Saturday, June 10, 2017

Congratulations Ollie!

Dear Ollie,

You just graduated from Kindergarten and turned 6 years old.  We are both so very proud of you!  While you're still holding on to some younger you things, like calling Storm Troopers Storm Troopulars, getting chocolate every-which-where when eating ice cream, or asking me not to be disgust[ed], you learned some wonderful things this year, babe.  

You learned how to read!  You moved to level 9 in your teacher's reading scale and came home with so much more confidence.  You love that you can read, but don't always want to read.  You're more interested in us reading to you - I think because you like the closeness and the fact that you don't have to think.  I know Mamas tend to think their children are the smartest of the smart, but it is so fascinating to listen to you read - you know so many of the "rules"!  You've told me about the "mean r" and the "silent e," how "ough" can sound differently and that "ea" doesn't always sound like "eee."  We are having fun reading together some smaller chapter books, right?  Like The Adventures of Dog Man, the BFG, Ralph the Mouse and Captain Underpants.

You learned how to write!  You get a little frustrated with spelling (which is normal), so we ask you to use your "Kindergarten spelling" which means to just write as the word sounds.  You like to use the white board to list the chores we ask you to do, and are really getting good at putting spaces between words - you learned that by putting your finger in between the last letter of the first word and the first letter of the next word!  You now are in charge of writing thank-you cards to people, and you have written the last three without any help from me.

You learned math and science.  You are using a new method for addition and subtraction that I didn't use in school, but it's working for you.  (I'm sorry - it's not called "subtraction" yet, it's "take away.")  This morning you explained to me how the pupil works and when I added some information, you were surprised that I knew anything about it.

You learned some Espanol.  You're not in love with that subject, but I'm proud of how quickly you've taken to it.

There are other life lessons that you've mastered this year, Ollie.  You've learned to pump your legs at swinging - you love to jump from really high which makes your hospital social worker father very anxious.  Your drawing and coloring have really reached the next level; you have a very keen eye for detail and the memory of an elephant.  Your dance moves (from gym and afterschool YMCA, I suppose) are ON POINT - you love to freak out to hard rock.  Sometimes I have come home from work and the garage door is nearly throbbing from the loud music your dad puts on to get your wiggles out.  You also are able to help around the house more: you can fold your laundry and put it away, clean windows and doors and help to take out the trash.

We're really proud of your positive progress, darling, but there are some things we have to work on - things that come with having new friends.  You've learned the new tricks of dealing with parents - you triangulate with the best of them and know how to rev us up.  You are a showman (I wonder where you get it?) and show off in front of your friends - with disrespect, ugly words and mischievous actions.  When you don't get your way, you huff and puff and scream and lash out.  While that's not new, it's becoming more of a concern as it makes its way into the classroom when you feel more comfortable with your surroundings.  If you hear other kids saying certain words, you like trying them out; at first for the shock factor, and then they get lodged in your routine despite our teachings and warnings.  So it'll be back to basics for you this summer, O.

With two working parents, you will continue having a routine.  Day camp is scheduled for you every day, which will be a lot of playing with some continued learning to keep you on task.  We have three weeks of campy-camp scheduled for you where you'll swim and boat, ride horses, climb trees and shoot some arrows.  New this summer, however, you will have some added chores and responsibilities (i.e., reading books for TV time and Brain Quest workbook for video game time).

You've knocked it out of the park this year, bud, and we couldn't be happier.  Let's keep it on the upswing this summer and have a great time!

Love, Mama


Thursday, May 25, 2017

Pig Supper Movie Night!

Doug and I planned to take Ollie to the St. Paul Saints game last Saturday night for his birthday, but it got rained out.  Instead, we had a fun family night in.  Ollie was pretty bummed that we couldn’t attend the baseball game, so Doug and I tried to create a truly special family evening to make up for it.  We weren’t going for your run of the mill Monopoly and movie night!

We found out that the game was postponed from the stadium’s jumbotron despite our many calls to the ticket office throughout the wet and windy day.  All of us had already had a snack on the way to the field because we had agreed to eat at the stadium.  When we decided to head home, no one was really hungry for dinner so we stopped at the grocery store and picked up some pig supper supplies! 

