Happiness Ever After

About three months ago, my attention was caught by a post from a friend on Facebook. A smiling, laughing little girl with the sun caught in her hair on a beautiful, sunny summer day blowing bubbles. They had this picture of one of their daughter with a caption and the hashtag #100happydays. This person then posted the following website (100happydays) to state why they were posting this. Being as I normally don’t click on websites that people post (I mean there are just so many!), this one just drew me in.

As I perused the website, I was appalled that 71% of people who would start the happiness challenge would quit because of their lack of time to complete it. 71%, almost 3 out of 4 people, didn’t want to make time for their happiness….really?! 

I knew that something was missing in my life at that point in time. I was content and seemed happy, but couldn’t really pinpoint why I was happy. I was content because life was just moving along. One major obstacle has been in our way since March, but we’re just along for the ride and taking everything in stride. That same day, I was at Target and found the book The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. I was definitely noticing a theme emerging in my life. 

That day, I started the #100happydays on Facebook. I didn’t post a picture everyday as I thought it would be overkill, but just started posting a simple phrase or sentence about what made me happy each day. After the first week, I noticed that I was consciously looking for little things that made me happy as I didn’t want to be redundant to and just keep saying that my family made me happy. After the first month, I did notice that I was being a more positive person and I was truly becoming happier.

With that, I then read The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin and simply realized that I just need to embrace the crazy that is my house and understand that my happiness is not what others view as happiness. My peace is not their peace and that’s totally okay. 

As I finished up my 100 days last week, I scoured through my past posts to find my happiness themes and came up with these:

  • My kids just being themselves
  • Spending time with my husband
  • Enjoying coffee
  • Eating great food
  • Spending time with close friends and family
  • Being outside
  • Reading
  • Enjoying solitude 
  • Cooking
  • Fantastic colleagues & career

I reflected then on Rubin’s work and realized that yes, my linen closets being organized makes me gleefully happy. A clean kitchen makes me melt when I wake up in the morning to glimmering countertops and no dishes to be done. I am more laid back about cleaning the bathroom and putting away clothes now. I mean, really, I live in a house with three guys, I’m not sure my bathroom will ever not smell like a hint of urine no matter what tricks I use. 

I am more grateful after this 100 days of focusing on happiness. I say thank you probably way more than I should. Instead of nagging someone else to do it, I just do the task without complaint (unless it’s taking the puppy out at 1:00 a.m). I relish in the quiet moments of reading and snuggling with my kids as much as I relish watching them run through the Course of Doom. I appreciate my husband more and nag him less. I have started taking time for myself and understanding that I can take 30 minutes out of my day for something that makes me happy versus something that should be done (like the bathroom cleaning). I’ve stopped wishing away my life and really started living in the present. 

I will be continuing the happiness effort by keeping a private journal instead of continuing to post on Facebook. These past 100 days have made a huge impact on my life that I’d like to continue to keep up to constantly remind myself that my life is pretty amazing. We don’t live in a fancy house, drive nice cars, or have a lot of money lying around – but I’m beyond happy with what I have and that’s all that matters. 

 

 

Food Pantry

We have an abundance of cucumbers this year. Last year, I had two plants that barely survived and didn’t have enough cucumbers to make pickles for the year or to eat every day. This year, cucumbers are everywhere! Charlie helped me plant them and we ended up with six plants. Knowing what I did from last year, I figured that we’d have enough with a few extras to give to others. Nope. Yesterday, after not picking for two days, I ended up bringing a bushel basket full of cucumbers home. This doesn’t include the ones I already had at home or the ones that I will have to pick tomorrow.

I’ve been trying to give them away. Although, apparently cucumbers are pretty expensive. At the grocery store yesterday, they were .50/cucumber. Anyway, I hate to see food go to waste so I took orders from my friends and family, but that didn’t even make a dent or take into consideration what I’d be getting again in a few days. So, we decided to take the entire basket to our local food pantry after confirming that they would take fresh produce.

It was my first time in the food pantry and I’m ashamed that it’s taken me that long. I always donate through the grocery store, but have never physically step foot there. The volunteers working were incredibly gracious for the donation of fresh produce and were unbelievably pleasant with my children. I even met the father of one of Steve’s high school friends. You have to love small town life!

The experience was a pretty powerful one for me. Even though we were only there for about ten minutes, I could see what it might be like for a family to have to rely on the pantry for their groceries and the minimal selection that is present. I will definitely be taking my extra veggies there again so these families have some fresh produce to choose from. I will also make sure that I’m purchasing/donating more healthier food options when I donate from other places. Volunteering there would be an amazing experience I think for the boys and I, but I need to look into if they can come with. Otherwise, it will have to wait until they are older, as the pantry is only open for a few hours during the day.

