Year of Fun in Review

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About eleven months ago, I went out on a limb and chose “fun” as my word of the year for 2017. My networking group and others were very into the trend of choosing one word to guide the year, and I hopped on board, unsure of what it would bring. Could I stick to this word all year? Did it matter at all?

“Fun” seemed like a strange choice at the time, given that many people around me were choosing adjectives that most applied to working hard, being dutiful to health, etc. At the time, I questioned my choice, but I knew deep down I needed a year of fun. I had been a mother to young children for six-plus years already and had built a successful freelance business during that time. We had moved into an old house that required (unofficially designated) years of “save,” “clean,” “repair,” and “replace.”

The year of fun became almost like the year of saying “yes.” Less fretting over the budget and saving (a natural tendency) and more focus on planning fun trips, purchasing show tickets, hosting parties, and more. We did less to the house this year (though a few things insisted we pay attention to them, much to my dismay). We spent more time together as a family in hotel rooms, rental cars, and restaurants.

My year of fun included:

  • An ambitious Pacific Northwest trip with my family that included Seattle, Portland, and my West Coast family.
  • A trip to New York City to celebrate Steve’s birthday in February, including tickets to the School of Rock Broadway show.
  • A brief winter getaway with girlfriends to Walt Disney World.
  • A visit to New York City with my daughter and her friend on an impromptu Girl Scout trip.
  • A camping trip with friends in Maryland.
  • A trip to Ithaca, New York, with my family for my October birthday.
  • An upcoming trip to New York City to see a holiday show.
  • A family trip to Disney World in 2018 that I planned as part of the year of fun.
  • Tickets to lots of local performances all year long.
  • Membership to a local pool.
  • Lots of activities outside the usual budget for my kids–saying yes to pretty much any idea they proposed.

Obviously, one can’t have a year devoted to fun every year–it would be impossible to fund these types of years annually. But the experience of letting go of my hesitation to spend and conserve really was life changing for me. I am especially grateful that I did this during a year when my kids are young but mature enough to enjoy the ride along with me. Hoping the year of fun can continue on a smaller level in future years.

So now I am left to choose a word for 2018. I have to admit that nothing can top the year of fun, but I hope I can come up with something equally meaningful and apt for next year. I highly recommend you try this simple way of making resolutions.

 

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October Air

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Today is a beautiful fall day here. The sun is shining and the afternoon feels warm, but the mornings and evenings are crisp. We’ve all been lingering in bed in the morning with these cooler temperatures. It may also be due to our fall schedule, which is pretty darn tiring.

I can’t complain about the pace of life these days though. Everyone is really happy, thriving, and putting time and energy into what gives them joy, or at least purpose!

The first grader loves the full day of school and is applying herself at many after-school activities, including soccer, ballet, and Girl Scouts. She loves to be busy and among the people, so being on the go is truly what brings her joy.

The kindergartner has adjusted to his new school routine finally and is making new friends. He amazes me with his abilities at soccer, and he is excited to be learning to play the piano.

I am trying to keep up with these kids and continue to dig myself out of a big editing pile (I project that I’ll be done with it this Friday!). I hope that October brings a little more balance in my schedule, as long work days make me a little crazy. I am like my daughter — one who likes to be with the people — so balancing my solitary editing and writing work (which also recharges me) with some volunteering, exercising, and socializing will boost my happiness for sure.

We are excited to celebrate fall in many ways this season. We’re headed to a “pumpkin days” celebration next weekend and will travel to the Finger Lakes for my 35th birthday. We’ve also signed up for a Trunk or Treat at the school and have several other Halloween events planned. Yay for October and all its festivity!

I would be remiss if I neglected to mention that my heart aches for several tragedies and natural disasters in the news as of late. I am also disheartened by the low levels of rhetoric we are stooping to in our country. Raising children in this world is not easy, folks. I hope that the efforts we are putting into their lives as parents are going to give them the confidence to lead this world into a much better place.

Back to School and Everything Else

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It’s amazing to me how the last days of summer seem so long as we await the beginning of the school year. Last weekend we were literally counting hours of days. The weather wasn’t great and the kids were tired. We’d done everything on our summer to-do list and we were ready for a change.

And then Tuesday, the first day of school, happened. And we haven’t stopped moving since! My oldest started her first year as a full-day student and my son started half-day kindergarten as well as an enrichment program in the afternoon. Piano started up again, as did soccer. And more is slated for next week!

