October 2, 2015

My Top Ten Family Outings for the Fall

It's October 2nd and everyone is planning their fall activities...I know I am! So I thought I'd re-share last year's post on Family Outings for the Fall. We'll be doing all of these again this year...including the Family 5k tomorrow morning (and it's supposed to rain again!). What are you planning for this beautiful time of year???

Yesterday morning I awoke to a very cold house. Then I walked to my daughter's bus stop thinking, seriously, it's freezing out here...where are my gloves?!?! I came home and looked at the calendar and was shocked to find that it was, in fact, October. When did that happen??? (I know, about a week ago.)

Looks like it's time to turn the heat on. Looks like it's time to get out the warm coats. Looks like it's time to finalize the Halloween costumes. And, it looks like it's time to fill the calendar with fun fall outings! (Woot!)

We got things rolling this weekend, with our first Fall Family Activity: a 5k charity race. We had to get the kids up in the dark (at 6am) and it was raining out! But we had so much fun. We all ran together...at 3 and 5 years old, the kids were in and out of the jogging stroller throughout the race, but they got out to run across their first finish line and get their medal...they were so proud! We had a blast! And, it provided a great teaching moment about The Four Diamond Fund charity we were supporting, about kids who are sick with cancer, and about doing something to support other people. I highly, highly recommend a charity run or walk as a fun family activity. I hope to do many more of these! I implore you to give it a try...and fall is such a great time to do it.

So what else do we have planned for the month to come? Well, here it is, my Top Ten Family Outings for the Fall:

Top Ten Family Outings for the Fall
10. Family 5k charity race (we ran The Conquer Run for the pediatric cancer charity The Four Diamond Fund)
9. Apple picking (followed by some baking fun)
8. Pumpkin patch, corn maze and hay ride
7. Fall color walk and nature scavenger hunt (we'll go to nearby nature paths to check out the leaves turning color, wade thru the creek, do a simple scavenger hunt and collect fall craft supplies like acorns and pretty leaves)
6. Hershey Park in the Dark (trick or treating and rides at the nearby Hershey Park amusement park) and Hershey Gardens Pumpkin Glow (trick or treating and fun decorations at the nearby Hershey Gardens...over 150 losing jack-o-lanterns!)
5. Apple Cider Festival (a fun family festival at a nearby park, complete with pony rides!) and Farmer's Market Fall Fest (you can check out any local farmer's market or community fall fest)
4. Trick or treating in the neighborhood
3. Fall-Inspired Art Class (we'll take a Saturday morning family art class at a local art studio...you could also go to a paint your own pottery studio or do some family art at home!)
2. Campfire smores at Hershey Chocolate World (of course you can do smores anywhere...even the microwave, if you don't have a handy fire pit)
1. Picnic at the park (we'll pick a warmer, dry day to take a picnic lunch to a nearby park)

In addition to all of these fun family outings, I also have planned some fun, fall crafts and baking ideas. We're going to try making some fall scented play dough, some hot pumpkin cocoa and an apple crisp. We're going to create candy corn catapults and pumpkin sun catchers. And we'll do some painting and crafting with some of the things we collect on our nature walk...like acorn and leaf people. And, of course, we'll carve and paint some pumpkins. For some fun ideas for fall activities, check out my Aaaahhh Autumn board on Pinterest here: http://www.pinterest.com/amylorbach/aaaahhh-autumn/.

Until next time, go get your fall on!

September 24, 2015

For Tired Moms...

This post is going out to all of the tired moms out there.

Because I am one of those tired moms this week.

I was wallowing in my own little puddle of misery this morning. Feeling tired and overwhelmed and lonely and blue. (My husband is traveling all week, our new puppy is high maintenance, the puppy and the kids keep getting me up all night long so I'm getting no sleep, etc...)

Then I thought I'd add a layer of guilt to that by reminding myself how lucky I am and how charmed my life is and how I have no business whatsoever feeling any of these things because, comparatively, I live on Easy Street.

Then I added a layer of failure on top of the guilt because I'm "supposed" to be living in the moment and being mindful and if I was being mindful I wouldn't be dwelling on all of this junk and I'd feel better. Then I remembered that I'm not "supposed" to be having "supposed to" thoughts, because it's irrational, unhealthy thinking that leads to misery. And then...

