Man. I will tell you for free that back around the beginning of June the prospect of summer – with four kids at home – pretty much scared the ever loving crap out of me.
Let’s be clear here. As a season I am down with summer. Particularly after that long winter. But…….I don’t know if you’ve noticed but there are a LOT of kids in here. Not as many as some families, true. But…yes. I am soundly outnumbered.
I was nervous about it – very nervous actually, because I really didn’t want to just survive the summer….I wanted it to be really fun for everyone. I’m still feeling a little guilty about last summer – it was such a gong show of moving and babies, and NICU and just…stuff that meant there was very little focus on the big kids. Understandable but you know. I really wanted this summer to be different for all of us.
The day before school started Anika prayed for us before we had dinner….and one of the things she said was “Thank you Lord for one of the best summers EVER.”
Mission accomplished. GO TEAM!
There was dance camp (Of course there was dance camp).
There were swimming lessons for Sam.
(He started out refusing to get in the pool with the fun lady who wanted to teach him to swim…and by the end of five days was jumping off the diving board unassisted, picking up diving sticks off the bottom of the pool. Amazing.)
There were visits to Gran & Papa’s….along with PLENTY of swimming in their pool!
There were MORE swimming lessons for both kids, and there are emphatically no pictures of that because a) the lessons were at 8am, b) I had all four kids with me, and c)…actually, I don’t need a C. Just picture it. Me, two babies (WHO CAN NOW MOVE AROUND WITH THE BEST OF THEM BY THE WAY), trying to feed everyone breakfast while one kid swam and keeping the babies from crawling into the pool.
I ended up buying one of these playpens….something that totally would have fallen on my high maintenance, “nice to have” list with one baby but with two? Forget it. Best investment of the summer, hands down. I used that thing three times a day easy. It only weighs about 12lbs so I could actually carry it on my shoulder while carrying both babies…pretty awesome.
Anyway – yes. Swimming lessons. We went, we had fun, we survived. We took up a lot of room on the pool deck but NO ONE DROWNED so we will call it a win.
There was also camping! But only for Brandon and the big kids. I am secure enough in my parenting and camping ability to know that while I CAN camp with babies, I don’t actually want to. It’s not that much fun for anyone.
But the big kids had fun so that was great.
We did playdates with friends…..
….and we went to the bike park a lot.
The babies learned to hang in their playpen at the bike park while the older two rode around – it was pretty awesome actually. I am very lucky that they are so easy going in that respect.
We had a really fun weekend in Syracuse – stayed in a great hotel and did some back to school shopping.
The mall was really cool because in addition to having stores (duh), there were a lot of fun things to do. Brandon and Anika spent a happy hour or so on a ropes course up at the top of the mall. It’s fair to say that Anika *probably* has more grace and style but they both had a blast.
Sam and the babies and I had less of a blast waiting for them….but we got to hang out in the Crocs store where NOTHING CAN BE BROKEN so you know.
We also spent a lovely week at a cottage. Friends of my parents’ own that cottage and live in the one next door, so my mom and dad came with us and stayed with their friends. It was INCREDIBLY generous of them to have us up, and it was great fun, and a great help to have my parents there (right up until the point where my mom broke her foot playing catch with Anika – amazing. Also, whoops.)
Yes, yes that is Anika on a horse. Funny story. One evening this guy came out of the trees on a horse. He was super friendly and chatty and let Anika ride the horse which was really cool. Of course the nice man also scared the LIVING DAYLIGHTS out of me for two reasons. First, he had a bug mask on despite the fact that it wasn’t all that buggy….and he didn’t take it off the whole time we were talking so no one could really see his face very well. Second, he had a 20″ machete hanging down his leg. Now, I guess maybe he needed it? For something? I don’t know? He really was perfectly pleasant and easy to talk to, but doesn’t it sound a liiiiittle bit like the beginning of a horror movie?? I’m sure he was just fine. But also AEEIII BIG KNIFE BIG KNIFE.
We capped off the summer with a week visiting Brandon’s dad which is always a fun adventure! We did some fun stuff – including a trip to Storybook Gardens with a great bouncy….pod thing.
It even had an end that the babies could go on with Brandon and my sister in law, so that was awesome too.
Anika got better at climbing than she was last time…
….Lucy, on the other hand, has a ways to go.
