Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Summer 2017- Highlights

"Summertime is always the best of what might be." 
-Charles Bowden

Today is the Tuesday after Labor Day, which often symbolizes the end of summer.  Although I am still in denial about this and although the actual end of summer isn't until Friday September 22nd, (also known as my BIRTHDAY), summer as I know it is over. 

The air has been cooler, my dad is in the midst of closing the pool, and people are spending more time talking about football, pumpkin-flavored things, and tailgates than they are talking about trips the beach, BBQs, and running through sprinklers.  

When I wrote about last summer, I called it the best one yet!  I meant it; I really did.  This summer, 2017, upped the ante.  WOW, was it good! 

My Hundt boys and I had SO.MUCH.FUN. 

Here are some highlights...

  •  SWIMMING: We swam a lot in my parent's pool and a TON in Lake Huron.  All three boys can swim independently with swimmies on now.  Even Carter, which I can't believe.  Nolan has been recently experimenting with holding his breath underwater and swimming while doing that.  Carter was the most expertise at jumping off the side, especially when we went and visited Josh's parents on School Section Lake.  Judah wins the prize for usually being the first one in. 

Lake Huron Swimming

    Grammy and Papa's Pool Swimming
  • INDEPENDENT PLAY: One of my favorite things I witnessed this summer was when Nolan, Judah, and Carter played independently together.  The imagination was flowing this summer!
  • COTTAGING IN CANADA: We spent two different weeks and some long weekends at my parent's cottage this year.  Boys played and played and played and played.  They couldn't get enough and we couldn't get enough watching them.  Building sandcastles, playing with trucks, feeding fish, swimming, going down to the public beach to swim in the "river," playing board games, taking walks, going to the library and playgrounds.  Pure magic.   


Trucks, trucks, more trucks


Feeding fish
  • READING: This year we joined the summer reading program as a family.  We always read a lot, but we were intentional at adding some additional reading time into our day.  We went to the library constantly to check out new books.  In fact, I think I had at least twenty books checked out at any given moment during the summer.  Also, Josh read Nolan and Judah their first chapter book.  We went to a couple of kid events at the library too, which were great. I finished about fifteen books this summer and was trying to read an eclectic mix.  Finally read some adult fiction, was still reading parenting books and teaching books with some mystery, historical and fantasy books thrown in too (all young adult ;) )   
  • PRACTICE MAKES PROGRESS: The boys went to a soccer camp in the spring, had some tennis lessons, and did an art camp in the summer.  Watching them try new things and get better has been fun to watch.  Seeing their joy is even better.  
  • BIKE RIDING: Our favorite activity as a family has always been to take stroller rides.  I am sorry to say those days are a bit over because my guys want to be moving on their balance bikes now!  Those have been such a great purchase- I can't believe how fast they go! 
  • OUR YARD: A blog for another time, but our main focus, as far as house work, was our yard.  We dug up a TON of things, laid some new mulch, and fenced the place in.  Whew! A lot of work, but it's shaping up to be pretty great.
  • HUMAN TIME: Spending time with people is also a huge highlight.  The boys spending time with our cousins, playing with neighbors, seeing old friends and new friends, going out to dinners, watching parades, seeing extended family, having all my family up at the cottage, trips to the zoo or the District 5 trampoline park, or Impression 5, celebrating birthdays, holidays, and bachelorettes.  Those are all the absolute best. 

4th of July Parade

Papa, Grammy, and boys

Grandpa, Grandma, and boys
Playing at a playground 

Thank you, to all we love, who helped make this summer so fun and so special.  Thank you, especially, to my four boys. There is nowhere I'd rather be and no one I'd rather be with than all of you.  

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Greet More Than Just Your "Brothers"

I am knee deep in my most important job of parenting.  My children are little, but I am working diligently around the clock laying the foundation to help raise compassionate, kind, persevering, hard working, faith-filled, intelligent, moral global citizens of this world.

We currently live in a world where those adjectives above aren't always modeled by adults- even our country's leaders.  There are opposite examples of those words everywhere I turn and it feels like that makes parenting challenging at this time in our history.

