The days are long, but the years are short

I heard this quote somewhere along the way when my kids were little but I didn’t get it then. I do now. This quote embodies so much of what has been on my mind lately.

Each stage of life with kids is a new and different kind of challenge. When they are little, some days feel like they will never end. You wonder when it’s going to be bedtime only to realize it’s only 10 am. Then, in the blink of an eye, you suddenly realize you only have a few more summers left with them before they’re all grown up.

This year, Megan is going to be away for almost half of the summer. She’ll be travelling abroad to Iceland, Germany and Austria with the GAPP exchange through her school and also spending a week at Lycoming College. I am SO excited for her and all the adventures she will have. But at the same time I think…She’s my evening dog-walking buddy, style sound-board, music recommender and fellow book enthusiast. I am going miss her SO much.

Last weekend we went to a Girl Scout art event at the Reading Public Museum. We chatted on the hour-long drive each way, listening to a playlist of her favorite songs which she created especially for the trip. We had crepes for lunch before the event; sushi and ice cream for dinner afterwards. She ended up being the only girl registered, so it turned out to be a private art session for the two of us. We crafted with felt, painted with water colors and designed labyrinths. We wandered around the museum for an hour or so – checking out the ecclectic galleries containing various artworks, a mummy and dinosaurs.

I am so glad we had the chance to spend the day together before she leaves for her summer of adventures. We enjoyed the museum but didn’t have a chance to see everything, so we are already planning a trip back in the fall. I can’t wait!

Puppy Sitting

We learned a lesson last weekend. Poppy Cotton doesn’t like puppies.  In her house. At least not big, smooshy, playful ones.

We have been on the Puppy Sitting list for Susquehanna Service Dogs for a while. Sometimes the regular Puppy Raiser needs to send the puppy somewhere else while they go away on vacation or just take a break for the weekend.  On those occasions, Puppy Sitters fill in.  A last minute opportunity for sitting one of three 14-week old puppies came up for this weekend.  I decided it was time to take the plunge and responded that we were available.

We picked up the sweetest, most mellow and laid back 14-month old black lab puppy named Keating. He was huge (almost 30 lbs!) and clumsy and snuggly and playful.  The girls loved playing with him; he was enamoured with Molly,  and he started following her around everywhere she went. And when I sat down on the couch, he wanted to be right up here with me.

We expected a little adjustment time for Poppy to get used to having the puppy around. She’s usually excited to meet new dogs, and while she might be a little grumpy at first, she warms up and wants to play. But with him, here in our house, she just got more grumpy and growly and stressed.

I think Keating just wanted to play with Poppy. He would follow her around – the faster she went to get away, the faster he would go.  He would romp and meander around all at the same time, with his big floppy ears and huge paws.  After a difficult evening of trying introduce them and then a whole night of keeping them seperated, neither one happy, we decided it just wasn’t going to work for us to have him at our house for the entire weekend.  It was just too stressful for everyone.  We had to call and ask them to find somewhere else for him to go.  I was sad, the girls were sad, I think even Uncle Grouchy was sad.

We definitely learned some lessons to consider before we get another puppy (which we’ve been talking about).  We need to get Poppy more used to meeting new dogs, especially puppies.  Or we need to consider getting a more mature dog.  Either way, I think we need to get her used to having other dogs visit the house before bringing one here permanently.

This is the closest Poppy would let him get. And she would not relax if he was nearby.

Our Family’s Happy Place

Over the years, our family has visited Pine Creek almost every summer for the past 10 years (along with my parents and my brother’s family). Even before that, the place was always a retreat for me, where I reconnected with my roots and with nature. Our family has been holding family reunions at Little Pine State Park since before I was even born.

Last summer, we didn’t make it there, for the first time in several years, and my kiddos still haven’t let me hear the end of it.  This year, however, we were able to visit twice, and we did our best to make the most of it!

Panorama of the creek from the bank of our rental house.