I absolutely adore this time of year, and we’re off to a cool start weather wise that is helping with earlier bedtimes and a change of schedule. So happy the kids are enjoying this first week — it helps that there hasn’t been homework!

What a Summer!

Today is the last day of kid summer. Tomorrow, the bus rolls up our street every weekday through June. And this year, both kids are hopping on that bus. There is a mix of excitement, anticipation, and nervousness in our house today, but we most forge ahead.

This summer was pretty amazing when I think about the scope of what we did. There was a killer West Coast vacation, a camping trip, a few beach trips, a girls’ visit to New York City, and lots of visits to local museums and theater performances. The kids did several weeks of camp, swam at our pool, and got plenty of bike riding in. We even painted their rooms!

We closed out summer with several fun activities, including watching the solar eclipse at our local park with friends, going to the Reading Public Museum to see the Ninja Turtles exhibit, and wandering through the attractions of our own city — Philadelphia. I finally got the kids to the Liberty Bell! Summer bucket list completed!

As the mama bear to these cubs, I have mixed feelings sending them off tomorrow. I am thrilled to establish a new routine in the house, but I’ll miss the excitement that summer brings. I should keep in mind that we’re already planning Halloween costumes and holiday happenings, so there is plenty going on this fall.

Gearing Up

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Though there are still nearly three weeks left until school begins around these parts, the end of summer is feeling closer and closer. I have been tackling lots of projects that have remained on my to-do list all summer long. In just the last week, I’ve sewn on Daisy patches; sorted, organized, and recycled old artwork and schoolwork; and started adding fall dates to the calendar.

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Oh, and we’ve done our school shopping, of course. I am a planner, so prepping early for school keeps me feeling a little more relaxed for the last stretch of summer. I am excited to welcome my parents at the end of August, so I don’t want this stuff hanging over my head. We tackled both the kindergarten and first grade lists at Target this year. I do wonder if the shopping created a little anxiety about the beginning of school or if that was bound to happen in August no matter what. I’ve noticed the kids seem a little more on edge as camp weeks wind down and we start preparing for September.

Of course we have many fun things to do before we close down summer 2017. We’re headed to a few more museums, plan to enjoy the outdoors as much as possible, and can’t wait to see the partial eclipse from here on Monday. Schedules can wait for just a few more weeks.

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And my kids know there are a few more summer treats to come too!

 

 

 

Mid-Summer Review

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Well, folks, it’s July 20. I’ll mark that as mid summer, despite us having a little more time on the downhill end left (if I measure summer based on the elementary school vs. preschool schedule). We are having a great summer — probably the best I’ve ever had with kids.

This summer is brought to you by no strollers (yay!), an awesome pool membership, a great vacation that really felt like a getaway, and afternoon camps. Regarding the latter, we’re lounging in the mornings and getting errands done. When the clock moves past noon, in comes fun structured camp time for the kids and work time for mama. It’s really a great flow. (Of course this will change next week when gymnastics camp runs in the morning.)

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Our Pacific Northwest vacation was even more than I expected it would be. We had amazing days in Seattle, Olympia, Corvallis/Albany, the Oregon Coast, and Portland. My kids rocked the more heavy travel days and soaked in the nature and culture of each location. Highlights of the trip included:

  • Taking the kids to Pike Place Market and the Freemont Troll in Seattle
  • Walking around the Evergreen campus with my brother, who graduated about a decade ago
  • Meeting up with my entire immediate family in Oregon — two brothers and their significant others and my parents
  • Seeing my other brother’s new house in Albany, Oregon
  • Taking Steve and the kids to the Oregon Coast for the first time
  • Having a siblings’ afternoon at beer and cider tasting rooms while my parents watched their grandkids
  • Seeing my aunt and uncle in Portland
  • Going to Powell’s Books, the Oregon Zoo, and Historic Mississippi in Portland

My baby also turned five in July, celebrated with much fanfare. I’ve learned that their are upsides and downsides of a summer birthday. One downside is that you may be traveling or unable to celebrate the day of your birthday. The upsides seem to outweigh that though! Carson had multiple cakes, lots of presents, and many special events just for him. Plus he’s received an infusion of gifts almost halfway to the holidays. A great time to restock!

So that’s it for now. I hope you are having a great summer. We’re off to the pool later today — it’s going to be 95 here, which is pretty damn hot when you factor in the humidity as well!

