Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Exploring Columbia...Missouri

This morning we decided to ditch our plans to spend the day at the Lake of the Ozarks , (a three hour round trip in the car with the kids just kept sounding worse and worse the more I thought about it)... Instead, we discovered a really cool little playground nearby and made some new friends!
Nate proclaimed that the inside of this tire was his new home...and I was not to bother him for a bit...

And Juliana had a lovely flower necklace made for her by a cool mama we met who was there with her three boys.

The kids:

-climbed the awesome and HUGE old tracker tires

-sat in the shade and passed cold ice cubes to one another

-met a friend's grandmother and immediately started calling her their "grandma"

-built a sand city

I had the chance to:

-sit and watch them play meet new friends

-talk to other (local) mamas

-get the scoop on cool kid friendly places to visit here in Columbia MO

A Day at the Park

We spent Sunday at one of the coolest "parks" I have ever been to. Saint Louis' Forest Park . The park, which was originally built to host the 1904 World's Fair, is situated on an astounding 1,300 acres- that's 500 acres larger than New York City's Central Park!

It's home to Saint Louis' Art Museum, History Museum, the Zoo, a small lake with paddle boats, bandstands, summer concerts and theater, numerous playgrounds, picnic areas, a science center, and endless sporting areas.

It was the perfect place to run WILD!

And to make new friends....

Back in Saint Louis!

We arrived back in Saint Louis this past Saturday to have yet another visit with "traveling Pete" A.K.A. "daddy," or "hubby." The kids did fairly well on the plane ride this time, but things did not go nearly as smooth as they have on previous travels...

I learned:

1. in the future carry an extra pair of underwear and shorts/pants for Nate...

2. muffins (very crumbly muffins) are NOT a good choice for snacks on the plane

3. A Bloody Mary vs. gingerale on the plane might not be such a bad idea next time

4. playing tag with other children at the gate in the airport is a great way to relieve lots of built up energy

5. some hotel beds (like this one pictured) are the perfect end to a l-o-n-g day...

Summer's Best Treats

Last Wednesday after VBS, the kids and I met our friend, (from growing up in York, Maine) Maureen downtown and headed over to our first visit to the State Farmer's Market, in Columbia. Nate introduced himself to everyone and managed to charm people so well that continually received free fruit and vegetables!

Juliana managed to sleep in the stroller for most of our walk through, which was fine with me because of extreme heat!

Afterward, we headed over to The Gourmet Shop for lunch and enjoyed some awesome sandwiches and treats. We had such a great visit with Maureen...I look forward to exploring more outdoor markets with her!
Later that day, we drove to Sumter, to spend the evening with my mom. We visited the only park in the world where there are EIGHT different breeds of swans...it was actually pretty neat!

....Until some of the swans started nipping at Juliana's dress!

Overall, it was a fantastic day. We arrived home late that night feeling that we had well nourished our minds, hearts, and bellies all day!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Re-Focus on Creativity and Learning in our Home

When preschool ended last month it became obvious that there would be an end to the weekly routine to which we had grown happily accustomed. However, while still trying to meet people, make friends and settle into our new community, I grew nervous about the possibility of Nate and Jules having idol time this summer spent sitting or wandering around the house.

With a little inspiration from my super well scheduled and organized friend Gwen, I downloaded some online calendars and began booking up our 80 or so summer days. June has been fantastic. Most weeks we've had something planned nearly every day, but I've also tried to leave breathing room for down time and re-focusing. Here we are at the end of June however, and although we already have some great plans for July scheduled, I am starting to feel that uneasy and nervous sense creeping in- what if I just can't get enough activities planned? I want the kids to have an adventurous, fun, memorable and creative summer, but maybe all of the activities don't need to come from outside of our home. So, with all of this weighing on my mind lately, along with the fact that I am noticing a more evident lack of focus in Nate, I am actively beginning a quest toward providing a more creative and educational home for my children to live and play within.
Having spent a year (a long time ago) working as an assistant teacher in a Montessori preschool, I decided to try and recall many of the methods used in the school to help formulate some self directed activities for Nate and Jules. In other words, my goal is to create a few spaces in our home where the kids can go whenever they'd like and work on learning and or creative activities at their own leisure. The other objective I have here is to begin some serious organization in our home! Since we only moved in a mere eight months ago, we are still in need of that and some serious suiting to the personal needs and character of our family.