Weekend Love

Super busy to a laid back kind of Sunday is exactly what we needed in this house over the weekend. Friday was my day to run errands with the boys after having been gone from Sunday through Thursday morning. The boys were not thrilled with doing this and their behavior showed it. It is what it is and had to be done.

Target was a big trip for us on Friday. We bought all of Charlie’s school supplies for Kindergarten. I still cannot believe that we were shopping for him and that I have to take him to registration this week. We still need to shop for shoes and some clothes, but that will be a trip for just the two of us. I also have to make his art smock. I wasn’t ready to pull out the sewing machine, but I guess if I mess up his smock, it’s not a big deal. I mean, it is an art smock for a five year old.

Saturday was spent taking care of a few things around the house and then heading to the wedding of a good friend of mine at High Cliff Restaurant in Sherwood. Congratulations to the wonderful couple! And a big thank you for the wonderful food and of course, the Mike & Ike’s. Steve and I definitely needed a break from the kiddos for a bit and this was our respite. It’s the first date we’ve had since the first weekend in June. Much too long too wait for a night out with my husband, but that’s life with kids I guess. After leaving the wedding, we stopped at a bar in Ripon and had a few drinks before heading home. We were still home at 9:30 p.m. though knowing our babysitter had plans for early Sunday. AND, found out some of our really great friends got engaged as well. Saturday really was all about the love.

Sunday was great! I can’t think of the last time we all just relaxed for the entire day. We were able to spend some time with my grandparents as they drove over for lunch with us and then the rest of the day, we did nothing. The boys all cuddled up and watched two Star Wars movies and I knitted 1/3 of a baby blanket and caught up on The Real World Season 28.

The boys and I are going to be a bit busy this week, but are trying to keep everything pretty laid back as I feel like this is really the last week we have together. Next week is iffy, but I’m pretty sure that I will probably not see my children the last week of August as our school construction will *hopefully* be done enough for us to move everything in to our school.

Parenting Choices

My boys are complimented on a very consistent basis on how well behaved they are (an asked if they are twins!). I am able to take them with me to any type of appointment and they sit and entertain each other with things that I have brought for them to do. The grocery store is a breeze as they say hello to others and help me pick out the food for the family. The two of them use their manners the majority of the time without reminders from myself or Steve. I have even dragged them to my governance board meetings for work where they sat in complete silence for an hour and introduced themselves properly to adults. Truly, they are amazing boys and I feel like Steve and I are doing a great job parenting.

However, yesterday was rough. Really rough for us. We had to make a tough parenting decision. Yesterday, the boys were at our daycare provider’s during the day and had a blast. I picked them up and that’s when all hell broke loose. I live about six houses down from our sitter. In the course of the walk home, both boys threw tantrums. I’m talking “throw myself on the ground, make you look like the most awful mom in the world, screaming like a banshee” tantrum. Why? I asked Charlie to walk close to me and tell me about his day. After his tantrum was finished, I told Adam not to turn the corner without us. We got home and Charlie threw himself, kicking and flailing like a toddler onto the couch because I told him if his tantrums and disrespectful attitude continued that, no, we would not be taking the boys to the tractor pull in Green Lake that evening. I sent Charlie to his room and sat down with him trying to determine the underlying cause of his tantrums. After five minutes of refusing to speak to me, he started to talk: “I hate our house and want to move”, ” I wanted to run home”, “I hate when you let Adam beat me.” Overarching theme, as he’s snuggled in my arms, breathing deeply….I have an overtired child who is filled with love, but cannot express the emotion of needing a break.

See, Charlie is an introverted child. He thrives on having some time alone frequently to just sit and gain his energy back. He’s not a napper, but just needs to ten minutes of peace. I let him know that he snuggling up in his bed for a bit was okay with me and something he should do. He strolled out quietly, with an aura of shyness surrounding him and walked over to me, plopped in my lap, looked me in the eye and apologized for throwing a tantrum and being hurtful to Adam and me. Awesome. I thought we were moving on with our night.

Not so much. The boys headed outside to play in the sandbox. The boys started dumping buckets of sand on each other – our one rule for the sandbox is no throwing sand on each other. After two reminders, I was done with this and removed the boys from the sandbox. No issues as they know the consequence for their action. Next, they head to their newly built picnic table and jump off of the top. Reminders about it not being safe ensued and they were asked to find a different activity. Again, the boys headed to the sandbox where they proceeded to resume the sand throwing. Immediately, they were brought into the house. I separated them into different rooms and asked them to think about their actions. I reminded them that they had the tractor pull that evening on the line.