 

Our Summer Plans

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Loved this ballerina in Rockefeller Plaza in New York City.

Last Thursday marked the official start of summer in our house. School’s out, and we’re ready to have some fun. This weekend brought many special activities, including a mother-daughter trip to New York City, a visit to the mirror maze at the Franklin Institute, a special Father’s Day lunch for Steve, swimming at the pool, and an outdoor concert. Phew! I am tired just listing those activities.

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The mirror maze at the Franklin Institute.

Of course we’re at the stage where any trip to NYC involves a visit to the American Girl store. Both Nora and I love it. She ended up getting her doll’s ears pierced, which was quite a thrill.

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Besides this whirlwind weekend, we have many plans this summer, including:

  • A big West Coast swing to visit family and see some great Pacific Northwest cities and towns
  • Some trips to the beach
  • Staycation visits to special museums in Philly
  • Theater performances
  • Fourth of July festivities in our neighborhood
  • Pool time
  • Free time
  • Reading lots of books (including the first Harry Potter)
  • Lots of time with friends!

I am very hopeful for a fun, relaxing, and engaging summer. I love spending time with my bigger kids. Now that they are home for summer, I have buddies to hang out with 24/7 — quite a change from the feeling a few years ago!

June Camping Trip

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We kicked off summer in early June with an annual family camping trip. Equipped with a new big tent, we camped out in Elk Neck State Park in Maryland, right on the Chesapeake Bay.

The weekend was lovely–full of good times at the campsite, a hike to the lighthouse, and some leisure time on the bay. The kids love camping and see our annual trip as a “must do” every summer. Steve and I are still working on the most comfortable sleeping arrangements, but the eight-person tent certainly made a difference this year!

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A highlight of the trip was seeing bald eagles perched in trees nearby the bay’s beach. I also realized that I have seen several Atlantic Coast lighthouses at this point, so it’s a good time to start making touring these a “thing.” If I am by a lighthouse it means I am near water and a good view–two aspects of a great getaway for me!

This was a wonderful way to begin our summer travels. Nora and I have a special mother-daughter excursion coming up, and I am starting to anticipate packing for our big Pacific Northwest tour soon.

Last Preschool Graduate

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Once upon a time, I had two kids under two. It was a crazy time, full of diaper changes and poor sleep. It was also a blissful time, with two growing babies who needed my hubby and me for everything.

Fast forward almost five years and these kids are in back-to-back years of school and preschool is now for the memory books. Carson graduated from preschool last Friday, and for the next week or so we have two kindergarteners in the house (until elementary school lets out next Thursday). His preschool does an adorable graduation with songs and even some Pomp and Circumstance. It’s hard to believe this guy will be turning five in July!

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I thought I would be pretty emotional with the approach of this big milestone, but, alas, this loving-life kid is marching into kindergarten with no worries and that’s rubbing off on me. He’s ready to be at school with big sis, ride the bus, and learn all that elementary school has to offer. Countdown to the class of 2030!

May Days

IMG_2143We are thisclose to finishing a May whirlwind. Seriously, it’s been nonstop action at home. Steve took his first overseas trip, the Fun Fair parked itself right by our house again for two weeks, and we’ve been managing a baseball/t-ball/running club juggernaut.

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I really love the ages of the kids right now. They are very eager to do new things and can occupy themselves at home for much longer stretches. Plus, my oldest has more “drop off” playdates now, which are great ways to keep her busy with her remaining stretch of half-day school. Both kids have enjoyed baseball and running, so they are physically active, which thrills me. (The younger one is even riding his two-wheeler now–what a game changer for walks and rides around the neighborhood!)

Preschool graduation is less than two weeks away. After that, I’ll be a mom of two elementary schoolers. It was challenging this year to adjust to the bigger pond, but boy do I love the elementary school now. I am excited for my youngest and oldest to be reunited. They do amazing things when they are a team.

To celebrate the upcoming rite of passage, both kids are picking paint colors for their walls for some Memorial Day weekend painting. We’re updating toy storage (that ties into a major purge/organization phase I’ve been in for the last month) and hanging new decals. Gold dots for the soon-to-be first grader. Mario and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles for the preschool grad.

And as life spins, my life does too. I am volunteering for some great causes right now, including fundraising for our local playground. Nothing gets me more excited than an meaningful community project.

So here’s to two more weeks of life as we’ve known it this year. Can’t wait for summer vacation and the adventures it will bring.