Family Values 5K (again!)

Running is by no means a “free” activity. I mistakenly thought that it was – I mean, you throw on some sneaks, head out the front door, run, get home, shower. But then you find out (via shin splints) that those sneaks you already had on hand are most definitely not intended for running. So you buy new running shoes. Then you realize that the clothes you have are awful: sweat soaking, chafing, and just uncomfortable… and that sports bra is giving absolutely no support. Now you’re buying a new sweat-wicking running wardrobe. Then there are activity trackers, water bottles, headbands, special socks, anti-chafing sticks, and a hundred other doodads that make the “free” sport more enjoyable.

Eventually, if you’re like most runners, you’ll find yourself signing up for a race. These cost money too – I’ve paid anywhere from $15 – $125 – and can come with all sorts of goodies and cool medals and free post-race mimosas. These events can be a ton of fun, and I have yet to participate in one I haven’t enjoyed. The energy at these events can be infectious, but none of them can compete with the emotion that comes with participating in a race that benefits others in a charitable way. And one of my favorites is the Sheridan House Family Values 5K.

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I’ve run this race for the past two years, (see my posts here and here), with the one I ran last weekend being my 3rd time participating. It’s a simple run, just three laps that take you through the front and the side of the Sheridan House property, then out along the road, then back into the property again. There’s only one water station, which you pass three times as you loop. As the name of the event implies, it’s very family-focused, and without a doubt you’re going to find kids on bikes, kids on scooters, and even kids running the course alongside their parents. There are timing chips on the backs of the bibs (which are turned in after crossing the finish line), and medals for the kids when they finish. As a side note, I’m a little worried… the past two years I’ve received a medal, and I’m not sure if it’s because I look like I’m 12 years old or if I mistakenly took one that was meant for a real kid! 😮

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It’s a really basic run. No gimmicks, no holiday-themed color scheme. But it’s got heart – more heart than any other run I’ve participated in. ❤

Sheridan House Family Ministries serves the local community by meeting the needs of children and families. As stated on their website, they work to train parents on how to lead their families in a godly way; to do marriage according to God’s plan and to raise up children to take responsibility for themselves and to be tomorrow’s leaders  – not followers. They offer counseling services, parenting workshops, a ministry for single mothers, marriage and a residential program for kids in middle school who are demonstrating behavioral issues. It’s a truly amazing organization.

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The best part – my favorite part – about this 5K run (and their mud run, the Goliath Gauntlet), is that 100% of the money raised goes right back into the organization. The 5K run is technically free, but because this is a fundraiser they encourage all participants to create a page to help raise money. Every dollar raised goes directly back into the organization and its ministries. They don’t even charge for the photos and videos they take during the 5K event, which is practically unheard of in the race-running circuit.

In the past I’ve participated with my family, but this year I ran with my friend Jen as a sort of warm-up run for another half we were running the following day. We had pre-registered online a few days before, and made our voluntary donations to Sheridan House online during the registration process. We arrived about 20 minutes before the start time of 9a, checked in to receive our bibs, and picked up our long-sleeve event shirts and bags. After dropping them off back at the car we headed to the starting line, listened to the anthem, and then ran our 3.1. When we were done we grabbed our water and left. That was it!

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The biggest difference between this run and others is that I know my money is being put to good use in my local community. I’m friends with someone who went through the Sheridan House residential program when he was a teen, and he gives the organization a lot of credit for turning his life around. I’ve been to some of the marriage workshops and listened to some of the parenting podcasts, and I’ve always felt encouraged afterwards. I’ve personally benefitted from what this organization does, and I’m more than happy to donate to them.

Running is not as free as it seems on the surface. But like any other hobby, if you love it then you’re going to spend money on it. My advice? Be sure that some of the money you’re spending is supporting a cause you believe in. Those runs end up giving you much more than you’re paying for, I guarantee it. ❤

A Harry Potter Dream Come True

I’ve had this post on my to-do list for a long time now, and normally I think that a year is probably about 10 months too long to wait to write about something. But in light of Alan Rickman’s recent death and how much the Harry Potter series has meant to my daughter, I thought I’d share it anyway.

When Emily was in second grade, we bought her the first Harry Potter book for Christmas. She devoured it, and eagerly ripped through the entire 7-book series, reading about a book a month. After each book was completed we’d let her watch the corresponding movie, which basically turned her into a total expert on all things Harry Potter by the time she finished the final movie.

