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

Rest! 

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

Give...Yourself...Permission...    

Sunday, May 7, 2017

NOLAN and JUDAH are FOUR!

Dear Nolan and Judah,

HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!! YOU ARE FOUR YEARS OLD!!!! Turning four, somehow in my mind, makes you a kid- not a baby anymore, not a toddler anymore, but a kid. This growing up thing is so bitter sweet.  Sweet because I am endlessly grateful you are healthy and smart and growing appropriately, but bitter because of how fast time goes  When I held you both in my arms for the first time, I couldn’t grasp how much time would fly.  You both began the family we’d been praying for, hoping for, and trying so hard for.  In that moment, in the hospital room, I savored that and took it all in.  Now you two are a walking, talking, thinking, creating, individual people with so much that makes you… you.

TO NOLAN:
I have truly enjoyed this last year getting to know you.  What is life like for you as an almost four-year-old you might ask… Nolan, your life is so full.
 
You are flourishing in school- you participate, you lead, you help, you continue to learn and progress. We need to work on cutting and drawing faces more with you, but, like I have been saying a lot, you may go to kindergarten having no idea how to tie your shoes, but you will be able to label an incredible amount of countries on a map.  Some things we focus on more than others ;)  By the way, you can name like fifteen countries on a map- it’s wild.

You’ve been getting into more sports lately- wanting to practice tennis and basketball the most.  We got you into a little soccer camp that starts in a couple of weeks so we’ll see how you end up liking that. 

You are still obsessed with the weather.  This week we are celebrating screen-free week and I’d say the hardest part for you is not being able to wake up and check the Weather Channel or ask Siri what the weather is going to be like today.  I love the weather too, so it’s been super fun to talk with you about it endlessly.  As if your compassion for others wasn’t big enough, the weather has helped you know about flooding and tornadoes, and other natural disasters, which shapes your nightly prayers.

You are continuing to ask more questions about the world around you.  For example, you just asked the other day what ‘jealous’ meant.  That was not easy for this teacher to teach so thank you for continuing to push MY thinking too.     

We tell you all the time to 'only worry about you,' but you are the caretaker of everyone that’s ever been I’m convinced.  You consistently put others needs, wants, and happiness above yourself.  You are quick to give up a toy if someone else wants it, quick to drop everything you are doing to support a sad brother, quick to check with Judah if he does or not does have to use the potty.  You will ask me about my day before you even think to tell me about your own.  You are selfless.  I hope that doesn't change and I hope your strength and occasional stubbornness doesn't either so that you continue to stand up for yourself too  

Your incredible memory and incredible awareness makes you extra wise and extra curious.  Not much gets passed you ;)  

You thrive on predictability so having community meetings each day to go over our schedule has helped keep you centered.  

You spent your three-year-old life playing 'pay' and 'picnic', exploring, building things constantly, pushing around huge trucks, playing hide-and-seek, Pop the Pig, Zingo, Feed the Woozle, making forts, coloring, painting, trying to learn how to 'read', labeling countries on maps, doing yoga, playing sports, singing and putting on concerts, making 'presentations,' and reading an endless amount of books with some favorites being Max the Brave, Little Pea, Yes Day, Tumford the Terrible, Who Stole the Cookie From the Cookie Jar, and Daily Devotional Prayers.
Artist at work
Weather Day at Impression 5
Just one of many, MANY towers and structures built this year
A map puzzle combines two of Nolan's favorite things

He will  build anywhere with anything 



TO JUDAH: 
This last year has been an incredible journey in your world- let me tell you about it…

This was the year we finally figured out what was going on with your sensitive and often rashy skin.  You had allergy testing done, blood work done, a huge elimination diet and ultimately the discovery that you are allergic to wheat.  You rallied, you overcame.

This was also the year you began to see a speech therapist to help your pronunciation and articulation of words and sounds. You worked hard and have made wonderful progress and growth.

Finally, you started preschool this year. You were excited and open-hearted.

These things would be enough for any adult to handle, let alone a three-year-old.  But you, JuJu, accepted any situation, took it in, took it on, and flourished.

I am reminded daily of your incredible grace.

Don’t ever lose your adaptability and flexibility.  Don’t ever lose that positive attitude and outlook on life. Don’t ever stop leading with kindness. 

