routine that I had basically created for our family seemed foreign and off. So I sat at the table drinking coffee in the morning darkness of this cool Fall Minnesota day. Astrid sat across the dining room table from me. She was writing “words” and scribbles on a piece of paper. Next to each “sentence” were two boxes and above the row of boxes she wrote the words “yes” and “no.”


“Whatcha doing?” I asked quietly.


“I’m making a quiz for you to take this morning.” She said with her eyes and hands still busy with her task.


“A quiz? That should be interesting.” I responded with a bit of a giggle.


“You need to take this seriously.” She said as she looked up at me with sad eyes. “Okay, I’m done. So let’s start. You need to answer yes or no to the following questions.”


She began..”Will you snuggle with me before school today, yes or no?”


“Yes – of course I will.” I replied. She made a little check mark in the “yes” box next to that question. And she continued on with questions that I easily said yes to. “Will you make me a special breakfast, will you help me make my bed, will you do your special piggies in my hair, will you pick me up from school, will we eat lunch together, will you bring me to dance tonight, will you be there for dinner, will you help me shower and brush my teeth, will you read me a story, will you help me with homework, will you tuck me in bed, and maybe will you snuggle in bed with me for a few minutes?” Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes…and easy quiz went on.


But then came the last question. And Astrid paused for a moment before she asked me. I wondered if she was considering just skipping that one, or that maybe she didn’t like what the answer would be so it was hard for her to even voice it.


“Will you promise to never leave me again, Mama.” She asked in almost a whisper as she looked up at me with her messy morning hair that covered her eyes.




“I can’t say yes to that, Love.” I said. Wondering if I sounded too brutal and firm and mean, having just returned from two weeks away. Wondering if it would be better to just lie and say that of course I’d never leave her again.


But I can’t do that to my children. A lie and a promise I’d have to break would be more devastating than teaching them the resilience of knowing the truth. And that sad things will happen to all of us. And just because I’m gone for a few weeks doesn’t mean that I don’t love her or think of her or carry her in my heart. Loving and missing someone so much that it hurts is part of the human experience. And it’s okay to be sad.


“I’ll have to leave you sometimes, Astrid. You know that. Just like sometimes you and your sisters leave me – for school and for friends and for camp. But it doesn’t mean we are not still a family even though we are not together. I love you no matter where I am and I will always be ‘here'( I point to our hearts) for you. But yes, sometimes mommy leaves. But I come back.” I say this as I stand and go to pick her up, but she pushes me away and tells me that she needs to be alone for a minute.


And I respect that. It’s hard to understand something that you don’t like without the benefit of experience or age.


Parenting is hard and beautiful, and having pieces of your heart running around on the outside of your body causes emotions that one cannot describe unless you experience it. And I think we all start with a goal to parent somewhere between telling kids to “suck it up” and “let me do everything for you” as we find our comfortable boundaries.


In our home we’ve set expectations for our kids very high, we’ve set clear boundaries, we have clear follow-through on rules, and we live as a family with a mutual respect for all. I think this clear path from the beginnings of our parenting journey 12 years ago has made life very easy for us. We have “good” kids that are good to others and we’ve never had to break up a sibling fight, give a punishment or time-out, or any other typical kid ‘infraction’ you can think of. Maybe we’re lucky and our kids have very even temperaments or maybe we did some things right, or maybe a little bit of both.


And we’ve done this without any parenting books. I’ll admit I’m not a fan – but also have never felt the need to seek advice. And when my dear friend Dr. G first asked if I would read her effective parenting book, I at first thought “Nah, I really don’t need that.” But I’m glad I told her to send it over anyway.


Because her book is more like a fun and practical conversation with her over coffee. She doesn’t come off in a way that “she knows your children best” – her theory is that WE all know OUR own children best and are the experts of our own family..and then lays the groundwork for raising smart, respectful, and resilient kids. I found myself nodding over and over again as I read each section as Deborah and I agree so much on the basics for getting good behavior. Because we need to all remember – we aren’t raising children, we are raising adults that we want to hang-out with, and that are productive and socially aware and giving and respectful…so we are giving them the skills they need to then raise the next generation.


Dr. G focuses on three main points – Respect, Responsibility, and Resilience. I love this so much – because THIS is how our family lives each day. With mutural respect for each other and our world, with everyone pulling their weight and giving, and with honesty and tools to be resilient because not everything is going to go your way and that bad things happen….and that’s okay.


Reading her book brought a smile on my face as I thought about the conversation with Astrid last week. That I know she’s resilient enough to know the truth that mommy will have to leave her again and again. And that she will be okay. Even if it means it might take her awhile to give me that hug to let me know that she gets why I have to go.


Dr. G’s book “Get The Behavior You Want, Without Being The Parent You Hate” is available to purchase now. And truly – I cannot recommend it enough. Great tips for living with the “3 R’s” for all ages. I know I’ll be referencing this book more as we hit the teen years!


You can also follow Dr. G on Twitter and Facebook and on her website  and on her YouTube channel for daily awesome parenting tips.


I was not paid for this review and all words, opinions, and parenting wins and failures are truly my own. xo






I planned to write this post last night, or very early this morning before she woke-up. But life got busy and I haven’t had time to really sit down to write in weeks. I was going to go on and on about Five and how she’s oh-so-Five…or maybe how I’m not quite ready for Five…or maybe talk about how big Five is…or maybe even talk about what she’s doing that is so special at Five. But none of that matters really, because what she reminded me today was that she is writing her own story each and every single day with her own experiences, words, and love of life.