Well, you can see how I ended up deep, down deep in a hole of ickiness.

And then I remembered...

I'm just f@#*ing tired. Like most moms.

And it's tough to be sunshine and light when you're tired...and overwhelmed...and lonely.

So I know that this too shall pass. And tomorrow will be a better day...or at least day after tomorrow will be. And I know that the sun is shining and it's a beautiful day outside. And I know that I really do have a great life.

But today I'm gonna let myself feel the yucky that I'm feeling. And that's okay. And tomorrow I'll pull myself up by the bootstraps, like my mama taught me, and I'll go kick that day's ass.

So to all you mom's out there who are feeling the weight of the world and the toll of sleepless nights and the burden of not enough help...to all you moms who don't have a back-up person--maybe just for today or this week, or maybe never...to all you moms: I salute you.

I salute you. I send you love. I send you strength and patience and understanding. I send you a hug and a pat on the back. I wish I could send you a babysitter, a cleaning service, a trip to the spa and a hotel room just for you. But mostly, I send you respect for all you do and permission to feel what you're feeling right now, regardless of whether you've got it easier or harder than me today.

No guilt. No judgement.

Go ahead and feel happy or sad or overwhelmed or whatever. Just be kind to yourself. Treat yourself the way you'd treat your best friend when she's having a bad day.

Until next time, here's wishing you a good night's sleep, a hug and kiss from a sweet kid, and a little peace.

Namaste. (Because my soul really does honor yours.)

September 16, 2015

Book Love: Kissing in America by Margo Rabb

This book should be read by every mother and her teenage daughter. Moms will remember what it's like to be a teenage girl, and daughters will get just a tiny glimpse into the minefield of motherhood...how easy it is to do everything all wrong when you're trying so hard to do everything right.

This book reminded me that if we can all always approach everyone we encounter with the idea that they're probably doing the very best they can with what they've got to work with at that very moment...well, life will be a little easier and we'll all be lovelier people.

This book took me back to being a young woman...to being young and in love, and oh so naive about love and boys...a nativity of the heart that never really went away...I just simply got lucky and eventually found the right guy.  But, oh, the heartache every time it wasn't the right guy. Oh, the heartache.

This book made me feel (remember) the amazing purity, the clarity of true friendship. The factual nature of being with someone who understands you and loves you just as you are.

This book sank me into the world of grief, in all it's iterations and distortions, in all it's colors and heaviness, in all it's questions and confusions and lessons. It reminded me how easy it is to see the impact someone else's grief is having on them, when we are all often blind to it in ourselves.

This book is about love and empathy and friendship and grief and growing. It's about the impact we have on each other's lives...how interwoven our fabric really is. It's about connection. And it is a beautiful, tangled love story.

This book will leave an impression on your heart. It is sweet and funny and familiar.

And I recommend it.

Until next time, happy reading.

P.S. This was another Brilliant Books Monthly home run! Hurray for the Brilliant Books staff for selecting another great book for me...thank you, thank you, thank you! You can find out more about getting your own Brilliant Books Monthly subscription here: http://www.brilliant-books.net/surprise-book-month.

P.P.S. Up next...The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton.

September 11, 2015

KidzBop Music: Annoying...or Kinda Great?

Is it bad that I like the KidzBop versions of a lot of today's popular songs better than the originals?

Not so much the vocals, but the lyrics.

I realized this yesterday when driving around with my kids listening to the Kidzbop station on SiriusXM. I caught that moment in a song where they've noticeably changed the words. And I felt...relieved to not hear whatever degrading line had been altered...and not just because my kids were in the car. I realized that I didn't want to hear that junk either.

And that realization got me thinking, and then asking: Does liking KidzBop versions of some songs better than the originals mean that I've lost my edge? Or does it mean that I've wizened to the impact of the words we spout freely to the rhythm of fun dance music. As I see it, the beauty of KidzBop is that they remove the misogyny without removing the fun dance beat.

As I get older I find myself offended and disappointed on a regular basis by the lyrics in popular music (and not just the music of today...there was a ton of it back when I was in my teens and twenties too). It happens all the time-- I get excited by a fun, upbeat, new song...and then I listen more closely to the words and sigh with disappointment.

