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 ;) 

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Yellow Day

I want my boys to love and respect each other, (and all humans, animals, and things on this planet for that matter).  I feel like Josh and I, as well so many other parents, hold high expectations for the way siblings need to treat one another. Siblings should be your number one cheerleaders, encouragers, supporters.  No matter how hard we all try, it seems inevitable that siblings will argue with one another- that things will seem 'unfair,' that it will always be someone else's turn, that things were always 'mine first.'

Josh and I have tried lots of different things to try to defuse and facilitate appropriate interactions and problem-solving techniques between our boys.  We try to let them sort it out on their own as much as possible, set timers if requested, to help people know when to take turns, acknowledge feelings, and have a couple one-liners that we say CONSTANTLY: "We only hug and kiss our brothers." and "Everyone deserves your kind words no matter what."

While these all help and are well-intentioned, they certainly do not work all the time.

Over the last little while, our boys have been "fighting" about things that I wasn't quite ready for, but should've seen coming based on my own experience having four siblings- where they can sit at the table, what kinds of plates, cups, bowls, silverware the use (particularly which color), and recently, where to sit in the car...

My four siblings and I fought incessantly about where to sit in our van.  No one wanted the middle, and there would be plenty of arguments about who was stuck in the "way way back" and don't even get me STARTED on who got the front seat.  We would race to the car as fast as possible while pushing and knocking over people and things to get what we wanted and certainly were driving our parents crazy.  My mom ended up making a schedule, written on grid paper probably, that was kept in the van glove compartment so we always knew where we were supposed to sit.  No more arguments.  Definitely extreme, but definitely needed.  Respect!  

Recently, we purchased a new car- a Chevy Traverse!  Having a third row has been awesome for our family; stuffing all five of us in our Saturn Vue was working, but it was a tight squeeze :)

Inevitably, the boys wanted to experiment with seat placement and, as it turns out, the very back is the favorite location.... of all three of them...

Even though I should've known what was about to happen, the insane arguing and tears that followed smacked me at how quickly they took over my daily life.  I was dreading going to Target or something knowing what would ensue before we had even pulled out of the driveway.

I knew something needed to change- I did not follow in my mom's footsteps to map out a schedule on paper, but instead, I facilitated started something in our house that we call a "Yellow Day," which was inspired by Judah.

Judah has loved yellow for as long as I can remember.  It's a great sunshiny color, which is perfect for his sunshiny personality.  For a long time, he always got the yellow cup or shirt or paper- it was a given.  Eventually, though, two other boys wanted in on all the yellow-ness and the bickering began about THAT too- "I want the yellow cup!" "Carter got the yellow piece of paper last time!" "Why does Judah always get the yellow stuff?!"

I don't even know the exact moment when this "Yellow Day" thing began, but it has now become a very important part of our every day...

When it's your "Yellow Day" you get to have the yellow place setting stuff and are also often the first to choose things when a choice is appropriate.  You might get to pick who sits next to you at dinner (Daddy is always the hot commodity there), or settle a dispute of what playground we are going to try, or, lately, which seat you get in the car.  Everyone knows when their "Yellow Day" is- even Carter has his figured out ;)  Boys get excited for each other instead of being bummed out when it isn't their day.  It has helped keep peace and love in my house.

I'd like to take credit for this idea, but I smile here thinking that it actually had nothing to do with me.  It's amazing how empowered even tiny humans can be when you stop trying to control their every move and every decision (totally guilty of this, it's My Crazy after all).

The beauty of this was how organically it morphed into a supportive way to keep a little lid on daily bickering- all starting from a little nugget's love for a sun-shiny color, which has added a lot more sun into our home. 

Nolan, Judah, and Carter also know that Mommy  loves to have lots of "Yellow Days" in her week- they are any day that I get to spend with my three boys <3  

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Giving Yourself Permission

Today is Mother's Day...

Josh let me know, early in the weekend, that I was "off duty" on Mother's Day.  That meant I could spend time as I chose without feeling like there were things I had to do.  Josh was going to do the diapers, do the bedtime, do the cooking.  Yes, I will keep him :)

While the boys were napping, Josh asked me how I was going to spend that time.  I am usually extremely productive during naptime.  It is basically one of the few chances I have to get things done and it is also literally the only time I have to myself.  When choosing whether to spend time with myself or being productive, I basically always choose being productive.  I often grade papers or work on school work, do laundry, fold laundry, put clothes away and lots of other work-type stuff.

Today, I was mulling how to spend my time.  I was pretty sure I was NOT going to be productive- I was going to do something just for me.  I thought about watching TV, reading, writing, and taking a nap.  With that, came the guilt.  Our house was messy, there was laundry to fold, the cars could use a wash and vacuum, and yard-work?! Don't even get me started.  How can I justify taking time to nap or watch TV when that list is so long and so vast and feels so necessary?

Parents, you feel me?! The struggle is real.  We are overworked under-rested.  Both moms and dads give and give and give, work and work and work.  We wouldn't change it, are happy to do it, but that doesn't mean it's easy and that doesn't mean we aren't freaking tired. 

Today, I gave myself permission to rest. 

I went upstairs, turned on an episode of "The Real Housewives of New York City" and was out cold in about fifteen minutes.  The nap I took was incredible.  I woke up and it was dinner time.  

The laundry and cars and the messy house and the God-forsaken yardwork (can you tell yardwork is a total #trigger for me right now?!) were still there, but so was a smile on my face.  

I know people always say that in order to be a good mom or a good parent, you HAVE to take care of yourself.  That is SO easier said than done.  But today, for a little bit, I lived that and it was great.  I pushed the guilt down as far as it would go and gave myself the permission for some peace, some quiet, and some rest.

Moms, parents, grandparents, anyone who puts themselves behind the children they love, support, and take care of, please give yourself permission to rest in whatever way feels good to you.  Let that rest be guilt-free.  Don't make excuses for it and don't feel like you have to justify it to yourself or anyone else.  YOU DESERVE IT!  You are raising tiny global citizens!

Schedule it if that helps make it happen.  Put it on the calendar if that it helps having something to look forward to.  Use it as a reward for accomplishing a DIY project you've been wanting to tackle or after putting together a new bike or cleaning out a closet.  Make time for you... just you


It sure can feel like the "holy grail," but that's exactly what makes it so necessary.