Our whole family has learned so much from these three changes in your life.  We are balancing more schedules and more appointments, learning new games and strategies to help you and your brothers practice skills and learn, and soaking in how cool it is to watch you be a student- to watch you lead, make new friends, try new things.

You spent your three-year old life playing on playgrounds, exploring, putting together puzzles, playing instruments, getting way more coordinated in throwing, catching, and kicking, making gluten-free brownies, muffins, and cookies, learning about countries like South Sudan and Mali, playing hide-and-seek, Pop the Pig, Zingo, and Feed the Woozle and reading so many favorite books like Little Pea, Max the Brave, If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, Go Dog Go, The Incredible Messed-Up Story, Exclamation Mark, and countless others. 
Engineer Day at Impression 5

Creating and pretending

Homemade gluten-free french toast sticks! 

This huge box gave lots of hours of entertainment and pretending 


Judah's outlook on life
Nolan and Judah,
Learning with you and about you is one of my most favorite things in the entire world.
I’m excited to see what four-years-old brings.

You are my favorite Nolan that’s ever been.  You are my favorite Judah that's ever been. 

Keep loving each other exactly as you do right now.  Your friendship, kindness, and complete support for one another leaves me speechless with tears in my eyes all the time. No one could have prepared me for how incredibly special a twin relationship could be.  You are so lucky you have each other and we are so lucky we have you both. 

I love you,

-Mama   

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Carter Pavona, The Bing, is TWO!

Dear Carter,

I can hear you making noise after Daddy put your down tonight- your first night of being two.  I was talking to Grammy and Grandma earlier and they both kept saying they couldn’t BELIEVE you were two.  I think they were certainly waiting for me to echo their thoughts, and I do, but there is so much more to it.  Let me explain…

I seriously don’t remember a time without you in our family because you fit in perfectly since day one.  You were meant to be here and in this family, I just know it.  So a part of me feels like you’ve been with us for so much longer than two years. 

Also, you often act so much bigger than you are that it makes me forget you are ‘only’ turning two.  You are talking like CRAZY. Like incredible amounts- fully sentences, big words.  The other day you said from the back seat- “Mommy! Turn it up- I can’t hear the music!”  Who are you I thought to myself.  You are trying to get on to a training wheel bike to ride it, you climb on everything no matter how high, and you keep up with your brothers every single day.  Your dad will often refer to all of you as the ‘triplets.’  For these things, again, it feels like you’ve been around here much more than two years.

But then…

Oh my sweet little Bing…

It feels like three seconds ago I found out I was pregnant with you- feeling like conceiving a baby naturally would never be in the cards for us and then there you were- two lines on a stick.

Two seconds ago, I was pregnant with you- trying to balance having two toddlers and a baby growing inside of me.  Wondering what you would be like, what having one would be like, agonizing and debating over names with your dad.

And then, it had to have been only one second ago that I held you in my arms for the first time.  When we locked eyes, when you grabbed hold of my heart- A heart I knew could and would instantly love three children as it had loved two. 

When I reflect on those moments, with tears in my eyes, the fact that you are turning two is absolutely shocking.  I can't even put words to how fast time has flown.

So what is life like for you right now, as a two year old?  Well, Carter, you love so much, know so much, do so much! 

You LOVE LOVE LOVE being outside. You want to play outside constantly and tantrum heavily whenever it is time to go inside.  While outside you want to ride, and push, and dig, and explore.  You don’t care if it’s cold or hot or sunny or cloudy, you just want to be out there. 

While inside, you love to play with your big trucks especially.

You will participate in just about anything- drawing, playing instruments, throwing and catching, singing, cooking.  If your brothers are doing it, you are so in.  If they aren’t, you are mostly in ;)

The moon in your room is one of your favorite things. 

Reading is something you will do at any time (I was nervous you might not like reading much at first, but you have come around so very much).  Some of your favorite books are: Hand Hand Fingers Thumb, Goodnight Michigan, Head Shoulders Knees and Toes, Jolly Olly Octopus, If I could Keep you Little, First Words, First Animals, Little Pea, The Crown on Your Head.

While Nolan and Judah are at school, you have become quite an awesome helper and I think you love that time with me. 

You can already say the alphabet and count to ten and love music.