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Harry Potter infiltrated every part of her life. She’d make lists of spells and hang them on her bulletin board in her room. She’d write stories for school that were inspired by the books. She’d always loved owls, but after seeing the first movie she renamed her beloved stuffed owl Hedwig and always had to have her by her side while reading the books or watching the movies. There were Harry Potter teacher gifts. We had never-ending conversations about the series, major discussions on character motives, and imagined different outcomes for various situations the characters encountered. And of course we ate Bertie Bott’s Every Flavor Beans. 😀

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It was a no-brainer that we were gonna have to take her to Universal Studios to see the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. 🙂

We really wanted the trip to be as special for Emily as possible, and Julia was still too young to ride pretty much everything. My parents kindly agreed to watch Julia for a day so that Emily, Jay and I could fully enjoy the park together. The next time we were at their house for a visit we woke Emily early in the morning, piled in the car (with Hedwig, of course), and headed to Orlando!

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is spread across two of Universal’s parks, with London, Diagon Alley, Knockturn Alley, and King’s Cross Station all on the Universal Studios side, and Hogwarts and Hogsmeade on the Islands of Adventure side. Jay and I thought that it would be more fun to start where Harry Potter himself began his adventure – in London – and then proceed from there, roughly mimicking Harry’s journey.

First we stopped to chat with the shrunken head on the Night Bus, which was located in London…

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…and then went through the magical bricked entrance to Diagon Alley!

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We hit the super awesome ride at Gringott’s straight away, then headed off to Ollivander’s to let a wand choose Emily. 😉

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If you purchase a specific type of wand, you can actually “cast spells” around Diagon Alley and watch things magically happen, like making feathers float. It’s pretty awesome, and in my opinion worth a little extra so that you can discover tons of hidden secrets!

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It seems the power eventually went to her head. 😀

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After exploring everything we could, we stepped through platform 9 3/4 and hopped the Hogwarts Express to the other side of Harry’s world.

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We immediately went to one of the places she’d wanted to see the most – Hagrid’s house. It’s not an attraction you can enter, but it was pretty amazing to be able to check out the exterior. Hagrid’s was situated near one of the rides, and while we were in line for the ride Emily was able to see one of her favorite creatures, Buckbeak. ❤

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Then it was off to Hogwarts! A word of advice – don’t have too much or too little food in your belly before getting on the ride at Hogwart’s. It’s crazy fun, but crazy intense!

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We ate lunch at the Three Broomsticks (which Emily still talks about a year later) with some non-gill-inducing Gilly water – then hit the rides some more before heading back to Diagon Alley.

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We couldn’t help having some fun with the window displays at Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes. This is one of my favorite pictures from the whole day!

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Emily had hoped and prayed that she’d be able to find a stuffed Buckbeak while we were there, but unfortunately they were completely sold out. She was a little bummed, until she turned around and noticed that they had Crookshanks. That was easy. 🙂

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Before we knew it, the day was over and it was time to head back to my parents’ house and to Julia. We can’t begin to express how proud we are of Emily. She’s so kind to everyone around her, so willing to help, and works so hard in school. It was a wonderful feeling to be able to reward her with something that meant so much to her. We love knowing that she’ll remember this trip for a long time, and that she had that time with us all to herself. ❤

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The Movies I can’t WAIT to Watch

Jay and I have a list of movies that we are dying to share with our girls. Movies we can’t wait to share with them – to laugh with, to cry with, to discuss with, to debate with. Emily’s a little older now, and the list of movies she’s seen has increased dramatically over the years. We are loving the special late-nights with her, especially now that they aren’t full of cartoon characters and super basic plot lines. (Sorry, Disney). 😀

As Emily’s grown we’ve started allowing her to watch movies with more adult story lines and intense action scenes. We are still pretty cautious of what she’s viewing, but we know our daughter and know what she’s able to handle. For example, she was completely fine to watch each Harry Potter film after reading the corresponding book, but we’re a little wary of letting her watch the Lord of the Rings series because it might be a little intense for her – even though we know other 9-year olds who have seen them all without a problem.