Why does our culture support this?

I know I sound a bit like a grumpy old man. I know it seems harmless. It's just songs. It's all in good fun, right? But it's not. Music is the undercurrent of culture. It expresses and supports a belief system. And this music reinforces the denigration of women. It says we are pieces of meat. Playthings for men. Nothing but eye candy and sex toys. And then we have boys who grow up believing that to be true. And even worse, we have girls who grow up believing that to be true.

Why does this not outrage us more?

There was a time when this did not bother me. I loudly sang along with these kinds of songs all the time. It was fun.

Then I got older.

Then I had kids.

And something changed.

I started listening...really listening...to the words in so many of these songs and I realized what I was singing along with. I realized that these are not the messages I want either of my kids internalizing. Frankly, I don't want myself internalizing this stuff either.

Now, I would never, NEVER support the idea of censoring artists. That's not my thing. What I'm questioning isn't really the artists, it's the society that supports their work. If our society wasn't okay with the denigration of women in popular music, most popular artists wouldn't do it. In fact, had they been raised in a society that didn't accept or support that kind of thinking, it likely wouldn't even come up in their creative process.

That's what I want to change. I want to change our cultural norms. I want it to be unacceptable to most anyone in our society to sing and dance to words that we would never say to our moms or wives or best friends or daughters (at least I hope we wouldn't).

The funny thing is that I don't have a problem with singing about sex or lust or love or those feelings and emotions or drinking and partying, either...not everything needs to be kid appropriate, G-rated or Disneyfied subject matter. If you need to drop an f-bomb in your song, I get that. (I still don't want my young children to hear it, but I get that sometimes the f-bomb is the only word that works.)

It's the lyrics that degrade women that I have a problem with.

It's the message that it sends. The message that it reinforces-- that women are less than. It's a way of keeping us in our place, keeping us controlled. It's more about power and dominance than it is about sex, anyway. If you can sing about sex and attraction with lyrics about two people who are equals, then I say have at it. (There are plenty of songs out there that already do this.)

Sexuality is part of who we are as human beings.

But misogyny is not.

Until next time, I challenge you to give this idea some thought. Think about yourself, your friends, your mom and wife and sons and daughters-- all the people you love. Think about how you want those people that you love treated by this world. And think about how all the components of our culture influence how they are treated. Then think about the lyrics in the songs you listen to and the impact those word have. And maybe, just maybe, get a little outraged.

As for me...I guess you can find me in my car...with the kids...rockin' out to KidzBop Radio.

Okay, I'm stepping off my soapbox now. Peace out.

September 1, 2015

What I've Been Reading

I've been a little off my game here on the blog lately. I think it's been the end of summer/beginning of the school year switch-over that's had me out of whack. No time to write. But honestly, I haven't known what to write about either. I'm not much of a planner on here. I tend to just write about whatever is on my mind at the moment. And I guess I didn't think you'd have much interest in hearing about summer's last hurrahs and back to school shopping and fall activity/schedule planning. But, there's always space in my world to talk about books...even if I don't have new absolute-must-reads to share. So, today I thought I'd share with you what I've been reading lately and give you a little peek into what's up next in the TBR pile on my nightstand. So here we go...

What I've Been Reading:

The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton
This one was a loaner from my mother. I can't say that I loved the book. Though I didn't hate it either. It was a tough novel for me. I never really fell for any of the characters and that's rough for me as a reader. Early on I wanted to give up, but eventually I got into it enough to want to finish. I did want to know how it all turned out. And I know it's a bestseller...and my mom liked it! But it never really captured my heart.

Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard
This was a recommendation from my niece, Katie. It's dystopian YA, her favorite genre...and a super popular one right now. I liked the book. I don't think I had as much enthusiasm for it as my niece, but it was a fun, fast-paced read that I raced through in mere days. And I like to mix those kinds of books into my book line-up. It didn't challenge me or teach me or inspire awe, but it was fun and entertaining in a similar vein as Graceling.