(No, neither of the babies is actually walking yet – she just likes to try to crawl with her feet.)
I think overall it was a really great summer.
You know what there was not this summer? Much at ALL in the way of sewing or knitting or anything fun like that. You know why? Because I chose – very deliberately – to use the two months to just invest in my kids as much as I could. Be with them; play with them; focus on what excites them and challenges them. Was it completely successful? No. Of course not. Investing heavily in one area of life almost always results in compromises in other areas. My house is not as tidy and organized as I want it to be – not by a long shot. I can cook, and I like to cook, but I didn’t cook all that much this summer, preferring to land on standbys and easy things in order to get us outside and doing stuff more. Brandon and I didn’t get any dates I don’t think. And I definitely didn’t get to focus on things that challenge and motivate me much – whether it’s sewing or running or reading.
But I think it was worth it anyway. It was only 8 weeks after all. And now it’s September and summer vacation is over.
Anika started school on Tuesday. She’s in Grade 3 and has an AWESOME teacher. I….actually I know nothing about her really but she’s super friendly and has a wicked sense of humour which automatically makes her my people. I think Anika is happy with the situation too.
She was SO excited to go this year….it was really neat to see, and it was really great to see her fit so nicely in with a great group of friends. One of her closest friends from last year isn’t in her class (waaah) but neither of them seems too fazed by it (“we’ll see each other at recess MOM.”) and another close friend is in her class. So that’s great. She’s happy so good enough for me!!
And Sammo….oh Sam. That boy just about kills me. He can be SUCH a punk about trying new things. He fights hard against doing even the MOST fun things if they are an unknown. It’s so brutal. I was geared up for such a battle about starting JK. We had his interview on Tuesday where he met his teacher, saw his class, and received his special school bus construction paper hat (which is used to identify the JK kids on the playground so he can get taken to his class okay). I thought there was no way he’d wear the hat. I was wrong.
He has to wear his epipen on a belt at school, and I thought that there was no way he’d do that either – I was ready for a fight. I was wrong about that too.
“Mrs. Button is allergic to fish and shrimp,” he tells me. “She has to wear an epipen too.”
I thought when I dropped him off on his first day (Wednesday) he would have a meltdown and I’d have to just walk out, leaving him throwing the tantrum. (I’ve done that a lot and I’m good with it – I know that he’s fine approximately thirty seconds after I leave. But even so it’s not a fun way to leave.)
I was TOTALLY wrong about that too.
He walked into his class, to his cubby, and put his backpack down. I made eye contact with the ECE and indicated that I was going to slip out while the slipping was good. I took two steps down the hall and thought to myself “This is no good. I need to take a phone picture or something.” I snuck back to the door and when I started to try to take a picture he turned around and ran over to me. “OH crap,” I thought. “Now I’ve done it. Cue meltdown.”
But he just gave me a big goofy smile, grabbed my hand and kissed it, and then turned around and ran back into the classroom.
And then my heart shattered into a million pieces, the end.
(Actually not the end. I went to find him at the end of the day – full day JK here – and when I finally tracked him down outside he looked at me very seriously with his big brown eyes and said “Mom. I do NOT take the bus.” True story son. True story.)
On Friday the babies turned 1.
Yep. A whole year. A whole year that we survived.
I kind of can’t believe it’s been an entire year already. Also, it’s been the longest year of our lives.
I learned how to nurse two babies at the same time, to build supply for two….even in the woods.
I was brave enough to stop nursing one of them when it became clear that it was hurting her more than helping her. Now I tell people who are nosy enough to ask that I’m doing an experiment – bottle feeding one, and nursing the other. It amuses me.
I learned that for however much I might have stressed about sleep when the older two were small, really babies can adapt to anything – even a sibling throwing a crib party six inches from their head.
I learned about what it feels like to bring babies home from the NICU.
I learned about how much love and maturity my older two are capable of.
I learned that weekly coffee dates with friends is REALLY necessary to survival….and that friends who will tolerate your refluxy babies spitting up on them with grace and humour are about the best thing ever.
I learned (kind of?) how to balance the needs of big kids and babies….though I have to relearn that one a LOT.
I learned where just about every clinic office is at the Children’s hospital, and I learned EXACTLY how good they are there.