But even though we feel that she’s finally old enough to see more grown-up movies like Jurassic Park and the Star Wars saga, there are still a few that we are waiting to enjoy with her – and Julia – in the future. Some of these are classics, some are personal faves, and some are just movies I’ve watched since I was a kid and I want my girls to have the same childhood memories I did. 🙂

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Although some of these movies have a PG rating, we feel that some of the material (language, drug/alcohol/sexual references, etc.) might be inappropriate, and if the movie is fairly free of those then our reason for holding out is that we feel it’s just going to be over their heads altogether – and then really, what’s the point? We want to enjoy these movies with our girls at a level where we can use them as conversation pieces, not just as random fun things to do. So we will wait. Sigh.

Between you and me, a teeny part of me can’t wait for them to grow up… but don’t tell anyone I said that or I might get thrown out of the Mommahood Club forever! 😀

Thankful for the Captured Moments

Kids can be a total pain in the butt – especially when you pull out the camera. I don’t know about you, but I didn’t give birth to children who know how to look into the lens with super sweet and genuine smiles on command. I don’t blame them that their mother doesn’t have the slightest clue about angles or backdrops or flashes or anything photo-related – those are completely my fault. But I do blame them for thinking that “freeze” means “dance around wildly”, that “say cheese” means “give me the most annoyed look ever,” and that “hug your sister” means “please hug her so hard you knock her into that massive mud puddle on the ground.”

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No, in our house beautiful photographic moments are almost always immediately ruined by the arrival of a camera. We have fun with it though, and even though most of my photos are blurry, out of focus, and full of weird faces I love knowing that who we are has been accurately captured forever.

But every so often I manage to snap a photo that freezes a perfect moment for all time. Usually this means the girls aren’t aware that a camera was present, and so the image collected is one of absolute genuineness – the definition of a candid.

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While I love all the photos in this post, the following are my absolute top favorite candids ever, with a little backstory on each. Be warned, these photos might melt your heart… they sure do mine.

❤ Julia had colic as a baby and cried constantly. She quieted down before I got to her room one morning, and when I peeked in I saw that Emily had brought in the stool so she could give her sister the pacifier. I think this is one of first candid photos I ever took of the girls together, and I love that you can’t even see Julia in it.

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❤ On a family vacation to Savannah we stayed in a hotel room that was a bit too small for the hotel-provided crib and Emily’s cot. We were worried that the girls would play all night and that none of us would get any sleep, but especially that Julia would bother Emily all night since their beds were bumped right up beside each other. Shortly after getting them both settled down, we looked over to see that Emily was already passed out. But instead of bothering her sister and waking her up, we saw Julia’s little arm extended out of the crib, offering Emily a pacifier. Yes, I died in a puddle of Mommy Mush.

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❤ Emily is a natural-born nurturer, always looking out for Julia and wanting to protect her. The girls rarely get sick, and when they do it’s almost always completely out of nowhere with very little indication an illness is on the way. When I went into Julia’s room to wake her for school one morning I found the girls like this and rushed to my room to get the camera. Julia had become sick during the night, and when Emily had gone in to read to her in the morning Julia passed right out in her lap, exhausted from her sick bug.

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❤ This last favorite is just more evidence of Emily’s love for Julia, who had just received a couple of shots at her doctor’s visit. Julia didn’t want me to comfort her, she only wanted her big sister.

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I’m thankful for these moments more than I can express, and I’m sure every mother out there completely understands why. The girls are 9 and 4 now, and as their interests begin to differ and they begin to grow more independently from each other the opportunities for these beautiful moments will begin to dwindle as well. I know there will be fewer and fewer photos on my camera as the girls grow and live their lives, and more and more photos on their cameras of people I won’t know and places I won’t be with them. And that’s okay – it’s part of letting them grow.

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But for now, I’ll take as many pictures as I can – both candid and cheesy-posed. And I’ll cherish the moments I’ve already captured – for myself as much as for them. ❤

Chess Whiz

Emily has taken a liking to Chess. And once that checkered board is on the table my sweet, calm, empathetic daughter becomes competitive, energized, and merciless. The game completely brings out a different side of her that I’ve never really seen before – a side that I kinda like.

IMG_7921During the past school year Emily and her 3rd-grade classmates each received their own chess set and were taught how to play the game. Emily caught on pretty quickly, and from what I was told had no trouble beating almost everyone in her class. This, of course, boosted her confidence enough that when she brought her game home at the end of the school year she felt ready to challenge Jay and I to a game.