Your blond hair, crinkly nose, and the fact that you smile with your whole face makes anyone who meets you melt.  The amount of times I hear how cute you are is kind of ridiculous actually, but I eat it up.

You must know how loved you are- you just must.  We haven’t been able to get enough of you over these last two years.

Happy Birthday, Carter Pavona Hundt.

We love you so much, Bing Bong.

To a wonderful year ahead,

Your lucky Mama




Friday, April 21, 2017

Gifts From My Brother

Today my brother would've been 31 years old.  I realized that he has been gone for over 5.5 years, which is incredible for so many reasons.  To some extent, it feels like yesterday- other times it seems like so long ago because of how much my life has changed.  

As I drove to work this morning, he was on my mind.  Eric is often on my mind on the way to work.  I think it's because of the peace and quiet a car ride can bring you without three kids in the back.  I'm not even really sure what I think about- it's not really memories or wondering how he is, but more just seeing his face, saying his name in my mind.  Allowing my heart to feel his absence and giving myself permission and some time to grieve all over again. 

It's hard, sometimes, remembering him.  The last couple years of his life, he wasn't himself.  He was often a lying, cheating, stealing addict... crippled sick with his disease. He was also helpless, hopeless, and desperate. He was misunderstood by me.  I did not understand addiction as a disease like I do now.  I did not understand what drugs had done to his brain, his conscience, his ability to feel.  I did not understand the pull drugs have over an addict, how truly powerless he was. 

The beauty is, when I let my mind go there, I can remember Eric- the real Eric.  My first companion and my first friend.

Besides those quiet early morning drives when he inevitably lets me feel his spirit, he continues to leave "gifts" for me- ways for me to remember he's there. 

- I know he sent Prim, our cat, to be with me when I needed something the most.  I had lost my brother and suffered our first miscarriage in the same week.  When Prim literally showed up on my parent's door step a few days after, I told Josh I needed to take care of something.  She was such a healer for me at that time.

- My sister-in-law, Jessica has vivid dreams where he comes to her.  I think they are spirit animals or something.  In these dreams, he is always playing with our kids.  This gives me such peace thinking he is taking care of the two babies we lost and also gives me reassurance that he would have been and wanted to be the best uncle. He has also correctly predicted EVERY.SINGLE.BABY. that's ever been born in my family.  All three of my boys AND my two nieces were revealed in dreams to Jessica. 

- Keeping his birthday just his birthday- Having all three of my kids born in early May, I was holding my breath in the 20s of April hoping I would not go into any labor on Eric's day.  I asked him to make sure his day is only his and so far he's listened ;)   

-The way my boys talk about Eric- We are still muddling through how to explain death to Nolan and Judah.  I've talked about Uncle Eric with them and every so often, they will bring him up out of nowhere.  They've said they've talked to him or gone to visit him while they are pretending, but I know it's more than that :)

-Christmas stocking- My mom wanted to make sure my brother's stocking was full on Christmas just like the rest of ours so each year, she gives us an ornament with a picture of my brother.  Sometimes it's an old family picture, sometimes it's just a picture with him and I or him and another one of my sisters.  Each year, we always know we're getting a piece of him, a memory of him.

It's difficult to lose someone the way we lost my brother- it's difficult to have things left unsaid, relationships not at their very best, and to have a sense of relief knowing the demons Eric was fighting aren't plaguing us or him anymore.  I think that makes it all the more important that these little "gifts" be present.


Happy Birthday, brother dearest <3
  

Sunday, April 9, 2017

With Great Knowledge, Comes Great Responsibility

I tell my sixth graders all the time how freaking powerful knowledge is- in so many different ways, in so many different forms.  We talk about how empowering it feels to be knowledgeable about a topic.  How smarts and intelligence and information is one of the only things someone cannot take from you once you have it.  How their pen, their pencil, their voice is their most powerful weapon.  How they "are all geniuses and the world EXPECTS their contribution." (read Angela Maier's Classroom Habitudes- game changer!) 

I say these things, I believe these things with every bit of my being.

I love learning myself. Because we teach so globally in Team 61, I am constantly learning about the world, which has made me into quite the bleeding heart.  When you know all the needs that are out there- the heartbreak, the fury, the passion, the weight of so many causes and people, natural disasters, corruption, inequity, injustice, etc etc.  I walk around heavy with it- wanting to fix everything, help everyone.  It hurts, the weight.  

