Will She Still Call Me Mommy?

Will She Still Call Me Mommy - Under the Monkey Bars blog

When Bean turns 11 tomorrow, will she still call me Mommy?

My baby girl, almost as tall as me now. She barely fits in my lap, and she’s starting to “borrow” my clothes.

Will she call me Mommy for just another year? And then another year more?

I can’t even think about it. I know my time is short but I didn’t realize how quickly this day would come.

We ran into a friend at the grocery store last week. The monkeys were excited to see her and literally took turns hugging her over and over. She practically melted, telling me that her teenage daughter just started hugging her again.

It took my brain a few minutes to register what she said. Wait, she stopped HUGGING YOU? How can that be? I live for the hugs, the kisses, and holding my daughters’ sweet hands.

I can’t live in a world where my monkeys don’t hug me. 

For years, it seemed like all I heard was Mommy, Mommy, Mommy. I couldn’t even use the bathroom without one of them calling me. And I complained about it.

Now here I am thinking about the possibility of NOT hearing her say Mommy…and I’m devastated.

Bean is growing up. It’s happening. She’s turning into a witty, kind, and spirited little lady. I’m so proud of her and can’t wait to see what the world has in store for her. 

But at the same time, I really just want to freeze time. She’s growing up way too fast. And I know it’s inevitable that I’ll start hearing her call me Mom.

I might be okay with it when the time comes, but for now: Will she still call me Mommy?

Playground Crawl

Playground Crawl - Under the Monkey Bars blog

Cashman Park in Newburyport

Playground Crawl - Under the Monkey Bars blog

You’ve done a pub crawl, but have you ever taken the kids for a playground crawl?

There will be no beer on this crawl. Gone are the days of stumbling from one Irish pub to the next. We have kids and jobs and schedules and no time to be *that* hung over.

But we can still experience the fun of going place to place in a crawl style. In fact, there may be some little monkeys crawling.

If a pub crawl is a tour of several pubs or bars, with one or more drinks at each, then a playground crawl must be a tour of several playgrounds, with one or more swings, slides, and monkey bar passes at each! Along with some coffee or tea, of course.

Choose an open Saturday on the calendar or make it a weekend quest. Why not put some friends up to the challenge while you’re at it? Kids of all ages will love a playground crawl. It’s all about creating your own special event and the challenge of a crawl.

Now is the time. Besides the fall, June is our favorite weather for playground time. The air is still crisp in the morning so be sure to get an early start.

If you’re motivated, plan your own workout before the crowds show up. Try this playground work out or check out this one. Be a role model for the kids and they will likely join you for some exercises, counting reps until they move on to something else.

Plot your route in advance. Travel by bicycle or car, spending 15-30 minutes at each playground, depending on how engaged the kids are and the size of the playground.

A playground crawl can be done in any town or city. Here’s an example of a playground crawl for my beloved Newburyport:

  1. Cashman Park (5 Pop Crowley Way)
  2. Ayers Playground at Cushing Park (1 Buck Street)
  3. Fuel up at Plum Island Coffee Roasters (54R Merrimac Street)
  4. Frog Pond Playground at Bartlett Mall (151 High Street)
  5. Bresnahan School Playground (333 High Street)
  6. Moseley Woods (Corner of Merrimac and Spofford Streets)
  7. Lunch at Port City Sandwich (40R Merrimac Street)
  8. Inn Street Playground (Inn Street)
  9. Fuel up at Atomic Cafe (56 State Street)
  10. The Brown School Playground (40 Milk Street)
  11. Perkins Park Playground (15 Beacon Avenue)
  12. Jason Sawyer Memorial Playground (Plum Island Beach, Northern Boulevard)
  13. Celebrate with whoopie pies at Chococoa Baking Company (50 Water Street)

Stretch the crawl into other towns to meet friends in Amesbury (Amesbury Town Park Playground), Ipswich (Pirate Ship Park), or West Newbury (Action Cove). The possibilities are endless!