Like most things in life that we wish to improve on, chess takes practice. And the best way to build your skills at chess is to play someone more skilled than yourself – someone difficult to beat. Watching your more skilled opponent during a game can reveal new moves and thought patterns that you may not have discovered on your own while playing a less-skilled opponent. Jay is definitely a more-skilled opponent than Emily, but it soon became clear that I was more than a little rusty.

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The first time I played with her I was so sure I had her in checkmate that as soon as I said it I began clearing the other pieces off of the board. Only I didn’t actually have her in checkmate. Oops. The next time I played her I got so confused at the end I couldn’t figure out a single way to get her in checkmate, and I made such a mess of things that we ended up in a stalemate, although I’m pretty sure she was just being nice. The last game I actually did win – I got her in checkmate with a pawn, of all pieces – but forgot the rule that a pawn that crosses over to the other side of the board can become a queen. Clearly, I was not the best opponent for Emily to build her skills on.

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Then one day we discovered that the local library hosts a Chess Club one or two Saturdays each month, and surprisingly my normally happy-to-stay-home daughter was really excited to try it out! 🙂

When we got there, we quickly learned that the club was run and mainly participated in by middle and high school guys who were probably earning volunteer credit hours for school. I was sure that she’d turn around and walk right back out, but no – my normally shy-around-strangers daughter chose an opponent, sat right down, and started a game. Proud Momma moment, right there.

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What made me even more proud though was how she not only stalemated 3 of her middle-school opponents, but even managed to win a game! They also had a drawing for a little prize, and amazingly she won that too – a little yellow knight chess piece on a keychain, which she immediately hung on her bookbag when she got home. And just to add a fun little side note, she even won a chess award at the end of the school year!

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As it got closer to her birthday, Jay and I had one of those moments where light falls from heaven like a spotlight and you hear angels singing all around – we were going to get our Harry Potter-crazed daughter a Wizard’s Chess set, just like in the movie. I said it on Facebook and I’ll say it again here: there should really be a prize for mad gift-giving skills. And I’d win.

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No surprise here, but she absolutely loved it and immediately began playing against my brother, who’s been a chess nut for as long as I can remember. My dad even built him a beautiful chess table years ago since he loves the game so much. And despite the look of inevitable defeat on Kevin’s face here, he is definitely a better player than I am and has continued to beat her when they play. Finally, the perfect opponent!

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I’m not sure how long it’s going to last, but for the moment she’s totally into knights and rooks, castles and pawns. I love that it’s not only teaching her logic and reasoning skills, but it’s also teaching my normally-can’t-handle-losing daughter how to lose gracefully. And, of course, how to be a gracious winner, too. 🙂

Julia-Speak

It’s one thing to mispronounce words, and it’s another to have your own phrases and ways of describing things. Julia’s only 4, but she’s got her own linguistic style. And it never fails to make us smile.

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For example, a common Julia-phrase while reading a book is scoop the page.” This is her version of saying turn the page,” but it makes a lot of sense when you think about it, because when you go to turn a page your hand sort of scoops the paper up. What doesn’t make sense is that she sometimes applies this to watching TV, and she’ll ask us to scoop the channel or scoop the shows.” I just can’t bring myself to correct her though. (PS – Here’s one of my all-time favorite videos of her reading. 🙂 )

The other day we were at the table talking about something fun we all liked doing this summer, and after sharing hers she told us all that it’s her favorite because it’s the much most more funnest ever.” How can you disagree with logic like that? 😀

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But my favorite is when she talks about decorating the bed.” In Julia-speak, this is her way of saying “make the bed,” but I’m guessing she has issues with that phrasing since she’s not actually creating a bed out of thin air. I just love it when she runs up to me with a huge smile on her face and says, “Mommy! I decorated my bed all by myself!” 🙂 In all honesty, I think I like her way of saying it better.