I discovered a whole new layer of love for my husband.
It’s been a year. There will be so many details I forget…which baby it was in the NICU that would. not. take. a bottle; which baby loved baths; which baby hated them. But I will never forget what it’s felt like to watch my family stretch and grow and rise, sometimes clumsily, to the challenge of raising these two babies.
Happy birthday girls. We love you SO much.
When I started making this, I kind of thought it was akin to something like making bagels. You know, one of those things that CAN be done at home, with home equipment, but really…why? You can BUY them so easily. They are everywhere and probably far more work than is necessary, you know?
I was encouraged by my friend Cindy over at Siestas and Sewing….but I still didn’t do anything about it. Then I picked up this pattern from Amy at Peekaboo Pattern Shop, and thought well heck. Why not. Frankly I need the mental exercise more than she specifically NEEDS clothes anyway.
I learned a lot making this. I learned that I really should probably try to find a better repair shop for my serger – I guess my serger just isn’t a very good one, because I’ve had it in to be tuned up and fixed about three times and it STILL isn’t working. (Usually it will work for a project or so when I get it home and then goes totally off the rails again. Wheee.)
In the absence of my serger I used my regular sewing machine, which was fine…but meh. I like more polished seams. I feel like the inside of the bathing suit could look better…but I also know I am the only one that will bug.
And I really love the result. The top is perfect, and (as you can tell from these pictures) it does not budge on her no matter how she moves and plays in the water.
The bottoms I’d like to redraft a little. They are originally designed to be quite high waisted, and I knew that Anika was *not* going to go for that. I ended up chopping about four inches off the top before I sewed the waistband.
I feel like the front of the bottoms is a little wide – the elastic rolls and they bunch a little, and I think I could improve on the fit a bit for my particular brand of kid. But the butt on this pattern is AWESOME. Like the top, it doesn’t move. NO wedgies, no matter how many times she was in and out of the pool.
I think….dare I say it? I think I might actually try this again sometime. It was quick and far easier than I expected. And the result is really satisfying.
So there are your words of wisdom for today. Step outside the box a bit. Live on the edge. Try something new. Make a bagel.
May we talk about the boy-child for a minute? Because he is four. FOUR. FOUR YEARS OLD. He is not little anymore. He tells me this all the time. He is four.
I could probably go on forever about the wonderful frustrating world of Sam – he’s delightful; truly he is. He’s fun and compassionate and silly and all of the things that make this age fantastic. Also? He’s a royal pain in the butt who digs his heels in and throws tantrums about things periodically. He’s rigid as anything about transitions – HAAATES Not Knowing what is going on. Even when it is good stuff – surprises are not a good thing for this guy, at least not right now.
But he gets over it and he moves on and he is just so. much. fun.
So several months ago Sam decided he wanted to have an In Summer birthday party from the movie Frozen – featuring Olaf and Sven heavily, but also “all the guys.” Right-o.
I actually thought this was a really fun idea for a June birthday. We came up with this as an invitation:
And then got to work on the ideas. First we needed a “Olaf 4 shirt”. Do you know how hard it is to find a PLAIN muscle tee out there for kids? Man, EVERYTHING has stuff on it. (To be fair I suppose I wanted stuff on his shirt too – I just wanted the stuff I was going to put there!)
With the babies it is FAR more work to try to go to 46 different stores to find what I’m looking for….so pretty much after I exhausted the usual suspects I decided to make my own.
I picked up the pattern for the Maui Muscle Tee from Peekaboo Pattern Shop and was able to go from no shirt to finished shirt in less than an hour. Seriously, easiest pattern ever. I was even texting my sister during most of the time I was making it. Dead simple.
A little messing around with Picmonkey, a free Olaf graphic, some iron on transfers and fabric paint, and voila – a 4 Olaf shirt.
And because I’m me and can’t leave well enough alone, here’s the back:
Next up – find some things for all these crazy kids to do. (Sam was adamant that he wanted “all the kids he knows in the whole world” to come to his party. And their families. We cut him off at 12 but yeesh. I may be in trouble when this kid is in full-time school and meeting even more people.)
We figured we would basically turn them loose in the backyard and let them run and dig in the sandpit and play on the play structure.