I've been trying to wade through all the news, all the voices filled with hatred getting airtime lately, all the wrong examples my boys have in our world right now and I can't help but keep thinking and asking myself What Would Jesus Do?  In the 90s, those bracelets were everywhere!  I had a green and white one.  It was a visual reminder to me, throughout my day, to remember Him when I was making decisions, and sharing my voice.  I was not without making mistakes, but that bracelet did actually help me.  
I got a resurgence of that message while we were at church today...

The deacon was speaking the homily.  He talked about the definition of 'foreigner' and then asked anyone who wasn't born in the United States to please stand up.  A few people did.  Then, he asked for anyone who is a foreigner of Michigan to stand and the group got bigger.  Finally, he asked for those not born in the Lansing area to stand up.  Now our church was about 75% standing.  After everyone sat down he asked us to reflect on how it felt to be a foreigner- were people kind?  did people pass judgments? Did you feel welcomed? Loved? 

He then went on to discuss all the ways that people can be different from one another- their race, gender, religion, moral beliefs, political affiliations and how much war, despair, fear, and violence passing judgment on those differences causes us.  

He brought up Charlottesville and how much his heart was aching.

Then, he went back to scripture and went back to Jesus.

He asked us to go look, particularly, at Matthew Chapter 5 in the Bible.  That is the chapter where Jesus says the beatitudes blessing those who are meek or hungry or persecuted and how God will take care of them.  My mind was wandering to Syria, the millions of people in places like South Sudan suffering famine, or to Heather Heyer, the young woman killed in Charlottesville as she protested the disgusting white supremacy groups.  God shouldn't be the only one taking care- we ALL need to be taking care.  That is, after all, what Jesus would do.   

When I looked more at Matthew Chapter 5, another part of it stuck out to me-verse 47- "And if you greet your brothers only, what is unusual about that?"

As the deacon spoke,  he talked about every single human life being important.  That we should never feel like we have to look up to people because we are beneath them or look down on people because we think we are above them.

If I am only taking care of my own, if I am only sticking up for, supporting, complimenting, and encouraging people who look like me, live near me, act like me, believe what I believe- how does that actually make me a good person?  That is not unusual, not special, not extraordinary.

I heard the voice in my head- What Would Jesus Do? 

Regardless of your own individual beliefs, I'm not sure anyone can argue against the fact that Jesus made some pretty good decisions :) 

I walked out of church today feeling empowered and motivated once again to do much more like what Jesus would do.  To say much more of what Jesus would say.  To serve much more how Jesus would serve. And, most importantly, to love much more like how Jesus loves. 

This message is constantly with me, but not always at the front.  What a beautiful message to keep in mind, not only as I parent three little boys, but as a new school year starts up and I am helping to mold and educate a new group of sixth graders.  

We have an obligation, now more than ever, to do better for our current world and the world our children and grandchildren will inherit. 

I'm tired of the many "role models" and "examples" we see in our media that are anything but.
I'm tired of the hatred being spewed-by so many groups.
I'm tired of people hiding behind their religion making it seem like that gives them permission to judge, persecute, harm. IT.DOES.NOT.

I don't know if those bracelets need to make a comeback to help remind us or what, but stuff has GOT to change.

I will continue to ask myself what Jesus would do and teach my boys to do the same.

It is necessary my boys take care of each other, but it is equally necessary that they take care of others.

Here's hoping I can show, through my actions and words, what a compassionate, kind, persevering, hard working, faith-filled, intelligent, moral global citizen of this world looks like and here's hoping my boys will grow to be better people than I am, better people than they see on TV.  

Please, greet more than just your "brothers."  Please, take care of all in our world.  Please, use your voice for good, for love, for peace.

Monday, July 31, 2017

The Hundts Go Canadian

Canada turned 150 this year!  Pretty sweet, eh?

I've been going to Canada for the last fifteen years to my parents' cottage on Lake Huron in Port Franks, Ontario and have grown an incredible deep love for the country and its people.  Canada has, after all, produced the only place on earth where I can fully relax.  For that, I will always be grateful.