What’s a pig supper, you may ask?  Well, it’s a once a year – maybe – type of dinner.  It’s when you eat as much ice cream as you can handle – for your dinner.  It’s a night Mom says SCREW IT and Dad decides not to argue and the kids think their parents rope the moon.  It’s a Cook family tradition that Mom started when she and us kids would go on vacation (either Dad didn’t have the time off and Mom had to get the heck out of Dodge or she would lose her mind, or it was the weekend of the Michigan-Notre Dame game when no one wanted to be around Dad justincase the Wolverines lost), and she wanted a night off from fighting the nightly who-can/will/should-eat-what battle with three children.  In my mind, one night she stood with her shaking hands clutching the sink for support as she listened to us girls fighting over trolls and Barbies in the living room and thought, Where's MY vacation?  I don't want to make ANYTHING! *looks at the freezer, then to the kids and back at the freezer* I should just stuff them with frigging ice cream, then I'll be the best mom ever and I won't have to do squat, and she did.  A star (of a meal) was born.

We got home and I gave Ollie instructions to find a movie and change into his comfiest pjs, Doug directions to pitch Ollie’s tent in the living room and set out his sleeping bag, and then set to work.

Now, a true pig supper involves packing up the kids and the wipes and heading to the nearest ice cream parlor.  It’s supposed to take absolutely minimal effort.  Like none.  Like, actually, give them money and send them on their bikes then put some cucumbers over your eyes and catch a wink type effort.  But if, like me, you want to make it a bit more gourmet, you roll up your sleeves and…

STEP ONE: …warm up 3 cake donuts (one for each person) in the microwave.

I KNOW, RIGHT?  Donuts are ALWAYS the best starting off point.  I mean, seriously, if you’re going to have a dinner with completely zero health benefits, do it UP.  It works best if they're the box kind that are all dried up and stale.  Actually, I don't know if it works best that way, that's just the only way I've ever done it.  A pig supper is usually tastiest when all the food is gone and Mom's in the corner pulling on her split-ends humming Elvis.

Nuke the done-dones for a short amount of time and put a wet, crumpled up paper towel in there to keep the donuts moist.  Yeah, I've done this a few times.

STEP TWO: Set each of the donuts in the bottom of a bowl.  Some people have specific dishware for ice cream sundaes.  I only have specific dishware for corn cob buttering – and that’s a paper plate with a fat stick of margarine dripping with old corn bits that’s been sitting in the back of the fridge for two years, but go ahead and use whatever dishes you want, Fancy Frass.  Just make sure there’s room for getting all that fat and sugar and carbs and forgotten dreams in there.

STEP THREE: Pile on the ice cream.  If you have more than one type of ice cream, go big or go home.

STEP FOUR: Drizzle (read: FLOOD) that hot fudge, butterscotch, caramel – whatever - on that bad boy and ignore your inner nurse practitioner's warnings.

STEP FIVE: Top it off with whipped cream – and you know I don’t mean a dollop.

STEP SIX: Barrage that sundae within an inch of its life with every type of topping you can imagine/stomach (or just one, Slimmy, if you’re on a diet).  I’m talking sprinkles, I'm talking nuts, chocolate chips, butterscotch chips, fruit, Captain Crunch, you name it.

Then serve that supper up with a smile, Mama, and take the night off caring about nutrition or rotting teeth.

(But seriously, make everyone brush their teeth before bed because who needs more dental bills than what your kids’ already jacked up teeth will cost, amirite?  My kid chews on ICE.)

I guarantee you that when you come out of the kitchen into the living room and the boys are in their pajamas, the tent is up, The Chronicles of Narnia is primed on the DVD player and you’ve got your hands full of delicious ice cream, your boys are going to look at you like you battled the Death Star and won.  The Hallelujah Chorus actually played behind me on Saturday night.  Really, I don’t know how it happened.

(Then the record scratch screeched because my eyes darted to the pillows laid out over the floor and I immediately screamed out to put the pillows back on the couches, we’re having ice cream for crying out loud, everyone on the floor and use your napkins this time.)

After that we settled in, started the movie and blissed out in a cuddle puddle on the floor slurping up our ice cream.


It definitely wasn’t the baseball game, but it wasn’t a usual family night either!

Post script – bedtime will suck, but due to sugar coma, they’ll fall asleep like *snap*.

If you want more ideas on fun family movie nights, check out PureFlix.  A website and app that strives to be the most trusted family-friendly video-streaming source on the web, PureFlix is a great resource when you a) can’t remember if there are curse words in a certain film, b) don’t know what PG means, c) can’t stomach another night of bickering over what to watch and d) want to watch a video that will– consistently and reliably – be safe and age appropriate for your littles.  They are currently offering free one-month trials!

What are your favorite ways to create a fun family night?

*(Oh, were you thinking I was going to show a picture of my cellulite-inducing sundae?  Lovepotion, that was gone before the movie even started.)