Before I lose you with my rambling and loosely constructed train of thought, let me re-state my concerns and hopes here:

1. To work on compiling an assortment of activities, educational, and otherwise creative, that the kids and I can rely upon to keep us busy, and actively focused while we are at home.

2. To better suit our home (and abilities) to that of a more creative and continual learning environment.

I want our home to be a peaceful and relaxing place for our family, but especially in these early years for the kids, I also want it to be a place where they feel comfortable enough to explore their own creativity and are encouraged to participate in daily learning.
I am excited to begin this process and even more so to be able to document it here and share it with all of you! I hope you'll check back often to see updates on our plans and progress. I also welcome and suggestions on how you have integrated creativity and learning in your own home.
Thanks, Kate

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Welcome Summer!

I saw this cool post last week at the Artful Parent about creating a "Doorway to Summer." I decided to put my own spin on the activity and sat the kids down for some brainstorming. To start off, we came up with a list of all of the things that summer means to us, and then moved to a list of all of the things that we hope to do this summer!

Last night after the kids had dinner, they wanted to look at our list again. They saw this one, and the next thing I knew, we were rounding up the doggie shampoo and Nate was running out the door to get the hose!

The dogs look so shiney (and clean) now! Check out that beautiful coat!

And wow, all that running around trying to wash the poor cowering animals really wore us all out! But I have to admit, we all had a lot of fun!

Today's Memories:

-Shedding a few tears myself in the car this morning after handing over a crying Juliana to the director of Vacation Bible School! She is still in the I want my mommy all of the time phase...

Seeing pure Joy on Nate's face while he played with a school friend this afternoon. They stayed together like two peas in a pod...hurray for friends the same age!

-Stopping to listen to the silence all around me this morning in the public library while I worked diligently on my thesis!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Father's Day Done Right

Pete left this morning for (hopefully) his last 3 week tour of duty at the plant in Missouri. We were lucky enough to have him home for two whole weeks, a good length of time that we haven't experienced in quite a while.

We were also thankful that we got to have him home with us for Father's Day! Because of weather, our plans to spend the evening "camping" and having a cook out at a local state park had to be changed. However, with a little altering here and there, we were still able to have our "camp out!" We set up the tent and fire in the very back of our yard and the kids got to work on bringing out their sleeping pads, blankets and pillows.

Dad, kids, mom, and yes, even the dogs who joined in on the fun, had a blast! It was a fantastic way to celebrate Pete and all that he means to us and our family!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Keeping it Real

This week we:

1. Took Nate to Vacation Bible School each afternoon
2. Made visits to multiple parks
3. Had Play dates and Mama talk time
4. Went to A picnic dinner with Maggie
5. Had Nate's 4-year well visit at the doctor's
6. Went to the library
7. (I) pushed new limits in yoga class
8. spent time organizing kid's old clothes
9. Made limeade, instead of lemonade
10. Took Nate for a haircut
11. Set aside 30 minutes to convert an old baby romper to a cute shirt for Jules
12. Allowed for Ten minute dance sessions each day as Jules and I danced to the LIVE music being played in the chapel after dropping off Nate at VBS
13. Had lots of pretend magic shows and cake making sessions
14. Raced motorcycles (A.K.A. bikes) in the driveway
15. Organized the hall closet
16. Made this awesome Raosted Shrimp and Orzo pasta salad
17. Took items to the Goodwill
18. Spent Lots of time reflecting on what it means to be content

I'm getting there...

