Fall bucket list

I’ve always been a “middle lane” kind of  person. Not too fast, not too slow. Not too hot, not too cold. So that’s probably why fall is my favorite season, followed closely by spring. We’re just a few days away from the official start of fall, but there’s already a nice chill in the air, and a few colors are starting to emerge among the trees.

Although football and dance have us busy, there are a few items that I think will help us savor the transition season.

  • Go to a fall festival. If I want to cross this one off my list I can,  because we went to  a birthday party at a fall festival. Still, if we can get to  another one that we can enjoy at a more leisurely pace, I’m all for it. Maybe a hayride, a corn maze and an easy hike.
  • Create a spooky decor. Holiday decorating is not my specialty. Last year, the kids asked if we could decorate more for Halloween. I had a few items on hand from before I was married (orange lights, a window witch, a ceiling spider), and we usually make a porch scarecrow and some ghosts. They didn’t make their request until pretty close to the holiday, so we didn’t do too much last year. But the day after Halloween,  I stocked up at Target. This year, we’ll have a nice little graveyard in the yard and some spooky lights for our path. We won’t have the scariest house on the block, but my kids are always too scared to go to that one anyway.
  • Go pumpkin shopping. Of course we’ll need to supplement last year’s Target finds with an assortment of pumpkins and gourds.
  • Enjoy a fun Halloween. We live in a great trick-or-treating neighborhood. It’s one of the only neighborhoods in town that has sidewalks, so a lot of families drive to our neighborhood to trick-or-treat. On top of that, our town is one of the only places locally that has trick-or-treat on Halloween itself. (For some reason, most towns in Central PA have it on the Thursday before Halloween.) Since Halloween is on a Friday this year, I’m expecting at least 300 trick-or-treaters, maybe 400 — and a great night.
  • Celebrate big and small occasions. All of our family’s major milestones  occur in the fall. The kids’ birthdays are both in November, and T and I celebrate in December. We’re typically low-key on birthdays, but S has never had a “friends” party, so I would like her to have something  special this year.  T celebrates his 50th this year, so that probably warrants a bigger celebration than usual.  On top of the birthdays, our anniversary is in October. (Of course, I chose that month because I love fall so much.)This year is our tenth, so we are planning a night away — first one in a while.
Advertisements

Back to school and more

As usual, I have not followed through on my commitment to blogging more, or most of my plans for the year for that matter. Still, I’m not going to get too hung up on what I have and haven’t done. I am going to focus on moving forward and doing what I can from this point forward.

BacktoSchool

First day of school

We’re a few weeks into a new school year. X is in 2nd grade now, and S started kindergarten. It wasn’t quite as emotional sending the second to kindergarten, although from the first time, I learned that it is best for my emotional health to take off the whole work day. It’s rare that I get a day to myself anyway, so if I’m in danger of tears, why not spend it at home rather than at work.

With the start of the new school year came a few new activities: football and ballet. I have mixed feelings about football. X played soccer for a few years, and he showed a natural talent.  When he was on, he would usually score multiple goals per game. But when he didn’t want to be there, it was no fun for us, him or his team. And he didn’t see the point of practice.  He reminded me of the Allen Iverson of U8 soccer: “We talkin’ about practice!”

Football

Football

Over the year, he kept bringing up football, and although it makes me nervous, kids can get hurt in any sport. In football, they wear pads, and the coaches have really emphasized the safety. So far, he loves it — surprisingly, he doesn’t even mind the practice. The downside is that while he doesn’t mind the practice, it was four nights a week during the summer. Now that school is back in session, it’s three nights a week, plus one game on the weekend. Still, the discipline of the whole thing seems to have made a positive impact on him.

We don’t have football practice on Monday nights, but that’s the night that S now has dance. She’s only had two lessons so far, but really seems excited about it. It’s a basic ballet and tap class. I do see it getting expensive if we stick with it, but just as football does for her brother, dance makes her happy so far.

