Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Projects

I managed to make a few things this year, but only a few. I have some plans, but this humidity is sucking all productivity out of me.

My niece was baptized in August and I made this scripture bag for her. I love those little dolls.


I shouldn't take credit for this because the males in the house did it. But I did cut out the letters. I just think it's fun. And hey, it was something to do during our too-long summer.


I wanted some way to display the boys' Junior Ranger badges and this is what I came up with. I don't know why I didn't use dark brown felt, but whatever. And yes, it's felt. But hey. It's done.


I forgot I made these things! This was something I made for girls camp as our theme was "We Can Do It!" At camp we hung it in front of the fireplace. It came home stinkier than I did!


And some Valentine's Day pillows.

Monday, September 17, 2018

Finally...The First Day of School

FINALLY. Holy crap. This starting after Labor Day is killing me. But finally the first day of school came. I swear that Monday night was as exciting as Christmas Eve...at least for me. We did our usual prep the day before by stamping shirts and getting blessings. And, of course, I had to start the cinnamon rolls.




Holy crap. I really really love these things.






And then it was time to go! Rhett is starting his last year of elementary school, and he's in yet another new-to-him school building. He has two teachers, one for math/science and the other for the literacy/social studies. It's a nice introduction to middle school. Ollie is in second grade, in his second year in the new building. We love it there. Both boys are doing okay and at least one of them is happy to be back in school, but that's only because he hasn't had too much homework yet. We already lost, but then found, one lunch bag and fight daily about the "no screens after school" thing, but I think we're all adjusting okay.

Friday, September 14, 2018

I Hate Summer

Ha. Apparently I have a post like this every year. Here's text from last year's "I hate summer" post with some added text in brackets for this year's commentary:

"I really dislike summer [YEP]. I dislike working every day [It's the worst]. I dislike making a lunch for work every day [Holy crap. I don't even know what to feed myself anymore]. I dislike missing out on adventures with my boys [Eh, take it or leave it]. I dislike coming home to a (most of the time) messy house [YEP]. I dislike feeling like I'm still mostly in charge of household duties while working full-time [YEP]. I dislike how many dishes we have to do with everyone (well, except for me) at home all the time [YEP]. I dislike the diets of all family members [YEP-except this year's dinners were awesome]. I dislike how expensive it is, just because doing stuff costs money (I know, not all stuff costs money, but a lot of it does) [YEP]." New complaint for 2018: I hate dressing for summer. I don't have enough summer clothes that I like and I just want to wear jeans without dying of heat.

"Buuuuut, I rather dislike not having any income in the summer [YEP]. So...

"Oh, while I'm being so negative, let me say how much I dislike feeding my children. I think it's the worst part of my life. (Which means I have a good life. I get it.) Next summer, I think it's all cereal, all the time. Just cereal and milk. It's all fortified, right?" [Wow. I really don't change at all. Except now I'm a woman who eats salads FOR dinner. You know this factoid is going on our Christmas card, right?]

"School starts on Tuesday! [It started last Tuesday!] Party!" [YEP]

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Clean and Quiet: The Boys go to Arizona

Due to some over-eager planning on my part, we ended up with a small credit for a flight on Southwest. This credit had to be used before mid-January, which meant travel over Thanksgiving or Christmas. But man, it's super expensive to fly over those times. Rather than lose the credit, however, Chuck and I decided that the three boys should take a trip to Arizona to see Chuck's parents. They had fun spending time with them and really taking advantage of the pool in the backyard on those 105-degree days! They also saw petroglyphs, shopped at thrift stores, and saw cousins/aunt/uncle. They had a great time.

And me? What did I do? I worked. But then I cleaned. And guess what? It stayed clean. I'd go to work, leaving behind a clean house, and return, hours later, to the SAME CLEAN HOUSE. It was seriously amazing. No socks stuffed in the couch. No slingshots on the dining room table. No strawberry tops on the kid table. No dirty dishes in the sink. I loved it so very much. I can only think of one other time where I was alone in my house, but that was only for one night and I worked my butt off. The first three days were basically the same: work, home. Thursday I ran with friends, and Friday I took a field trip to the Container Store because it's my heaven. But they were easy days. I ate cereal for dinner, because cooking for one is hard and I just didn't want to.