We were not going to be at the cottage this year to celebrate Canada Day (July 1st), so we decided to celebrate it here at home and go as big as we could to show our respect and love.

It started with a joke that we were going to eat Tim Horton's, wear red and white, and say 'eh' a lot, but once I got on Pinterest looking up Canadian food recipes and reading articles about how Canadian's celebrate Canada Day, I went a little nuts ;)

I decorated, bought Canadian picture books, invited our families over, and served a few authentic Canadian dishes.

Here are a couple of things we ate...

All-Dressed Up Potato Chips:
If you have not sampled these... do.  Like now.  They are hard to find in the United States, but the ones pictured below, Ruffles brand, are sometimes at Meijer.  If you see them, buy every bag they have.  These potato chips are the best and they're even better IN Canada at Canadian grocery stores.  At our Canadian shindig, these were the first food to run out.  

Nanaimo Bars:
A Canadian dessert! Named for the town, Nanaimo, on Vancouver Island in British Columbia, these bars did not disappoint.  I would describe them as an almond joy mixed with a custard or cream-filled chocolate doughnut.  I would've passed this recipe by if I wasn't trying to go Canadian and now I will definitely make them again.
Read about the history of the Nanaimo Bar here.
Get the recipe here.

Fresh Strawberry Cookies With White Chocolate Chunks:
While not an actual Canadian food, I had freshly picked strawberries at my house (thanks, Mom) and these delicious cookies were red and white so why not?!
Get the recipe here.

Among our other dishes were recipes that paid homage to maple syrup.  We had maple baked beans and a salad complete with a maple syrup balsamic dressing, which was one of the best dressings I've ever had.
Get the salad dressing recipe here.

That very next week, I would be chowing down on maple cheddar cheese in Canada, which was OUT.OF.THIS.WORLD.  The cheese was so good, in fact, that it was almost worth paying $12.50 Canadian (we never looked at the price tag...oops).

Celebrating Canada Day, or "Leaf Day" as my boys were calling it, will certainly be a tradition in the Hundt House.  Canada has been too good to us not to celebrate.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Boys' Birthday Bash

Carter's birthday is May 3rd...

Nolan and Judah's birthday is May 7th...

While it appears I am really good at timing things (especially being a teacher and being able to have the rest of the summer for maternity leave), you probably know from reading my blog that I can't POSSIBLY have planned any of that considering all the trouble we had with getting and staying pregnant.    

Anyway, having all your kids birthdays so close together is both a blessing and a curse.  There has never been anything going on in May for either of our families- no birthdays, no anniversaries so having these in May has given us a great reason to celebrate.  You can have shopping on your brain for everyone at the same time and then be done so that's pretty great!

Our kids are little and we are certain plans and traditions will morph and change, but so far, we have given Nolan and Judah and Carter their own first birthday party.  Nolan and Judah got that because, well, there was no Carter so we thought we better let Carter celebrate his first birthday and make that all about him too ;)  From then on, we've had a bash to honor all three birthdays at once.  

The difficult balance is trying to celebrate your children, individually, when everything happens together.  We've made sure to celebrate the actual day of birth separate in hopes that will help each boy feel special and honored on their own.  We've also decided that any presents Josh and I get them, we will have them open on their actual day of birth. 

You don't need to hear all my baggage and thoughts in reference to trying to make sure no one will have significant issues that follow them into adulthood based on how we decided to celebrate birthdays so I'll leave you with what you've already read so far ;) Making people feel individually special is SO very important- to honor each child for their own genius, their own significance in this world is imperative.

We have chosen a birthday party theme based on a book that everyone loves at the time.  

Nolan and Judah's 1st birthday- Goodnight Moon
Nolan and Judah's 2nd birthday- Goodnight Gorilla
Carter's 1st birthday- Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What do you See?
Nolan and Judah's 3rd birthday- The Perfectly Messed up Story

This year, we decided on Little Pea by Amy Krouse Rosenthal.  She is one of our whole family's favorite authors and had just died of ovarian cancer about six weeks beforehand.  It was a beautiful way to honor her and her wonderful work after she has made such a positive impact on my boys, our family, and our love for reading... 

