10 Truths About The First Snow Of The Season

The first snow of the season will always somehow surprise us. It doesn’t matter if it comes in the middle of October or the middle of January. It doesn’t matter that many of us have endured not only the first snow for 20 years, but maybe 40 years of hard Winters. The first snow or storm or the season will still be a shock to even the most native to the north.

snowstorm-astro

Here’s what you may have experienced the morning of your first snowstorm of the season:

 

1. Your kids will not be wearing boots that fit. Somehow you’ve been in denial that winter is coming and boots have not been purchased. You spend the day in your attic digging through years of snow gear hoping you’ll get lucky and find a pair of boots that fit for each child. Odds are that one child has a pair that is too big and you’ve made them wear extra thick socks, and odds are there is one child who will come home with blisters.

 

2. All of their snowpants will be at least 4″ too short. You praise jesus for snowboots to take up some of that slack – but still you realize it’s time to shop for some new gear.

 

3. You dig through the bin of gloves and mittens and wonder why there are no matches. No matches. So you send your kids to school in non matching gloves. One of your children has to wear two left-handed gloves just to keep their hands warms. Turns out that two lefts really do make a right.

 

4. You cannot find a shovel. You know you need to shovel the walk – you do this every single year. Why can’t you just put the shovel back in the same place each year. Denial that the snow will come is useless.

 

5. You forget how to drive in the ice and snow. Six months of dry payment has made you weak, stupid, and lazy. Everyone is driving 10 miles per hour except for the one idiot going 55. You see him in the ditch a few miles up the road. You laugh.

 

6. You’re stressed because no one has boots, or snowpants, or gloves – but yet the kids can’t stop asking to do all the things that kids want to do during the first snow – “Mommy let’s go sledding! Mommy lets build a snowman!” And all you want to do is sit by the fire with a drink.

 

7. There is no toilet paper in the house, but you refuse to go to the store with all of the other million people who are acting like the world is going to end and buying all of the coffee and toilet paper. You use paper towel.

 

8. You head out to clear your car windows and realize you have no idea where the window scraper is. Maybe with the shovel? You scrape car windows with a credit card. If you have never done this, well you have never truly lived.

 

9. You walk your kid into school and you fall right on your butt on the sidewalk. Walking on ice is even harder than driving on ice. You soak your pants and your pride and just need this day to be over and it’s only 8am.

 

10. But..you still feel like a kid when you watch the first snow fall each year – the freshness of it, and the beauty. You understand the wonder of the season and can’t even describe the beauty of this incredible day. And you take your kids sledding – mismatched gloves and all.

 

 

Share

How To Prepare For Spring In 5 Easy Steps

Are you thinking that Spring is here finally(silly, silly you) – here is how to get ready in five easy steps!

 

1. Get those feet Summer ready! Take off UGG to put on sandals you dug-out from under 450 sweaters in your closet. Look down at feet.  Realize that no one should ever see your toes again. Consider cutting nails, waxing, toes, filing off dead skin, painting toe nails, wearing socks with your sandals. Decide it cannot be spring yet and put UGGs back on until June.

matilda-jane-mom-clothing

2. Put away coats, hats, and mittens by your entry way!  Haul down 10 giant plastic tubs from the attic and put them in the middle of your living room. Realize your need to wash or dry clean all coats. This takes approximately four days and $400. The plastic tubs still sit in your living room. In the meantime you need to match all mitten and glove pairings. Cannot find any mates. Throw the rest away. Decide what coats your kids will outgrow by next Fall. Decide all of them. Start making piles for ‘donation’ ‘consignment’ ‘hand-me-downs’ and ‘will wear again’ – and then decide this project is way too big for just one day. Let the tubs and coats sit in your living room for another week. Thank god, because it snowed again so you had to wear almost all of the items again. Too bad you threw all of the mittens away. A month later you finally get all of the coats put away. And then it snows again.

3. Find your Spring clothing! Put on a skirt because it’s much too warm for jeans or leggings. Look at hairy legs. Realize it’s too much effort to shave. Put leggings back on. Then UGGs.

4. Prepare of sunlight! What is that giant orange ball of light shining through your windows. Your windows with a film of winter crap, and full of water and snow spots, and fingerprints from the children begging to go outside and play, and cat nose prints. You did not notice any of this because you hadn’t seen the sun in so long. Decide you must wash windows to enjoy the Spring sunshine. This takes approximately four years because you only wash maybe two windows and say screw it because you too want to enjoy the sunshine.

spring-in-minnesota

5. Prepare the backyard to play! The snow is finally melting. The snow that has been piling up in your backyard since November. You see, in Minnesota we don’t get snow and then have a melt. We just have snow accumulation from November until April. As the snow melts your backyard becomes an archeology dig site.  You find: six balls, five hula-hoops, two pens, a sharpie, 22 ponytail holders, nine newspapers, a library book, six pieces of sidewalk chalk that are no longer completely intact, your neighbor’s dog, two towels, a cardboard box, 15 jump ropes, 73 cents, and of course four mittens that would’ve completed some of the pairs that you already threw away.