Saturday, however, I took a short road trip to Hershey for a Boden sample sale. I get the emails announcing the sale every year, but could never swing it. But this year, well, things were different! I listened to podcasts there and back and even got to grocery shop at the really good grocery store on my way home. Lovely. Sunday was a good run, church, and then some food prep for the next day. It was all so very easy. But mostly it was quiet...and clean.

Oh, and I watched about six movies, two of which were subtitled (which I only mentioned because there's no way this would have happened had I not been alone). I recommend "The Eagle Huntress" on Amazon. It's good for kids, if they can handle subtitles.

Monday, September 10, 2018

Camping at the Beach

Spending five days at Assateague was definitely the most consecutive number of days I've spent at a beach. It's definitely the most I've ever spent camping at a beach. We learned some things:

1. State parks need dryers! Nothing ever got fully dry; all swimsuits and towels were perpetually wet. Of course, the heat and wind helped get them to a point where they weren't going to get moldy (unlike my towel at camp), but the humidity and daily use meant they were never fully dry. When we camped in Delaware at their beach, they had dryers. It was amazing. I'd happily pay for those. Or, Assateague could install posts where people could hang towels and suits to dry. This campground was just like Delaware's in that there are NO trees. Nothing. Just sand and some grass. We bought rope thinking we could hang the towels, but nope. So pick one, Assateague.

2. We need to figure out how to cook. Just like the last time we camped at Assateague, it was windy. It is the beach. But I didn't think about how that would affect our ability to start a fire, and conversely, how it would affect our ability to cook dinner! Thankfully we had the Scamp, so we were able to cook inside. But for next time, I'd have to think about it. On the other hand, dinner time is also feeding time for the mosquitoes. Maybe being inside cooking isn't the worst thing.

Friday, September 7, 2018

Birthdays at the Beach: Assateague

Because we had already taken a nice vacation to Utah in the spring, and because we both had church camps in June, we didn't have much money or time leftover for another big family vacation. So we opted for a week at the beach. One of Maryland's state parks is right on the beach. Turns out we've been here before, but we didn't have the best experience. And I guess last time we weren't at the state park, rather the national seashore. But it doesn't make that much of a difference. It's all the same coast.

Anyway, this park is very sought-after. There are a lot of sites, but not a lot with electric hook-ups (something I now require for summer camping). The process to get reservations is very difficult and the odds are definitely against you. However, last July I, with backup provided by Chuck and my sister, was able to snag a site with a hook-up. Victory! We left Tuesday morning (traffic over the Bay Bridge was a breeze) and headed straight for the beach. That evening the park hosted a tie dye shirt party and we thought, what the heck. We all made shirts, fairly unsuccessfully, but definitely enjoying ourselves. Well 3/4ths of us enjoyed ourselves.








Wednesday we went to Chincoteague to explore the little town and see the lighthouse. We also stopped at NASA's Wallops Island. It was HOT. And BUGGY. I'm pretty sure I had a 5 millimeter-thick coating of sunscreen + bug spray on at all times. But we did get some delicious ice cream. That night the park showed an outdoor movie, so after an evening beach walk, we went to see the movie (the one with Mowgli in it?). The boys liked that for sure, while Chuck and I felt weird being the only adults there. (Where were all the parents?)
















Thursday was Ollie's birthday. He woke up to some pig decorations (his giggling! melted my mama heart!) and a breakfast of previously-made pig pancakes. Then it was off to the beach! After a good chunk of time spent playing in sand and water, we cleaned off and headed to Ocean City. The big attraction for the boys was the Ripley's Believe It or Not museum. This is something we would not have done, had it not been a birthday and had the boys not spent hours reading these books (they love them). So they enjoyed that. The adults enjoyed the air conditioning. After that we just walked the boardwalk, shopped in silly stores, and ate some pizza. I think Ollie had a good day.
















Friday was my birthday. Unlike last year's big one, this was one I just didn't care about. I did go for a run on the beach, followed up with some yoga also on the beach. The boys gave me some cards and a small present and then it was off to the beach. That afternoon, we did a small hike on the national seashore part of the island before deciding the bugs were too much and we headed back to the Scamp. We played our new game of "Pass the BIG Pigs" and did some campfire-wood-sack races.