If I had written about her last night I would’ve missed talking about how she woke up this morning. “Mom, look at my toes peeking out lower than my blankies. I think I’ve grown just overnight just like that!” She almost screamed when I went in to wake her. “Measure me right away Mommy so we can see that I’m really now big because I’m Five.”


Quickly followed by a quick snuggle on my lap with tears of “Mommy, I don’t want to be Five because soon I will have to leave you forever. If I stay four we will always be together. I don’t want to get big.”


But then she later tells me not to hold her hand down the steps to dance class because she’s big enough to go anywhere without holding hands. She then pushes doors open that seemed so heavy just a day ago exclaiming “See how strong am I now? It’s because I’m Five.”


And then there’s the mouth. Not from a sweet Five year old – but a teenager that came to reside in her body today. Telling me that she needs to wear a character shirt(Oh Dear God) instead of the (NICER) outfit that I picked out the day before, because now that she’s Five  – she can wear what she wants and when she wants. And if that means wearing a shirt from Target every day for the rest of her life – WELL SHE CAN DAMMIT!


Okay, she didn’t say dammit – but I’m kind of expecting it to come out of her mouth tomorrow.


And at one point today she rolled her eyes at me when I asked if she needed to help with something, and then she sighed and said “Mother, really.”


Her sisters just laughed. And I told her that I was letting it slide today, but tomorrow she’d be in trouble for talking to me like that.


And she had a beautiful day turning Five with friends, family, gifts, and cupcakes.


“Mommy, how old will I be tomorrow when I wake up?” She asked as I tucked her in tonight, ending Her day.


“Five still, sweetie. But Five and one day.”


“So even bigger?” She asked. “It just keeps happening doesn’t it. I’m not sure it will ever stop.”


“Nope, you’ll get bigger every day until one day you’ll be bigger than me.”


“Wow, well I’ll be sure to tuck you in bed when that happens, okay Mommy.”


Happy Five, Astrid. You brighten our days every day and every night just because you’re you.



Ready For Kindergarten

My daughter’s preschool career ends in six short weeks as this fall she will enter kindergarten. Yet this morning I still carefully unzipped and slid her jacket from her arms and hung it on her hook that has a cute little peeling bunny label on it. I put her lunch in her basket that she can easily reach, and then she sat down on the bench waiting. I bent down to her so we were eye to eye and I kissed her nose – twice – as I gently removed her boots and smelled her toes and laughed as she asked if they were super stinky this morning. I placed her boots in her spot beneath the bench and then slid her shoes on her, folding the velcro over the top with an extra pat and then one more kiss to her nose before we both stood up.


She grabbed my hand – her right into my left – and we skipped into her classroom together. She sat down at the art table to make me a card. She makes me a card every day. Typically a rainbow and a sun with some flowers. We stand together in the center of the picture – one tall and brunette and one small and blond. And we are both smiling. I kiss her goodbye as she is just beginning the orange stripe of the rainbow and tell her to have an amazing morning. She kisses me back and hugs me tight and tells me that she loves me so much that some days it physically hurts her.


She is nearly five and starting kindergarten soon, and yes I’m the mom who still helps her with her coat and shoes, and walks her into class each day and waits until she gets settled before I leave.


And I feel no guilt for babying her just a little longer. Especially knowing I am not the same mom as I was when my oldest was finishing her preschool career. Back then I did what you were suppose to do to get them ready for kindergarten – I taught her to tie her shoes, zip her coat, and the flip method for getting her coat on and over her head properly. She got dressed each morning independently, and I walked several paces behind her as we entered preschool, and watched her find her own hook, take off her jacket, change her shoes, and run into the classroom after a quick kiss and hug in the hall. After all, in a few short months I’d be putting her on a bus and she’d have to survive on her own.


I must get her ready.


This time I don’t care. And no, I don’t plan on sending this child to her kindergarten teacher as a baby lost in the woods looking for someone to wipe her butt. We’ve got that covered.


What I’ve found instead is that she is ready for kindergarten without me having to put so much outward effort on making her independent. While I’ve never actually shown her how to zip, she knows how. I can take her boots on and off her for weeks – but when we’re running behind and I ask her to put her boots on – she knows how.


I believe in independence, free-range, and my children learning how to make their own choices.


But I also believe that helping her with her coat and boots for a few more months until I’m not allowed to anymore is okay too. Maybe it’s more for me than for her. And if she ever asks to ‘do it herself’ I gladly step aside. But for now, it gives me time to steal more kisses and hugs and enjoy this short time we have together before she’s off to school forever.


You may calling it ‘babying’ her, but I just call it ‘time.’ Because as every mother knows, there’s never enough time to enjoy them while they are little and draw you holding hands under a rainbow filled sky.



How To Become A Yeti

I’m going to talk about winter again. Go ahead and click-away – but you know you really want to read more about it because it’s really all we talk about now. We talk about it with our stylists, our mail carriers, our grocery baggers, our neighbors, strangers on the street that you are pushing out of snowbanks, bank tellers, UPS drivers, the cashier at Target, every parent at preschool, the teenager down the block who never smiles anyway, and my mother – because she’s in Arizona for the winter and I kind of don’t like her anymore.