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Then there’s also the seemingly endless list of words that she just can’t seem to pronounce no matter how many times we practice with her:

  • wusually (usually)
  • bekbast (breakfast)
  • amember (remember)
  • pocksicle (popsicle)
  • Valenstime’s Day
  • instrodoosting (introducing)

IMG_7970I think my favorite mispronunciation though was when my best friend and I were planning a trip to New York and I was trying to explain to Julia that I’d be gone for a few days. She looked up at me and said, “Have fun in You Nork, Mommy!” Oh, my heart. ❤

When Emily was younger she of course struggled with word pronunciations too, and to this day I can remember the day she stopped mispronouncing “tarantula.” For the longest time she called it a “tralantrula” and no matter how much she begged I refused to tell her the right way to say it. Then one day she got in the car after school, looked right in my eyes, and said it correctly. I was crying as I drove out of the parking lot. My baby girl had lost her last word. 😥

It’s been almost 9 months since Sanne and I took that trip, and to this day Julia still can’t say “New York.” I think I’m going to leave it that way – I wouldn’t change this girl’s unique style of talking for anything. Her sense of style… now that’s another thing entirely. 😀

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Running, Rainbows, and Relationship-Building

Back in May Emily and I participated in our second Color Run together. We’d had so much fun at last year’s run that there was no way we were going to miss it – especially when we found out that they were not only going to have sparkle-filled dust pouches, but they were also going to be handing out medals! Color us excited!
IMG_7568The day before the race we had to pick up our race-day packets. This year it was at our local Kohl’s store, which was a huge improvement over last year’s craziness at Sports Authority. It was much more open and much less crowded than last year. Plus they gave the girls some free cotton candy. Cotton candy makes everything better. 🙂

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That night Emily and I laid out all of our clothes in our downstairs bathroom so that we wouldn’t wake anyone in the morning. When our alarms went off at 5am we got up, got dressed, and stealthily snuck out of the house like the Color Run ninjas that we are. On our way we happened to look out of the car window and saw a fellow runner, which Emily thought was hysterical. Gotta love those silly headbands!

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The event was otherwise pretty much the same as last year. Emily and I were closer to the start line this time though, and it was pretty awesome being right in the thick of the crowd. There were bubbles everywhere, and everyone was just so happy! We sang the anthem, the start gun fired, and we were off!

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The route took us through the same tunnel we’d written our names in last year, but this time Emily didn’t want to stop running to do that again. Unfortunately, it might have been better for her if we had, because she had a pretty bad fall while running in it. A motorcycled officer was trying to get through the crowd behind us but was having trouble because even though he had his siren on, the echo in the tunnel made it impossible to pinpoint where the sound was coming from. I only happened to see him because I’d turned around to take a photo of the tunnel entrance behind us. When I finally got Emily’s attention to get her to move, she turned around to see what was going on. He zipped by, she stumbled while running downhill and looking backwards, and I thought for sure that would be the end of our fun together. One of her bib pins stuck her in the belly pretty bad, and her knees and palms were scraped up too. But that girl of mine got back up and said she wasn’t done running, and ran almost another full mile before deciding to walk a bit. I was so proud.

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The rest of the race was pretty uneventful – at least, accident-wise. We were definitely pelted with color, of course! We walked and ran to the finish line, holding hands as we crossed. ❤ They gave us our medals and our glitter packets, and Emily and I headed over to the stage area to celebrate in the after party and toss some powder in the air.

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We didn’t last too long though – people were a bit aggressive when trying to grab the freebies the MC was tossing out into the crowd, and Emily was almost trampled a few times. Not to mention the fact that we could barely breathe whenever the MC had everyone toss their powder in the air at the same time. That stuff gets thick – just check out our selfie below!

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Instead, we found a table, drank some water, and enjoyed watching everyone walk around like a big rainbowed mess. Emily ran around hunting for leftover powder in packets (everyone just dropped their color packets on the ground after opening them and tossing their powder), and she actually managed to score a couple of unopened packets in colors we hand’t been doused in. Of course, she remedied that immediately.

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And it wasn’t long before she looked like this:

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My best friend Sanne was there with her family again this year, and even though we didn’t complete the course together we made sure to meet up for a picture. 🙂

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At the end of it all as we walked back to the car, Emily looked up at me and told me that this was the most fun she’d ever had, and that she was so happy she got to do it with me. And for us, that’s what this is all about. Sure, we love the medal and we love the theme of this event. But doing it together is the part that we cherish the most, and we can’t wait to do it again next year. ❤

IMG_7630PS Is it just me, or does it look like I’ve created a medal junkie? 😀

Smores Pops

Smores Cake pops and Oreo pops are fun to make, and even more fun to eat. But if you’re looking for an easier and quicker treat, I highly suggest you try these super yummy Smores pops! I made them a couple of summers ago and forgot all about them until my sweet friend Tina mentioned them a few days ago. Since the girls and I had planned a lazy day at home they were the perfect activity! Seriously, they are the easiest things ever, so they totally qualified as a lazy day activity. 🙂 Here’s what you’ll need:

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  • lollipop sticks
  • graham crackers
  • jumbo marshmallows
  • milk chocolate chips

Are you ready to be prepared to be blown away by the simplicity?