 

Now I’m too exhausted to even enjoy this warmer weather. Well, only five more months before we have snow again! Thank goodness I did not put my UGGs away!

 

What is your favorite season?

what-i-wore-wednesday

In honor of our first day hitting 60 degrees since last October – I did break-out some Spring-ish clothing! First time without a heavy sweater and UGGs. And my body did not shrivel up and die.

Whippy Top and Heather Leggings from Matilda Jane, cardigan from Target, TOM wedges, Presley Scarf from Aventura Clothing. (Linking up with What I Wore Wednesday with The Pleated Poppy) Astrid in Matilda Jane.

 

Share

A Cooking Birthday Party For Kids

I love to celebrate birthdays – and have been known to throw a few wonderful birthday parties in the past. From princesses and butterflies or rainbow birthdays to yellow themes or peace signs and slumber parties to Yo Gabba Gabba and Alice in Wonderland – my girls spend months thinking about themes, crafts, food and friends. We even have parties for our cats. And I’ll spoil them rotten on this day – because it is truly their day. Call me over the top, call me obsessive, call me Tracy – but don’t call me crazy because you’re only a kid once – so why not do it up in style while you can. And hey, if you want balloons and clowns even when you turn 45 – I say go for it.

way-cool-cooking-school

But.

 

Having ‘in-home’ parties has become less appealing to me over the last few years. This weird thing happens – the kids GET BIGGER. And while 10 five year olds doesn’t seem like a big deal in your modest home, 10 eleven year olds cannot all fit in one room. Also – they don’t totally enjoy playing pin the tail on the donkey or doing my lame crafts I come up with. So our theme parties have slowly turned into slumber parties(the type where I sit in the kitchen and watch Scandal and drink red wine – which AWESOME), but even I(even with wine) cannot handle a slumber party every single year. Also tween girls scream. What is UP with the screaming? So this year I convinced both of my older girls that we should ‘hire-out’ and have off-site birthday parties.

 

And while I’ve always liked in-home parties because I’ve always considered them to be more economical – if I factor in all of my time to clean and prepare and decorate and coordinate and manage and buy everything – well it turns out having an off-site party is about the same cost and I HAVE TO DO NOTHING. But show up. And read People magazine with a latte.

kids-cooking-party-minnesota

But I also wanted to make sure it was a party where everywhere hung out and did things together. I didn’t want a big bouncy house thing or open rec day or something where I would be chasing kids and mending broken arms. I still wanted all the kids to be a group and do something that Esther was passionate about. Also, we like quiet things. And less screaming.

 

Also note that I’m anxious for the day when my kids are old enough to just be passionate about a mani/pedi spa day and fancy lunch with me and just a few of their friends. I think this day is coming soon.

cooking-school-birthday

Esther loves to cook and bake. So I Googled cooking schools in Minnesota and found a very awesome place called “Way Cool Cooking School!” I called and they had the date we needed available, so we loaded up two minivans full of 11 tween girls and off we went for a few hours of cooking.

 

The Way Cool Cooking School did EVERYTHING. The craft – they decorated aprons and all of the guests signed Esther’s apron. The lunch – they all made their own pizzas from the crust on up. The cake – they provided a birthday cake already made and decorated, and the kids made homemade cupcakes and decorated them to take home. The treat – they made chocolate dipped ‘mini microphone’ marshmallow treats. The goodie bags – they provided each child a ‘left-over’ box with fun cooking utensils, treats, and recipes. They did ALL of the set-up and the clean-up.

rock-star-birthday-cake

I did nothing but deliver the girls to them and then I honestly read a magazine for two hours.

 

And Esther and the girls all said it was one of the best parties ever. I loved that it gave them a skill, they had fun, and we didn’t have to worry about the mess. The ‘chef’ was so incredible with the girls and I just cannot recommend a party like this enough. I would say it would be perfect for kids ages 7-13 and those that are able to sit and really pay attention for an extended period of time. The chef taught them some great cooking skills and shared some fun recipes.

cooking-party-for-kids

I have a feeling we will be going back there soon as they also offer classes and camps for kids. (And no, they have no idea who I am or that I’m writing this).

 

Do you love to have home parties or off-site parties for your kids?

Share

What I’ve Learned From The Wisest Kid #askwisestkid

If you’ve been reading my blog for the past six months, you have probably noticed a few posts talking about The Wisest Kid in the Whole World. No, not my four year old – but she is pretty great – but this guy…

campbells-wisest-kid

Some of the things I’ve learned during this campaign as a Campbell Soup Company Ambassador…

 

1. How to finally answer the biggest question they ask every single day… “Mom, what’s for dinner?” Campbell’s Kitchen has hundreds of recipes that are family friendly, delicious, and easy to prepare.