Also, I’ve worn a hat, mittens, wool socks, fleece pajama bottoms, three cardigans, a scarf, and possibly a winter coat on since November. In my house. We keep the house at about 57 degrees so it warrants inside hat wearing to keep the heating bills down.


At any rate – what happens when you are toe to top of head covered, you forget you have a body under there. Also you become a Yeti.


Because Yetis are hardy. And hairy.


Things I haven’t done since November.

First let’s reminisce about what I looked like last November. Also, let’s reminisce about the sun.


I haven’t:

-cut my hair

-colored my hair

-styled my hair

-looked at my feet – you don’t even want to know what’s going on with my feet right now

-paid attention to my hands. My nails are all broken off from the dry cold, and my skin in cracking. Enough said.

-shaved my legs or armpits

-if fact, paid attention to any hair on my body

-did you know that body hair is warm when you grow it out

-and it doesn’t bother anyone when you’re wearing at least five layers at all times

-and don’t even try to get fresh and remove my fleece pajama pants because 1. It’s effing cold and 2. You don’t even want to know what’s growing under there.

-and wow how pedicure/manicure/waxing services must have a huge boom in in business in Minnesota once the temps rise above freezing. Yeti waxing specials everywhere!


But we have a wedding to attend soon – so besides thinking about having to shave my legs and maybe actually buy a razor, I also finally got a cut and color.


But then I still had to leave the salon with a hat on. Because Minnesota. And -12. So no one saw my hair. So this is all you will see of my new cut.


I feel better. Just don’t look below the top of my head. Because the Yeti is still in there.


And I think I need to take things slow – not to overwhelm this winter body. Also shaving sounds cold.


Next week LEG SHAVING.


The week after ARMPIT SHAVING.


Maybe then some pedicure action.


Who knows how crazy I’ll go after that.


All I know is that no one wants a Yeti at their wedding. Unless you’re a Yeti. Then you want alltheyetis. YETIWEDDINGS! New Minnesota Winter Business!


When I do have to leave the house – I do get dressed sometimes….


This week I wore my Matilda Jane Ruffle Pants – YOU NEED THESE. They are the like yoga/sweatpants with style. I get stopped no less than four times at the grocery store every time I wear these. Trust me. I’ve styled them with with Nine West motorcycle boots, a Gap cami tank and a gray Dove sweater – also from Matilda Jane. Scarf old – Target maybe? (Please note this was also pre-haircut – so awful pony…sorry.)


Astrid is wearing the Ice Cream Social skirt from Matilda Jane, a souvenir tee from Albuquerque, and leggings from Target. She wore this to preschool for the morning and then hung out with Yeti-Mom for the afternoon.


How’s your Yeti-ness treating you this winter? Make me feel better and tell me you don’t shave either….Or just lie to me.



When I Grow Up..

Many of Astrid’s classmates said that they want to be doctors or lawyers or teachers or firefighters.


Some even writers, dancers, singers, or artists.


When I was four, I wanted to work at Dairy Queen.


Turns out Astrid’s career aspirations are even bigger than mine were.



All I can say is “Yay to unlimited chips, guacamole, and margaritas! Mommy doesn’t really need you to buy her a retirement home.”


What did you want to grow-up to ‘be’ when you were four?


A Little More Conversation

My Valentine’s Day was spent with my constant companion.


She’s pretty sweet and honestly a wonderful date. I told her she could pick anywhere to go for a special treat, and she picked Starbucks. She wanted a ‘coffee’ and a cake pop and a chocolate croissant for later. And she didn’t want to take anything to go, no she insisted that we sat and had our treat.


We sat on the tall stools that line the window. She wanted to watch the people go by and honestly I think she just likes being up high.


She ate her pink cake pop quickly, wiped her mouth, swept the crumbs on the table onto a napkin and then said “So.”


So? I replied.


“Let’s have some conversation. What do you want to talk about, Mama?”


Conversation? That sounds lovely. I want to talk about what we should see when we visit Washington DC next month. Will we see the pandas?


So we talked about Washington DC and how after the pandas she wants to go to the White House but hopes she doesn’t meet Barack Obama because he’s a guy – and she’d rather meet a woman. And asked how instead we could meet Michelle. After the pandas of course. And after we had exercised as much conversation about DC as we could, I asked her what she now wanted to talk about.


“Triangles.” She said. Then she turned around on her stool and found all of the triangles in the coffee shop. Then rectangles. Then squares. Then circles. And your cup is not a circle -even though I tried to pass it off as one. “No Mama, that’s a cylinder. Let me show you the difference so you don’t get it wrong next time.”


We had conversation for about an hour. No phones, no internet, no TV, no laundry, no chores, no work, no other people. Just two people having a conversation.


And I’d forgotten how beautiful it is to just sit in a coffee shop with a friend and immerse myself into the spoken words of another person. How great things happen at coffee shops and astounding creativity. How I can spend hours and days and weeks in my home with this amazing little curious person but still not pause long enough to really talk to her.


Pause long enough to find out there are 47 triangles to be found in our neighborhood Starbucks.


I think we need more coffee dates.