  1. Crush the graham crackers. You’ll only need about 2-3 cracker sheets, I always err on the side of too many in case the chocolate goops them up in the coating process.
  2. Melt the chocolate chips. I put about half the bag in a glass container in the microwave and melt on high for 30 seconds. Then I take them out, stir well, and return to the microwave on high for another 30 seconds. IMG_9643
  3. Place a marshmallow on the end of each lollipop stick.
  4. Dip the marshmallow halfway into the melted chocolate. I twist mine as I pull it out so that the marshmallow doesn’t slide off the stick. IMG_9645
  5. Gently roll the chocolate-dipped marshmallow in the crushed graham crackers, then tap the top of the marshmallow into the crackers so that all the chocolate is covered in graham cracker.IMG_9649
  6. Place the finished pops in a glass so that they won’t stick to each other, then place in the fridge (standing up) for 10-15 minutes to allow the chocolate to harden.

That’s it! Super easy, right? Emily and I made about 20 of them in less than 10 minutes, which means they are also a fabulous treat if you’ve promised to bring dessert somewhere and forgot and don’t have a whole lot of time to bake cookies or an upside-down pineapple cake or monkeybread. Not that I’ve ever been in that situation or anything…. 😉 IMG_9651 So there you go! A fast, fun, easy, and yummy treat that makes you feel like you’re camping – even if your hubby would never agree to sleep on the ground in a tent. 😀 Enjoy! 😀

Lucky Charms

My girls and I love Lucky Charms. In our house it’s a Saturday morning treat – something yummy and fun to munch on in front of the TV so Mommy can sleep in a little. They each have an entirely different approach to how they munch: Emily saves her marshmallows for last, while Julia eats them all first. And both of their methods are different from mine… I eat my marshmallows in bites mixed with the toasted oat pieces. Call me crazy, but it’s occurred to me that the way the girls and I choose to eat our Lucky Charms is a direct reflection on the way we handle life’s difficulties.

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Marshmallows First: Gimmie the Good Stuff

Julia just wants the marshmallows. She doesn’t want those tasteless toasted oat pieces – in fact, those things are just getting in her way. She will inhale every single colorful marshmallow shape and immediately ask for more, completely ignoring the fact that she’s still got to get through those oat pieces before her bowl can be refilled. Usually, upon being faced with the reality of having to endure that which she thought she could pretend didn’t exist, she enters some sort of “denial.” I’ll hear it all – “I don’t like those parts!” “I’m only hungry for marshmallows!” “Please don’t make me eat those other things!” Eventually, Julia gives in and eats the oat pieces, although it almost kills her every time. My favorite thing about her approach? Every Saturday morning she begins eating and only has eyes for the marshmallows again. Her optimism is incredible – part of me thinks each time she’s sure that this will be the week she won’t have to eat those toasted oats. But although her weekly shock of reality is exhausting for me, I love her ability to constantly forget the negative and focus on the positive.

 

IMG_6654Marshmallows Last: Ending on a High Note

Emily has the completely opposite approach. She prefers to eat all of her oat pieces first so that only the sweet marshmallows are left. I recognize this method – it’s exactly what I used to do as a kid too. She realizes that the bad in life is inevitable, and for her it’s better to get through the stuff she doesn’t like first, giving herself more time to savor the good and end on a high note. Emily carries this mentality in just about everything she does. She completes her least favorite homework assignments first and gets the boring chores out of the way before starting the ones she enjoys most. At dinner she’l eat her least favorite thing first to get it over with. She’s aware that life has disappointments, and that there’s not always a way around them. So she chooses to trudge through those disappointments first, which allows her to focus on her goal or “happier ending.” I love her approach so much because that’s the kind of thinking that fosters determination and, in the end, results in success.