Weeknights are a challenge at the moment. There’s only about a half hour between getting home and leaving for the night’s activity. I’d let my meal planning slip a little over the summer, but after the first few weeks of school, the rush was getting a big much. This week, I made an effort to plan things out, and I also spent some time freezer cooking on Sunday. With any luck, the next month will go a little smoother.

Little ballerina

Little ballerina

Meal plan for next week:
Sunday: Grilled salmon
Monday: Sandwich night
Tuesday: Taco Tuesday (turkey tacos)
Wednesday: Pork barbecue
Thursday: Leftovers
Friday: Pizza night

I may switch a few nights around depending on what’s going on, but having  an outline keeps it a little simpler.

Snow days

It’s been a brutal winter, and we’re not even at Valentine’s Day. It feels like we’ve been alternating between snow storms and sub-zero wind chill factors since Christmas. This week was especially tough, because we were hit with two big storms just a couple of days apart.

On Monday, we woke up to a heavy snowfall, with a few inches already on the ground before the morning rush hour. I debated going in to work, and could have, if there was something really critical, because T’s work was cancelled, so he could have stayed home with the kids. But I hate driving in the snow. There was a time when I didn’t mind it much, but I’ve had too many slips and slides over the years that I’d prefer to avoid it when I can. So I took a day off, and we all stayed home.

It was definitely worth it. It was a great snow for building snowmen, having a snowball fight and building forts. The kids did some sledding down our hill, but it was a little slow for their tastes. (I was okay with it, because our hill is very steep and makes me nervous every time they go down, but even S has figured out how to fall off if she’s getting close to a tree.)

We even made snow ice cream, something I’d never done before. The temperatures weren’t ideal for eating ice cream, but with all of the snow we’ve had, we’re running low on hot chocolate, and this was a welcome change.

Wednesday’s storm was a different story. It was an ice storm rather than a snow storm. In a rare reversal of circumstances, T had work after a three-hour delay, while my office closed for the day. There were terrible power outages all around the area, but we were lucky. We had a few annoying blinks, just long enough to reset everything, but compared to people who spent 60+ hours without electricity in freezing cold temperatures, I’m not going to complain.

The ice meant we were homebound — Monday’s snow was now covered with ice an inch thick, so we couldn’t do more snowmen or snowball fights. And I certainly wasn’t going to send them down that ice-covered hill on a sled. So we declared it a pajama day — even me. While the kids regularly have them during the winter, I usually make myself go out for a walk because I don’t like to be housebound. Once in a while, though, it’s nice to make an exception.

We made an Easy Bake Oven cake, and played Battleship and Uno. We read some books and made some more puppets. Yes, they did play some Minecraft and watched a few episodes of Jake and the Neverland Pirates, so it was not a completely screen-free day. But overall, it was nice to have an unplanned day in the house.

Crafting for the non-crafters

I broke down this week and purchased a glue gun for a school project.  I’ve always liked the idea of crafts, but am usually not so good on the follow-through. I tend to be rather disorganized, not very artistic, and often just plain sloppy. (Penmanship was my worst subject in school. Even I have trouble reading my own handwriting today.)

But that doesn’t mean we don’t try craft projects in our home. Luckily, the kids don’t expect much, and are even happy cutting out paper snowflakes or butterflies.

Until recently, our default project has been books. We can staple together a few sheets of paper, and they caPuppet_Sn draw the pictures while I write or spell the words they want to include. The stories usually aren’t very cohesive, but it’s a snapshot of their artistic and verbal activities, as well as what they are into at any given time.

We’re also partial to foam stickers. Sometimes I will buy kits that we can make into something specific — a Halloween mask or a Christmas tree ornament — or sometimes I will just get a big tub of stickers at Target that the kids can decorate everything that they’re working on for that month.

Lately, we’ve discovered the joy of puppets. I have always loved puppets, probably starting with my years of watching Puppet_XSesame Street and The Muppet Show. I even had a secret dream that maybe someday, I could work for Jim Henson and be a Muppeteer.

Obviously, that never happened, but I did have a book on how to make different kinds of puppets when I was a kid. It’s long lost, and I don’t see it available on Amazon. There are other books I could buy, but I still remember enough to come up with multiple puppet ideas.