How To Make A Vivienne Westwood Hat And Be Happy

I may have mentioned once or twice the magic that is made at our preschool. Each week the kids learn a new song, and that songs becomes their ‘heading home’ song and it also becomes forever ingrained in their hearts as memories are made like lyrics to paper. These songs are not sung by Raffi or The Wiggles or even the fabulous Laurie Berkner. No these are songs by Bob Marley, Shakira, Michael Franti, The Beatles, Katy Perry and more.


Last week the song, the video, the dance, and the message was Happy by Pharrell Williams.  It’s been with us since watching Despicable Me 2 this Summer – and now it’s forever with us.

And who doesn’t want to be happy? And if you need 24 hour of Happy- Pharrell can get that for you too…And I DARE you not to clap along.


But just listening, dancing and singing along wasn’t enough for Astrid.


“Mommy, but I need to look like Pharrell. I need his hat! I can’t do the dance properly without the hat.”



The hat. Oh Astrid, Mommy doesn’t do crafts nor have several gazillion dollars to buy the hat.


“I know you can do it, Mommy.”


Oh the trust of children.


So I summoned up my little bit of craft knowledge – which is basically from watching my mother-in-law play with my kids, because SHE is amazing and creative – but sadly 2000 miles away. And something she loves to do is make paper bag hats. Someday I will write a post about these lovely hats with flowers that are proper enough for an adult tea party. You will be impressed.


So I quickly fashioned a Pharrell Williams via Vivienne Westwood hat out of a grocery bag for Astrid to wear.


The girl has barely taken it off and cannot stop smiling. And I admit I did a quick and shoddy job – but Astrid is four and to her the hat is perfect. And Mommy made it.


A few simple steps – turn a standard grocery bag inside out and trim to height and shape it how you want it. Draw and cut-out a cardboard ring that will fit well around your child’s head. Glue or staple the bag to the ring.


Give to child. They will freak from excitement.


Wear and dance.


And she did…

Now just try NOT to be HAPPY!



Speaking of last minute crafts – do you have your Valentine’s done yet? I’ve got my easy personal photo Valentines on The Twin Cities Mom Blog. It’s not too late to get those done!


What Do You Learn In Preschool

I vaguely remember preschool. I remember it was in a church basement; Lutheran, even though we were Catholic. And my teacher wore her hair high up on her head in curls that were neatly pinned like flowers. She also wore a tan, ribbed turtleneck top, a huge smile, and sensible shoes most days. I remember playing with various toys, reading books, signing songs, and learning the importance of sitting quietly on a carpet as we all faced the teacher. My teacher, in 1972, wore a miniskirt as she sat on a chair facing us. We could spy her undies every day. We loved her. And her undies and how they made us giggle.


Preschool was a place to go and socialize with other kids, a place where you learned a little body control and how to listen to a teacher, and a foundation for getting you ready for your adventure to bigger and better learning.


Preschool should be magical. It should be a place where unicorns graze in rainbow colored fields under a jelly bean sky. Preschool teachers I believe are hatched from pastel colored eggs that have been dipped in fairy dust before being carried down to earth by white swans wearing tutus.


This is how I want my daughters to feel when they go off to preschool. I want them to feel like they are wrapped up in magic at every turn.


And we’ve found that spot with our preschool.


Don’t laugh at me, but I have tears running down my face a I type this. And when Astrid’s teacher hugged me hello this morning I cried then too. Just feeling her warmth and by knowing how safe and happy Astrid is there. Each day her teacher hugs or touches me and tells me words that are reaffirming. “We love Astrid so much. She’s a delight. She makes my heart happy. Her smile lights up a room. She’s a lovely friend. I don’t want her to ever go to kindergarten…”


And I cry again. I’ve warned them that I plan to just come and sit in the classroom next year for a few hours even though Astrid will not be there. Because I need more unicorns and fairy dust in my life. Everyone should have a place that makes you feel this good.


Astrid’s school focuses a lot on music and art. Each ‘lesson’ or monthly plan is about a band or artist. They’ve studied The Beatles, Bob Marley, Michael Franti, Taj Mahal, Claude Monet and more. They learn all of the songs or paintings, have dance parties, and explore the places and cultures where the artists are from. This is her preschool curriculum, and I melt over it each day I enter that happy place to drop her off. And I linger longer there than I have at any other school.


We’ve spent months singing along with Astrid as she continues to appreciate the arts at home – and teach us what she has learned. And I love it so hard that no one is pushing phonics or math or early reading books on this child. This child with a song in her heart.


Her favorite song from the year is Cakewalk Into Town by Taj Mahal… and she sang a few versus for us. And I think if we all listen and watch this just a few more times, well no one will get the blues ever again.


Guaranteed unicorns, rainbows, swans and jelly beans if you watch this….

What do you love about your child’s preschool?



Astrid and I were watching a goodnight show on TV the other night. There is this giant stuffed star(seriously, you watch this show don’t you?) that goes to sleep in a hammock each night. Typically I don’t really watch this show. She enjoys her 15 minutes of it before we read books for bed and it gives me 15 minutes to try to get past level 125 of Candy Crush(How do you get past level 125?).


But on this particular night I had gone through my five lives on Candy Crush quite quickly and found myself watching this Star go to sleep. And my goodness this big yellow star has HUGE, BRIGHT, ORANGE eyelids when he closes his eyes and drifts off to sleep.


So I said startled “Whoa, look at his huge orange eyelids. I had no idea!”