Saturday morning we headed home after a morning walk on the beach. We had excellent, if not hot, weather, but it's the beach in summer. The ocean was warm enough for swimming and the boys certainly enjoyed getting out in it. And of course, the digging. Always the digging.

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Kid Kayaks

Remember how we rented kayaks at Rocky Gap? And then remember how after 15 minutes Ollie got bored and I had to take him back to shore? Then remember how I traded the double kayak for a single? Well guess what? Single kayaks are AMAZING. I could not get over how much lighter and easier to maneuver they are. I had so much fun and really enjoyed it compared to when I have to single-handedly propel me and a child in a double. It got me thinking: what if the boys had their own kayaks? Rhett and a buddy shared one at Rocky Gap and it was so much fun to watch them go, but also a little hard to see them struggle to try to control it (and control each other). So I scoured Craigslist for about a day, when two child-sized sit-upon kayaks came up for sale. Chuck and I talked about it and decided to go for it.

A lot of the campgrounds we stay at have some sort of lake. However, because we frequently camp in the off-season, we're not able to rent boats. So having these would be excellent and give us one more thing to do while camping. Plus, they're small. They fit in the Scamp, so we don't have to get a roof rack. And if we're just going locally, they fit in the car (not well, but we make it work).

We took them out the first weekend after we got them and they were amazing! I expected my boys to last maybe 15 minutes, but they paddled around for AN ENTIRE HOUR. They stayed together and even made my little mama heart beat fast because they were so far from the shore (and therefore from me!). I expected Ollie would be comfortable straying far, but not Rhett. I thought for sure he'd hug the shore, but nope. They were off and gone.

We're camping at another lake this weekend, and I'm so excited to give the boys another chance to try them out. (I should add: Chuck took them out in August. Ollie was freaked out by signs warning them about the (bad) quality of the water. Sigh.)

Classic Rhett: obeying all safety rules.


Classic Ollie: making a ridiculous face.


Also classic Ollie: shirking all work.


Brothers high five!

Monday, September 3, 2018

Rocky Gap Camping

We are always excited when we get to camp with friends. And when the adults are friends AND the kids are friends, well, magic happens. We went camping at the same park we visited in the spring, but this time there wasn't snow and there were friends: Rhett's friend, Alejandro, and his family. Chuck and I enjoy Ale's parents as much as Rhett enjoys Ale, so it was a win-win.

The park has about, oh, two hikes. We did one in March and the other goes straight up a mountain. Given it was July, well, we opted not to hike. Thankfully we had a beach and spent most of our time there. The kids had a great time playing in the water and on the water. We rented boats and Rhett and Ale took one. Ollie and I were in another, but Ollie lasted only 15 minutes before demanding to be let out. Sigh. So I took him back and traded in the double for a single kayak and HOLY CRAP. Single kayaks are the easiest things to maneuver! This fact, and watching Rhett paddle with no adults really got me thinking about whether we should invest in our own kayaks...but more on that later.




We also did some fishing. It frustrated Rhett completely that he caught nothing and Ollie caught a couple. Sorry dude.


Oh, the boys also loved the hammocks.




And this. I have no memory of buying this, except that as of September 1 (about six weeks after camping), the lollipop has not been finished.

Friday, August 31, 2018

The TWO Times I Ate a Salad for Dinner (not with dinner, FOR dinner)

Cooking in summer is pretty bad. I find that I'm so grumpy because of the heat, and that I don't want to be opening a hot oven or cooking over a hot stove. Plus, I'm the working mom during summer. Feeding the family should be Chuck's job, but...that doesn't always happen. It's just all really stressful. Plus, there's the whole my-kids-don't-eat-anything anyway that just makes it all worse.

Last summer we had the boys pick out seven meals that they'd eat, and we just did those every single week on repeat. ("If it's spaghetti, it must be Thursday" kind of thing.) But by the end of summer, they were complaining still. ("Tacos, again?" even though they love tacos.) This summer I was almost to the point of CEREAL EVERY NIGHT (it's fortified, right?) when I saw this. It was a seven-week meal plan. I love this blog. I love almost everything I've tried from this blog, so what the heck. I'm doing it.

