Friday, July 21, 2017

All of the sudden, I have a tween in my home...

All of the sudden, out of nowhere, I feel like I have a tweener in my home... In just a few short months, my days went from having my daughter underfoot, to her silently off in her room watching YouTube videos or reading.

She's entered this new stage where she absolutely fur-reaks out over new songs being posted by her favorite YouTube artists and new Vlogs being uploaded. Or, even when she walks into Claires and new products are being introduced. And all of the sudden, she's reading Teen Beat magazines to find out about her favorite stars and is trying to emulate their style.

She loves to paint her nails, brush her hair while singing in front of the mirror, and wear colorful clothes with matching accessories. 

Her newest obsession is JoJo Siwa and I have to admit, she's pretty rad. My daughter has her poster hung above her dresser and her bows dangling from a belt hung on her wall. And, she shrieks at the sight of her guest appearing on her favorite Nick shows.

And she's loving Sophia Grace and I hear her songs on repeat all day...

But I remember this age far too clearly. I remember having 90210 and New Kids on the Block posters and accessories in my room. And being so excited for NKOTB's new songs to be released on newly designed CDs. And then, jamming out to all the songs on the highest volume in my bedroom, with the infamous hairbrush microphone.

I remember walking the mall with friends and shopping at Claires, Spencers, and Maurices. And giggling, like the stereotypical phrase, teenage girls...

I remember this golden age of being young, but secretly wanting to be older. To not yet know who I was, but walking the fine line of trying to figure it all out...

As my daughter is quickly approaching 7 years old, I find myself reminiscing her earlier years. I scroll through old photos of the first time I held her and all her firsts from there. I remember funny stories and moments that still make me laugh today. And I remember moments that make me want to relieve every second all over again.

But as time passes, and I see this new girl emerge, it makes letting go of the past easier. I become excited to see who she is and who she'll become. Because right now, she's loving getting older. She's loving the freedom and this new world that is opening up in front of her...

And, as I watch her transition to this new "tween" stage, I know I'll keep falling further from her spotlight. And, as much as I'll miss being the source of her everything, I know it's all OK. I know great things are happening. And now, I get to see her begin her adventure of finding herself, away from mommy's hip. One where she'll be texting friends, having sleep overs, posting YouTube videos, and staying on the phone late night, gossiping to friends...

And simply, growing up...

Change is never a good thing for me, but I am excited to see all the change that awaits for this special girl over these next few years. And as much as I miss her being so little and being the center of her world, I know she'll never be too old to snuggle and never stop needing me. And, even though her needs will be different, I'll always be the keeper of the place that she comes back to.

And that makes it so much easier to watch her become who she was meant to be... And knowing I get to watch it all unfold and be there to guide her every step she needs, makes it all incredibly worth it.

Monday, July 17, 2017

An amusement park tradition, nestled among the trees...

Another year of camping is in the books... Meaning, another year of memories that will soon be filed away like all the rest... It always amazes me how quickly this life moves. How, one minute you're a child enjoying the marvels of life and the next, you're watching your own children do the same.

We started going to this amusement park in the summer of 1989, when I was only a few months older than my daughter is now. This little amusement park holds onto the traditional family values and still hasn't sold out to the big corporate world. The park is free to park and to enter and you could either pay as you ride, or buy an all day pass. But even if you pay as you ride, the kiddie rides average $1.00 and the roller coasters are only $3.00. 

The rides remain nostalgic with their antique cars, pedal cars, carousel, and famous wooden roller coasters that were bought from closed parks and reassembled here.

This park will forever have my heart as it remains a destination of fun and adventure that you can attend with a big family, multiple times a season, and not go into debt.

As a child, I remember running from our car and my brother and I rattling off all the rides we wanted to go on. Which ones we would start with and how many times we would ride each. I'll always remember the smell of cotton candy, the sounds of bells ringing, the children laughing, and the wonderful lights glistening in the night.

I could remember riding the tea cups until my head spun. Or riding the carousel with my family to see who could obtain the most rings. Or riding the log ride and seeing who could get wet the most by trying to shift our weight. 

When I was younger, I was always scared of roller coasters. So my mom and brother rode them together, while my dad and I stuck to the kiddie coaster. I was grateful that my dad shoved himself into those small seats, so I could feel like a big deal too, by riding my own version of the "coaster."

And when I was a teenager, I finally rode my first ever roller coaster here...