“Um, Mom he’s had those forever, don’t you watch?”




“Of course I watch – I just didn’t realize they were SOOO orange.” I said to cover my tracks. And then to be playful “They are super orange just like your eyelids, Astrid.”


“I don’t have orange eyelids.”


“How do you know since you’d be sleeping when they are closed, so you could not see them, so how would you ever know the color of your eyelids?” I challenged. “They are bright orange, trust me.”


“Well duh(she has tween sisters), Moommm, I just have to look in the mirror and close one eye while I leave the other eye open and then switch eyes. I will always know the color of my eyelids and they are currently not orange. Only stars have orange eyelids.”


I don’t like not being able to trick four year olds. It’s like she’s ripping me of my guaranteed rights as a mother.


I Believe In Magic

“Mommy, I think I’m ready to talk to Santa this year.” Astrid says very quietly one evening after dinner when all of us still gather around the dining room table doing homework, writing, paying bills, and if you are only four years old – coloring.


“I mean, I will talk to him – but I’ll be standing next to him. Not on his lap. I don’t want to touch him. But I’ll say hi maybe and tell him my name. I want to tell him that I only want a talking scale this year just like the one in Costa Rica so it will yell out “31.2 pounds” all day every day if I want it to. I need to tell him about the scale so I get it. That’s the only thing on my list.”


“Maybe it’s a good idea for all three of you to get your Santa lists ready!” I suggest after Astrid’s announcement that she is “Santa-talk ready” this year. “I’ll make reservations for us to visit him this Saturday.


Eloise looks up from her algebra – stopping mid-problem that has something to do with coefficients and rises and runs and things I no longer understand – and says “Yeah okay Mom, let me get right on that. Ha!”


“Ha!?!” I stand and hold my hands up to my heart as if shot and take a deep breath in before responding with a “Santa is watching and he heard what you just said!”


“Oh, okay Mom. Let me just get right to that list after I finish my algebra and type-up my endangered animal study paper….”


I look to Astrid and Esther who have already gotten out plain paper, red markers and stickers and are happily making Santa Lists.


And I sit back down hard as I realize she no longer believes. And the hurt takes me by surprise.


I mean she’s 11 and all – and maybe you’re thinking “Geesh, it’s about time!” Because maybe that’s what I was thinking a few years back when at eight and nine she still did believe while I figured the whole ‘Santa’ thing out by the time I was five.


I continue to sit quietly at the table and glance over my coffee and then I meet Eloise’s eyes. She gives me a quick, small knowing smile and wink before getting back to her work.


And I cannot help from almost crying as our eyes meet because I know she gets it. Because even though she may no longer believe in the actual Big Man himself, she still gets the magic of the season and the importance to not give her new found knowledge away to her little sisters.


Later that night she hands me her Santa List – which even starts with “Dear, Santa” and ends with “Love, Eloise” – and as she hands it over to me she says “You know just in case you’d like to know what’s on my list too.”


I smile as she walks away and heads up to bed.  I carefully unfold her letter and read the first two items on her list…


-I would like to raise at least $100 to adopt a Panda from WWF to help stop their endangerment.

-I would like Astrid to get the talking scale she wants


And I know that she still believes in magic because she continues to wish for very good things.



Do you have a Holiday outfit planned for your little girl for Christmas? I was thrilled to receive the Twinkle Party Dress and matching dress for Bitty Baby from American Girl to review.  Astrid pretty much doesn’t go anywhere without her ‘Baby Anna’ and now they can match when we have breakfast with Santa this weekend. And they can ask for the scale together! In fact Astrid has refused to take her party dress off for the past three days because she feels like a ‘special princess’ and has told me that ‘Baby Anna’ will never wear anything BUT her fancy red dress. So there you go. They love their matching dresses and I about died from the cute. I think Santa will be equally impressed this weekend and now we don’t have to stress about what to wear on Christmas eve.


If you haven’t purchased your Holiday Dress yet and you have a little one who loves AG – I for sure recommend these cute sets! I am a HUGE fan of American Girl as you know – for celebrating girls and sending a positive message to our kids…so having these special dresses for Astrid and ‘Baby Anna’ is just a bit of sweet icing on the cake for us.


The Birthday

Astrid went to her first ‘friend’ birthday party today. It was the first time she entered a toy store and shopped for a special something to give to a friend. To choose the wrapping. To make the card. She carefully printed the letters “Happy Birthday” and “Love Astrid” and she only made one of the Ps an R instead with that extra leg. But she crossed it out when she figured out her mistake, and she also drew two girls holding hands – and they each had a belly button, and a cake with five candles.


And I remarked “I think you are too young to have friends turning five. I mean you just turned four a few short months ago, perhaps it’s time to consider younger friends. Because you know what happens after five…KINDERGARTEN!” And I said it like it was college or marriage or something equally foreign and faraway-off to a preschooler.


So I drove her to the party and walked her to the door. I was awkward with the mom because even though I’ve had two “4s” before, I’ve forgotten etiquette and age and things over the last five years and I said “I guess I’m assuming this is a drop-off party, right? I mean I know Astrid will be fine and have fun without me and here’s my number just in case?” And the mom assured me that dropping off was just fine. I kissed Astrid and reminder her to use good manners and I walked away with a smile that I did something right.