 

Here are some of our favorites that we’ve made and loved…

family-favorite-recipes Skillet Cheesy Chicken And Rice, Chicken Crunch, Mini Cheesy Chicken Enchiladas,  Mini Chicken Pot Pies,  Mini Macaroni & Cheese Cups

[Read more…]

Share

We Did Not Like The LEGO Movie

I took my kids to see the new LEGO movie today. We went in with an open mind and not a disdain for all things Lego. We own LEGOs. We play with LEGOs. We don’t worship the LEGO like we might some other toys. But a LEGO-liking-family we are.

lego-movie-review

My only bias to watching the LEGO movie is that I’m not a huge fan of kid movies in general. I might also fall asleep in most of them…BUT…if my kids loved or even liked the movie ..then it was still a good movie in my opinion…because my kids enjoyed it. And I fake it for them.

 

I mean, have you seen Free Birds? One of the worst movies of the century. But my kids found it funny and enjoyed themselves, so I pretended that I did not sleep and totally enjoyed myself too. Do NOT go see it though. OMG so bad.

 

But the LEGO movie disappointed all of us. I mean – I loved the positive messages of believing in yourself and everyone has a special gift and everyone plays differently and all the good stuff we teach our kids – and I kind of liked when it all came together FINALLY with the actual real dad letting his real kids PLAY. Got it. Good.

 

But oh my gosh – the 90 minutes before that were so dang boring. Eloise was asking to leave. Astrid fell asleep. And Esther was people watching. I nodded off a few times, but tried to keep it together to actually watch the whole show. And I also noticed that most adults were not laughing out loud during the scenes that I thought were actually kind of clever.

 

Here’s the thing though – I am glad that you and you and you and you enjoyed the LEGO movie. Because the majority of the population seemed to love it. Awesome. But people seem to have a major emotional attachment to this movie, and saying that you don’t love it is like getting into a debate about SAHMs vs WAHMs or breast vs bottle. Chill people.

 

Speaking of chilling…..We loved Frozen – BECAUSE OLAF. But I get that it’s not everyone’s cup of tea. And I would never question why you didn’t like it or how you could not appreciate the message. Cool. Not frozen – just cool. Just don’t come over to our house because the snowman building is rampant around here.

 

And I loved the movie Brave – but my kids hated it. HATED it. I will never understand them. And I will probably never understand kid movies. I will never understand kids.

 

Another one you may not believe – but none of us liked any of the Toy Story movies. None of them. None of us. WHO ARE WE?

 

But Smurfs?? BIG FANS! Don’t hate me for it. Maybe it was because Smurfs 2 was set in Paris. Paris.

 

So dish – what kid movie do you love the most? Do you have a kid movie that your kids loved but you hated? Or maybe a kid movie that you loved and your kids wonder why you keep watching because they did not love it?

Share

Doing As Little As Possible

I had my pajamas on before 3pm yesterday. There aren’t many days that I feel just ‘done’ but yesterday it felt good just to give in to the comfort of fleece pants, fuzzy slippers and bad TV.

 

The big girls were off skiing with Jed while I stayed home with an Astrid who decided that it was too cold for her. My first thought was that we ‘had’ to find something active to do – whether physical or intellectual – because we MUST as we skipped skiing.

panda-snuggle

Instead we watched some brain-numbing cartoons, ate cereal for dinner, had jammies on by 3pm, and snuggled for hours.

 

None of it active, none of it intellectual, but all of it meaningful. And simple. And together. We try to communicate the beautiful, simple and small things with our children – sometimes we need to remember that simple is best for us too.  I admit that sometimes I hate the question “So what did you do today?” Because sometimes the right answer really is “As little as humanly possible.”

 

I can be busy tomorrow.

 

And when Astrid went off to bed by 7:30 and my plan was two hours of peace to write – I instead poured a cup of tea, layered on three blankets over me, ignored my laptop, and watched an incredibly lame chick flick. It was truly the best therapy of the week.

 

I also had a cat on my lap and ate a WHOLE DARK CHOCOLATE BAR THAT I DID NOT HAVE TO SHARE.

(and my friend Ann reminded me of one of the best Everybody Loves Raymond episodes of all time – the PMS episode – drop what you are doing HUSBANDS and watch this. Best 20 minutes you’ll spend this month…)

 

I bought a 2014 calendar finally. Also, they are ON SALE when we buy them so late. A little money saving tip for you – procrastinate calendar buying and save $10 or so – I mean sure you might miss a few critical early January appointments – but $10 off people! Of course you could be all savvy and just use your iPhone as your calendar – but I am 45 going on 95.

 

I was planning to make a hair appointment now that I have a calendar. I do need to get in there over the next few weeks – because THE GRAY OF 45 – but I’d rather fold laundry and clean-up Play-Doh than sit in a salon chair at this point. Am I the only one who views a salon appointment as NOT relaxing – but as stressful and work..mainly because schedules and time.

 

And then I will spend hours filling in the kid schedules – dance, school, appointments, and critical due dates. Sometimes I wonder if our lives will change and get so big that we will need one of those HUGE WALL FAMILY calendars that take up the whole kitchen wall. And then I’m grateful we don’t have a kitchen big enough for big walls. Because a big calendar would not make me happy.

 

We have nothing big planned for this holiday weekend. Esther heads to a hockey game with my dad tonight, Eloise is getting together with a friend to finish a school project, and tomorrow we are bowling with some of my favorite people on the planet.

 

This light schedule makes me very, very happy – as I still sit here very late into the morning hours in my fleece pajama bottoms.