Having and acquiring knowledge and learning new things changes me... daily.

The things mentioned above are big and overwhelming.  But even on a small scale, like a tiny, little, bitty scale- getting smarter about something makes me a constantly growing, molding, and changing human. 

That brings me to today... 

Potty training has been a son of a __________ in our house.

Nolan and Judah are almost four years old and we've been using the potty since they were 18 months old.  Anyone who did it faster or easier or better- GOOD FOR YOU! Teach me your ways for when we potty train Carter.  As of now, I am at peace with this being a journey... like a long one.  Like a 'going around the world' type of journey.  I empowered my boys to drive this bus.  So we scaled back when they needed and experimented further when they were ready.  Because of that, potty training has taken F O R E V E R, but has been a fairly positive experience.  

I digress... So much to say about potty training... maybe for another blog...

Anyway, we told N and J months ago that once they were really wearing 'fancy pants' during the night and during naps consistently and staying dry, we would get them each a FISH!

Judah has arrived at this place!  HOORAY!  

So my family of five headed in to a pet store super excited to get everything we needed for our new pet.  

I grew up having fish.  When I was in elementary school, my art teacher's goldfish had like a million babies so she was pawning them off on anyone who would take them.  We took three and they lived until I was in high school!  Penny, Nickel, and Dollar were their names (I'm sure you were dying to know).  When I was in college and living on my own, I got into guppy fish.  I had Nancy and Ronald and then Prince Charming and Gus Gus.  Those fish all lived a respectable couple of years.  I've had pretty good luck and have kept these fish just in a regular bowl using room temperate water.  I picked out the fish, they were put in a net, and tada! 

Shame on me for thinking this trip would be anything like that experience...

I gained knowledge and it changed me. 

After Judah had picked out an adorable yellow guppy with a red tail (he LOVES yellow), we went to the nearest worker to get our little new fish bagged up.  Instead of walking over the tank, using a net, and getting it out so we could be on our merry way like I was used to, the worker started asking us questions, "Did you pick out your tank?  How many guppies are you getting? Do you already have the water ready?" Among others.  

We showed her the 'tank' we had picked out and told her we hadn't gotten anything ready at home yet.  She was aghast and began to smarten me up on how to raise a guppy fish (or really any fish for that matter).  I learned that guppies are school fish and really should have a least two other friends with it to behave normally. I learned that guppies are tropical fish and therefore need a heater.  I also learned that guppies, even though they are the size of a raisin, need at least a 10 gallon tank.  That pretty much ALL fish need at least a 10 gallon tank.  

My eyes got big and all the memories of my fish raising came flooding back at me.  I said to her "woah! I've had guppies before.  I just had them in a bowl and they lived for years.  I don't understand."

Her answer was "Well, a dog can survive in a crate, but that doesn't mean it will thrive in one."
#micdrop

I am a fish abuser!  I had no idea.  

I told her we would clearly need to read and learn more about this and would NOT be getting a fish today.  I grabbed some packets and got the heck out of there.  

This is where knowledge gets really tricky.  Once you know stuff, you sure do have more power, but you sure also do have more responsibility.  Before today, I had no idea I had done anything wrong or inhumane to my beloved past fish. But now I knew- they survived with me, but did not thrive with me.  I was a bad fish mother.  I could no longer get a goldfish or guppy, put it in a simple bowl and think everything was great. 

I was changed, yet again, but knowledge.  

Now that I learned this new information, I needed to act more responsibly.

So we are currently fish-less exploring several options of how to proceed so that Judah (and Nolan when he's ready) can be loving, caring fish parents.

Thankfully, Judah is taking this set-back like a CHAMP and was super excited to leave the store today with a net and rocks that we will put on the future aquarium floor.  He knows the fish is coming, but he knows we have to get smarter about having a fish first so we can do the right thing by our new pet.  

Apply it globally or locally- to basic human needs, global issues, war, famine, politics, poverty, or getting your potty- trained son his first pet... with great knowledge, comes great responsibility.            