We tackled the classic sock puppet years ago. I hang onto the single socks that lose their mate in the laundry, and keep the stash in with our craft supplies. With a marker, some glue, googly eyes and other odds and ends, we have our own Kermit. We’ve also done some basic stick puppets with construction paper and popsicle sticks.

The puppet of the moment is the paper bag puppet. For some reason, they had a hard time grasping the concept that you put your hand in the bag like a mitten, with the fingers on top and the thumb beneath the fold. Once they conquered that, we were off — dogs, eagles, princesses, and most impressively, a very detailed version of Dusty from the Disney movie Planes.

Next on the list, a spider from an old glove, or maybe I will invest in some rubber gloves to make finger puppets. (I remember doing a mouse once.) Perhaps we will also make a paper plate frog, or a waiter from a beat-up wooden spoon. Now that I have a glue gun, the possibilities are endless. Our  creations might not be Pinterest-worthy, but we are creating memories, which (I hope) will last much longer than the pieces of paper we are cutting and gluing.

At the Farm Show

Tractor

Safety first — even if there are no keys in the tractor, make sure you wear your seatbelt.

I’m not really a dieter. But if I were, New Year’s Day is NOT the day to begin if you live in Central Pennsylvania. The Pennsylvania Farm Show is always the first week in January. The Farm Show is similar to an enormous indoor county fair held in the winter. It’s one of the largest events in the area, and an extravaganza of calories.

We didn’t plan to go this year, and we had an unusually busy week scheduled, so I thought we might let it slide. But when T went for lunch one day and brought  home fresh potato doughnuts, the kids realized what they were missing.

The only free night we had was Thursday, and traffic was awful. My usual 25-minute commute took me an hour and twenty minutes. I walked in the door, looking forward to a relaxing night, when I was bombarded:

“Can we go to the Farm Show?”
“Daddy said you get to decide!”

While we don't go to look at the farm equipment, it seemed like the kids managed to sit on tractor in the exhibit hall.

While we don’t go to look at the farm equipment, it seemed like the kids managed to sit on every tractor in the exhibit hall.

“Today’s the last day.”
“I’ve never been there.”

Followed by a list of all of their classmates who had been there earlier in the week or were going.

Not all of their arguments were true. Thursday was not really the final night, but our weekend schedule was already packed. And S has been there, but we’d skipped last year. She was three the last time she went, so unfortunately, I think that memory must be gone.

The show is only four miles from our house, and we wouldn’t hit the traffic I’d just gone through. And after sitting in it for so long, I really wasn’t in the mood to cook, so I was easy to persuade. I changed my coat, and we got back in the car.

Why did I change my coat? Well, as X stated when we entered the door, “It smells good and stinky here at the same time.” Unfortunately, that “stinkiness” clings to your clothes and hair and everything else.

Aside from the occasional trip to a petting zoo, we don’t get to see a lot of farm animals close-up, so this is an opportunity to learn about where our food comes from, and to just ooh and aah over big or how cute the are — baby pigs and chicks were the favorites this year.  Sadly, we missed the ducklings going down the slide, which is one of the most adorable things you’ll  ever see.

But for me, the food is the real reason to go. Years ago in a previous job, I managed an exhibit at the show, and usually made two or three visits during the week. Back then, I got to sample nearly everything. Since we only go one night these days, I limited my feast to my absolute favorites: the fried mushrooms and the world famous milkshake (although I hear that it’s just a mix). We all split an order of fresh cut fries. The kids? They chose pizza. Maybe it had fresher cheese than our standard, but still, I wish they would have been more adventurous when surrounded by good Pennsylvania-raised farm food.

Petting a bunny

Petting a bunny

These are a few of my favorite things — 2013 books

I only used GoodReads intermittently at  the beginning of 2013, but became more dedicated during the summer. I logged 65, and even though I know I missed some, I don’t think I hit my goal of 100 last year — something I mean to fix in 2014! I’m joining in a link-up at Modern Mrs. Darcy to look back at a few of my favorites.