First, we went up for a long weekend Wednesday-Sunday in late June.  Megan was lucky enough to be able to stay for a few extra days, but I had to drop Molly off at Girl Scout Camp that Sunday, so our stay was cut a little shorter. Our time there is always made most special by being surrounded by family. The kids play hang out with their cousins and the grownups have extra time to sit and visit. We go hiking or biking on the Pine Creek Rail Trail, and of course spend lots of time in the creek. Kayaking and fishing seem to be the favorite activities for the kiddos…I just love paddling up the creek, then floating back down, enjoying the peaceful scenery.

Lots of cousin togetherness!

The kids have an opportunity to reconnect with their grandparents, great grandmother and lots of extended family too.

And I try to fit in a little quiet time as well.

Enjoying the fire before everyone else came down.

Our second visit was just for the weekend so we could attend the family reunion at Little Pine State Park at the end of July.  We stayed in a house in English Center that used to be a restuarant and ice cream shop.  Nana shared fond memories of visiting the ice cream shop with Grandpa, which I thought made it even more special.  The weather was rainy, so we didn’t spend much time in the creek, but we enjoyed visiting everyone at the reunion and just hanging out together as a family.

We got to play in the creek a little bit in the morning, before it started to rain, but it was cold so we didn’t stay in for long!

Family fun and games – darts and checkers. Poppy Cotton wasn’t sure what to think.

I hope that as the kiddos grow up, they will continue to cherish these times at Pine Creek and keep wanting to visit there. I know these times and this place will always hold a special place in my heart.

Where Did May Go?

It’s been a busy month since my last post, without much time to myself. Work continued to be very busy for a while – thankfully it is mostly back to normal now.  Both the kiddos had lots of activities to end their school year. Molly just finished 5th grade (and elementary school!) and Megan finished 8th grade (and middle school!)  School is officially out for the summer!

The end of the elementary school years brings with it lots of “last time” activities that I know I will miss someday, so I tried to be there whenver I could. A field trip to Philadelphia, field day, end of the year class party, fifth grade celebration. I was there, camera in hand, trying to enjoy the time and capture some memories with Molly and her friends. So much changes when they go to middle school – I just wanted to be with them a bit longer while they’re “little”.

Middle school ended with less of a flourish.  There was a day time awards ceremony where the 8th graders were all recognized and got to walk across the stage. For Megan, the end of middle school was more about getting through finals. She had 4 this year and she studied hard for them.  We spent a good part of Memorial Day weekend reviewing study packets and making flashcards.

In addition to school stuff, my Girl Scout troop is working on their Bronze Award project.  We’re building a Buddy Bench for the girls’ Elementary School.  We’re working out the final details and are planning to build the bench soon. Watch for a future post about it – I’m so excited for this project and so are the girls!

Even though I’ll be working through the summer, I’m working on slowing down a bit, too. I have a stack of books I want to read this summer and hope to do some projects around the house. The in-laws are coming to visit for a week. We have minimal travel plans, but both girls are spending a week away at different camps. Summer camp weeks will give Uncle Grouchy and I a little bit of much-needed kid-free time.  I have some craft projects I want to work on.  Time to recharge a little bit. Time to slow down and spend time together. That’s what summer vacation is supposed to be all about, right?

It’s the little things.

Since last Tuesday, I’ve been working extra long hours to help solve a problem with a system I work on (along with several co-workers).  We had to turn off part of the system as a result of the problem, so we’re working extra hard to get everything back up and running.  I’ve missed my time at home with my kiddos, with the puppy dog and with Uncle Grouchy.

Last week on Tuesday when we discovered the problem, I was at work till after 11 pm.  I missed kissing my kiddos goodnight, and it was even too busy to call.  The next night, we didn’t work quite so late, so I got home early enough to see them before bedtime.  I was exhausted, just happy to be home, and looking forward to some dinner.  The girls and Poppy Cotton all met me at the door.  Poppy was bouncing around like Tigger and the girls enveloped me in a big hug. After such a long day, it felt great to be welcomed home like that.

They had spent part of that evening before I got home making me a bracelet, which they gave me after the group hug. They used beads and charms from our shared stash of beading supplies.  They had braided together three strands of embroidery floss in my favorite colors and attached the beads and charms they thought I’d like as they braided. They told me it would help me think about them while I was working.