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

A Winter Public Apology Letter

Dear everyone we love, care about, and spend time with:

We, the Hundts, are sorry.  So very sorry.  We're sorry we haven't seen you in person.  We're sorry we haven't sat around a dinner table with you, or made a play-date.  We're sorry we never took that sledding trip, Impression 5 meet up, or invited you to come over and play in our basement.  We're sorry that we went weekends without stopping by.  We're sorry, especially to Nolan and Judah's cousins, Silesia and Harvie, that we missed milestones in your growth.  You are little and time is precious and goes quickly.  We are sorry, to all the people we love, we haven't been in your presence and that you haven't been in ours. 

We, the Hundts, have been sick.... a lot. 

It is the end of March- the first day of spring has come and gone, and less than a week ago, I was still reading a thermometer that said 103.5 from yet another battle in our house with the flu.

This winter gave us germs CONSTANTLY.  We had fevers, sinus infections, pink eye, upset stomachs, upper respiratory infections, more snot than I could have ever imagined was possible, and flus galore... over and over and over. 

When you have five people in your house, it takes a LOOOOONG time for germs to make their way around and then exit.  We would FINALLY get all healthy just in time for something else to come.  

Because of this, we weren't out and about much and we certainly were not trying to give our gems to anyone else.  It was a bit of an isolating winter. 

We were sick the entire month of January, seriously.  Carter even threw up on the way to the airport on January 31st to go to Cancun, Mexico. 

We were healthy in Mexico, go figure, and then all got sick when we got home.  Also, go figure.    

I know a lot of you knew how sick we were because we would constantly be having to apologize for it being so long since we'd seen you.  We would text- I haven't forgotten about us hanging out, we've just had a round of pink eye or I would call and say- It's been forever! I am thinking about you guys all the time, I was just in bed for two days with a gnarly fever.  You knew our situation, but that doesn't change how sad we were to be inside and at home instead of having fun with you.

We are not sorry we tried to keep our germs away from you, but we sure are sorry we haven't been there.  

We hope you can forgive us.  

We also hope that in the near future, we can be germ-free enough to make it up to you if you'll give us the chance...

Please give us the chance.  

Sincerely, with so much love,
The Hundt Family- Josh, Kristin, Nolan, Judah, and Carter 

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

One-on-One Time With Each Kid

I am one of five kids.

My parents, God bless them, had five children in 10.5 years- four girls, one boy.  Being the oldest, I remember so much of when my younger siblings were little and so much of what it was like to be one of five.  It was loud, crazy, and ridiculously loving.  We had more than enough people to keep us occupied, enough people to play games, enough people to play sports, enough people to play pretend about everything, and plenty of people to conjure up ideas and adventures.  What was tricky, was being able to stand on your own in a family like that- to take time for yourself, to find respite, to be alone if you wanted.  Yes, every kid is different, but you can imagine how easily a brain might be jumbled to try to keep track of five special unique humans. My parents had be so intentional in order to keep up and keep track of our individual talents, our likes and dislikes, our favorite meals, our good friends, and our individual personality traits.

They also had to be intentional to spend time with each of us alone.  Do you know how hard it was for one child to be with one parent for a length of time?  We couldn't even use the restroom without someone barging in let alone being able to spend some quality time with Mom and/or Dad.  

Having three kids of my own, with only two years between them, makes it challenging for Josh and I to continue to let each boys' crown shine brightly on their own.  I want my children to feel part of a cohesive family unit and feel confident and self-aware of their individuality too.  I want them to feel loved, individually by me and individually by Josh and feel like we give each of them quality one-on-one time.  Whew- just reading that back makes me feel overwhelmed.   

I paused to think about this because today, March 22nd, is my half birthday.  To some people, that is no big deal, but in my family, this day matters ;) 

Even though I am 33.5 years old, I still received this text from my mom at 6:34am:

Happy half birthday to you, love you so much, let me know when it's  good day for dessert! Accompanied by a few emoji's of course ;) 

One way my  parents deliberately fit in some alone time with each of their kids was for our birthdays and half birthdays.  For as long as I can remember, my dad would take us out to a special dinner on our birthday alone and my mom would take us out for a dessert on our half birthday alone. Sometimes it would happen a couple of weeks after one of those days and sometimes (in the case of my two sisters who have birthdays in March), it might not have always been one-on-one, but that was always the goal.  Guaranteed quality time.   