Steve got home then. I explained the boys behaviors and the tantrums that had ensued as both children were screaming in their respective rooms. We went in to talk to Charlie together only for him to tell us that we had to take him to the tractor pull and we weren’t being fair. Oh dear child. If you only knew that you will never get anything from me with that attitude. Ever.

We knew that we had to get our point across as Charlie has started a bit of a self-entitlement phase. We let the boys know that due to the tantrums, not using their listening ears, and disrespectful words that they would not be going to the tractor pull and would not be attending one until they proved they could do those things. And then, all hell broke loose. There was lots of kicking and yelling from my children. “That’s not fair”, “You hate me”, “You have to take me!” all came spewing from the two children’s mouths. And that’s when Steve and I looked at each other and knew we had made the right decision as parents. Yes, we felt bad. Really bad because the boys had been looking forward to this activity for weeks. But, it’s a privilege, not a given right. And, it’s not a once in a lifetime thing. C’mon…we live in Wisconsin. There are tractor pulls every weekend, all over the state during the summer.

We stuck to our beliefs that we are raising good people. We put the boys to bed early (like 6:30 early and they were asleep within ten minutes). We breathed easier when they fell asleep with soft, curling smiles on their faces. We reflected on our choice and how we could have changed the situation. We know they were tired as evident by the ease and earliness of bed time. We talked about having even less for them and really making them earn everything they have by helping more around the house. We discussed again if we made the correct decision and second guessed ourselves for quite some time.

Then, this morning happened. Both boys woke up with smiles on their faces and hugs to give. They both apologized for their behaviors the night before without prompting from us. The hugs and apologies were one of the most wonderful things a mother could hear. To know that yes, we are teaching them values and how to reflect on their choices is amazing.

 

Sheer Giggles

Our day started with something off of our summer bucket list…..going out to eat for breakfast, specifically donut breakfast. We headed over to Palenque Coffee House (Doomsday Donuts). I let the boys order their own milk and they picked out their own specialty donuts from the case. Charlie has his daddy’s taste in sweets and went for the peanut butter cup donut, I had the strawberry shortcake donut and Adam surprised us, and even the lady at the counter. Adam ordered the tiniest donut they had, a blueberry lemon cake donut with white frosting.

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After our extremely nutritious, and “tasty and delicious” (per Sir Adam), we headed to K-Mart to stock up on some random goods for different activities for the rest of the summer. Our cart was stocked with pool noodles, a hula hoop, shaving cream, a plastic shower curtain liner, balloons,  shower caps, army men, solo cups, paper plates, and a few other odds and ends. The boys were not happy with me that we weren’t going home after this to see what I had planned. Instead I made Charlie go to swimming lessons, to take care of the garden, and a quick stop at the grocery store.

By the time we got home, the anticipation had grown. They were antsy and wanted to know what we were going to do. I turned them loose outside and they built a construction site, begging the entire time to know what I had planned. I grabbed the plastic shower liner, the sunscreen, and a bottle of shaving cream. Thank you Pinterest for making me the cool mom! Next time, I will find something to stake this down with. I’d also find a larger liner or piece of plastic and add a second can of shaving cream right away, but I digress.

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I told the boys to strip to their undies and they were in complete and utter shock. They couldn’t seem to fathom that I was actually telling them it was okay to be in their skivvies outside. Once they finally got past the giggles of me saying undies (it’s a forbidden word in our house), they had to me sunscreen them up. Now the whole time, they are staring at the plastic and questioning me. Finally, I set them free. They took running starts and the mass amounts of giggles started. For a little over an hour, and a cost of $4, they were occupied and having a blast. I have great video of them that I need to try and post later.

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The boys have asked when they get to do that again and refused to stop talking about it to their dad and grandpa last night. Shaving cream slide will definitely be happening again.

 

 

 

Entertaining the Masses….otherwise known as Keeping Two Boys Occupied

This is the weirdest summer ever for my family.

  • Both boys are very active and mobile this year.
  • Adam’s taking less naps.
  • I’m working two full days a week consistently.
  • Charlie has swimming lessons every weekday since mid-June.
  • Steve’s working Fridays and tons of overtime.
  • My house is a mess.
  • My kicker though…..the boys need some guidance in their play.

My kicker with the boys needing some guidance has thrown me for a loop. Charlie has always been fantastic at playing on his own. He has a great imagination and can pretend with anything. Last summer, just having the kids swimming pool and the sandbox filled with toys outside was enough. Charlie could entertain himself all day, in turn keeping Adam entertained for a large chunk of the time. Adam will play by himself, but he doesn’t have the same stamina as Charlie.