But when I picked her up Astrid told me that I was the only mommy not there. Instead of beating myself up about that point I asked Astrid if she was okay without me, and she said “Yes, it was fun and I didn’t need you to have fun with my friends.”


Which is typically true. And a goal.


So I think we did okay today.


She came home with a balloon and a bag of candy and memories of her first birthday party by herself. And I had two hours for a latte and spent some time catching up on tween business and shopping for cheap mood rings with her sisters. (Green means kooky by the way – which Esther always is).


And I tried not to be sad about the ‘5’ birthday that is next..because ‘4’ is just so perfect. And I had forgotten that. I don’t remember Eloise at four because I was busy with a toddler and by the time Esther turned four I was pregnant and then had a newborn and I honestly was happy my ‘4’ was at school quite a bit.


So I’m glad I’ve been given another shot at four with Astrid. Because if you don’t already know – there isn’t a better age(well except maybe 24 when everything is still tight). A four year old is full of wonder yet is wise. Can converse and understand. Can go potty by themselves. They can do big-kid things, but still snuggle like a little-kid. They can clean up the messes and make amazing and inquisitive discoveries. They hear everything and question and discover and pretend. Their thoughts are complex but their needs are still so simple. Their books are bigger and they put on their own shoes. They sleep in their own beds yet still have blankies for snuggles. They sing long songs, tell jokes and still crawl up on your lap. They make the sun just a little brighter and the moon even more interesting.


So I hope to remember this year of ‘4’ as a time we all sat still in appreciation just a few moments longer as we rushed from place to place each day.


Three Little Birds

Astrid started preschool this week which means that I now have seven and a half hours a week to myself. Which means I have time to do nothing really. And I wonder who invented the two and half hour preschool day idea? Because it wasn’t a mom.


So I’m going to blame preschool on men. Maybe white, Republic men who also try to take away reproductive rights from families.


OMG seriously, I’M KIDDING! Don’t send me hate mail.


Okay, quick – LOOK HOW CUTE SHE IS!


And as much as I’m not religious or spiritual or even sane sometimes, I believe things do happen for a reason. I had hoped that Astrid would get into a public preK program this year – which did not happen. And I spend a few(many) days(months) upset about that.


But after just three days of preschool, I know she is right where she is suppose to be – in a classroom on a very part-time basis, having fun, learning about Bob Marley and dreadlocks and singing Three Little Birds while coming home to me for lunch and only spending seven and half short hours away from me each week.


Because next year she’ll be gone for seven hours A DAY – so why rush it. Instead of worrying that she is not in preK, I’m going to worry about did we snuggle enough yesterday, did I tickle her belly and hear that deep laugh, let’s have chocolate for lunch and take a walk in the afternoon and wear silly shoes to the bus stop to pick-up her sisters.


And I’ll completely enjoy this last year before Astrid really starts school and has to stress about tests and homework and friends. Which really makes me sad right now. I received and email from Eloise’s 5th grade teacher about math placement tests and how stressed all of the kids are about them – as in our school they move kids around for ‘just right math’ so kids move to different grades for math…and everyone knows your math abilities. I don’t remember knowing this a kid. And my heart sunk when I got this note and I’m angry for these kids and angry as a parent if I’ve ever sent my kids a message that I care what grade math they are doing – because I just want them to be happy(and also, I cannot help with 7th grade math).


And sometimes I wish my almost 11 year old could just stay home with me too and listen to some Bob Marley and visit the park and not stress about math tests. Because I’ve never used calculus to do my job and make my life more fulfilling, but some good music(and maybe a good twirly dress) – damn that makes me happy.


“Rise up this mornin’,

Smiled with the risin’ sun,

Three little birds

Sittin’ by my doorstep

Singing’ sweet songs

Of melodies pure and true,

Saying’, “This is my message to you-o-o.”

“Singin’ Don’t worry about a thing,

‘Cause every little thing gonna be alright”

Singin’ Don’t worry about a thing,

‘Cause every little thing gonna be alright!”


Back To School

The big kids went back to school this week.

First Day Of School

And I miss them.


Or Astrid misses them. And Truffle – dang Truffle cat misses them a lot because now Astrid has no one to play with, so Truffle has to wear stuffed animals on his back and try to put together puzzles. And he’s really bad at puzzles because he doesn’t have thumbs. So he was fired yesterday as Astrid’s playmate and she asked me to step-in.

Save me!

Save me!

I also suck at puzzles. Also, I’m horrible at playing Little People. And her dress-up costumes don’t fit me. She also doesn’t think I’m very good at reading. You see she and Eloise were trying to get through all of Roald Dahl’s books this Summer and they didn’t quite finish The BFG yet – so she asked me to read a chapter. And I guess I really suck at reading…so Astrid told me to stop because Eloise does voices better and I’m super boring.


So I’m apparently not good for anything but fixing snacks and wiping her butt.


Other than that – Astrid wishes that her sisters never had to go to school.


I’m feeling that way too. I miss them. We had an amazing Summer. From roadtrips, to camps, to days at the pool, and cool nights of riding our bikes to ice cream – this Summer might go down as one of the best.


Which just means that I am going to plan for The Super Sucky Summer of 2014 – because I don’t want to miss my kids next Fall when school starts again.


Because it hurts.