Fast forward 25+ years later, and I'm lucky enough to relieve the experiences through my children. As soon as I arrive, I'm immediately transported back to my kid days. I feel the eagerness to go from ride to ride and eat greasy food and laugh until my belly hurts.

I was the one in the splash pool, on my belly, playing around with my children, as the other adults played on their phones and barely watched their kids. I was the one who swam around in the big pool, racing my children from side to side. I was the one who squeezed into the smaller rides and held my hands up in the air with my children and shrieked around turns. And I was the rare adult, who walked up the Helter Skelter slide so many times, breathing became difficult.

Our camping adventures only begun last year, but it totally added to the experience. There's nothing like waking up, jumping in the pool, hanging around the picnic table, then walking back to the cabin, through a dark, closed park at night.

My husband and I started taking my daughter here when she was 20 months old and I was 6 months pregnant with my son. She was a daredevil at a young age and it only grew from there. But sadly, as she is approaching 7 years old, she has taken a back seat to rides. She now stays more on the kiddie rides and leaves the bigger rides to her little brother. And due to the new safety standards in our state, they lowered the max height of the kiddie rides and starting next year, she won't be able to ride some of her most prized rides anymore. 

...Sadly, she'll be stuck in that "in-between" phase, where she's too big for kiddie rides, but too scared to ride the bigger rides. And it breaks my heart, because I remember that phase too.

But the good part is, she likes to try new things. And this year, she wanted to try the log ride... And I explained, up and down, how it's a big ride and has big hills and we even watched it several times, but she assured me, she could do it. So my daughter, my mom, and myself loaded into the log and set sailed for this new adventure... After the first little drop, my daughter started to panic. So I hugged her tightly and we laughed and told stories, trying to distract her. It worked until the climb to the biggest hill. And at that point, I think she would have swam out of the boat if she could. We couldn't exit and she started to cry. That is, until I remembered the camera... And if I know my daughter, the girl who aspires to be a future famous vlogger, she couldn't resist a camera... So I told her we'll all smile and flash her famous peace sign, as we drop down the hill -and we'll have it as a great memory and a fun story and you'll never have to ride it again... She immediately perked up and braced herself... And as we dropped, she never flashed the peace sign, but she did smile immensely at the bottom. And she was so proud of herself that she did it and even said, she'll try it again next year... *In the picture, I have more of a look of terror and it completely overshadowed my daughter and we still laugh about that today.

My son's favorite ride last year was the kiddie coaster, but sadly, he didn't like it so much this year. He also developed a love for all rides that go in a circle and spin... I cannot ride them, so my dad braved it out and rode them with him. And if my son could have, he would have rode these types of rides repeatedly until he puked.

And this year was the first year in a loooong time that my husband and I rode coasters together. And after the first one, I thought I was back in the saddle and arrogantly hopped onto the second one (which was faster and longer). And now, I own a photo of me clutching so tightly onto my husband that you can see my muscle outlines, as both of us are laughing hysterically... Needless to say, I only rode it once.

With my children being only 6&4 years old, I'm excited to watch their journey at this park unfold over the following years to come. I'm sure we'll have many more experiences of loving rides, then hating rides, and so on and so forth. But the one constant that will remain is all the memories this vintage park holds for us and so many other families. The many firsts, the laughs, and the love that walked these paths will always fill quiet air around the rides. And if I have one hope for this park, it would be for them to stay true to their ancestor's objective, so when I'm a grandparent, I can watch the next generation of memories unfold all over again...

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Our annual library auction...

I could remember those past summer days leading up to our local annual library auction. My daughter and I would sit on the floor of her bedroom and design a plan of how we would get there early and grab the most amount of books under the children's book tent, before everyone else arrived. We even made lists of books she was interested in and yearned for, so her nana and poppy could search efficiently too. 

Our local library auction is in it's 71st year. It began in a little barn that sat on the side of the road and was the biggest event of the summer. Now, it sits in the back parking lot of the library and spills onto the side lot. It has over a dozen of vendors and tents that donate the money back into the library. And of course, the auction itself. This continues to be the biggest group gathering of the summer. Where local community organizations volunteer their time to work the stands and teens who help with the children's games and crafts.  

Before kids, I was never interested in attending the auction. I may have stopped in once or twice over the years, but the mad rush to be the first ones on the grounds, began when my daughter was only 22 months old. When books became her obsession. 

But over the years, the interests in books may have changed, but the image is still the same. We arrive with two overly excited children, 20 minutes before they're officially open. Thankfully, the tent with the used books always allows us to start browsing upon arrival. But within minutes, the small stuffed tent begins to quickly fill with other people, who have the same idea, and the summer heat and humidity fills the remaining spaces. 

