Saturday, August 29, 2015

The crystal anniversary.

When Bill and I got married fifteen years ago, we never could have imagined the life we have now. We had no idea what we wanted to do and really had only just started to figure out who we were (totally still working on that, by the way). And yet, somehow we knew we wanted to figure it all out together.


How is that possible? To be so young and just...know. Were we stubborn? Stupid? Lucky? It's hard to say. But I can remember clear as day how easy it was. We just knew. That wherever life might happen to take us, we'd want to go together.


I have to say, I think that's pretty cool.


It doesn't mean it's always been easy though. Growing up is hard work (that hasn't stopped either, by the way). But it's also non-negotiable. Imagine if we had stayed who we were when we said our vows all those years ago. That'd just be weird. You have to keep growing as individuals while somehow not growing apart from each other. It's no small task. And yet, most of the time it doesn't really feel all that hard.


Having a partner through thick and thin, through good times and bad, has only made life better. Easier. I truly cannot imagine my life without him.


On our actual anniversary (the 26th), we sat in the backyard, under the stars and lights I strung from tree to tree, talking about our story. Where we've been over the last fifteen years, where we hope to go, all the ups and downs, the happy accidents and good surprises, the pets and friends and children who have made our lives so rich, the houses we've lived in and jobs we've had, trips we've taken, things we've learned... It's quite a story.











I was amazed to feel, without a doubt, how much closer we are now than we've ever been before. There was no longing for the past, mourning that the honeymoon had ended.


The honeymoon kinda sucked compared to this (and not just because of that awkwardly fitting wet suit...).


All the work we've put in over the years - spending quality time together every day, talking things out, dreaming about our future, playing and having fun, fighting, learning, growing, etc - has made RIGHT NOW the best of the best. Even when it's the worst of the worst (which, of course, sometimes it is), it's still better than any time in our past. Regardless of if we're in a good time or bad, we always make our marriage our top priority. We have to. It's our foundation. And without a strong foundation, everything else would crumble.


Thanks for fifteen years of incredible adventures and normal, boring life stuff. It's all better with you, babe. xo

Thursday, August 20, 2015

When you stop learning, you start dying.

Over the years, I've learned that what I do (or who I am) is way more important than what I say when it comes to raising my kids. Being a reader carries more weight than nagging my kids to read more. Not getting sucked into screens makes the invisible pull on them seem that much weaker. Thanking someone who does something nice for them goes a lot farther than the whole, "What do you say?" business.

And even though this does not always come naturally to me (because I'm stubborn and forgetful and HUMAN), as a homeschooler I think it's super important to just keep trying. I don't want to raise kids who think education is a pre-determined set of facts they're supposed to master at a certain age. I don't want them to think that learning happens August through May with breaks for Fall, Thanksgiving, Christmas and Spring. It doesn't stop at 3:00 or even when you graduate. Learning happens ALL THE TIME.

To raise lifelong learners, I myself must be a student of the world. Which is great. Because walking the walk is actually super fun.

Over the years I've taken so many classes and pushed myself to do a lot of random new things. Photoshop, writing and illustrating children's books, public speaking, meeting new people, piano lessons (Liam and I did this together - we even did a duet at the recital!), teaching hula hoop classes, cooking, yoga, homeschool, caregiving, gardening...you name it!


Sometimes I try and immediately fail. Like when I recently tried to show Bill that it couldn't be that hard to ride the Vespa he bought.



{it IS that hard}

But other times I try something I'm not sure I'll like at all and happily discover that I love it.

This is definitely the case with my most recent endeavor: tap dancing!


I signed up for the class because a friend talked me into it. I really wasn't sure. I took so many dance classes growing up but tap never appealed to me. It's just so loud. And...nerdy. I mean, compared to hip hop. And it never seems to go with the music which makes me feel all spectrumy and weird.