Adam, last summer

Adam, last summer

This summer, I’ve gotten the “I’m bored” and “Mom, watch this”, “NO, not like that.” Neither of the boys seems to be able to play for longer than 30 minutes without one of these phrases coming out. I do adore watching my kids, don’t get me wrong, but the incessant “watch this” before they do anything gets old for me. I’m not one to praise my children because they spun in a circle.

Others I know have schedules for their children with specific times for things. I thought about it. And decided against it. I like the freedom of summer.

Needless to say, I had to figure something out. Thankfully, Pinterest is in my life. I started picking out simple activities that could be thrown together in a matter of minutes by myself that might occupy the boys. First up, during a rainy day, I used painter’s tape and turned my living room floor and furniture into a racetrack for Hot Wheels (See my inspiration here). They do love this, but only for awhile. I’m pretty sure it takes me longer to create than anything else, BUT they didn’t fight for about 30 minutes.

Next up, sidewalk paint. Both boys enjoy playing with sidewalk chalk, so I figured sidewalk paint would be something different that they would still enjoy. Using this blog to guide me, I created my sidewalk paint.

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The boys were occupied for again, about 30 minutes. They loved the painting piece of this. They were frustrated that when they painted the sidewalk, it looked like water until it dried. The color then appeared. Would we do it again? Yes, yes we would. After they got just drawing lines out of their systems, Charlie started teaching Adam how to write the alphabet. Super cute if you ask me. Steve’s reactions to our sidewalk paint, that does wash off with water, was to tell us that it looked like a unicorn died in our driveway.

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Yesterday, the boys wanted to be inside so badly it was ridiculous. Unfortunately for them, they have Steve and I as parents who fully believe that you can play outside instead of watching t.v. during the beautiful weather. They played tag, did some swimming, made a construction site and built some towers in the sand, played basketball and had a water gun fight. And then they were out of ideas. They really wanted to play with the water guns, but couldn’t find anything productive to be doing with them, other than torturing each other. So, we dragged out a table and I gave them first five Solo cups and lined them up along the back of the table. I created a line for them not to cross with our orange tunnel. Once they figured out which squirt guns worked the best, they were sold on this activity. They were stacking the cups into towers, asked for more cups, added little army men to the towers and pretending that the mountains they were climbing were collapsing (not actually shooting the army men!). 45 minutes later and they were tired! So worth it and I will be doing this one again!

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The boys have been enthralled with a having purpose to their play for a short time. Specifically, Charlie. I feel like it must be that school age thing where he’s been so used to working in stations this past year, that he’s finding it hard to free think. So, it’s off to the Dollar Store today to see what else we can find to entertain the masses, otherwise known as keeping a 5 and a 3 year old boy occupied.

Making Memories

At the beginning of summer, I had created a list of 50 things to do with the boys before summer is over. The stark realization that my summer is truly half over already hit me over the weekend. And the fact that I had done 0/50.  My philosophy on summer days is “Go play.” I whole-heartedly believe in all the aspects of play based learning, but the boys were getting bored. Not my three year old per se, but my five year old. Charlie’s struggling with having to hang out with Adam all the time and he’s ready for stations as he calls it. Thanks 4K. I appreciated my 11 weeks off from being a teacher before.

Yesterday was my first attempt at a meaningful, memory making day with the boys versus our casual play days. We made a pancake breakfast together, headed to swim lessons and then out to Dodge County Memorial Park (i.e. County Park on Green Lake). They were awesome at the lake and I couldn’t have been prouder! I was a bit nervous to take the two daredevils to a large body of water by myself. It helped that the park only had about eight other people in it. After three hours though, it was time to call it quits as they’d eaten all the snacks I’d brought and it was past lunch time.

A quick lunch and an hour ‘rest’ as the boys are now calling it and they were ready to be doing something else outside. We set up the slip and slide only to have a hole in it. Our outdoor afternoon activities today:

  • Wacky Water Sprinkler
  • Tag
  • Squirt Gun Fight
  • Chalk Art
  • Mandatory summer ice cream cones
  • Sandbox construction siteThe boys built a pretty cool construction site. I am almost never allowed to play in the sandbox or play trucks/farm with them because I do not make the sounds correctly.

Then, the boys looked around the yard and decided they had too many toys. Yep, the world is coming to an end. They pointed out the things they wanted me to get rid of and then asked if they could do the same in the playroom. We headed into the playroom and they gutted probably half of their toys. Now it’s time to sell some of them and get rid of others. Anyone need some large plastic monstrosities for their yard?

Today, we had fun. I took not a single picture. I didn’t read a book, look at a cookbook or knit during the day. I spent the time with my kiddos making memories and couldn’t have had a better day. Here’s to our next ones!