 

FullSizeRenderMarshmallows Mixed In: Take the Good with the Bad

Then there’s me. I prefer a more balanced approach, eating my oats and marshmallows together. I don’t like the bland taste of a marshmallow-less cereal, I like a little burst of sweetness with every bite. Too many marshmallows in one mouthful is unrealistic – life is not full of endless good things. Too few marshmallows in one bite is also not reality – life is full of beautiful things and happy moments scattered among the unpleasant. I tend to roll through life the same way I eat my Lucky Charms: I take the good with the bad. For me, enjoying all the good things up front only makes the bad much more difficult to cope with. And focusing only on the negative first makes it hard to find joy when the joy rolls around for its turn. My days are full of high and low moments – some days higher, some days lower. But taking them together helps me stay balanced more easily than if I chose to focus on one over the other.

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I don’t think there’s any right way to eat Lucky Charms, and I don’t think there’s any right way to look at life’s ups and downs. I also realize that as we grow our tastes change, our desires change, and the way we look at life changes. Who we are today might not be who we are tomorrow. I love that we can choose to view life’s troubles – and eat our Lucky Charms – any way we want to. 🙂

I Wanna Play, Too!

I’m sitting in one of those indoor kiddie fun zones, watching my daughters play. We find ourselves at places like these from time to time for various reasons – birthday parties, days off from school, rainy-day playdates, Groupon deals too good to pass up, etc. This time it’s a giant room filled with humongous bounce houses and inflatable obstacle courses. For $20 the girls can play as long as they like, and I get to enjoy either 2 hours of great conversation with a friend or some much-needed time to myself.

But almost every time we come, what I really want to do is join my girls. I want to stuff my shoes in a cubbyhole, throw on a pair of cute socks with funny animals on them, and have the time of my life jumping, bouncing, and making a total fool of myself. I want to shoot down the slick yellow slide so lightning fast that I fly off and land right on my bum. I want to giggle like a schoolgirl when I can’t keep my balance while bouncing. I want to go absolutely crazy and not care what anyone else thinks. I want to play.

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Instead, I’m sitting on a hard blue plastic chair, jotting down these playtime fantasies in one of Jay’s notebooks. Although it’s relaxing, and I’m definitely enjoying myself, it’s just not what I’m wanting to do. I can’t go play with the girls, no matter how much I want to. Being a grown up means that there are some grown-up restrictions, and that some things just cannot be. Case in point:

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  • There are giant signs on the equipment telling me that I’m not allowed. I don’t think my girls will understand that we’ve been asked to leave because I couldn’t follow the rules and behave myself. This place used to let parents join in (as evident in the picture below), but I guess the rules have changed. 😦
  • Who would watch my purse? On this occasion I’d brought the girls on my own for a bit. Those cubbyholes are great for shoes, but I’m not about to stuff my nice purse in one. It’s one thing if a kid walks off with Julia’s $3 Old Navy flipflops, it’s quite another if I lose my Kindle, phone, and wallet. And keys. The girls like it here, but I think they’d get sick of it the second they realized we couldn’t leave because someone had “accidentally” driven the wrong car home.
  • The girls need their space. Yes, I could follow them around and join in, and I’m sure that they would get a great deal of joy out of watching me be completely silly with them. But, on the flip side, it won’t allow them the room they need to “spread their wings.” They need some parent-free time to develop their imaginations, invent their own games, settle their own problems. No one wants their mom breathing down their neck every minute… it kinda hinders things a bit.
  • Other parents might have a problem with it. Yeah, I know I’m not supposed to care what other people think. But I’m pretty sure it would creep me out to see some other parent hanging out in a bounce house with my girls, so I try to show the same respect to them. Not to mention the dirty looks I’d get when another kid starts trying to drag her 80-year grandma on the equipment because “their mom is doing it!”
  • Truth? I’d be exhausted in 5 minutes. No amount of running prepares you for monkeybars, bounce houses, or the number of steps you’ll be required to climb in order to fully satisfy your child’s slide expectations. And even if I could somehow manage to do all that, I wouldn’t have energy to drive them to Burger King afterward.

So there you have it. All the reasons I have to resist the urge to join my girls on playgrounds. The thing is, despite the fact that I’m not always allowed or that it might not be the best idea, I love that I still want to. I know there are a good many fuddy-duddy parents out there who have zero interest in doing anything remotely immature. They want no part in coloring, Barbies, building forts and hiding in them, playing tag, Legos, and especially not playing on jungle gyms and inflatable obstacle courses. I’m glad that I haven’t reached that yet, and I hope I never do.

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I just need to find a place that lets me play too. 😀

PS – That last picture was taken before they stopped letting adults play. Stinkers. 😛