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Children's Sermon: Happy Mother's Day!

As you know, from time to time, I get to give the kids at church a children's sermon. The first time I figured it was a fluke, that they'd see the error of their ways immediately. The second time I was asked, I considered myself incredibly lucky. But now that I've been asked a third time, I think I'm officially on the payroll as a child sermonist! That's right, right? I'm sure it's right.

Also, this is one of those times where I consider the whole "pride before the fall" proverb, but I dismiss it instantly.

I feel like today is a holiday. What is today?
(It's Mother's Day!)

Who do we celebrate on Mother's Day?
(Our Moms!)

That's right! And grandmas and aunts and other people who act like moms to us!
Tell me: why do we celebrate these people on Mother's Day?
(Because they do nice things for us! Because they're our moms!)

But why do we only have one day to celebrate these people? Aren't they great? Shouldn't we tell them how great they are and how much we love them every day?
(Sobering nods)

Psalm 31 is one of the passages that Pastor Ben is talking about today and the author, David, talks about the Lord being his rock. Do you know what that means?
(Deafening silence)

When we say that someone is our rock, it means that they're always around for us. They protect us, they teach us, they defend us, they watch out for us, they cheer for us and they give us strength. A rock is solid, something that you can't break. That sounds a lot like our Lord, doesn't it?

But you know who else that sounds like? It sounds like our moms!

Does your mom cheer for you at your games or shows?
Does your grandma pick you up after you've fallen off your bike?
Does your aunt teach you the right way to do things, like write your name or tell a joke?
Are they always there for us when we're happy, sad, angry, confused or scared?

They are! So to remember that our moms are our rocks and that we love them so much, here's a rock. I want each of you to write either MOM or GRANDMA or whoever it is that is your rock and give it to them today. Say, "Hey, Mom! You're my rock!"

Let's pray with our heads bowed, our hands together and our eyes closed. Repeat after me:

Dear God,
Thank you for giving me this special lady in my life.
She's my rock, just like you're my rock.
You both love me and keep me safe.
Please help me to remember to say thank you not just today, but every day!

Go tell that special lady in your life how much you love them and are thankful for them. If they're not around, do the next best thing: pray, call, or find someone else. Everyone deserves to be genuinely thanked for the things they do for us.  Love you.

A Mother's Day

This past Sunday was Mother's Day and it was the perfect day for this mama.

The weather last week was glorious and everyone in our little cul-de-sac had mown their lawns - everyone but us. Spring had just recently popped and we didn't have the time to mess with the grass yet, plus we had forgotten to put fertilizer down on our lawn in the Fall, so our lawn was a mess of dandelions, weeds and overgrowth. Ollie and I both had to pick up our feet walking through the yard! I assured our neighbors with a sign on the driveway:

 Our lawn will be mowed Sat. #workingparents

 And Saturday, with the sun shining overhead, the promise of Ollie spending two hours at a birthday party and all the tools at my disposal, Doug and I got to it. The whole day was absolutely splendid and at the end of the day, after cleaning dirt out of my fingernails and ears (?), taking a cool shower and enjoying a Miller High Life, we grilled some steaks, ate some Happy Mother's Day cake (you give me a celebration and I'll ask for a cake) and watched a movie. It was sensational. We were all in great moods* and slept brilliantly that night.

*Ollie was in good spirits, I think, because he could finally go to a birthday party. Earlier, on Wednesday night, he was supposed to go to a different birthday party. He was such a sassy snot that we told him his behavior didn't allow for this privilege, and then we had him call the mom to apologize. First time that happened, and I really don't think he'll forget it!

Sunday, I woke up to this:

Ollie had promised me a robot and he delivered!

"Mom, I wish you will have a wondrefl Mothrs Day xoxoxoxox Oliver"

A Poem about My Mom:
M - om
O - out of this World
H - eart
E - xcellent
R - eads

And a Starbucks coffee and cinnamon roll.  Hog heaven.

We spent the morning with some of my favorite people at church where I gave the children's sermon and taught Sunday School. The band played a great, slightly sardonic rendition of "Are You Gonna Go My Way" by Lenny Kravitz and Ollie brought me a carnation from all the flowers in the hall for the moms.  We came home, I relaxed and we went out to lunch with my parents-in-law.

Then the boys went grocery shopping, I went to Home Depot to finish out the plants in our fresh-faced yard and we all went to bed, content and full.

There are few things I love more than spending some quality time with my boys. When it's done with a full fridge, clean house, folded laundry and crossed off to-do list, that's the icing on my Mother's Day cake. Here's to your Mother's Day!