It was pretty amazing. I think the biggest downside to it was the cost of the meals. I definitely spent more money on groceries to carry out the meals. I think that was mainly because if it said steak tacos, I made steak tacos, even if the steak wasn't on sale. Something I'd never do otherwise. But the upsides were that I didn't have to think about what I was going to serve the family, AND it got us to eat some things that we wouldn't have otherwise. The biggest win was that we made and ATE two salads for dinner. These were not side salads. They were real salads with real vegetables and real protein. It seriously was a miracle.

What else did we eat? A few "bowls" (a breakfast one and a burrito one), lots of sandwiches (but not pb&j), a couple of wraps, steak tacos, a delicious pesto/asparagus pasta salad, and other stuff (obviously). The salads were a chef salad and a mango cobb. Me eating a salad for dinner has me questioning my entire identity. I mean, who am I!??!?

So we'll definitely pick a couple of those that were our favorites to put them in our regular rotation. I'm super happy we did it and would definitely do it again.

What we ate...


What my boys ate...



Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Girls (and a little Scout) Camp

Oh man. How can you describe something that taxed you so much mentally? This program really did a number to my mental health. How was it different from last year? Well, obviously, this year I was in charge. I found out there's a BIG difference between being the assistant camp director and the camp director. I was just so emotionally and mentally drained each evening from making decision after decision. Last year, I went running three mornings. This year? I ended up driving between camp and the pavilions WAY more than I want to admit and I didn't even get to go on the hikes.

The Good:

  • The women. I had a committee of 12 women who, except for the cooks, were doing this on a strictly volunteer basis. It was not their calling. They simply love YW and want to be involved with camp. In addition to them, working with the Stake YW Presidency is amazing. I like all of them so much.
  • The girls. They're able to remain happy and upbeat in the face of a lot of crappy things.
  • The service project. This year we worked with the state park to carry out an invasive species pull. It turned out really great and we learned a lot from doing it.
  • The boating. Last year it was more random, but this year, we dedicated an entire day and were able to rent the boats for a great price.
  • Going up early with YCLs. We took them up Monday and were able to do some training and have fun with them without the younger girls around. It worked out really well, and it's something we'll do next year.
  • The guns. Holy crap. We took the girls shooting on a gun range. For reals. I was terrified of it, but it turned out great and we only had one girl ask to go back to main camp. I still hate guns SO VERY MUCH, but it was something we could do to give the girls a bit more "high adventure."
  • The food. Our camp cooks are amazing. Food tastes delicious and watching them work is so fun. Such a machine!

The Bad:

  • The rain. Omygosh the rain. It rained so much. The one day we needed it to not rained, however, it didn't! But the first night my tent got soaked and was out of commission for the rest of the week. I stayed in the cabin with the camp nurse and her baby, which wasn't ideal (did you read the part about the baby? although, to be honest, I barely heard her), but it was a million times better than a wet tent where all of my possessions were getting wet. But it also meant the wards didn't get great campfire time. We also had a ruined breakfast that was supposed to be cooked over the fire.
  • My sleeping quarters. As mentioned, my tent got drenched the first night (I'm talking puddles inside). It was terrible. Next year, I'm considering bringing the Scamp. I just couldn't handle the anxiety of watching the rain, wondering how wet my tent was going to be. It really didn't help my mental ability to make camp decisions. However, if I had the Scamp, I could rest easy and not have that additional stress. We'll see.
  • It's a long week. We started with YCLs on Monday, and everyone came up Tuesday. But we didn't get to go home until Saturday. It just seemed long.
  • Issues with the girls. We had two major issues come up. One week, in the woods, with 75 girls...it shouldn't be a surprise. But it's hard. Yes, I was thrilled to have other smart women around to help me figure out what we should do, but you're always wondering if you did the right thing.
I got back Saturday afternoon. Twenty four hours later, Chuck left for six days of scout camp. Awesome. They did a 50-mile high adventure one this year. At mile 48, his shoes failed him and he got some blisters. But otherwise, he enjoyed the boys and was happy to have his hammock. I was super happy for the bishop's wife who offered to watch my boys for free (well, the cost of enrolling them in Vacation Bible School) so I wouldn't have to miss another week of work for a church camp. How grateful we are to this good woman!

And now, next year's camp is less than ten months away. Oy.