 

What do you have planned for this weekend? And are you a ‘digital calendar’ person or ‘paper’ calendar person?

Share

Back In The Saddle

I haven’t skied since before I was pregnant with Eloise. In case math is not your forte – that is 12 winters ago. And it makes me want to hang my head in shame in front of my proud skiing friends.

 

I learned to ski when I was five. And while I did not ski a ton – growing up in Indiana did not help my cause- I did ski at least every year. My dad lived in Montana since I was about 14, I would also ski while on trips to visit family in Minnesota, and on spring breaks trips to Colorado during school.

snow-bunny

Jed is an amazing skier and we took ski trips together each year from the time we met until children entered our lives. And we did take one trip to Colorado skiing five years ago with Esther and Eloise. But I was pregnant again and chose not to ski.

 

So in the basement for 12 years, my skis and poles and boots and 1989 ski jacket that should really never see the light of day again, have collected dust.

 

And I’ve been okay with that.

 

There are many things we do as a family that have taken priority with our time  and our money.

 

And I don’t consider my children as the reason we gave up skiing. I consider it just a coincidence of priorities.(And maybe because my dad moved back here from Montana). And honestly I don’t think I’ve given up anything for motherhood. I’ve only gained more while some things may get pushed to the wayside to be brought forth again for us to enjoy. After we blow off the dust.

ski-lessons

So skiing.

 

While my friends out west may think our Minnesota “mountains” as small(they are) – well they are just perfect and HERE, and our fair state delivers many Olympic champions.

 

And as of last week we now have all three kids up a skis. I’ve forgotten how fearless a four year old can be as they fly down the hill when they don’t have far to fall, and how joyful it is for an eight year old(who skied all last year too), that I now don’t even see during the evening as she’s off with friends, and how nice it is for a tentative 11 year old who finally finds her rhythm and lets herself relax and actually enjoys herself.

 

And now back to that mom with the dusty skis and out of fashion jacket – well she’s getting back on the hill too. She has three kids to show-up on the slopes you know, so she needs to get out there and practice.

 

Because she’s finally cannot use pregnancy as an excuse.

****

Do you have an activity you feel you’ve given up for motherhood?

Share

Cold Weather Day Fun

Schools are closed today. Not for snow, but for cold. We had -45 wind chills this morning with actual temps of -22. I went for a four mile run and actually felt a bit overdressed. One layer too many – but it was good to be warm and safe and I take preparation for any cold weather run very seriously.

winter-running

I also welcome concerned, adult, encouraging, kind and even humorous conversations about crazy cold weather running on social media. But some people like to throw around the word ‘stupid’ instead. Because that’s now how I guess people constructively talk to other people in 2014. Attacking strangers on social media is the new fashion of the season. YAY us!

not-awesome-tweets

Which makes me sad for all of humanity.  Also now I feel obligated to contact the internets to make sure I’m dressing my kids appropriately when I let them go outside in this cold. Because we did go outside. I have so much guilt.

 

So to get over my awesome berating on the twitter this morning, we decided to do a cold winter weather science experiment. We boiled water and threw it into the air to see if it really does just freeze immediately into little ice crystals and vaporize. And it does! So cool! (Please note for all of you worried internet people – I did this experiment before my daughter did it just to make sure it really worked so I did not feel like I was putting her at risk that boiling water would rain down on her panda hat cuteness…so please don’t call me icky internet words).

Then we went to see Disney’s Frozen again and now are even more obsessed with Olaf The Snowman.

 

Then we had donuts.

 

Now we are eating popcorn and drinking hot cocoa.

 

All the good things you are suppose to do when school is called off.

 

However, now school is also called off for tomorrow. One day off is fun, two days off calls for an emergency plan to keep the kids entertained without donuts and cocoa. Maybe I’ll just go for a long run in the frigid temps and think about some fun things we can do as a family.

 

So do you love when school is called off? What is your favorite activity for kids on a day off from school?

*******

I’m also honored and crazy excited that my post On Being Vulnerable is syndicated on BlogHer today!

Share

Staying Warm #AskWisestKid

It’s supposed to get down to -16 tonight. In case you are wondering what running looks like after running in below zero temps…it looks like this…

cold-weather-running

Also, I borrowed my daughter’s face mask as mine was still frozen from yesterday.

 

And I dare say that I don’t look as adorable as this sweet ‘snowman building’ cutie. Maybe I need an owl hat.

snowmen

Because here’s the thing. As much as we’d love to just hibernate inside during the cold winter months..um, the cold winter months go on for about five months in Minnesota. So we just dress warmly and throw the kids outside to play. Sometimes I join them and sometimes I admit to sipping my hot tea and waving to them from the kitchen window as they play outside and become partially frozen in the snow.

 

Oh that is so not true and I admit I LOVE winter. I love skating and skiing and sledding and building snowmen. Also I do like hot tea.

 

We even spent the day on Christmas tubing with the kids. I want our kids to enjoy the cold and snow just as much as they love running around in the grass barefoot in the summer. Snow and cold is our reality here in Minnesota – so dang if we won’t get out there and enjoy it.

photo-78

Now our living room and entry way looks like an outdoor store blew-up because of the mountains of gear – but it’s totally worth the fuss to help us enjoy the cold.