Read a blog I wrote about her here
Take a look at her books and then go buy them at an indie bookstore ;) here THEY ARE AWESOME!

It seemed like all our family was going to be able to come except my sister, Colleen and her husband, Nick who live in Illinois.  She called the night before to ask about the party and make sure she was staying "in the know" about everything so she could feel a part of things even if she was absent.  We were discussing food when there was honking outside.  My boys ran to look, as they always would, and started yelling that Aunt Colleen was here.  

Sure enough, her and Nick surprised all of us and came... best.surprise.ever. 

The next afternoon, we ate all kinds of spinach, peas, and candy (buy the book and read it!) and had a blast celebrating these boys.  We are so so grateful our families- having our boys get to spend time with all their grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins is special and we are lucky.  

Little Pea- about a small Pea who hates candy, which he has to eat every night for dinner.

Hap-pea Birthday! 

"And they all lived hap-pea-ly ever after." 
<3 Hundt Cousins: Judah, Carter, Nolan, Harvie, and Silesia <3 

Pavona Family: Mom, Dad, four sisters, and all their dudes. 

Friday, July 21, 2017

Christmas' Half Birthday

Every summer, when I was growing up, I distinctly remember seeing store commercials on TV advertising a "Christmas in July" sale. This celebration made no logical sense to me and so those commercials always irked me.  Why in July?  It wasn't anywhere near Christmas, the weather wasn't like Christmas, they weren't going to help me get excited for Christmas, and it wasn't even halfway until Christmas!  With my family's tradition of celebrating half birthdays, that part bothered me the most.  Christstmas' half birthdays was in JUNE people!  JUNE 25th is halfway to Christmas!

Now that I am continuing to give half birthdays some airtime in my own family, I've decided to celebrate "Christmas in June" right where it belongs- ON JUNE 25th!  

I shared my idea with Nolan, Judah, and Carter. My boys were completely unsurprised, but still very excited, to be presented with yet another theme day or adventure, and they couldn't wait to help me plan how we might celebrate Chrstimas' half birthday!

Here is the list of ALL the things they thought we could do:

Most of these do actually fit with how we spend our Christmas, including the Cornell playground.  The two Christmases we've spent at our new house, we've went and played at the closest elementary school on Christmas Eve.  Two years ago, it was warm enough out to walk there. 

So, we woke up on the morning of our Christmas in June and tried to knock out as many of these as possible- we had an awesome day! 

The favorite highlights were listening to Christmas music all day, decorating Christmas cookies, and watching "Elf" as a family before bedtime. 

The daily grind of parenting can be mundane sometimes- I often feel like I spend most (or all) of my day diapering, pottying, making meals, eating meals, or trying to get people to actually EAT the meals.  A colleague once told me, early in my parenting, that the days are long and the years are short with your kids.  I now believe that's one of the wisest things I've ever been told (Thanks, Shannon!).  

Sometimes I look at my watch and can't believe how many hours my kids have already been up (Nolan and Judah were deer watching out a window into the backyard this morning at 6:30 am) or how far it is away from bedtime (how am I possibly going to entertain these troops for another three hours?!).  

Then, the next thing I know, I am completely dumbfounded that I have two four-year-olds and a two-year-old because I just took them home from the hospital a minute ago.

Even though the days may seem long at times, I know how fast all of this, my life with little humans, is flying.  That's why, through all those routine-type activities, I've tried to condition myself to look for and capitalize on opportunities for a little something weird, different, strange, or exciting to sprinkle into our days together at home.  Events that can hopefully start traditions or make memories my boys will always have in their hearts.    

Creating some out-of-the-ordinary days or experiences are one of my most favorite things to do!  I hope as my boys grow, they continue to love adventures, explorations, and taking opportunities to make the mundane and light it up with joy as much as they do right now.  

Next year, on June 25th, we will certainly celebrate Chtistmas' half birthday again.  I'll be grateful to give an encore performance and grateful for another opportunity to make memories with my boys.  