Here are a few other ideas that were used when I was growing up, some ideas Josh and I have used with our boys, or some ideas I've read or heard of that I'd like to incorporate into our family:

One-on-One Walks- For us, they are often on the beach at my parents cottage, but could easily be around a neighborhood or in a park.  Spending time individually with each child where there is nothing to do but just talk is a beautiful thing.  

"Raisins"- These are individual small dates (get it?! HA!) with your children.  I must give credit to my mom's friend, Karen, for coining the name.  It can be as grandeur as a planetarium visit or as small as an errand to go pick up library books.  It's great to get a son or a daughter out of the house with just Mom or just Dad.  Josh and I continue to try to make these happen on purpose throughout our year.  Josh got me little "raisins" with each boy for a mother's day present and we've also thought about them as we plan Christmas or birthday gifts.  It's a great way to explore people's individual likes and talents.  For example, Nolan got to go to a special weather day at Impression 5 Science Museum with Josh (the kid is OBSESSED with weather) and Judah got to go play on a playground with Mom (playing outside is his number 1 most favorite thing). 

Cook a Meal Together- My boys do really like to cook, but even when they're not into actually helping me, the illusion that they are making the meal with me keeps them engaged and it's so much fun to mix things, pour/dump things, and play music and do some dancing in the kitchen.  

Play with just Mom or just Dad-  This year, as Nolan and Judah have started preschool, Carter and I get to be totally alone a couple of times a week together and it is obvious how much he appreciates that time with just me.  This individual playtime has been built into our schedule naturally.  We also try to do it on purpose when w are all home together. Josh or I might take Judah downstairs to play a game by himself, Nolan might get to go build something on his own with one of us, or Carter might go upstairs in his room and read some books with Josh or me.  In these moments, each kid can play with what THEY want without worrying if the other two wanted to play with that or not.  

Special Helper- At school, the kids get elected to be the special helper for the day.  I've thought recently how cool that would be to do that at home as well.  Have one kid who is your go-to guy or gal for the day! A kid could also be picked to be your assistant on a home project or chore. 

Birthday Day- I read recently about a family who celebrates the number day of each child's birth each month.  So I was born on the 22nd- the 22nd of each month would be a special day for me.  Stay up a little later?  Maybe get a little treat?  Some one-on-one time?  I dig it... cool idea! Read more about it here

I look forward to continue building things like this into our life so that whether we end up with three kids or eleven, they will know my love and appreciation for each of them.

Thanks for making me feel important as Kristin Marie Pavona not just one of those Pavona kids, mom and dad.  I know it wasn't easy!!!!  I hope my kids will look back on their childhood and feel the same. 

What do you do in your families to help kids get some quality one-on-one time?  I'd love more tools in my toolbox!   

Monday, March 13, 2017

To Amy Krouse Rosenthal- Your Mark On The World & My World

Today our world lost someone important- a beautiful author, filmmaker, do-gooder, joy spreader...

To me, her impact was oh so great- both in my teaching and in the growing and cultivating of life-long readers in my sons.  They- my students and my boys- LOVE her books. 
See her books here . Check them out!

You may have read the dating profile she wrote about  her husband that was posted in the New York Times ten days ago.  If not, read it here.

I read it myself ten days ago and was immediately filled with great sadness and regret.  Here I was, being a huge fan of hers, and I no idea she was even sick- certainly no idea she was dying.  I had also always wanted to thank her for the amazing impact her work has made on me and especially our son, Judah.  I meant to write her a letter or try to send her an email, but I never did.  Tears rolled down my face for most of that morning- out of grief, out of sadness, connecting the love she clearly has for her husband to the love I have for Josh.  

I cried for how much cancer sucks, for how beautifully Amy always lived out her passions and dreams and I cried tears wondering if I was doing the same.  Are my priorities in line?  Do I give enough of my energy, time, and love to causes and people that matter most?  Am I doing enough?  Am I spreading enough joy, hope, love, kindness, compassion?  

I also decided that I need to reach out to her in case there was still time!  I composed a letter and sent it out that very day.  I wanted to share it...

_________________________________________________________________________________
To one of my family’s favorite authors:
I wanted to hand-write this as a hand-written letter is so underrated, but I just have too much to say…

My name is Kristin Hundt and I live and teach in Michigan.  I am a sixth grade educator and my teaching partner Katie (you actually got to meet her and her two sons as you were signing books in Chicago a year ago), have been reading picture books to our students almost every day.  We stumbled upon the Global Read Aloud in 2015 and joined being SO excited for to do the author study, which was you J Studying picture books had already been a part of what we do so it fit perfectly. 