 

But probably nobody is enjoying -16. Except crazy runners like myself.

 

The one thing we can all agree on during the cold winter months though is having something hot and filling to eat once we come inside!

 

What’s your favorite meal to curl up with on a cold, snowy day? The Wisest Kid knows that kids across the country appreciate a steaming bowl of Campbell’s Condensed Tomato Soup and love dipping their favorite dunkables. What snack do your kids like to pair with their soup? Crackers? Pretzels? Or the classic grilled cheese?

[Read more…]

Share

Letting Go

I’m writing this at 11pm because we got home so late from Starbucks. I brought all three kids to Starbucks at 9:30pm for hot cocoa and croissants. And maybe a Cranberry Bliss Bar for me to go with my non-fat latte with an extra shot of espresso. Does anyone else want to spell ‘espresso’ with an ‘x’ – ‘expresso!’

starbucks-hot-chocolate

This may also explain why I’m not tired.

 

I wondered how many people looked at us and thought “WTF” as we entered the coffee shop. This mom taking her kids…including a FOUR YEAR OLD…out for cocoa this late. Two hours past their bedtime. And trust me, not too many years ago I’d be giving you the nasty glance over my grande latte for doing something like this with your kids.

 

But now I say COCOA FOR EVERYONE AT ANYTIME!

 

Because I need to let things go.

 

We’re having a crazy weekend as are you I’m sure. From plays to programs to shopping to parties to baking to wrapping to trying to shovel up and out all of the stuff that accumulates with the holiday season. So I’m doing things that I’d never do – like taking kids for cocoa at 9:30pm and last night at 10:30pm you would’ve seen me at the grocery store buying cupcake ingredients with Eloise. Eloise even said “Whoa grocery stores are kind of spooky this late at time!”

 

Then I had to stay up late dealing with an issue over some panda stuffed animals that arrived wrong for Eloise’s birthday party this weekend…which of course cannot be fixed at midnight or within 24 hours…so I woke the kids by 6:30 this morning so we could run to the mall by 8am to buy PANDAS. ALLTHEPANDAS. Even though we probably could’ve just skipped the pandas.

 

BUT WE CANNOT SKIP THE PANDAS! The birthday party would suck without pandas(in my mind).

pink-christmas-tree

And we still haven’t gotten our tree. I played a joke on the kids and bought a $4 tabletop pink tree and told them that this was really our tree this year and I think I made them cry. And I was totally kidding. So we must get a tree this week. Kids crying over a tree does not smell of Christmas cheer. We tried today – but somehow a time never stuck for all five of us to go. Maybe we are reaching the point in our lives that it’s okay to just go with three or four people to grab a tree. Tomorrow maybe? But first we have to frost the cupcakes and have Eloise’s birthday party. And I like to clean before the tree comes in.

 

Do I have time to clean tomorrow?

 

I’m finding right now that I cannot plan for anything. Maybe I just need to let go and breathe in and let things fall as they will.

 

Like seeing Santa without planning on it. We walked by the Jolly Old Elf at the mall on Friday. We were at the mall because we needed so many things for this weekend and for gifts that needed to be shipped to arrive before Christmas. When we saw him Astrid immediately said “I’d like to talk to him.” So she did. She gave him a hug and chatted with him for quite awhile.

sitting-on-santas-lap

Astrid is interesting that way – last year she would not even step in the room where Santa sat. This year she needed to talk to him. That’s the thing about Astrid – the girl knows what she wants and when she wants and when she makes up her mind about something – it will not be changed.

 

Also she still wants a talking scale.

 

And we’ve crossed something off our lists.

 

Our holiday cards have arrived. Need to buy stamps – now on my to-do list.

 

Jed is home and is okay. Tired. Concerned. But okay. Thank you for your kind words from the interwebs.

 

Life is uncertain – from wanting to see Santa, a visit to the ER, an impromptu trip to Starbucks, or whether your kids will get your jokes. I need to remember this lesson of living with the beauty of an uncertain yet still very blessed life. Because while I cannot control what will happen each day, I can remember to just let the moments take us where they may.

 

And be comforted by the small moments of each crazy day that make cocoa at 9:30pm sometimes feel like the most normal thing we can do at the time.

Share

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.

holiday-dress-american-girl

“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.

american-girl-holiday-dress

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….”

bitty-baby-christmas

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.”

american-girl-doll

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

bitty-baby-matching-dress

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

*******

bitty-baby-twinkle-party-dress

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.

Share

Renting A House In Nosara Costa Rica

We’ve always done an all-inclusive vacation when we’ve traveled to the beach. It’s just made things easier as a family as we have small children. An all-inclusive resort gives you food ALL DAY LONG, a clean room everyday, no need to carry money, daily activities, no need for a car, and pretty much you can check you brain at the airport and just enjoy a stress-free week of fun and sun and no worries. Which is why we’ve always done all-inclusive vacations. Who wants to think about allthethings on vacation??? Also, who wants to COOK? Or do laundry? Or clean? Or grocery shop? Or find SNACKS??