Thursday, June 29, 2017

Making a Wish...

5 years ago, at this very moment, I was in Italy at the start of an incredible trip to Italy and France.  We spent ten days in Italy touring Rome, the Amalfi Coast, Florence, and Venice and then did a three day trip to Paris and Euro-Disney.

If you looked at the outside of Josh and I at that time, you'd think we were at the peak of our existence, having the absolute best time in our life.  We were getting established and comfortable in our careers and had both recently completed our masters.  I was thin and in shape and tan with a great new short haircut.  We'd been traveling and jet setting having gone to Cancun, Las Vegas, California, New York, Boston, Toronto, Disney World, Disneyland over the last couple of years.  You would think the world was our oyster and you'd be right...sort of.

Also at that time I'd lost my brother to a drug overdose, lost two pregnancies to miscarriage, were in the height and depth of our fertility treatments with injections and appointments, and blood work and ultrasounds a few times a week, driving back and forth to Grand Rapids or Ann Arbor, having to take sick time or make appointments at 7:00am to try to have any hope at being to work on time, and in the midst of receiving bad news after bad news after bad news.  

Right before we went to Europe I endured a second surgery to help clear out my second miscarriage my body would not discard on its own  (That sounds so impersonal, scientific and yuck, but that was exactly what was happening).  I was at my saddest of saddest, most hopeless of hopeless.  Josh and I conceiving a baby and having a pregnancy go to term seemed like a wish I didn't know needed to be a wish in the first place and it was fading away from me, from us.

We took a wonderful break from all that in Europe where there was no medicine to inject, no worrying about schedules and appointments, and no one telling us we'd have to wait yet another month to start this all over again.  It was just Josh and me, and the most beautiful places I've ever seen.  

It was so hard to take breaks like these at home when there were reminders everywhere of our lack of progress and our lack of children- infertility and adoption books I was reading strewn about our bedroom, a Styrofoam box stuffed with ice packs containing the next potion of medicine I was mixing on our front door, other people's babies all over social media, a pregnant acquaintance complaining to me about how fat she was or how much she wanted a glass of wine.  We could not escape our infertile life at home- so we traveled and it was everything.  

While in Rome, we met up with two friends, Ashley and Luis, who just happened to be there at the same time as us.  Thanks to them and their awesome excitement and bravery, we truly immersed ourselves with the Romans going off of the tourist areas.  We caught a festival, fireworks, incredible restaurants.  Ashley and Luis enhanced our trip for sure!  Before venturing and exploring, we met them at a gelato place right near the Trevi Fountain.  We did what everyone does there- made a wish and tossed in some money! Ashley caught this picture:

I am a superstitious Italian (yes, that's totally a thing) and so refused to tell Josh or anyone else my wish.  If you tell someone a wish, it might not come true! I let Josh know that someday, if it ever did come true, I would let him know.  

I wished for a pregnancy to produce a healthy baby for us.  

It had gotten to the point where I couldn't wish just to get pregnant- I had done that two times already!  I had to get a little more specific with my wish ;)  

About three months later, I was sitting in an ultrasound room, not only having my pregnancy confirmed for a third time (I had already had blood work, and a crap load of positive pregnancy tests), but also being told that we were having twins.  Twins that, less than a year from this picture, I would carry to term, twins that I can kiss and hug and hold in my arms.

I can't remember the exact day I shared with Josh what I had wished for that day.  A smile, not surprisingly, crept up on his face and he shared that he had, indeed, made basically the same wish as me that day.  Maybe that's why we got two babies- we kinda think it is. 

This picture hangs in our house, with lots of others, from that Europe trip.  I still get teary  often when I look at it- remembering exactly what place I was in that moment in my life... exactly how that felt.  Remembering the tiny small flicker of hope that was still left as I wished with all my might that day with hundreds of other hopeful tourists.  And knowing how things have ended up for us and how overwhelmed I still am with gratitude...