I wore it for the rest of the week…and they were right.  I was missing them while I was at work, putting in long hours, but it made me think of them whenever I noticed it on my wrist. Somehow, they knew exactly what I needed to help me through the week.  I’m still wearing it this week, as we continue working longer-than-usual hours to solve the problem. Hopefully we’ll be able to implement the solution soon and I’ll be able to go back to my regular schedule. Till then, I’ll be wearing my fancy new bracelet, and thinking of how lucky I am to have the two of them at home waiting for me.

Dying Easter Eggs

The girls are on on spring break from school this week, so I took off the afternoon today and the rest of the week to hang out with them. We decided to dye Easter eggs this afternoon. A few years ago, we decided not to get the kits with the little dye tablets anymore and to use food coloring and vinegar instead. It makes really vibrant colors and you can customize it at much as you want. We found a nifty chart on the McCormick’s website that shows how to combine the food dye colors to make lots of pretty egg colors. We had a ton of McCormick’s food colors left over from a Girl Scout project so we were all set!

Top: Megan getting organized. Bottom: Molly hard at work.

It struck me how differently the two girls approached the project.  It probably shouldn’t have, since their personalities and work styles are so different. Megan got out her notebook and planned out how she wanted to color her eggs.  She wrote down the colors of dye to make and even made a chart of how to arrange her dye jars to make sure she could keep track of what color each one had in it.  She numbered her designs, wrote down the steps and planned out the order to make them in.  Molly, on the other hand, picked some colors she liked, mixed them up and started dunking her eggs in. By the time they had sat in the dye long enough, she was surprised by the colors they came out. She was done in under 10 minutes while Megan was still at it half an hour after starting.

The favorites of the finished eggs. Molly’s are on the green grass and Megan’s are on the blue.

We tried a few new techinques this year from some ideas I had saved on my Pinterest Easter board. They wrapped rubber bands around some of the eggs and masked others off with tape to make patterns. We had trouble getting the rubber band technique to work as well as the tutorial (isn’t that always how it goes?) For the taped designs, we used washi tape because we didn’t have any regular painter’s tape. We did polka dots and stripes with the tape. The dye seeped in around it a bit and made some blended lines.  Even though the eggs didn’t quite come out how we planned or expected, it was neat to try out some new ideas.

Despite their different approaches, both girls made some pretty colorful and fun eggs.  And we had a nice afternoon hanging out together, trying out some new dying techniques and playing with colors. Now, I think I need to go buy another dozen eggs so I can have a turn!

80’s Movie Night

The younger kiddo was at a sleepover last night so the older one and I decided to watch some movies.  I have a mental list of 80s movies I want to watch with her so I suggested a few titles. Eventually, we decided on a “double feature” of Pretty in Pink and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off for last night. Uncle Grouchy even joined us – and he doesn’t usually join in our TV-watching  – so that was extra fun!

We picked up dinner at Neato Buritto (for us) and China Wok (for Uncle Grouchy) and settled in on the couch (note: Poppy Cotton in her favorite spot).  She didn’t have much to say about Pretty in Pink although we were highly entertained by the clothes and the hairstyles.  She was sad that Andie didn’t end up with Duckie in the end.  She thought Ferris Bueller was pretty funny.  She kept saying “He’s never going to get away with that” and “Why would he do that if he doesn’t want to get caught?”  In my opinion, the best part is that now she’ll get our “Bueller??? Bueller??” references when we’re trying to get someone’s attention.

So here’s our complete 80’s movie list – we have quite a few more to watch!

80’s Movie List

  • √ Pretty in Pink
  • √ Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
  • √ Say Anything
  • √ The Goonies
  • √ ET
  • √ Gremlins
  • √ Back to the Future (all 3!)
  • √ The Princess Bride
  • Sixteen Candles
  • The Breakfast Club
  • Footloose
  • Stand By Me
  • Dirty Dancing
  • The NeverEnding Story
  • Karate Kid
  • Top Gun

I’m sure there are lots more good 80’s movies we should add to our list…So what are we missing?  Add to our list in the comments!