 

Well we decided to rent a house instead during our vacation to Costa Rica - and I’ll admit I was a little leery about our choice. Because cooking. And laundry. And mama wasn’t about to lose beach time to head back to the house to strap on an apron to fry-up anything in a pan!

 

We found our rental house through VRBO.com – we had great luck with ‘Vacation Rentals By Owner” before for a trip to New York City and South Padre Island – so I did a search and found what I knew would be the perfect place for us.

villa-belitza

We rented a ‘multi-unit’ house in Playa Guiones called Villa Belitza. It is amazing. It sleeps 12(in my opinion 10 privately and comfortably) and has three separate units for more privacy and peace if some like to go to bed a bit earlier(or if you have little kids). My parents joined us, so the set-up was perfect. The house has an amazing and private pool in the back set right into the jungle and we spent our afternoons lounging here. There is tons of seating outside and we took every meal outdoors. There’s a grill and bar area and the grounds are immaculate. The house amenities give you all the comforts of home – well appointed kitchens, comfortable king-sized beds, modern bathrooms and everything is so clean and new! The owner and the caretaker were very responsive to all emails and inquiries and so easy to work with too.

pool-rental-house-nosara

The best part is that the house is ‘beach-front’ with a private path through the jungle to the waves, which is nearly impossible to find in the Nosara area. One things we loved the most about the Nosara area is that there are no high-rises, major developments, and there is no building allowed within 200 meters of the beach. When you are on the beach you look back and see just sand and jungle. It’s so quiet and peaceful here with just a few families, surfers and yoga-lovers. It doesn’t have the crazy pace of some of the more popular spots in Costa Rica. It’s still so natural and laid back.

playa-guiones

But the best part – as the one who cooks and does the majority of the cleaning typically – the house rental includes twice weekly cleaning and bed changing AND you can hire a cook for about $10 a meal – who will also do your grocery shopping. UM YES! Maria was fabulous and I wish we could’ve had her cook every night. It was such a treat to not have to worry about cooking and she made us a feast of local favorites each night she joined us. It felt like such a splurge – but it wasn’t – and it was so worth it.

IMG_5188

The house we rented in the Nosara area was also made more affordable because we rented it during a ‘shoulder season.’ Peak season in the area – which is the dry season – starts the last week of November and goes until April. So we rented in what is still considered ‘value season’ which is the end of the wet season. Therefore our rental cost was less than HALF what you would pay in peak season. Our risk of paying less for maybe some rain really paid off as we had very little rain while we were there.

 

I’m not sure I would do an all-inclusive resort again after renting a house. Even after renting a car, buying groceries and having to do a bit of cooking ourselves, we spent much less in two weeks than we have for a one week vacation to Mexico to an all-inclusive, and MUCH less than we would’ve spent at Disney for just 5-7 days…and we did so much more! And because we had to shop and explore more – we experienced so much more culture and visited more local places. I’m not sure I could just hang at a resort for seven days again.

IMG_2288

If you head to Nosara, Costa Rica – check out a house rental(especially Villa Belitza) – but give us first dibs as we are for sure heading back!

 

Do you prefer all-inclusive resorts or do you love to rent a house and explore on your own?

 

I promise I only have ONE more post about our trip to Costa Rica…and then I will retire as a travel blogger and go back to talking about boring stuff like motherhood and shopping. And my cat. …In the meantime you can read more about our trip to Costa Rica by clicking on the links below…

The animals of Costa Rica and ENTER TO WIN a year subscription to National Geographic Kids Magazine!

 

Just The Beginning

 

Me learning to surf

 

Kids Learning To Surf

 

Why we chose Costa Rica

 

Nosara Canopy Zip Line Tour

 

Days 1/2

Days 3/4

Transitioning Home

Share

Canopy Tour In Nosara Costa Rica

I used to love fast and scary rides. When I was a kid you could not pry me away from the the biggest roller coasters at amusement parks. As a young adult I sky-dived over the beaches in California and believed in big adventures. As I’ve gotten older(and became a mother) I’ve become more cautious and maybe my equilibrium has changed as now I find my feet more firmly planted on the ground. Seriously, I sound like a major boring yawn.  Okay, I’m not that bad. But maybe I close my eyes on rides now.

canopy-tour-costa-rica

But one adventure I’ve never taken is a zip-line tour. And not just a simple and small zip line in The States. I mean a full jungle canopy tour in Costa Rica. No matter that my now, somewhat responsible and cautious motherly nature, I needed to take this adventure. Maybe my kids made me. And even my dad(at 69 years old) came along for the ride.

miss-sky-canopy-tour-nosara

We took a three hour morning canopy zip-line tour with Miss Sky Canopy Tours in Nosara, Costa Rica. It is the LONGEST canopy tour in the world. We traversed almost four miles of lines and went over 20 miles per hour! There were 12 lines in all and we made an amazing stop and hike to swim at a waterfall. After the first line(because OMG what was I doing. And YES I closed my eyes), it was incredible. The feeling of flying was unsurpassed and you would not believe the views of the canyons, the rivers, the jungle and the wildlife. What made Miss Sky so cool is that you don’t travel between platforms – you actually go from mountaintop to mountaintop. The engineer in me kept asking them question after question on how something this magnificent was even planned and made.