That trip, that break, and the hope for that wish coming true gave me the little push I needed to keep going- to be able to come home from that trip and keep reading all the books, make all the appointments, inject myself with all kinds of potions, and keep my heart and my story open and vulnerable no matter what bad news or good news might have been coming our way.  

If you're struggling right now in this insane infertility thing or with something else that hasn't come your way.... yet... 

I hope you keep wishing and keep taking breaks, in whatever way you can and want, to take care of yourself so you have the will and the energy to keep wishing and hoping all over again.

I'm reminded, daily, of the plaque I have hanging in our entryway- a quote from Cinderella's Fairy Godmother to Cinderella- "Even miracles take a little time."


Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Reading to Learn

It is no secret I like to be in control ("My Crazy").  It is also no secret that I'm a passionate person- I feel intensely. Thankfully, I also have an incredibly practical brain.  Although that brain doesn't always move as quickly as my emotions do, it will catch up and kick in eventually.  I know I cannot control everything even if my instincts want to.  I also know I don't want to control everything even if my instincts want me to.

There have been many times in my life where I have felt especially out of control: my brother's drug addiction, infertility struggles, miscarriage, being entrusted with educating 11 and 12 year old humans, and most recently, SO MUCH of all things parenting.  While raising tiny humans, there are many things that happen, on the daily, that feel out of a parent's control.  You can provide the safest home environment where things are baby proofed, eyes are always watching, dangerous things are out of the way.  Do accidents happen? UM YES.  You can try to be consistent with a schedule, have bedtime routines down to a science.  Do sleep regressions and sleepless nights still occur?  I'm yawning while saying yes.  You can limit or completely stay away from screen time and TV time, but darn it do my kids still know who Marshall and Rubble are, what YouTube is, and how to send a Snapchat.  Ah!

It's overwhelming what I CAN'T control sometimes (okay in fully honesty, it's overwhelming all the time- I've got "My Crazy" after all).  But I've realized that one of my best tools for success is READING to LEARN.

When I feel especially out of control, clueless, confused, conflicted (woah- those all start with c!) instead of shutting down, giving up, or having a breakdown I...

-Shut down by locking myself in my room to read every article and put on hold every book about the topic I am struggling with.

-Have given up thinking I can do it all and do it on my own-  I let experts and research support me in making decisions or plans on stuff I know NOTHING about.

-Okay, I still have the occasional breakdown, but I wipe my eyes, get out the book I've purchased or borrowed, a notebook, and writing utensil and get to learning.

Lately, I've become a huge book pusher on people and am constantly observed talking someone's ear off about my last "game changer" of a book.  I'm sure it gets annoying at times (thank you, people I love, for dealing with me), but I also find myself in situations more confident, well-versed, and knowledgeable.

I cannot pinpoint for sure when this shift began to take place- I didn't used to be such a reader of informational text, but what I've realized through self-reflection is how important it has become to me to know stuff- like really know stuff: the different approaches, the recent research, the various 'plans of action.'  Reading all I can on a topic is something I CAN control even if the actual situation or milestone isn't.  Knowledge is power for sure.

I'll be so honest that I do not fully trust my gut.  I have tendencies and deep seeded philosophies on teaching and parenting, for example, but before I fully commit to my gut and make a decision or try something new, I need to be able to justify, to myself truly, of WHY I do what I do.  I need to validate my gut with research, data, statistics, recent studies, and align myself with others who articulate my beliefs through books much better and more beautifully than I ever could probably.  

Reading to learn has taught me SOOO much about this most important job of parenting- potty training, sleep training, breast feeding, child development, sibling rivalry, executive functioning, brain development, validating and labeling feelings, love languages, cooperation, problem solving... I could never capture it here- never.

I am absolutely beyond a doubt certain I am a better mother because of the reading I've done.  

Does that mean reading like crazy before you start potty training or learning all you can at preventing sibling rivalry before it even creeps up or having a plan A, B, C, D, for sleep training when your kids are still infants is the RIGHT way to do things?!  No way. Heavens no.  Absolutely not.

It's MY right way to do things... for now... and that's what truly matters.

More blogs on some of my favorite 'game changer' books to come soon ;)