Shotgun Lovesongs by Nickolas Butler
This was my second Brilliant Books Monthly book. As you may recall, I absolutely adored my first pick, Mosquitoland. (You can read that reco here: http://mamamanagement.blogspot.com/2015/07/i-love-this-book-mosquitoland.html.) This one, however, I had mixed feelings about. (Read: No love. No hate.) This is also a bestseller and a highly recommended book; but I had trouble getting into the story and I had some narrator issues. Each chapter in this book is written from a different character's perspective, which was fine. But I only liked two of the voices: Hank's and Lee's. And the hardest part? The only female main character? I didn't find her voice totally believable and it killed her chapters for me. Her voice and actions weren't consistent and there were places where she sounded more like a guy. And that made me stumble as a reader. That being said, there are also some magical passages in this book, and some sweet stories. I like diving into the complexities of human relationships. But this take on it just wasn't a homerun for me.

The Heir by Kiera Cass
This is the fourth book in The Selection series, (You can read a review of the first three here: http://mamamanagement.blogspot.com/2015/07/ya-reading-reco-selection-series.html.) and a loaner from my niece, Katie. The good: Cass manages, no matter what, to deliver a book that I can't put down and tend to read within 2-3 days. It's fast and it's enjoyable...like a bucket of popcorn and a rom-com. It's not winning any awards, but it's still a nice evening. The bad: I didn't think this one was as well done as the original trilogy. It starts of slower and I didn't love the heroine as much. (Though it was still fun.) And...I thought this was a one-off addition to the original trilogy. But about halfway through the book I realized that there were likely not enough pages left to finish the story. Which could only mean one thing...another book is coming! Ugh! Now I have to wait to find out what happens. So annoying! :-)

What's Up Next:

My next Brilliant Books Monthly selection arrived a week or so ago and I can't wait to dive in. I'll be opening to page one tonight and I'll let you know how it goes. Here it is:

It's Kissing in America by Margo Rabb.* I haven't read the blurb or any reviews. Though I do remember seeing a recommendation for it at one point a while back and thinking I might like to read it. So all I know going in is that Elizabeth Gilbert loved it (it says so on the cover). And that's a pretty good recommendation in my book, so I'm excited!

When I was in Traverse City, MI, in August, I made my annual pilgrimage to the actual Brilliant Books bookshop and then promptly lost myself in the shelves. I actually visited the store twice while we were there and bought books both times. :-) In addition to books for my husband and kids, I picked up six for me. (I also picked up another book at a local toy store in Sutton's Bay because it looked adorable and was written by a local author. Someday I hope to be "a local author" so I support them whenever I can!) So here they are folks...All of the books I bought at Brilliant Books last month:

I can't wait to read all of them!! I get giddy with anticipation whenever I look at the stack in my bedroom. I'd be reading them all right now if I could. Seriously. They are a mix of Middle Grade and YA books, with one adult title that's been on my TBR list for ages. I will keep you posted as I work my way through.

If you're interested in checking out Brilliant Books Monthly or learning more about the bookshop, you can find more information about it here: http://www.brilliant-books.net/surprise-book-month. It really is a lovely place.

Until next time, I bid you good reading!

* Note: I am now on page 110 of Kissing in America and am already in love with this book! Full recommendation coming soon! :-)

August 18, 2015

I Want to Remember...

I want to remember Portia's long, skinny legs...how they go on for days and turn the color of perfectly golden pancakes in the summer the sun. I want to remember Holden's tiny butt...white as cream, rounded and small, and shaking when he dances naked while getting dressed in the morning. I want to remember their strong, slender, milky feet and tiny, delicate toenails that curl under at the tip. I want to remember their wide eyes looking deep into mine as they squish my cheeks between their little hands and tell me that they love me. 

I want to remember Portia's subtle lisp and how the words tumble out of her mouth surrounded by gasps of breath when she's excited, and the way she says "mazagine" instead of "magazine." I want to remember Holden's wild hand gestures, expressive faces, and full body explanations--his general inability to contain his excitement within his tiny body when he has something to say. 

I want to remember their crazy dances and silly games, their wild imaginations, their energy and joy and oozy buckets of love. I want to remember every tear and boo boo, every squeal of joy, every moment of accomplishment, every first...peeing in the potty, zipping their jackets, writing their names, reading a book, riding a two wheeler, making a hole-in-one at mini golf. I want to remember every cuddle and nap on my shoulder, every bedtime story and lullaby, every meal, every vacation, every splash in the pool and dig in the sand. I want to remember my husband making them laugh, throwing them in the pool, teaching them to swing a bat, and chasing them through the yard with a squirt gun. 