Be sure to pack plenty of water in refillable bottles, healthy snacks, sunscreen, bug spray, and extra clothes in case someone falls in the river trying to feed a duck (learn from the monkeys here guys). Also consider bringing hula hoops, sidewalk chalk, bubbles, jump ropes, and balls.

Kids need time outside more than ever. Get them pumped up about a playground crawl, and exhaust those little monkeys.

Cheers to the parents after bedtime, because you deserve a drink!

What We Really Want For Mother’s Day

What We Really Want For Mothers Day - Under the Monkey Bars blog

Moms melt when our kids give us homemade cards and shower us with hugs and kisses on Mother’s Day. But what do we really want for Mother’s Day?

I’ve been a Mom for ten years now. A day doesn’t go by that I don’t celebrate being a Mom. For me, Mother’s Day is every day. I’m grateful to have the opportunity to hold my daughters hands each and every day, raising them with instinct and love in this crazy world.

To love them and be loved is the greatest gift.

Mother’s Day comes with the pressure of finding that perfect gift for Mom. What can you possibly give to the Mother of your children to show her how thankful you are for everything she does for your family? It’s not easy.

Of course we’ll wear the bracelet you pick out together at the local jewelry store, or the anti-aging cream that you thoughtfully order for us. We’ll always drink out of the mug the kids painted at the local pottery shop. And we’ll save the tiles with their handprints they made at school for years to come.

But what do Moms really want for Mother’s Day? We want a day off to recharge. We want to escape to a place where no one is asking for a snack and no one is calling “Mommy” on repeat like a broken record.  Just a little break really.

Don’t get me wrong. We want to be with our kids on the actual day of Mother’s Day. We live to collect the hugs and kisses we earned the other 364 days of the year.

But the day before, and maybe even the day before that, encourage us to slip away. We may not realize it, but we really need — and deserve — the day off. Moms are notorious for taking care of everyone while putting ourselves last. We need to take better care of ourselves and make time for self care.

Whether or not we have a paying job, we work around the clock to feed, protect, and raise these little ones. Our kids are adorable and we absolutely love them to pieces. But they get up in the middle of the night, throw tantrums, refuse to cooperate, and vomit (I had you at vomit, didn’t I?).

That’s when we realize that we need a day off. But then the Mom guilt sets in. Oh, that Mom guilt. We should be with our family! We might miss something. They need us!

Some of us will just go off happily. 

But the rest of us, we might need a push and a shove. Maybe make an appointment at the spa for a massage and a pedicure? Check the schedule at the gym or yoga studio to for an exercise class. Or suggest some places we could go to recharge.

Attention Dads, partners, and kids: Help Mom. She helps you an awful lot. On Mother’s Day, don’t let us worry about our usual responsibilities around the house. No laundry. No cooking. No cleaning. No picking up. Don’t make a big deal that you’re doing it for us either. We notice.

In fact, let’s just go ahead and call it Mother’s Day weekend. Throw in an extra day or two for your sweet Momma.

And Moms, try not to feel guilty. Relish in your time. Whether you sit on the beach and listen to the waves or head out for a shopping trip with friends, you deserve every single minute of that “me” time. You’ll relax and be a better Mom.

Thank you for being someone’s Mother. Without you, life wouldn’t be nearly as full of love. Enjoy your Mother’s Day weekend. You’ve certainly earned it.

Freedom to Art

Freedom to Art - Under the Monkey Bars blog

Always at this time of year, I start to freak out about summer. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love summers with my monkeys and the freedom of not having a schedule. But school vacation weeks are a good reminder that you need to plan ahead to keep kids busy so everyone stays sane. Am I right?

We usually line up a few camps to break up the summer months. I find it difficult to plan too far in advance…especially for camps that require early sign ups. I’ve set my alarm for midnight to sign up for camp one November a few years back, and then there was the time we waited in line at 6 am on a Saturday morning in February. No more of that insanity!

For me, springtime is the perfect time to plan for summer. Sometimes kids don’t even know what they want to do this early, and I’m not about to make that decision for them — especially now that they’re older.