We quickly gather our purchased books and my dad walks them back to the car for safe keeping (one of his many trips throughout the evening). Myself, my mom, and my children walk to the other side, where there is a children's tent and a "junk" tent. My children and mom ravage through boxes of old toys, puzzles, games, and more books. Whereas, I saunter over to the junk tent to rummage through other's past treasures. And over the years, I've acquired my own vintage dinnerware by only obtaining mismatched floral dishes with gold trimmed sides. And this year, I found a large platter, a hummel tea set and a 3 tiered plate set for desserts. 

All of my pieces are old, with stories. They may not all be my stories, but they're someone's stories. And throughout the years, someone enjoyed these pieces. I love to imagine what these items have seen or been through. How people sat around a table of some kind, and laughed and celebrated holidays and parties and milestones.

Once our car is loaded up with goodies from the past, after my dad takes his final trip, we wander around for typical greasy fair food. And, we always find a grassy spot to watch the auction unfold.

Before kids, I never realized how important this first week of July would be. I never imagined the library auction would be one of our summer things that had a countdown. But here we are, almost 5 years of religiously attending. And each year, I'm watching the interests and dynamics change. And I know that years from now, this library auction will only be a memory for me. I know I'll eventually walk the grounds myself and singly scavenge through the tents, as I drop my preteen children off on a Friday and Saturday night to hang with their friends.

The memories of my daughter asking to go in and out of all the tents. Or trying on too many pieces of jewelry. Or begging for fresh squeezed lemonade. Or both kids dancing to their own music. Or my son crying on the ground because he was too hungry to walk another step until he ate pizza. Or him getting so excited because he found a storm trooper in one of the boxes. Or simply, the image of stacking countless books by a paper bag and the excitement that was displayed when we took them home. These will all soon be a distant memory, filed away in the back of my brain, stored for a rainy day...

...Just like all the other memories that have accumulated over my years, and the years of all the others who walked through this library auction over the 71 years...

**I published on Sunday, instead of Monday, because my family and I are leaving for our annual camping trip at our local amusement park tomorrow. I will be posting on Instagram, so follow me on there @the_happy_days and the hashtag, thehappydaysvacation.

Thanks! <3

Friday, June 30, 2017

Last day of school... With a shout out to our district.

Today finally concludes the last day of our school year. And it was one of the longest, drawn out and emotionally charged, years I've ever experienced.

But here we are, on the 180th day, a day that didn't feel attainable just a few short weeks back. And now that we're here, it's bittersweet to say the least.

For one, I'm enamored to get my daughter back with me for 24 hrs/day, 7 days/week. To just snuggle her everyday, be on our own clock, and be here to answer her 100,000 questions a minute. And, to also help build back up her confidence, that was torn down over the school year. 

Secondly, I'm pretty heartbroken to be losing such an amazing teacher this year... As a stay at home mother, especially a peaceful parent, it takes a lot to impress me with outside assistance. But my daughter's teacher not only impressed me, but she exceeded every expectation that I ever had from a teacher. She is a teacher who took the time to invest in the emotions of her students. She didn't demand control over them, instead, she let them learn how they needed. Because to her, the end result was more important than the process. She is incredibly patient and understanding with her students and she let them be kids - a concept that is sometimes lost for elementary aged children. She had a wonderful balance of schooling and unschooling, which from a public school teacher, completely stole my heart...

In hindsight, I almost regret my daughter having her, because now, the bar was set so high, that I fear other teachers will have difficulty reaching it.

Additionally, I'm nervous upon conclusion, that the board will meet the demands of the teachers (if you've been following, you know about our district's strike and the ongoing negotiations)...

Also, I want to brag for a moment about my children's school. Because there are a lot perks, that I don't think our residents realize other districts don't have... Our school is amazing -top notch for a public school. It actually mirrors a Montessori program with it's limited regimented structure. And to those similar parents like me, you know how awesome that is.

For a public school, our class sizes are small, like 20 kids on average. And they rotate the children through smaller groups throughout the day to keep the sizes even smaller. Our elementary doesn't have grades, they use, approaching expectations, meeting expectations, and exceeding expectations. They test the kids over the four quarters and each marking period, they're evaluated and moved in and out of those smaller groups for reading and math.  So they get the special attention they need, or continue on a faster pace if needed... Also, if you have a disabled child, or a child with disabilities, they have countless aids, personal nurses, and staff designated to your child... We're also one of the few remaining districts with library class, music class, and art class. Plus, countless other activities like a school garden, field day, field trips, outdoor trips, sleigh riding in the winter, programs, etc.