waterfall-swimming-costa-rica

Esther and Eloise loved it(Astrid was too young as you have to be five years old)! It was not cheap – but if you are going to splurge on ONE big and fun thing on your visit to Costa Rica – you MUST take a canopy tour. I would highly recommend this family fun activity to really get into the jungle and explore more of Costa Rica. It was super safe – and they have a double line system and the kids were always with an adult. The guides at Miss Sky were fabulous and fun and during our hikes and tour as they also taught us all about the different flora and fauna in the area. My kids can now name many trees and plants local to the area. It was so educational and I think the girls want to do this everyday. Maybe they need to work here when they are older.

jungle-canopy-tour-nosara-costa-rica

Have you ever been on a zip-line? If you come to Costa Rica this is a must-do activity!

zip-line-costa-rica

Here’s an amazing video of our canopy tour!

 

We are on a two week vacation to Nosara, Costa Rica…for more posts about a family vacation to Costa Rica, click below….

Learning To Surf

Why we chose Costa Rica

 

Days 1/2

Days 3/4

Share

Costa Rica Days 1/2

Yesterday was a long day. It’s amazing when you are traveling though that a long day doesn’t feel like a very long day when you’re excited to be on vacation. I felt energized by 7pm instead of dragging and feeling like I was dying because of a 2am wake-up and twelve hours of traveling while herding children through planes trains and automobiles to get to Costa Rica.

costa-rica

Even though we had a very early 5am flight from Minneapolis, we had a great flight schedule. An easy three hours to Houston, a 45 minute layover and another three hours to Liberia, Costa Rica. Both flights were easy and the time passed quickly with books and coloring and maybe one movie. The kids were great even though we really didn’t eat all day.

 

We decided to rent a car in Costa Rica. We are staying in the Nosara area which is about a 2 1/2 hour drive from the airport. We considered just getting a hired shuttle but we are now glad to have a car even though it’s a bit of a hassle to rent in Costa Rica. They have required liability insurance which makes it expensive – but I think our flexibility is well worth it even though Jed feels like he just signed his life away. Jed enjoyed driving our 12 passenger van even when the pavement turned to dirt, mud and potholes for the last half of our trip. Driving through the jungle was amazing as we approached the beaches.

Costa-rica-pool

We have rented a large house right on the beach. It has three homes that all attach with a common pool in the center and a short path to the beach. We’ve rented all three homes for privacy and the girls pretty much haven’t left the pool. We have birds, huge butterflies and monkeys in the trees all around the house. It’s beautiful and the house is just perfect for us. We’ve hired a cook for our evening meals and we were welcomed last night with an amazing meal after our long journey. Having a cook feels like a luxury and worth the very inexpensive price to hire one here.

siesta-costa-rica

It’s sunny in the mornings and rains in the afternoons. I ran at 5:30am shortly after sunrise and was surprised by the number of surfers already catching waves at Playa Guiones. We hit the beach to swim, body surf and collect shells by 8am so we could soak-up as much sun until the afternoon rains started. The beach is gorgeous and we had an amazing time. The ‘path’ to the beach is still a bit under water as the rainy season comes to an end – so it was more of a jungle trek which we all enjoyed. Tomorrow I will take some beach pictures.

shells-costa-rica

We spent the afternoon heading into the town proper of Nosara for grocery shopping and to scope-out the area. The kids enjoyed seeing some familiar foods(Lucky Charms) and seeing some new selections that are more local and special to Costa Rica. After our shopping excursion we swam in the pool(even during the warm rain) and played cards, napped and read. It was truly a perfect and relaxing day.

IMG_2422
Which is our plan. We will do some adventuring – zip-lining, horseback riding and surf school…but mainly we just want to hang-out and enjoy some family time and relax and enjoy a new culture. So far we are just completely enjoying Costa Rica.

pura-vida

Pura Vida.

Share

Why We Are Not Going To Disney

I expected a different outcome. For example if you were to give your children three choices for dinner: 1. Pizza 2. Noodles or 3. Cow liver, you would expect a fight to ensue between them over the pizza vs. noodles while the cow liver option is not even discussed.

 

Because they are kids. Little kids still in many ways and some things make sense to them. Like Pizza. And Disney.

 

Last year we decided to make going on a family vacation a priority. My husband hates when I talk about this, but I’m putting it out there because nothing is his fault or my fault or anyone’s fault, it’s just how we’ve all made sacrifices to raise our family. We decided that I would stay home with the kids while Jed started his own business. Both decisions were risky – we lost our insurance, our steady and larger income and security – but we did it because we decided it was important for me to be home and we had a certain amount of confidence in Jed’s business. And that family time was more important than money. I still believe this. But things like family vacations have taken a hit.