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Today's Memories:

Having the chance to feel like I was actually "visiting" with a good friend, while our kids played together- not just getting in a few words here and there and refereeing the rest of the time!

Meeting my mom for a picnic dinner at a park in Columbia, only to have it start raining and having to move it to Chick Fil La!

Hanging out with Jules in the kitchen while she gathered supplies for her "magic" show and then pretended to make a cake... it was a fabulous concoction!

Lovely, lovely day...

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

A Walk in the Woods

We arrived to our first trail by way of the US Forest Service Road late Friday evening- a little bit too late to hike the two miles (we (I) had miscalculated) that led us to the actual campsite (clearing in the grass) on the Appalachian Trail...

So, we made do. As the last bits of daylight faded around us, we acted quickly and found an area off the trail that was only slightly sloped...needless to say, I spent most of the night sliding to the bottom of the tent in my sleeping bag...

Despite the awkward night's sleep, we still awoke on Saturday morning feeling excited. We boiled some water for tea, ate some granola and blueberries, loaded up our backs with our belongings and set off for a full day of hiking the Appalachian Trail.

It was Awesome.

We camped again on Saturday night and hiked back out on Sunday, feeling reinvigorated, more connected to one another, appreciative of our time spent there, a bit sore and ready to face the kids and the world waiting for us at home. I only wish we could have brought along our camera...

I did, however, manage to pick up some wild flowers for the Princess at home; a magic forest sword (wooden stick) for the pirate at home; and of course small rocks for my collection in the garden...not too shabby.

Friday, June 12, 2009

A Camping We Will Go!

Not a bad place to spend the weekend, is it?

Pete and I are headed off on our second weekend alone in the four years since having Nate and Jules! We are going backpacking on the Appalachian Trail through parts of the Natahala Forest in NC. I feel like a kid again planning a cool camping trip with my best friend. Miles and miles of trail, and just the two of us. Lots of quiet, sprinkled with conversation and sharing individual thoughts, and a whole weekend of memories...with just the two of us.

I'll see you at the start of next week!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Back In The Cooking Game

Now that Pete is back home again, after being gone for what feels like years, (over-exaggeration) I am having to meal plan and actually spend time cooking hearty family meals again! It's great, really, I love to cook, but at the same time I also feel a bit lost (it's been too long since I've spent more than 15 minutes preparing dinner, and no, I'm not bragging about this).

So, I'll admit, I'm having a hard time getting back into the game. That, along with the fact that my children are still super fussy eaters, presents some challenges for me.

A few months ago I discovered this great foodie blog, 1 Family. Friendly. Food, it's chock full of fantastic solutions to everyday cooking- for, and with your family. And for me, the best part is that after a few visits to the site, like finding this post on weekly menu planning, I am starting to feel back on track!

Go check it out- I promise you won't be disappointed!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Water + Slides + Pool = Awesome 4th Birthday

Happy 4th Birthday Nate!!!!

We spent today (Nate's birthday) at a nearby water park with some friends. Pete was able to take the day off of work and come along with us too. We had a great time playing in kiddie pool, splashing in the splash park, gliding down the lazy river on inner tubes and sliding down the water slides. With the exception of a few red spots on our bodies due to my splotchy sunscreen application (onto two children who could hardly stay still for 10 seconds!) all had an awesome time.

Now we are home, we have that lazy-after-being-in-the-sun-all-day feeling, and we're looking forward to an evening of chicken enchiladas and ice cream sundaes on the deck.

Happy Birthday to my first born baby, I love you!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Early Rising

I woke up early this morning. Pete and I planned it all out last night- we got the kids to bed at a decent hour, relaxed a bit ourselves and then off to bed I went, aiming to get at least 8 hours before a 6 am rise. I planned to go for an early morning run and then work on my thesis.