And I want to remember me, at my best with them; me being the mom I want to be. Me being the listener, the cuddler, the kisser of booboos and chaser of bad dreams, the attention giver, the food preparer, the surpriser, the fun haver, the tickle monster, the squeal-inducing chaser, the gift giver, the hugger and kisser, the back scratcher, the question answerer, the never-ending patience haver. I want to remember it all...

So where did this come from?

Two places.

We recently came across a video of Portia on her first day of preschool at 2 1/2 years old. She's singing this adorable, made-up song about the first day of school. And it's amazingly sweet and funny. And I realized that I had forgotten that version of her. The age, that look, that voice. I'd forgotten. I don't want to forget that.


I recently did this exercise where I thought about how I want my kids to describe their childhood when they grow up and what I want to leave behind when I die. I'm not trying to be morbid and I certainly don't want to rush through my kids' childhood. The idea was to think about where I want to end up-- what my big picture, important life goals are; to really ground myself in that so that I could see if what I'm doing now has me on the path to get where I ultimately want to be.

Because here's the thing: if one of my goals is "to raise happy kids turned happy adults, filled with warm memories and lots of love; kids who follow their dreams and share that love," but I spend most of my time tackling a to do list, writing emails and looking at Facebook, well, then I'm not on a great trajectory to achieve my goal. Maybe my time would be better spent playing a game or doing a craft with my kids, or helping them with their homework or watching the show their putting on for me. If one of my goals is "to leave behind stories, lots and lots of stories," then writing, telling stories to my kids, and talking with friends are actually great uses of my time.

Because here's the other thing: our time here on earth is not infinite. As much as it might seem, on any given random day, like it is...it is not. And guess what? Our kids will grow up and move away (or at least out of the house). Some day I will die. It's the one thing we can truly say that we know for certain will happen, right? And when that day comes I want to have truly lived and remembered every moment with my kids (because not only was I there doing it, but I was also paying attention). I want to be able to picture their infant faces and their kid bodies and their wondrous souls. And I want to leave behind a long and winding rope of people who felt loved and appreciated and honored by me. Especially my kids.

I want to leave behind a legacy of strength and love and compassion and understanding and joy and silliness and laughter and growth and learning. And that legacy began 40 years ago. And it continues today, and tomorrow, and next week, with every choice I make, with the ways I choose to spend my day and the attitude I choose to have. It's not happening when I have more time or when the kids are a little older or when the weather is nicer or when I lose five pounds or when I retire. It's now. This day. This moment.

This is my life.

I want to live it, savor it, love it...and remember it.

Until next time, here are my words of wisdom for you: live the life today that you want to remember tomorrow. And pay attention.

August 7, 2015

Recipes for your Garden Haul: Sesame-Ginger Cucumber Salad

Look! A bird! A plane! No, it's more cucumbers!

Yes, I know.

Just go with it.

So here's a lovely, light little summer side dish for you! (And another great way to use those cucs!)

Sesame-Ginger Cucumber Salad

recipe adapted from www.reciperunner.com
1 large cucumber, thick sliced and quartered
1 1/2 tbsp rice wine vinegar
1/2 tbsp low sodium soy sauce
1/2 tbsp fresh lime juice
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp honey
1/2 tsp fresh, grated ginger
1/8 tsp garlic powder
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 tbsp toasted sesame seeds

Cut your cucumber in half lengthwise. Put the flat sides down on your cutting board and slice each half in half again, lengthwise. Then slice the four spears into half inch slices so that you end up with nice chunks of cucumber. Put the cucumber in a medium size bowl and set aside. In a small bowl, whisk together all remaining ingredients except sesame seeds. Pour the dressing over the cucumbers and toss to coat. Sprinkle sesame seeds over the top and refrigerate until ready to serve. It's that easy!

Notes: This recipe can easily be doubled if you have two cucumbers and more people. However, it really should be eaten the same day that it's made...those cucs can get a bit mushy if they're left in liquid for too long.

Until next time, happy cooking!

P.S. For more recipes for your garden haul, check out my Pinterest board here: https://www.pinterest.com/amylorbach/recipes-for-my-garden/.