But the girls are back in the school-grove and seem crazy happy just living their fancy school lives without us. They missed their friends I think. And maybe they were sick of me nagging them to clean their rooms.


(Eloise is wearing jeggings and booties from Justice, a top from Nordstrom and we hand-painted her panda nails)

Eloise loves fifth grade and has an awesome teacher. In Eloise’s words – and in one really really long run-on sentence “Seriously, my teacher is amazing – she is super strict – which is so awesome because you know I love class control and someone who is organized and structured and keeps the crazy boys inline – and she’s is totally that kind of teacher…AND the best part is that we get homework every night – even weekends and we have to write a three page essay the first night of school – this is like crazy amazing and I really love my teacher and it’s going to be the best year ever and I’m going to my room now to do my homework so don’t bother me and I hope we get even more homework tomorrow and I’m going to work on some extra math tonight because I am going to try to get placed in 7th grade math this year because I want more work and to learn more and always be challenged.”


Mon Dieu.


(Esther is wearing a dress and jacket from Justice. Sandals are Lelli Kelly)

Eloise loves third grade and her teacher is also super amazing. Esther didn’t have much to say except that she had two recesses and they had grilled cheese and tomato soup for lunch. Also, her old boyfriend is in her class and she giggled a lot about that because she still likes him, but he likes Ruby better now, but Ruby is Esther’s friend – so it’s okay that he likes her. And she played with lots of friends at the playground and they chased and stuff and she needs to wear bike-shorts under her skirt tomorrow because she wants to climb on top of the monkey bars. Also, they had popcorn for snack and Maggie got cool new shoes and she’s looking forward to music class.  Also, a boy said bad words on the bus, so she moved seats. Obviously.


I think maybe Esther also had math, reading and other such school subjects – but those were not mentioned.


So happy school year everyone!


Finish Strong

“Did you win, Mommy?” Were Astrid’s first words as she walked in the door Saturday at noon and immediately reached up so her arms could wrap around me. “I missed you.” She whispered as her mouth met my ear.


“No, Baby, I didn’t win.” I answered. “But I wasn’t trying to win. I was just happy to finish strong.”


“Oh Mom, that’s too bad.” Esther said as she hugged me around my waist and I kissed the top of her head.


Eloise gave me her typical kind of ‘lean-in to touch shoulders with me, almost a high-five, bend her head down to meet mine, and then turn away quickly’ pseudo tween hug and said “Good job anyway, Mom. Do you know the person who won?”


Their innocent faith in my abilities made my heart grow 50 sizes in that short, shared moment. Because honestly winning was never in my game-plan, training plan, mind-set, physical abilities or truthfully even a pipe-dream that I’ve ever had.


I just wanted to finish the race with a decent time, not last, and without poop in my shorts.


Kind of like I just want us all to reach bedtime each day alive..and maybe clean. My goals are small, short-term and I hope doable.


That’s how I tackle motherhood, because frankly the daily defeats would leave me frustrated and depressed.


So my mantra each day of motherhood is just to finish strong.


I mean sure we want good things each day – a favorite meal, a new book, to run around outside in the sprinkler with friends and to go on a bike ride. Maybe we got to watch our favorite show, taught our cat a new trick or went out for ice cream.


Good things happen along the route each day of our race – the fans clap, we get water, someone yells our name tells us we are doing awesome. But that still doesn’t make me win or even give me the will to want to win.


It just gives me the will to keep going – even on those very hard days and miles that I just want to quit – one foot in front of the other, waffle toasted, one more dish put away, shirt folded, bo0-boo kissed, pictured colored, lunch packed, lap snuggled, tooth brushed, goodnight kiss.


Because this motherhood road is long and winding with finishers medals that look like clay hand-prints for Christmas trees and smudges on light switches..and juice boxes remains that we drink instead of champagne.


And I will never be a winner in this race – but for my children, I vow to try to always finish strong for them each day. Because they believe I can.


And to hopefully I will do it without poop in my pants.


Free At Last

I sat on a playground bench on Sunday for one hour and thirty minutes.


One hour and thirty minutes. And my children were there too. But none of them needed me.


It happened.


I didn’t need to hold, left, catch, push, brace, hover, or really even look up if I didn’t want to.


Did I mention 90 minutes.


I’ve arrived. I’ve arrived.


If I had known I was going to arrive, I would’ve brought a latte and People Magazine. But I truly did not know I was going to arrive on Sunday. We really never do know when the big moment will happen in motherhood.


Do you know what I mean by ‘arrive?’


That day at the playground when all of a sudden you are one of ‘them’ – the moms who can just watch quietly from the bench instead of getting sand in your sandals and fitting your ass down the slide.


I’m one of them now. We need pins.


Do you remember three years ago how I wanted to know them? And Astrid looked like this…

..but now she’s four. And she tells me she is big and four and the biggest girl of all and can no longer be my baby and she can do everything all by herself and doesn’t want help and just helps herself to snacks in the fridge and lets herself out of the door and would rather just keep the door closed when she pees.


Well now she owns the whole.damn.playground.

And those three years since I wrote that post. Well, they went by in a snap. A half of a snap. A snap of a snap. In fact I barely remember any of those days…except maybe the ones with lots of sand in my shoes.


And soon I won’t have to get in the pool anymore(unless we’re at a water park of course…we are heading to Chula Vista resort in Wisconsin Dells next week and I’m all about the lazy river!). And then they will go around the block by themselves. And then to the store. And soon they will get themselves to school and drive a car and then leave for college and travel the world.