My friend Lisa drew and AWESOME picture of Sven, which we hung on the fence:
and my brother’s girlfriend drew a wonderful Olaf for “Pin the nose on Olaf.”
We buried about two dozen little frogs and lizards in the sandpit for them to find.
I also got playmobil minifigures and froze them in Ikea bowls of water – we gave each kid a block of ice and told them to figure out how to get the guy out.
It was fun watching them work on it. They tried things like putting them in the wading pool to start them melting…
and then used rocks to chip at them some more until they were free.
PRO TIP – if you are going to do this (really fun activity that totally kills a solid 20 minutes), first make sure you assemble the minifigures. Most of them come with accessories, which I didn’t include in the freezing (I was worried about them getting lost) – I just put the accessories into the kids’ party bags so they would have them afterwards. Also, these little suckers float – so start by half filling the bowl with water and let that freeze. When it’s frozen, pour water over the top and let it finish freezing. I added some blue food colouring to the water to make it look a little more “frozen-y” – but you don’t have to!
We were planning a snowball fight, but since we did NOT luck out with the weather (it was overcast and pretty cool), we ended up not hauling out the water balloon “snowballs”. Of course we DID fill them ahead of time, and they are currently residing in my laundry room sink.
I’m looking forward to a date in the not too distant future where I nail the kids from the upper deck while they play in the backyard. Ahem.
So lets talk about the cake. Birthday is ALL ABOUT THE CAKE for Sammo. I don’t know if it’s because most of the time when he is at OTHER kids’ birthday parties he isn’t allowed to have the cake because of his allergies? I am not sure. But regardless, cake to share with his friends is completely where it’s at for him.
He had a vision for this cake. He wanted it to feature Sven and Olaf, but also Kristoff and Anna and Elsa could be there too. He wanted the lake. And snow. And for it to be “two circles.” I made the mistake of showing the boy pinterest. You see where this is going right??
Now can I tell you something? I do not like baking very much. It’s messy. I am always sticky at the end of it. There is always a huge mess to clean up. It’s just…I’d rather do fabric, is the thing.
But the boy wanted a cake. I cobbled this together from about five different websites and ideas. I made a big sheet of blue hard candy to use as the “lake” but then decided that I had this great big piece that would look super cool stuck to the back….so I went with it.
I used a buttercream icing (blue) to ice the cake, and then – because I don’t really like fondant and it’s a hassle to make – I learned about marshmallow fondant which is AWESOME and EASY and also? Tastes like marshmallows. So that worked really well for the snow. I was able to put sections of blue candy on top of the cake for the ice lake and then cut a hole in the fondant before laying it on top so it looked like snow around the lake. It worked pretty well I think!
And Sam….well. Sam really LIKED the cake, but he thought I did it wrong. Apparently the “two circles” were not supposed to be the same size. Yup. Oh well.
The best part of the day was that Sam had a blast. He was with his friends; he was running around; he was HAPPY. SO happy. And it was a really fun and joyful thing to be able to focus on him a bit.
Happy birthday not-so-little guy. Love you to bits.
Buffles – a word my brother-in-law invented to describe butt ruffles on baby clothes. Obviously.
I’m knee-deep in 4th birthday party planning, Olaf style, over here but wanted to share some pictures from a couple of rompers I made for the twins a couple of weeks ago.
Amy of Peekaboo Pattern Shop fame put out a call for photography – she wanted some of the pictures of her older patterns updated. I decided I needed a challenge/kick in the butt so I signed up to do the romper.
This is a totally fun pattern and a really quick and easy sew. I love them on the girls. I think I didn’t get the sizing exactly right – based on their chest measurement the girls still fit into a newborn size, but they needed additional length. I added the length and it was fine but I actually think I should have just made the size up. The chest piece is pretty tiny, and while it might have been a bit big on them I don’t think it would have been that noticeable given that the back of the romper is open.
I’ll definitely make these again – I’m a big fan of quick and easy outfits for them, and these work for sure.
Amy’s patterns are great – quick and straightforward, even if you are a complete beginner sewer. One of my favourite things about her is that she’s fearless – she’s not afraid to tackle any kind of pattern it seems. (She has patterns for everything from party dresses to underwear to bathing suits listed in her shop. It’s pretty impressive). Definitely recommend checking them out!
Plus. Dude. Buffles.