Bean recently declared that she’ll die without art lessons. She’s getting so dramatic! Obviously art camp is a no-brainer. The monkeys went to Sally Lannan’s Freedom to Art camp last summer, and have continued weekly after school lessons since September. In fact, it’s their favorite activity!

It’s been incredible to see Bean and Sweet Pea's art skills progress and blossom this year.

It’s been incredible to see Bean and Sweet Pea’s art skills progress and blossom this year.

We love the nurturing home environment that Sally provides. It’s the perfect space for young artists to thrive and get messy. And it’s not my house getting messy (you know how I hate glitter). It’s so important to me that the monkeys have a place where it’s okay to be messy and really get into a creative project.

Art is such a pure way to express yourself. I truly believe that self expression through art helps kids discover themselves. I’ve been impressed with the variety of mediums the monkeys have access to during their art lessons at Freedom to Art: natural molding clay, watercolor, artist chalk, oil pastel, acrylic, colored pencil, collage, charcoal, and pencil sketch. There’s usually enough time for kids to work on a project plus free time to explore what they’re most into. It provides the opportunity for them to become more confident and grow as artists.

I love how art camp gives kids a break from the summer heat while letting their creativity flow. If you’re local, check out Freedom to Art. Sally has space in the after school lessons as well as summer art camps. On the South Shore of MA, check out Art Around the World Camp with my friend Kelly Burke. In Stowe, the Helen Day Art Center has an impressive listing of camps for the summer as well — including a Fashion Design camp where Bean will redesign old clothes into new outfits.

When you find gems like these, you have to spread the word!

What are your summer plans? What kinds of camps have your kids loved?

Sweet Pea’s Hair Donation

Sweet Pea's Hair Donation - Under the Monkey Bars blog

Just when I thought she couldn’t possibly get any sweeter, Sweet Pea donated 8 inches of her lovely, blond locks. Again.

This is the second time she’s donated her hair to Children with Hair Loss, and I couldn’t be prouder. I honestly didn’t think she would be brave enough to go through with it again. But as usual, she surprised me.

Sweet Pea first donated her hair to Children with Hair Loss in June of 2014. We chose this organization because their minimum is 8 inches, versus the 10 inches that other organizations require. Donating her hair was a little traumatic for Sweet Pea back when she was 5. I think she was shocked at the amount we had to cut for the donation, even though we had talked about it and measured out the hair.

Sweet Pea's Donation - Under the Monkey Bars blog Sweet Pea's Donation - Under the Monkey Bars blog

This time, she was inspired by everything that’s happened to her Dad. She really wanted to do something to help someone. Kids can spread kindness with simple things like making cards and helping out, but it’s hard for them to make a big impact. Hair donation is a great way for kids to give back.

When I mentioned that it had been quite a while since her last haircut (read November) and that she had enough hair to donate again, Sweet Pea decided right then and there that she’d do it. She said, “Make the appointment, Mommy!”

I wasn’t about to question her so I booked the first available appointment with our amazing hairdresser Tammy at Beautique here in Newburyport. Sweet Pea bravely walked up to the big chair and didn’t look back. Meanwhile, I thumbed through magazines with Bean hoping she wouldn’t back out.

A few tears escaped as she saw her new, short hairstyle in the mirror. But this time, it only took the walk to the car for her to decide that yes, she had done a great thing. Her hair would grow back, and she would donate it again.

We’ve been talking about the little girl who will receive the wig made out of Sweet Pea’s hair. Will she like the color? Why did she loose her hair? We think she’ll be happy to have hair that will hopefully make her feel more like her normal self. I know I already said this, but I’m just so proud of my sweet girl.

Last night when I was tucking her in, my Sweet Pea said:

Next time, I’m going to grow 24 inches of hair so that I can donate 16 of it. That way, a girl can have longer hair if she wants.

Boy, does she know how to make me melt! That’s my girl: the sweetest, strongest little love. I’m so blessed to be her Mom.