Always watching

Like I said in my “Hello World!” post last week, I’ve been considering starting a new blog for a while. My old one had bad links and wasn’t relevant to the things I wanted to write about.   A friend of mine recently started a blog with some of her friends and talking to her about their experiences  made me want even more to start blogging again. Hi Megan – thanks for the unintentional push!

So last weekend I decided to go for it: I set up my new blog, worked on getting it to look like I wanted and wrote my first post.  There were moments of frustration and grumbling when the template I just spent 2 hours customizing didn’t support something I wanted to do.  And when I broke down and changed the style sheet to fix it and the page still didn’t look how I wanted it to look.  Uncle Grouchy to the rescue with the advice to do a Hard Refresh to make the browser go get the new style sheet. Oops…sorry for the slip into technobabble.  Anyway, in addition to the frustration, there were lots of “aha” moments, where it did work and I got excited about it coming together.  And when I published my first post and I wondered “Will anyone even read this?”

No one sat here next to me, watching my every move. The girls would pass through the living room, briefly ask what I was working on, peek for a moment, and then move on. Even though they didn’t really seem to pay a lot of attention or have any interest (because what tween or teen really wants to read her mom’s blog about mom stuff?) apparently they noticed all the same.

My oldest daughter asked to start her own blog yesterday.  So we have been working on setting it up. And by “we” I mean I did a new WordPress install for her and gave her a 2 minute tour of how to do stuff. Then she want off and customized it and started writing her first post. I’m really looking forward to seeing what she creates.  She likes to do art. And write short stories. She has a really fun-to-read writing style. A little quirky and very conversational.  And she has good ideas. Great vocabulary due to reading mountains of books.  Smart kid that one. I’ll share if she decides to make it public.

With two girls at the ages of 11 and 14, we have lots of challenging moments around here.  Sometimes I feel like they don’t appreciate what I do or even notice me at all. It felt pretty cool for her to want to do something like me.  And it was a good reminder that even when they’re not really watching and listening…they are.

Saturday around the house

All week long, I’ve been anticipating this weekend. Two blessed days with nothing on the calendar, no where to take anyone and no errands to be done.  My Girl Scout troop sold all our remaining cookies with our cookie caravan on Thursday after school, so no need for a last minute booth sale.  We did our weekend Target run last night after my oldest daughter’s field hockey game. So two whole days of uninterrupted relaxation, right?

While I did lounge in my PJs till almost noon with coffee and the internet, the rest of the day has been full.  Not busy, just full.  And it was a great day.

Before lounge time began, we slept in.  I made cinnamon rolls and bacon and eggs for breakfast while Uncle Grouchy got ready for work. The working on Saturdays is one of the drawbacks of working at a bike shop…spring time means longer hours and more Saturdays in the shop. Makes for a lot of girls day Saturdays!

Bye bye Brownie and Junior stuff!

I spent the better part of the afternoon cleaning out my Girl Scout supplies. As we near the end of another year, I pretty much know what we’re going to use between now and then and what we can pass on. My troop will be bridging from Juniors to Cadettes soon, so I have lots of Junior supplies to pass on – as well as a bunch of Brownie stuff I never gave away!  I have 2 cookie boxes full of supplies, badges, pins and patches to take to our Community meeting next week.

While I was busy with my cleaning project, both girls invited friends over.  The older two baked a double batch of my banana bread recipe and made it into muffins. They gave some to the neighbors and snacked on some.  Then they went outside to make a fort in the backyard, complete with a handsewn flag. I love that at 14, they will still go play outside for the afternoon. The younger two also went outside and adventured around the yard – destroying a rotten stump and discovering all kids of creepy crawlers.

Then all 6 of us (can’t forget Poppy Cotton!) walked over to the school playground to hang out for a bit. Poppy had several long runs around the playground and is now napping contentedly on the ottoman.

After sending all the friends home, I made dinner for the family.  Since Uncle Grouchy worked all day it was the least I could do 🙂

I love that we got to enjoy some downtime today.  And that we spent some time outside in the fresh air.  And that I got some stuff done that’s been on my to-do list since last summer!  Here’s to another productive and full day tomorrow – it’s supposed to be rainy and cooler so maybe I can knock out a few more sorting projects!


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