The Searchers: The Making of an American Legend by Glenn Frankel — I am not a huge western fan, but I’ve loved the John Wayne movie “The Searchers” since I was a kid when I learned that it influenced Star Wars and other films of the 70s. This book was a thorough history not only of the movie, but included the backstory of the novel, the true story it was based on and the the complicated history of the wild west. I’d like to find more books that combine pop culture with history like this did.


Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone / The Chamber of Secrets / The Prisoner of Azkaban
by J.K. Rowling — Kind of a cheat, because this was at least my third time through these books, but I read the first three books in the Harry Potter series to my seven-year-old. He looked forward to bedtime when these were in our queue! It had been a few years since I visited Hogwarts, but I found a new beauty in them as read-alouds. Remus Lupin is one of my favorite characters in the series, so I especially enjoyed Azkaban. However, from this point on, the books get darker. We’ve mutually decided to take a break of at least a year before tackling The Goblet of Fire as a read-aloud. It’s going to be a torturous wait, so I just might have to re-read the rest on my own in the meantime.

The Silver Linings Playbook: A Novel by Matthew Quick — This was one of my favorite reads of the year — the old “You’ll laugh, you’ll cry.” I found the flawed characters realistic and lovable, maybe because I’m a Philly sports fan,  extremely relatable.

168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think by Laura Vanderkam– I read a lot of time management/productivity books in 2013, but this was my favorite. The advice was practical and realistic, and has led me to reconsider a lot of the choices I make about how I spend my time. I listened to the audiobook, but might eventually break down and buy the ebook, so I can go back and take notes.

Bel Canto by Ann Patchett — I am not sure how I had never come across this before, but I found references to the book everywhere in 2013, so I picked it up at the library. I just finished after Christmas, and I’m still absorbing the deep character development and beautiful language.

Joyland by Stephen King — I read a LOT of Stephen King when I was in high school, and  his coming of age stories have always been my favorites. This novel had supernatural elements without horror. It was mildly predictable, but suspenseful enough to keep me going.

This post contains affiliate links.

Word for the year: Awake

I’m borrowing an idea from Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project* and coming up with a word I’d like to define my year. For 2014, it will be awake.

The one resolution I’m setting formally for myself is to do a better job of getting up earlier. I’m aiming for 5 a.m. on weekdays. I know that it’s best to get up at the same time every day, but I don’t think I can do quite that early on weekends, so maybe 7 will be my target for Saturday and Sunday. As motivation, I will put a dollar in a bank every day I’m successful, although I haven’t figured out what my reward will be spent on.

But I’m hoping to take the word to a broader level. I want to be more awake to everything going on around me — to live more focused on whatever I’m doing at the moment, rather than sleepwalking through things.
A few goals to keep me on track:

Health and fitness:

  • Run a 10-mile race
  • Run a 5K in less than 27 minutes (slow by my old standards, but definitely doable based on how I did in the Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving)
  • Work out regularly in the early morning, with at least two strength training sessions and one yoga per week

Family:

  • Do something special with each child, individually, at least once a month; maybe a movie or a trip to the library followed by Starbucks to read our books (coffee for me, chocolate milk for the little one).
  • Monthly lunch dates with husband.
  • Plan a special trip for our 10th anniversary.
  • Plan a trip to Disney World or Disneyland. We still didn’t figure out if this will be in 2014 or 2015, but the research and saving starts now.

Financial:

  • Save for the trips above.
  • Make a will. We should have done this years ago, but better late than never.

Writing and reading:

  • Blog at least twice a week.
  • Work on the technical side of improving the blog at least one other day per week.
  • Read at least 100 books this year.
  • Read all of Jane Austen’s books, via the Motherhood & Jane Austen  Facebook group

I have other ideas for goals, but realistically, I have a tendency to dream big and not follow through, but maybe by putting them out there will help keep me on target. But as I start 2014, I’m looking forward to a clean slate and waking up to all that this wonderful year has to offer.

*Affiliate link.