As I was getting ready for class, Finn came into my room. I told him I was nervous. That I wasn't sure if I was going to like the class or not. "What if I'm really bad at tap dancing? What if it's not that fun?" He just kind of shrugged and said I'd never know if I didn't try. "Is that what you did with soccer?" I asked him, knowing full well he never really took to it. "Yeah," he said confidently. "I didn't know if I'd like it but I just went. And then I knew that it was really fun. You have to just go and try it and find out."


So I did. And I LOVED it! I seriously can't stop flap-toe-heel-heeling. I'm going to wear a hole in our hardwoods...

I hope seeing me try and fail and practice and learn will help my boys to understand on a deep level that education is a lifelong adventure. Actually, I hope I'll really learn this too. So instead of making them do this thing because that book said this is the year they should learn it, I can chill the F out and know that when they're ready, they will learn. Sure, maybe they'll be 37 before something really clicks. But you know what? Learning something new at 37 because you want to is way better than cramming it in at 8 because someone else decided it was time.


What Liam discovered last night when he got out of bed to go pee. "So...you're practicing acrobatics and guitar? Cool." 
Yeah, buddy. It is pretty cool.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Just me and my mom.

I'm always on the lookout for great books. Chapter books for Liam that are engaging and funny without having the word "fart" on every single page. Great read alouds that the whole family can enjoy. Picture books that tell a story and draw us in with fantastic illustrations. Grown up fiction I can't put down. Non-fiction that isn't preachy. You name it, I've probably requested it from the library.

Yesterday I picked up a big stack of books I had on hold so this morning, Finn climbed in bed with me and we started reading. But after just one book Liam and the friends who spent the night woke up and Finn ran off to play.

Darn.

It was sweet while it lasted though. We read Just Me and My Mom by Mercer Mayer.


Finn loves these books. We already have Just Me and My Dad and Just Me and My Little Brother and he knew from looking at the back of the book that there were more Just Me and My... books so he asked if we could get them from the library.

Atta boy.

I was pretty excited to read this book and find out what kind of awesome adventures this kid would have with his mom. He and his dad go on a one-on-one camping trip and he and his little brother do all kinds of great stuff together. I was sure his mom would be just as fun!

Except.


Well...


She looks about this happy on every page.

This book made me so sad! As it turns out, his mom was not that fun. She was kind of stuffy actually. Their big day out was a trip to the city where they went to some museums and a fancy restaurant and a department store. Which I'm sure would be a super fun day for some kids. But for Little Critter? It felt like a missed opportunity.

Poor buddy.

I mean, it's not like I've never dragged my boys to a department store (and by "department store" I obviously mean Target). I've even taken them swimsuit shopping. But we all knew up front it was going to be torture. Nobody thought we were having a special "me and my mom" sort of day. It was just one of those things we had to do so we could get back to all the stuff we like to do.


Why couldn't the Just Me and My Mom book be about something they like to do together? Something that's super fun for both of them?

I really hope it's not because Little Critter's mom is taking herself too seriously. I hope she knows that she can be the fun one sometimes (a lot of times!) and still get her job done. Sure, there's a lot of stuff she has to do to keep the world spinning. But that doesn't mean she can't be fun and silly and a little unpredictable once in a while. I don't mean irresponsible, just...fun. No one has to do the dishes ALL THE TIME. Why not take off the apron and get down in the dirt?


Have fun.


Do something unexpected.


Feel your heart skip a beat.


Play with your kids.


Be silly.


Have an adventure together.


They'll be grown ups soon enough and then they'll probably LOVE spending the day in the city. Maybe save the fancy restaurant for then and have ice cream for dinner now. Why not?


No, seriously, WHY NOT? I'll bet you a million bucks you can't answer that question. You know why? Because there is no reason! We actually don't have to act like grown ups all the time. It seems like we do but I swear that we don't. If we knock off the whole, "You're the kid and I'm the mom and that's why" nonsense, life will go on! Dinner will get made (and 99.9% of the time it won't be ice cream). Teeth will get brushed. Lessons will be learned. And those long days we all talk about will be way more enjoyable for everyone.