We fell in love with your books right away!  Having our students write about things that aren’t fair or having a deeply globally connected discussion about perspective after reading Duck! Rabbit! added so much value to our classroom.  Our eleven and twelve-year-olds LOVED your books.  Although this experience was important and worth mentioning, that’s actually not why I’m writing to you.

Because we shared your work in our classroom, I also shared your picture books at home with my three little boys.  I have twins, Nolan and Judah, that are now 3.5 years old and another little guy, Carter, who’s 1.5 years old.  They- with their wild imagination, wonderment of the world, and love for reading, also fell in love with your books.  We have basically read your entire library!  Yes Day is a favorite as well as Plant a Kiss, Little Pea, Spoon, and Exclamation Mark

One of my twins, Judah, struggles with his speech.  When we were doing the Global Read Aloud in the fall of 2015 (my twins were a little over two years old at the time), it was one of the most difficult parts his journey- we were talking to his pediatrician about concerns and at home, he was reluctant to try new words.  He was getting angry and frustrated not being able to communicate the way he wanted to. 

One night, we were reading Exclamation Mark.  It was affectionately known in my house as the “yellow book” because Judah loves the color yellow so much.  As I was reading, we came to the page where the exclamation mark is trying out all these new words like “Wow!” or “Boo!” or “Congratulations!”  As usual, I paused hoping the twins would try out those words.  To my surprise and delight, Judah began attempting each and every word.  My eyes filled with tears.  After putting the twins to bed, I walked down the stairs where my husband was doing dishes and the tears continued as I shared with him what had happened. 

I’ve always known that books are amazing and powerful; I’ve loved them all my life.  That day, though, through your words, books took on an entirely different meaning for me as a mother.  I will never, ever forget the moment when my son stepped out of his comfort zone and took some courageous risks with words because he loved a book… your book.  Exclamation Mark will always be so special to me.

Thank you for the work that you do.  Your words have made a mark on this world and a mark on our family and I needed you to know that.

Sending you prayers, hugs, and peace,
  

The Hundt Family- Josh, Kristin, Nolan, Judah, and Carter
________________________________________________________________________________

Maybe she was able to get this letter in time and read these words herself.... maybe her husband will see it to know how her spirit will live on and what a great impact her work has had on our world.  

I am so reminded of how precious life is, how precious time is, how important books and written words are, and how important it is to find what you love and do what you love.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Cancun, Colleen's Wedding, and Traveling With Three Little Boys

My whole adult life, I'd always wanted someone I was close with to decide to do a destination wedding.  How incredible to travel to somewhere awesome and celebrate together.  When my sister Colleen announced that her and her finance were going to plan a wedding in Cancun, Josh and I were thrilled.... FINALLY!  Then we remembered... we're parents now.  Now just parents, but parents to three kids under four.  Hmmm.... this was not exactly the destination wedding scenario I had in my mind all those years ago ;) 

However, Cancun is a special place for Josh and I.  We have visited two other times- both at some of the lowest, saddest, and most hopeless points in my life.  We first visited in the midst of our early go-rounds with fertility medicine and doctors appointments; it was a spring break get-a-way escape and was much needed.  Our second visit was the winter after losing my brother and our first miscarriage.  We were so grateful to be showing up again...with a family.

So here's the gist of how everything went down...

BEFORE THE TRIP:
We packed as freaking little as possible.  Partially because we flew Spirit who charges just for wearing shoes on the plane it feels like, but mostly because Josh and I only had four hands and four arms to carry every piece of luggage and hold on to three kids in the airport.  That doesn't leave a whole lot of room for things.  Between the five of us, we checked one large suitcase, one small suitcase, and a gym bag (gym bags can be put across your shoulders and leave your hands free... score!). We also had three bags to take with us on the plane- one bag that had toys and snacks to keep us busy, one that had shoes, chargers, technology, books, etc, and one that was basically full of diapers.  Thank goodness Nolan and Judah are at least mostly potty trained, because bringing enough diapers for three kids for a week is legit.  I also brought a small thing of laundry detergent and I washed underwear, shorts, pajamas, and socks in the sink, which helped save some space in our luggage.  