What I didn't plan on was having trouble falling asleep in the first place and having it take me at least two hours before I was finally able to drift off, or waking at 2 am to the sound of little footsteps in our room, or the same sound and the appearance of the same sweet face (Jules) moments before my alarm was set to ring...

Never the less, I woke, I stretched and I rose. Juliana and I headed downstairs for a fresh cup of coffee, a new sippy cup of cold milk and cereal with blueberries. I didn't get my run in and my thesis still waits upstairs, untouched as of this morning. Maybe tomorrow will be different...All I can do is keep trying, right?!

Today's Memories:

-Snuggling in the rocker with Nate and then playing tag outside with him while Juliana took a nap.

-Nate asking me what I wanted to do today!

-Juliana and her friend Isabella holding hands and dancing around the living room.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Arrghhh...It's A Pirate Birthday Party!

As of Sunday evening our little family was officially back to some sort of normalcy. Pete arrived home Friday afternoon after being away for business for months- literally. We spent the weekend celebrating Nate's 4th birthday along with visiting family and friends. It was a wonderful weekend full of smiles, laughs, sweets, good conversation, great gifts for the birthday boy, sword fights, (pretend!) yoga class (thanks Kara!) and much more.

On Sunday evening after our weekend visitors parted ways and all the party dust had settled, Pete and I made a huge effort to get Nate and Jules into the bath early and to sleep in their beds by 8 pm. We sat at the kitchen table alone (wow! it's been so long!) and enjoyed fresh, homemade pasta and sauce, salad and bread. We talked about our upcoming weekend away, about Nate's party, and about us. It was great to have him home, and feel the comfort of a connection we haven't been able to enjoy in a long time with his being gone so much.

Krista and I worked hard on Friday to plan the details of the pirate themed birthday party (thanks to one of my more unfavorable characteristics of being a slight procrastinator). We decorated the pirate ship cake too- and now after three years of her helping me decorate birthday cakes, she is officially my cake-maker partner in crime. On Saturday afternoon the party began and after guests arrived, we kicked things off by reading the story, Talk Like A Pirate to the kids. After the story, they all had a chance to test their own "pirate talking" skills. Then they played a "Hook the Treasure" game, where they used plastic cups with "hooks" coming out of the end (pipe cleaners in the shape of a hook) to pick up pretzels out of a bowl. They all received gold chocolate coins and toy compasses for playing the games.

And of course, no pirate themed birthday party would be complete without a treasure hunt. We took photos of random objects in the backyard (the hammock, the bird feeder, soccer net, etc...) and printed out the photos to use as clues for the mostly pre-reading kids. The last clue led them to the fort at the top of the swing set, where we had hidden a treasure chest shaped pinata inside of a Rubbermaid container with a sign that said, "Pirate Loot!" They LOVED it!!
They ran around the yard working great as a team and found all of the clues.

We tied the pinata to the swing set and had them each wear two eye patches instead of a blindfold to swing at it!
Cake, ice cream, and gifts followed. Overall, it was a great success!

Friday, June 5, 2009

Dating Again...

Well, after all of these years, I am officially back on the dating scene!

Okay, I'm not really dating, just making new friends and making time to cultivate those relationships...without the kids tugging at my skirt or asking me a question while I'm in mid sentence.

Last night, my friend Gwen, from More Lima Beans! came over after hours (AKA: the kids were in bed) for some tapas (yummy olives, garlic spread, sourdough bread, dark chocolate and cheese and crackers) and good conversation. We sat on our screened in porch, lit candles and listened to the rain storm outside while sipping on cranberry vodka drinks. It was so much fun! We talked about creativity, spirituality, faith and religion, relationships, friendship, our kids, philanthropy, and much more. Four hours later, we couldn't believe how late it had gotten and I couldn't believe how easy it was to just keep sitting there talking.

It made me realize just how long it had been since I had actively made an effort to cultivate a friendship like this outside of play dates with other moms.

How great to be back on the (mama friends) dating scene!