Block print by this super fun mama...

And if not, you can go right back to wearing your stuffy dress and dragging your kid to the department store for your special time together. I will probably be outside somewhere acting like a kid.


(PS - I know not everyone has the opportunity to spend the bulk of their days playing. But I also know, judging by how happy some people are to be sending their kids back to school, not everyone would WANT that. It's not 'this is better than that'. It's make the most of what you have. There are plenty of stay-at-home-moms or homeschoolers whose favorite time of day is bedtime. Mothers who wait desperately for their partners to come home so they can hand over the kids, have a glass of wine and complain about how much their day sucked. Trust me, I've had those days too. But the days when I choose to make this life with my children an adventure rather than a burden are always our favorite days. I'm grateful that most of the time, I can make that happen. And super grateful to have found a merry band of pranksters to spend our long days and short years with.)

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Tomato Art Fest 2015.

A few weeks ago, I spotted a poster at the coffee shop down the street promoting the Tomato Art Fest parade. We always drag ourselves to the festival at some point (it's just a few blocks from our house but it's so hot here in August - and the festival has gotten so crowded - that sometimes we just skip it out of laziness) but we've never managed to get down there early enough to catch the parade.


Now that I'm a seasoned Mardi Gras vet though, I saw that poster as a call to action. A parade? With a theme? IN MY NEIGHBORHOOD?! You better believe that's happening!

I texted my friend Erin (our Mardi Gras hook up) right away.
Me: Should we just go ahead and pretend the Tomato Art Fest Parade is Mardi Gras this year??
Her: YES!
First things first, we needed a theme. Erin called on her Mardi Gras crew (they do the most amazing things every single year) and immediately someone came up with an idea.

Pastafarians.


It was perfect. Punny and clever with lots of creative potential. Plus we'd get to wear rasta hats and listen to reggae music and hand out pasta necklaces like Mardi Gras beads!


Fun for the whole family!





All of our costumes were different and fantastic but I think the spaghetti dreads (aka, mop tops) were my favorite part. They were really hot though. I think I might be the only one who kept mine on all day. Once I put on a wig, I'm in it for the long haul...


Bill took his off fairly early on but it had already shed all over his (fabulously hand made) shirt.


I didn't realize it bothered him until a friend who was running a hot dog and sno-cone booth for Boy Scouts told me later that Bill came up to their booth during a particularly busy time and asked for some tape so he could de-lint himself.

Awesome.

Here's the only photo I really got of our float:


Cute, right? It was a big plate of "pasta" with a wooden palm tree sticking out (we hung the pasta necklaces on it), a bubble machine, music and a big rasta/tomato flag.


Before...


After!

People must have liked it because we just found out that it won 1st place in the parade contest! Bragging rights alone would have been cool but there's also a cash prize - three hundred bucks! We already decided we'd have a big party if we won. The kids are super excited...


The parade itself was really fast and a little chaotic but there was a marching band and we got to hang out with the (possible) future mayor of Nashville so all in all, not bad for our first Tomato Art Fest Parade.


After the parade, Bill brilliantly suggested we find shade and set up camp STAT. We hustled over to a little grassy spot and spent the rest of the day hanging out, people watching, chatting with friends, drinking beer and checking out the rest of the festival.


Ice cream for breakfast? Why not!?

It was a super fun day that made me a little more appreciative of my (rapidly growing) neighborhood. Because when it started to get too hot and crowded and we had had enough fun for one day, we just had to walk a few blocks and we were home, sweet home.


I'm desperately hoping East Nashville can hold onto what makes it special and remember it's a community, not just the best little neighborhood in the latest "it city" (whatever that means). I really like it here and would hate to be driven out by developers looking to tear down all the character to put up more condos. Sigh. Stay awesome, Nashville. And please don't get too big for your britches...