I bought a Nim Nik baby carrier to wear Carter in the airport.  This carrier can hold big kids too, which was just what I needed.  
https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0189QQ596/ref=twister_B01AV1MD2U?_encoding=UTF8&th=1

THE TRAVEL:
On the way there, we flew with my two sisters and their boyfriends- thank God.  On the way home, we flew with my parents- again, thank God.  Wearing Carter in the airport was a huge help.  Nolan and Judah were great on the flight.  We didn't even have to get out any technology until the very end of the trip.  They played with games, stickers, and puzzles, and read books and enjoyed being up in the airplane and looking at the clouds.  Nolan's ears bothered him quite a bit.  We gave Carter Benedryl hoping that would help him nap (yes, that's right), but he didn't all asleep.  He did not like being confined to the seat when the seat belt signs were on and Josh spent a good chunk of the plane ride walking him up and down the aisle over and over.  He was in pretty good spirits though.  One of the things that kept him busy was that I put Cheerios or puffs in a pill dispenser thingy and then he had to open all the compartments to find the treats.    

On the way home, the stars were aligned and ALL THREE KIDS SLEPT for some of the flight!  Carter slept almost an hour and a half on me- I did not dare move or breath or talk to anyone. 

With the travel time to the airport, the flight, waiting in the all the lines and such- we traveled for almost 11 hours.  Whew. 
At the Detroit Airport- they have little play areas! 


BEING IN CANCUN:
We stayed at the Royalton Riveria Cancun.  It was incredibly nice, incredibly clean, and although it wasn't geared towards families and kids, they had some awesome things for kids.  Their kiddie pool was great- it was shallow, had a jungle gym in it, and water slides.  Each night from 7-8 there was entertainment for kids like a pirate show or a kid talent show.  

They were also great at having some things that were gluten free for Judah.  At every restaurant, the first question they would ask us was if any people had allergies so they could accommodate.

Our room will probably be the nicest room we will ever stay at.  It was a two-bedroom family suite with a separate master bedroom with a bathroom and then a pull-out couch living room with a wet bar and another bathroom in the other half of the hotel room.  Josh and I slept in the bedroom, Nolan and Judah shared the pull out couch, and Carter slept in a crib that we put in our bathroom.  
Room service?!?! Yes please :)

Tired Twins
The pièce de ré·sis·tance was the swim-up pool we had outside our room.  I never knew I needed that as a part of my travel, but I do. I really do.  This little pool was where we spent more of our time.  So easy to be able to go back and forth between the pool and our room to eat or use the bathroom.  Plus, it was bath-water warm.  
Our room withe swim-up pool <3

Yep.

Hours and hours of play here

Everyone had a blast and with the exception of Carter pretty much not sleeping the first night, everyone napped and slept great.

We spent our mornings walking around the complex, and playing in the sand by the ocean.  
Good morning!

At the Kiddie pool

<3

Our afternoons were primarily spent at the kiddie pool or our swim up pool and our evenings were spent exploring and swimming some more.  

Josh and I would spend our evenings reading, swimming in our pool, or taking turns going to meet up with my family.  My parents also came over a couple of nights while the boys were sleeping so we could go have a nice dinner just the two of us. 

Dinner at Grazie Italian Restaurant 

THE WEDDING: 
Colleen was the most beautiful, calm, serene bride.  The weather was spectacular, the view amazing, and having a smaller wedding made everything feel so intimate. 
Rooftop Wedding Ceremony

Getting ready!





My three boys were ring bearers, but Josh ended up walking down the aisle carrying Judah and a screaming Carter while Nolan walked by himself carrying a pillow with fake rings.  My precious little men were quite the hit, though, especially later on the dance floor at the reception.  
Ring bearers 

Being cute is tiring


I LOVE MY SISTERS

Colleen, you were GORGEOUS
Family travel isn't easy, but when my boys are still talking about what they saw and what they did almost a month later, I know it was so worth it.  Taking the time away from work and life was worth it too.  And, having the time where all my sisters and my parents were in the same place at the same time, well there aren't even words to describe how awesome THAT is.  Cancun will always be special to us; coming back, three kids in tow, was surreal. Hasta pronto...

I love you, Cancun.... really.