 

For a few years not having a big getaway didn’t seem like a big deal, but eventually I could tell that both of us were feeling like a big part of us was missing. We were both travelers before kids. Heck, we met on a flight to Bangkok. And we know that one of the biggest gifts we can give our kids is the gift of showing them the world.

 

Knowing we could plan for one big trip and it would be awhile before we could do this again, we decided to make a budget and a plan and let the kids choose the vacation based on what we could afford. We have been talking to them about Disney, as we have never been, and the whole “Is it a requirement for kids to go to Disney as least once while they are little guilt” was heavy on my heart last year – so we decided to make that an option as well.

IMG_2303-001

So we sat the kids down last January and told them that we could take a big vacation and these were the options they got to choose from:

1. A week in Disney World

2. A week on a cruise(Maybe a Disney cruise even)

3. A week at an all inclusive resort in Mexico or the Caribbean.

4. A week in Europe(probably just Amsterdam and Paris) – but we may have to delay our trip until the following Spring.

5. Two weeks in Costa Rica at a rental house on the beach

 

I honestly expected three votes for Disney as we had talked about it so much and they’ve heard so many stories from friends about going there. And we would’ve been okay with their decision and maybe a door of guilt would finally close.

 

But not one of them yelled out Disney. All three said “COSTA RICA!”

 

And then we knew they were all really our children. Because they also choose sushi over pizza most days.

 

So we are heading to Costa Rica with the knowledge this means The Mouse is probably dead to us and we have all accepted that and moved on. Moved on to Costa Rica this year and maybe a safari in Africa in a few years and then maybe a trek to Nepal or Thailand- back to where we met and our family journey started. And along the way I want to show them my apartment in Amsterdam and the castle where we married in Scotland.

 

And start making some global memories for our family.

 

Because I know this is only the beginning.

Share

Halloween Changes, Tweens and Foxes

You might find something(someone) missing in these photos. I’m calling this phase of our lives “The Tween Times.”

fox-costume

But it’s hard to not smile at the adorable and cuddly panda bear and the fantastic yet fashionable fox. What does the fox say? It turns out our whole neighborhood is over 78 years old or doesn’t have internet access as not one person understood why Esther was asking that question after she said “Trick or Treat.” Also, they were stumped by what a fox really says.

what-does-the-fox-say

I’m glad my kids choose costumes that are warm so we can layer and stay cozy when it’s only 42 degrees on Halloween night. It’s better than having to put your snowsuit over your costume like I used to have to do.

snowsuits for halloween

But still – I didn’t get a picture of Eloise this year. It’s weird and good and strange and okay when your child reaches the age when they would rather go with a friend…and thus leave an empty space in my photo lens. Eloise was Cat Girl and I’m sure she was fabulous. And her smile, stories and bag of a candy when she returned later than usual – at 9:30- told me that she had an amazing time. And I know she has many more years to celebrate Halloween with us. And maybe I just need to catch her in a picture at 3:30 before she goes with her friends. If she lets me. I’ll have to bribe her with an iPhone or something.

panda-costume

I did not dress–up this year which was a huge disappointment to my kids. After Effie and The Pioneer Woman - it turns out that I peaked too early.

halloween-costume

If you loved our costumes but you are are still partying this weekend and need some costume ideas – well The Wisest Kid has you covered.

He’s also knows what kids love to eat – so that is never a mystery to us anymore.

 

Be sure check out the Campbell’s Facebook page to keep up to date with The Wisest Kid and find more  kid approved recipes,  get your own beard at the Wisest Kid’s Page at Campbell’s Kitchen.

Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Campbell’s Condensed Soup and I was compensated as an Ambassador, but all opinions are my own.

 

Share

We Scare Hunger – Ask For Cans Not Candy

We had a lot of older kids come by our house on Halloween last year. Many of them were not dressed up and carried only paper bags and I admit I got a little judgemental watching them approach us.

 

Until they did not say “Trick or Treat.”

 

Instead they showed me a poster and a bag full of non-perishable food and said they were not asking for candy, but instead asking for food to donate to their local food banks. And I proceeded to empty my kitchen cabinets for them as I cried.

we-scare-hunger

They were participating in an amazing program called We Scare Hunger.  In 2012, We Scare Hunger participants collected over 875,000 lbs of food and donated it to their local food banks.

 

In the United States:

 

    • 46.2 million Americans live in poverty.(Including 16.1 million children)
    • 14.9% of households do not always have enough money to buy food.
    • Free or price-reduced lunches are provided to approximately 31.8 million children every school day.

 

So today – on October 31, join participants across North America and the UK and take action to collect non-perishable food items at school and in the community. Collect as many canned goods and non-perishable food items as you can to help support your local food bank and raise awareness about local hunger.

 

Sometimes changing the world needs to start at home and the We Scare Hunger campaign gives our young people the tools and the ownership to know that even the smallest things can make a greater impact in their own communities – and through collective action programs like this – we can create BIG CHANGE and fill those food banks before the holidays arrive.

Screen shot 2013-10-31 at 12.06.36 PM

If you are a household and passing out candy – keep a box of canned goods to give to the young people who ask for them. As I know you will have a few come by your door too!

 

And don’t forget to give those kids a little treat too.

Share