Can you believe Miss Anika has been doing the dance recital thing for five years now??? Because I can’t.
How is that even possible? I’m sure she’s only 2.
Okay maybe not.
I don’t actually have the right words to talk about how amazing dance was for her this year. I saw her grow in all of the ways I hoped she would. I saw her figure out that if she worked hard – practiced hard at home, not just in classes – that she could get better. Lots better.
I saw her figure out that she needed to focus on what the teacher was saying in class…..and that she’d be able to do things she didn’t think she would be able to do at first.
I saw her learn to encourage her friends, and kids she didn’t know as well. I saw her bringing prayer requests to us about her dance friends, or her dance teachers when we would pray with her at night. I just really saw her grow up this year.
There were challenges for sure. Some of the girls in her jazz class are doing some competitive stuff now, and that’s great for them. Anika isn’t one of them yet, and while both of us are JUST FINE with that, I know she wants to be thought of as “good”, and she worried that somehow not being in that group marked her as “not as good”. She worked through some things and eventually came to understand that being chosen to do competitive at 7 isn’t actually the only measure of whether or not you are “good”….and that there is a lot to learn still, and that’s okay.
She struggled a little with the “uniform” this year. There are specific body suits and tights the girls are meant to wear, but as the girls get older they tend to start wearing their own dance clothes, and less of the “uniform”. I just couldn’t get my head around some of the outfits – booty shorts and sports bras are FINE in the studio for the older girls….but I had trouble with the idea of letting her wear that kind of thing now. (I know! I am uptight. Sorrynotsorry.)
We made some compromises (you can wear your dance studio shorts OVER the body suit, etc. and I will give you some more latitude with dance camp….but not for classes). With the help of an older student who helped in her jazz class Anika decided to embrace the uniform as part of the discipline…and it was great.
Tap was especially interesting. She did a combo class a few years ago, and she’s done some tap at dance camp….but this was the first year she’s really taken it. She really didn’t like it for the first couple of months – she was bored; the things they were doing she’d already done; she just wasn’t enjoying it. But then I started noticing some changes….she’d come and tell me things like she wasn’t sure if her shuffles were making “the right noise”, and could we work on them? She started zeroing in on the technique bits and suddenly it was really fun. By the time the show rolled around it was one of her favourite classes – and she loved the number they did in the show.
The show itself was the usual blur of exhausting glittery chaotic fun. This school REALLY knows how to put on a good show, and I love that even the youngest dancers are included in that. The teachers, volunteers, and behind the scenes folks are excellent….and it’s so telling to me that the older kids are so kind and helpful too. They go out of their way to be helpful, to hold doors, to smile at the younger kids; to compliment them on their costumes. Anyone Anika has ever had as a teacher for dance camp has made sure to say hi to her – sometimes crossing a room to come and say hello. I LOVE that.
After Friday night’s show I asked her how she thought she did. She said that she thought ballet didn’t go very well because one of the dancers got confused and it messed things up a little bit – but she said that sometimes it’s confusing to go on the big stage so it was okay. She said that she thought jazz was medium. I thought jazz looked great so I asked her why medium….she said “I think I need more expression. In my face but also in my body. Sometimes when we do strong arms it can be a little too much like a robot.” Aaaand that right there was officially more thought than I have probably ever put into dance anything. OKAY THEN. Glad you are the dancer kid.
For me, watching her dance onstage this year, it was so different. She had so much more presence. She smiled. She connected with the audience. It is SO neat to see that evolving.
It’s so much work. In a family where there are four kids, two of whom are babies that are kind of needy, dance sometimes feels like a “thing” that is over the top. But you know what? It’s SO easy to see that it’s worth it. Not because she’s some kind of child prodigy dancer girl. But because it’s shaping her into a person I really really like. It’s teaching her things that are crossing the boundaries of dance and into other activities and school. It’s teaching her confidence. It’s teaching her discipline. It’s teaching her about friendship. It’s SO worth it.
Okay sidenote. Did anyone ever watch that badly dubbed Most! Extreme! Elimination! Challenge! that was on around 2003 or so? That’s totally the voice running in my head when I typed the title. (Why yes, I am hearing voices now. Sleep deprivation. Gotta love it.)
This is a note I just sent to my beloved at work: