Monday, March 23, 2015

My Favorite Way to Start the Work Week


Dear Em,
Happy Monday! In defiance of the winter blues (technically it's Spring, but there's still snow on the ground), we've started to put music on while we get ready in the morning. In our house, when music is on there is probably a little bit of dancing going on too. I am probably one of the world's worst dancers, but you don't mind. We dance ourselves silly. It's hilarious & it's amazing.


It's probably my very favorite way to start the work week.

I love you so,
Mommy

Monday, March 16, 2015

Breaking Through the Negativity

Dear Em,
The last couple weeks have been tough...really, really tough. There was a lot of snow.


There was a lot of sickness. You were hit with a cruel double whammy of germs, starting with a stomach bug & then, almost immediately afterwards, strep.


We tried to make the best of Daddy's birthday week, but none of us were feeling very festive (in fact, you were sobbing as we made Daddy's birthday cake). Our fun & amazing daughter had turned into a moody, purple minion. Everything with you had become a battle, & I'm not proud of the ways that I reacted.

I'm going to blame it all on winter. Winter totally won. I raised our white flag.

I sobbed on the phone with your Nonnie. I couldn't help but feel like I wasn't anything more than an utter failure. I was surely failing you. I didn't know what to do, but what we were doing was not working in our home. When you think of our home, I want you to think of love above everything else. Instead, there had been a lot of yelling & defiance & tantrums & snippy comments & emotional breakdowns. You & I have had frequent battles of wills...except no one was winning. We had been focusing on the negatives for so long that I was having a hard time finding any positives.

Daddy & I talked about how things had been going. We weren't really sure what we needed to do about it (are any parents ever sure?), but we did know that if we expected you to be better, it needed to start with Daddy & I being better. We needed to change our own attitudes, & we needed to turn our focus back on the positives. We needed to put down our phones & turn off the TV & make family time a bigger priority. We needed to give you more positive encouragement, but we also needed to stop letting bad attitudes & frequent whining slide.

So, we spent this weekend as a family. We had a lot, A LOT, of talks about how to be good to each other & to our teachers & our friends. We reset boundaries & we recreated rewards. We reevaluated the way we talk & interact with each other. I wouldn't say after one weekend everything is sunshine & rainbows, but we're working on it. We're not giving up on each other, & I think that is what is important.

Of course it helps that the sun came out this weekend. The forecast predicted rain all weekend, & I was surprised when I saw bright rays of sunshine filling our backyard. We decided to bundle up & take an impromptu trip to the Charlestown Beach. My heart filled with so much happiness as we walked onto the beach together. The sun was doing it's best to break through the clouds, creating the most brilliant colors in the big ocean waves. It reminded me of our little family of three & the way we're doing our best to break through the negativity & find beauty in each other again.


You ran, filled with joy. "There's no snow on this beach! There's no snow!" We walked down the beach, collecting rocks & shells.


You & I felt brave with our rain boots on. We ran towards the ocean to splash our feet at the edges of the water.

A huge wave crashed on the beach & sent water over the protection of our rain boots & soaked our feet. It was freezing, & on a day last week it would have brought you to tears...ending our adventure. I watched you quiver, on the verge of crying, but then remember all of the things we had talked about this weekend. I watched you decide not to fall apart.

Hand in hand we ran back to the car, took off your rain boots, & turned on the heat. Unwilling to let our adventure end so quickly, we decided to head to George's for clamcakes & chowder. We had to take your wet socks off, & I was proud of you for walking happily into the restaurant with bare feet in your rain boots.


We ate clamcakes & chowder & played tic-tac-toe over & over again. You were an excellent sport, happy to celebrate whoever won each round.


We peeked at the beach as we were leaving George's, & Daddy noticed that the Block Island Ferry was coming in just past the jetty. We climbed the rocks of the jetty a little ways before picking a spot to sit & wait for the Block Island Ferry to pass by, just like Daddy did with his family when he was younger. We waved to the ferry as it passed us by, & you were thrilled to receive a wave from a ferry boat passenger in return.


We headed home after that, content with our impromptu adventure. My heart was so full knowing that even though there may be times that we lose ourselves, together we can always find our way back. Thanks for sticking by Daddy & I & helping us to find our way back. Thanks for loving us, even with all of our parenting imperfections. Thanks for helping us to fill our home with love & beauty. Thanks for choosing to break through the negativity with us.

I love you so,
Mommy

Monday, March 2, 2015

Happy Birthday, Brian/Daddy


Dear Brian/Daddy,
Happy Birthday to our best friend. You've stolen our hearts, & we're so glad you did. You are the most amazing husband & father. You are also our comedian, our dance partner, our chef, our cheerleader, & our greatest comforter. You keep us laughing & smiling. You feed us breakfast in bed. You make ordinary life a great adventure. Thanks for loving us & supporting us like no one else could.

We love you, & we hope you have the best birthday ever (even if our house was rocked by a stomach bug...we promise to make your special day...well...special).

Love Always,
Julie & Em

Thursday, February 26, 2015

TBT: Sledding on a Broken Surfboard


Dear Em,
We've gotten so much snow this winter. There's been two blizzards, & I stopped keeping track of all of the other snow days. It's gotten to the point that any snowfall under five inches feels like a dusting. A week ago, they listed the areas that have seen the most snowfall. Lowell had gotten 111 inches of snow in less than a month & Boston had gotten 96 inches! It's continued to snow since then.

While in Chicago with my girlfriends, I was amazed to see patches of grass in the city. Our grass has been completely snow covered for so long, I had almost forgotten what grass looked like. Being together during the wintertime, got us thinking about snow days in college. I remembered dialing 4-SNOW incessantly until the recording on the other end of the phone announced that classes were canceled. There's something so magical about a whole campus shutting down for a snow storm. All of a sudden you & a campus full of friends have no responsibilities for the rest of the day. It's amazing.

Back then, we were college kids with little money. Very few of us sprang the $10 it cost to buy a snow tube (besides, where would we store it in our tiny dorm rooms afterward?). The quintessential thing to do was to "borrow" a dining hall tray & use it for sledding. I shared a few dining hall tray sledding days with your daddy & my friends, but I have to say my best college sledding was done on a surfboard.

On one snowy evening when I was in grad school, one of the RAs I worked with saw someone putting a broken surfboard in a dumpster. You know what they say about one man's trash being another man's treasure? While I'm sure broken surfboards are not great for surfing, they are perfect for sledding.

The snow was coming down heavy that evening. I bundled in my orange ski jacket & ski goggles & joined a big group of RAs for sledding. We used the broken surfboard like a toboggan & tried to fit as many of us on the board before sledding down the hill. It was absolutely hilarious & so much fun.


While I love the life we live now, Daddy & I sometimes miss our college days. It was so fun to live within walking distance of so many of my friends. You never knew where the day would take you...like some days you might find yourself sledding on a surfboard with ten other people. Ha!

I'll tell you this, a broken surfboard would really come in handy this winter.

I love you so,
Mommy

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Your Big Brother Charlie

Dear Em,
We may have decided not to give you a little brother or sister, but our cat Charlie tries his best to make up for that. He snuggles in with us for bedtime books each night. He annoys you when you're trying to watch TV. He plays with you (although he prefers when cats toys, cat treats, or paper bags are involved). He even tries to eat meals with you...


I'm glad that you have your big brother Charlie (he is 2 1/2 years older than you). He is the perfect pet/brother for our little family.

I love you so,
Mommy

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Man, it feels good to be home


Dear Em,
"Mommy, my love goes underneath the ground & in the flowers when they grow. It reaches all the way up in the sky. It bounces to the moon & the stars & Jupiter & Saturn & Mars. That's how much I love you more."
- Emma, 5 years old

I'm back from Chicago. I actually got back late Sunday night/Monday morning. Yesterday was...rough. It seems with every year that passes, it gets harder & harder for me to bounce back after trips...especially trips as jam packed with fun & adventure as my Chicago trip was.

My head was pounding when I picked you up from school. We headed home, I made oatmeal for dinner, & we got into bed for snuggles & a movie You promised me you were going to take care of me. You rubbed my back & told me how very much you loved me. We just enjoyed being back together. It...was...perfect.

Chicago was amazing, but, man, it feels so good to be home.

I love you so,
Mommy

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Throwback Thursday: Best Gal Pals

Dear Em,
A few weeks ago, Daddy was driving you to school, & you shared a very serious concern with him. "Daddy, I don't think Mommy has any friends in Rhode Island." You took Daddy a littl eby surprise & he tried not to laugh at your worry. "What do you mean? Of course, Mommy has friends in Rhode Island," your daddy assured you. "Then how come every time we go to visit Mommy's best friends it takes forever to get there? I think we need to help Mommy get friends in Rhode Island."

Ha! Out of the mouths of babes. I'm so lucky to have amazing friends that have been there for me & made me smile, many of them in Rhode Island. However, there are three ladies that have been there for me through my annoying teenaged hormones, the highs & lows of college, & beginning to learn what being an adult means to me. They held my hands during wedding planning, & threw me one amazing bachelorette party (& bridal shower). When I have trouble deciding between outfit A & outfit B, they help me pick the better choice. We talk beauty tricks & parenting tips. They're the ones I turn to when I completely fall on my face & am sure I have failed as a wife & mother forever. They're always there to listen to me vent, assure me that the sun will come out eventually, & tell make me laugh. They take me as I am & while encouraging me to be the best version of me. And they've done all of this from hundreds of miles away.


It's true every time we go to visit your Aunt Ali, Aunt Colleen, or Aunt Jayme, we're either going on a long road trip or plane ride. While I talk to these ladies on the phone or via texts almost everyday, it's much less frequently that we're able to get together...& much less frequently that we are able to get together as just the girls. In fact, I think the last time that Col & Ali & I had a just-us-girls weekend- was more than three years ago.


Your Aunt Jayme has lived the farthest away, but we've been lucky & made a big effort to get together at least twice a year...with kids & pregnancies galore. As Mommys, a visits together sometimes look like this...


Through the tantrums & pediatric germs & the overtired children, I love every single visit we get to have together, because is there anything more amazing than sharing all of that with your best friend?


Still, the last time Jayme & I were together for a whole weekend without children (or pregnancies) was the weekend of mine & Daddy's wedding...almost 6 & 1/2 years ago.


I think a fun girls weekend with my besties might be overdue.

And that's why I couldn't be more freaking excited that I get to see all three of my ladies this weekend! We're having a girls weekend in Chicago. It's my first time in Chicago in & the first time I get to be surrounded by all three of my favorite gal pals since my wedding. It might be frigidly cold, but I have my girls to keep me warm...& quite possibly lots of champagne.

I love you so,
Mommy

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

February Vacation With 2 Little Sous Chefs

Dear Em,
This week is February vacation week for most of the public schools in Rhode Island. You don't get February vacation, because you're not in public school yet. Daddy & I don't get February vacation either, but I did get Presidents Day off. I kept you home with me & invited your bestie over to play. You were so thrilled to get some much needed play time with your favorite gal pal.

The two of you probably would have played all by yourselves. In fact, for the first half hour the two of you pretended you were detectives cracking a case (just like Nancy Clancy).


I had fun plans, though. You two were going to be my little sous chefs. We started with a Kiwi Crate. It was a cooking themed Kiwi Crate. Isn't it so much fun when your plans & your Kiwi Crates line up perfectly? The two of you decorated a chef's hat & cooking apron. You also frosted & decorated foam cakes.

I took you guys on a grocery shopping adventure. You both love grocery shopping. However, you are used to being the only child along for the shopping fun. You threw your very first full-blown grocery store tantrum (at five years old), because your little friend S got to ride in the front of the cart. Your tantrum was loud & it felt like it lasted FOREVER. Let me tell you, grocery store tantrums are just as embarrassing as you'd imagine them to be...the stares...the people shaking their heads...the random lady who walked over to try to console you. I'm still shuddering just thinking about it. Luckily, you soon realized riding on the back of the cart was the better place to be (which is what I was trying to explain before you took your full blown tantrum), because you got to help me pick food out & weigh the produce.  Luckily, our next stop was BJs, & there is room for two in the shopping cart.

Once we got home, the two of you were excited to help me prepare a "fancy dinner." We made Caesar salad, homemade dressing, creamed spinach, rice pilaf, & sauteed broccoli. Daddy grilled NY Strip Steak.


After you two finished helping with the cooking, you took off your chef's gear. You & S set the dinner table with China & candles before heading upstairs to dress for dinner. The two of you came down in princess gowns, white gloves, & high heels. You sat down to drink your raspberry lemonade & tried to use your best table manners (later you proclaimed, "I sat on my bum- criss-cross, apple sauce- for the WHOLE DINNER).



While you did not want to partake in the homemade Caesar salad dressing we had made, you actually ate the salad. Well, you ate lettuce & croutons- which is the closest you've ever come to eating salad. So, we will take that as a win. Neither you, nor little S cared for the creamed spinach. S ate chicken nuggets instead of steak (you didn't love the steak, but you ate it). You ate four servings of rice pilaf. Still it was a wonderful dinner. I thought our fancy dinner tasted amazing. We sat around the table talking about our favorite holidays & seasons & all the things we miss about summer. You & S ate a dessert of blue berries & whipped cream.