I'm not great with numbers, nor the accountant for the school, but if the teachers receive what they're requesting, I'm nervous all the wonderful perks I just mentioned above will vanish. Because realistically, there is only so much financial wiggle room and our taxes are already one of the highest, if not, the highest in our area. And you see it all the time with budget cuts. 

But, less money equals less programs. And, less programs means more structure and less moving about. Then, this district, which is nationally ranked and coveted by other districts, will soon be just like all the rest.

And that stresses me out more than this school year did.

And I know, the easy solution is to homeschool. Hell, I talk about it enough. But right now, this school offers so much that my daughter loves, it's just the social factors she has trouble with.

Lastly, I'm deflated that I woke up this morning and in the blink of an eye, I now have a second grader and preschooler in my home.

Everything that occurred this year (with the school), distracted me from the bigger picture. And, I'm not as prepared as I thought I would be. And I don't think my daughter was either...

She spent the last night, before her last day, chatting about the year. We sat on her bed, in the dark room, and reminisced about her fun times, meeting new friends, and times spent with friends. And now that the day is here, she doesn't want to say goodbye.

She also cannot fathom that she'll be a second grader either... 
I'm glad that makes two of us.

But as I sit here and write this, I'm happy that this is the last day that I'll be home during the day without my little girl. That, starting tomorrow, our summer break officially begins. And from here on out, we anticipate our camping days, nighttime fires, amusement park trips, birthday parties, adventures, swimming, and our end of the summer beach vacation...

And even though our summer break isn't as long as everyone else's, ours will still rock just the same...

We might have arrived late to the party, but we brought the music...

So, let's get this party started!

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Mid Week Humor: Is bread really a problem?

If bread really is the problem to my weight gain, then, I really don't want to find the solution... Motherhood, where peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are my little slices of heaven.
The Happy Days Blog

Friday, June 23, 2017

Awaiting summer...

Just like my daughter, I could remember going to school until June 30th, during my sixth grade year. Although, that wasn't due to a teacher's strike, but instead, a State of Emergency was declared during a blizzard.

But looking back, I cannot remember what the weather was like in late spring. I cannot remember if I craved the end of the year so I could be outside all day, or to sleep in, or just be out of school. However, I do remember the countdown that was taped to my pink bedroom wall, as the school days seemed endless.

The good thing about this year is, our weather is horrible. It has rained almost everyday since March, with only scattered sunshine intermittently. The temperatures are warm, but the air is too wet to enjoy it, with an impending rainfall ready to ignite at any moment. So when I drop my daughter off at school, I don't have that urge to rebel and keep her home. I figure, she's not missing anything by being at school (not like this time last year, when we were at the lake everyday).

But either way, like her mama, she has a countdown written on her calendar. She's waiting for that last day with high hopes. Because to her, and every other child, that last day signifies the beginning of summer.

The days where we wake up and lounge in our pajamas until noon, or swim in the pool before breakfast, eat dinner around the fire on the blanket, or swim in the pool under the glow of the outdoor strung lights.

Summer is a time when the day isn't over because of an early bedtime. Instead, it's over when the skies are dark and our bodies are tired...

... From when we jump on the trampoline so many times our tummies hurt. Or, we hike around the woods until the adventure is over. Or, dance to 80's songs in our pajamas in the kitchen, while making muffins at 10:00 pm.

Summer is also a time when we aren't tied down to schedules or someone else's time clock...

Something that as a stay at home mom, I don't take for granted... Not for a second...

In my home, summer time is when we unplug ourselves from technology (with the occasional TV show or movie at night). And by joining in with my children, I'm able to give them a summer like I had in the 80's. Complete with bike riding through the neighborhood, amusement park trips, lake trips, camping trips, and ending the summer at the beach...

So, as we round this last week of school, our bodies are anxiously waiting at the starting line. Waiting for our days to begin...

Because childhood is meant to be enjoyed. And what a better time for that, then when the air is warm, the nights are long, and the time is free.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Mid Week Humor: Sleeping husbands...

It's funny how watching my children nap during the day brings me such peace and accomplishment... Whereas, watching my husband nap during the day will raise my blood pressure to the point of making my ear pulsate... Motherhood.
The Happy Days Blog