And I’ll drive by the playgrounds and see the moms pushing their sweet babies in the swings and I’ll miss it.


No matter how much I don’t miss it now. I know I will miss it then.


Because that’s how motherhood goes.



I’ve been dreading this day for awhile now. Which is strange, as I’m not one of ‘those’ moms. I love watching my kids grow and change and learn and discover. I love the wonder that each year brings, just like we are standing on the edge of the teen years – and while I’m admittedly a bit scared, I’m also excited. I love life even more(and I never thought it would be possible) as my kids get older, because they can finally understand humor and sarcasm, the power of a well-timed punch line and that knock-knock jokes are ridiculous – and they can also make their own lunches and mop the floor without missing too many spots.

As kids get older they also read more interesting books – books that you can share, conversations become more adult-like, and they are welcome in all public places and have good manners. They also like to give you fashion advice and will quietly point out that piece of spinach in your teeth. They are truly like miniature girlfriends. Pocket friends that I can still put to bed early.

But this last Four has hit me hard.


You see, when they are three and under – they talk in that cute voice – comical almost and cannot pronounce all of their letters. It’s adorable. When they are three and under they have a bit of baby fat on their thighs and cheeks and the remnants of a toddler belly. They still cannot run very fast. When they are three and under, they still tuck neatly into your lap, can wrap around your hips when carried, and still need your assistance to get into the car.

But everything changes at four.


Their hair is suddenly long..and styled. Their words become clearer and sentences long and complex. Their vocabulary goes crazy and soon their sweet baby voice will be gone forever.


I’ll never hear again from one of my children “Mommy, I wuv you fowevah!” While they curl up on my lap with their blanket.

I mean sure we will snuggle and love, but their legs start falling over the edges of my lap and their baby fat has been replaced by angled joints that poke my ribs as we try to find that comfortable place that was like an easy puzzle put together just a few short months ago.


And this Summer, my Four will run fast down the sidewalks as she can nearly keep up with the big kids instead hanging back with the moms as we chat.


And I let her go.

It’s the same for all of us, even though I know I don’t want more babies and won’t have more babies – Four is letting go of all of that babyhood stuff and stages and I feel a catch in my throat when I think about the finality of it all.


So I think of the videos I need to capture – to hear that voice again when she is 15 and 25 and to see her three year old chubby cheeks and perfect line of baby teeth in her innocent big grin.


Because it’s ending here – this babyhood – and moving into big kid land with Four. How bittersweet is this age. Even though three was just yesterday, and Four is today, and more is yet to come – I find myself grasping to time with this last baby of mine, because truly – we all know there’s plenty of time to be a grown-up.

So I think I’m going to let her be a baby just a bit longer.


Because Four is really not all that big, right?

Happy Birthday, to my sweet baby girl. FOUR!


Rainbow Birthday Party

Astrid turns four on Tuesday – so I’m saving some very poetic, thoughtful, and mushy stuff for a post for her special day. Or maybe I’ll just tell you about how damn bossy she is getting. My gah, four year olds know everything!

But today, we celebrated her birthday. We decided to do it in true Midwestern style and have a garage party since the temperature was suppose to be ‘cool’ and by ‘cool’ I mean below 85 degrees.

Did you ever have garage parties when you were little?

I’ve attended and we’ve hosted many of these. And nobody in the Midwest would ever question it. You see, instead of using linen tablecloths, putting out your fine china, cleaning your home, and decorating your dining room with flowers and fancy stuff – you just put up a few shower curtains to hide the tools, ignore the work benches and lawn mowers, move the rakes out of your way, use the blower to get rid of the big dirt, tape up a few streamers, set-out the folding tables,\ and baseball watching chairs, get out some vinyl tablecloths, and paper plates and napkins and maybe a bit of sidewalk chalk for fun – and BOOM – GARAGE PARTY!

And I’ll tell you this, there’s not one four year old in the world that would care if they were in your greasy garage versus your fancy dining room. In fact, I think Astrid would tell you that this was one of her best birthdays…because she got to spend it with her cousins, and her birthday was completely rainbow – which was her only request.

I mean of course with the rainbow party request I had to make a layered rainbow cake because Pinterest made me do it.  I followed Betty’s tried and true instructions and it turned out perfectly. I think everyone but my mother could probably make one. The gummi bears were Astrid’s only decoration request. And I think she may have just taken a few extra to eat while we were decorated.

And I had to buy a few rainbow dresses(and shorts for Eloise – because, what’s a dress?), because what’s a party without an excuse to shop for new clothing? I could never pass on that opportunity. In case you are wondering what the dresses are – Esther’s is here and Astrid’s rainbow dress is here.

We put Astrid through the spanking machine(does your family do this?), and she promptly played with every toy she received. Her rainbow Play-doh was brown within just a few minutes because the girl just loves to mix her colors. Next year I might just make her a brown cake and tell her that I decided to mix the colors all together, so too bad!

But for most of the garage party we just ate and talked and giggled with a little girl turning four. And when you are with good friends and family, well ignoring a few power tools behind your shoulder is pretty damn easy to do.

And with that, I highly suggest a garage party of your own.

Happy Rainbow Birthday Party, Astrid! xoxo