As Daddy & I cleaned up after dinner, you & S gave us a curtsy to say thanks for the wonderful feast. Then you ran upstairs to enjoy your last moments together.


As I tucked you in that night, you sighed such happy sighs. While the two of you had a blast as my sous chefs, I don't think it would have truly mattered what we did with S that day. To you, there's nothing better than a school vacation spent with your best friend. Lucky for you (& Me), on Friday you get to have one more school vacation, best friend day (while I have a weekend getaway with my best gal pals).

I love you so,
Mommy

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Art Wall Revisited


Dear Em,
Remember how you made yourself a wall to tape up your artwork? Growing up, my mom never even let me tape a poster on my bedroom wall. As a result, I've never been a poster-wall-taping person either. Your taped artwork all over your bedroom wall irked me in a way that only a non-poster-wall-taper would understand (although, we did use painters tape so that the walls wouldn't be damaged). Plus, when we took your artwork down from the walls, it sometimes ripped & got damaged from the tape that had held it on the wall. I was determined to find a better solution to your ever growing artwork display problem.

I was also determined to find a project for us to tackle. There's been so much snow in New England (2 blizzards & multiple other snow days in less than a month), & we've been feeling a little cooped up. Project Make an Art Wall was exactly what you & I needed.

We Used...
- 4 rolls of ribbon
- Wooden clothes pins
- Small flat wooden shapes (hearts, stars, circles)
- a smock & drop cloth (we used a garbage bag)
- assorted paints
- paint brushes
- hot glue gun
- 8 nails
- hammer

We started at the craft store. You & I picked out four different rolls of ribbon in different colors & patterns that would go along with the color scheme of your room. Next we headed to the wooden aisle. We grabbed 40 clothes pins & picked out bags of fun, flat wooden shapes.

Once we got home, I laid a garbage bag across your little white table, put your smock on you, & got out our paints & paint brushes (we keep a box of acrylic paints that we've used for various other projects). You then spent close to two hours happily painting the clothespins & wooden shapes. Daddy & I were pretty excited that your independent painting project gave us over an hour to ourselves. It was parents of a single child paradise to know that you were absolutely content...on your own. That is until we found paint everywhere (it was on chairs, on the wall going up the stairs, on the floor). Oh, well, you win some & you lose some.


I helped you finish up your painting, both because you needed a little help with the number of items that needed painting (I think we painted 40 clothes pins) & someone needed to eliminate some of the excess paint that was oozing off some of the wooden items. You did a really great job, & we set aside all the wooden pieces to dry.

Then we headed upstairs with a hammer & nails. I hammered in one nail on the left side of your wall, a couple inches down from the ceiling. I then measured 17 inches (the height of your tallest pictures) down from the first nail, & hammered in another nail there. I hammered in two more nails, each one directly 17 inches below the one above it. I repeated the same thing on the right side of the wall. I tied the first ribbon tightly (leaving as little slack in the ribbon as possible) to the two top most nails & the next ribbon to the two nails below. I did this until there were four straight lines of ribbon tied to the eight nails.


By then, the wooden clothespins & shapes had dried. I used the glue gun to decorate the clothespins with the shapes you had painted. I let you pick out which shape would go on which clothespin & then glued the shapes to the clothespins. You had a blast decorating your clothespins. I have to say, they looked so much more amazing than the plain wooden pieces we first started working with.


I had piled your artwork on the bed, & the two of us used the clothespins to hang up your many works of art. You can't yet reach the top ribbon, & I hung the artwork up there. You worked on filling up the rest of the ribbon pieces. When we were done, you clipped all your remaining clothes pins to a short amount of ribbon that hangs from the nails.


We spent less than $25, & we were both absolutely thrilled with the result. As we read together in your bed that night, it made my heart so happy to see what was once mostly a blank wall filled with your colorful & unique artwork. Plus, nothing was taped to the walls!!


It's been a little over a week since we created your art wall together, & if you can believe it, it's even more full of art than it was when I took these photos. You've also hung up photographs & some of the Valentines you received. What was once a plain, grey wall has become a wall that you can display things that make you happy, & that makes me wicked happy. I hope as you grow, your wall will continue to be a bright spot in your room. Perhaps you will continue to hang your art work & also pin inspirational quotes & pictures with your gal pals. I'm excited to see what you continue to make of this wall, because if it's anything like you it will be ever growing & changing & nothing less than absolutely amazing.

I love you so,
Mommy
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