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.

Meet Children’s Authors at the Newburyport Literary Festival

Newburyport Literary Festival - Under the Monkey Bars blog

Sweet Pea and Bean at a workshop with children’s author Anica Mrose Rissi during last year’s Newburyport Literary Festival.

For book lovers, literary festivals are akin to music festivals. Live discussions, readings, and conversations with those who inspire us with the written word are often a once in a lifetime opportunity.

The Newburyport Literary Festival is just that, taking place in our historic city for its 11th year on April 29th and 30th. This year, the festival boasts an impressive line up of novelists, poets, and children’s authors. We are so fortunate to have such a comprehensive, annual literary festival right here in Newburyport!

Last April, our family attended almost all of the children’s events at the festival. We spent the day at the library together, with a stop back home to rest and eat lunch. It was our first experience with the festival, and one of the monkeys favorite weekends of the year!

We met Jarrett Krosoczcka (Lunch Lady series), Anica Mrose Rissi (Anna, Banana series), and the Newbury-Award winning author Avi. Not only were the monkeys captivated by their presentations, but we were also impressed with the stories the authors shared about their writing journeys. The monkeys even asked questions, eager to learn more. It was an engaging experience for kids and grown ups alike.

After each event, the authors were available to chat and sign books, which you could purchase through local bookstores. To be a kid and have a book that was touched by and signed by the actual person who wrote it? Priceless.

Instilling a love of reading has always been a priority of mine as a Mom. It’s so important for kids to learn outside the classroom. I go out of my way to bring the monkeys to meet authors. I’ll never forget the first author they met when Sweet Pea was 2 and Bean was 5: Victoria Kann (Pinkalicious series). They were completely star struck!

Newburyport Literary Festival - Under the Monkey Bars blog

Author Victoria Kann signing a copy of “Silverlicious” for Bean back in 2010 at Newbury Elementary School.

For children, meeting an author is like meeting a rock star. With their name across the bottom of a favorite book, they’re totally famous. Some more than others, but that’s not the point. Authors bring stories to life in your imagination, taking children to places they’ve never been before.

Literacy is even more critical in this digital age. Interpreting information from multiple sources makes growing up today much more complex. Discussing books becomes even more important than reading them. And what could be better than discussing a book with the person who wrote it?

Children learn from modeling our behavior. If we’re excited about a literary festival, they’ll be excited too. Check out the schedule and mark your calendar for the events that interest you most. Most events are free! Then head to the library to borrow some of the books that will be discussed at the event. Get excited together!

Events we’re planning to attend at the Newburyport Public Library:
– 9:00 a.m. Red Knit Cap Girl: Make origami hats with Naoko Stoop.
– 11:00 a.m. Pets With Benefits: Learn how to build a worm farm with Newburyport author Lucia Greene.
– 1:00 p.m. Let’s Make a Poem: Create and illustrate your own poem through collage with Micha Archer.
– 1:00 p.m. Families: The Good, the Bad, and the Wacky: Win door prizes and learn author secrets with Elizabeth Atkinson and Newburyport author Dana Alison Levy.
– 2:30 p.m. Writers in Wonderland: Write about your own wonderland with Genevieve Morgan.

Writing is a gift that authors share with us page by page, book by book. I hope you can make it to the Newburyport Literary Festival this year. Who knows? Maybe you’ll learn something.

If you’re not in the area, stay in touch with your library to find out when authors will be visiting for local events.

A Night of Stars

A Night of Stars - Under the Monkey Bars Blog

Last night’s talent show at the monkeys school was incredible! Newbury Elementary School’s A Night of Stars was much more than I expected.

I performed in the Oliver Ames High School talent show when I was in 9th grade with my friends to the song “Rump Shaker” (so not lying). I’ve never been to an elementary school talent show, nor have I been to a talent show as a parent.

To be honest, I didn’t have any expectations for last night. We left our ski day in Stowe early to be there to support friends and help raise money for the new playground. I wasn’t expecting the love and support in that room to be so contagious. I wasn’t expecting to see so much talent, creativity, and courage on that stage. I certainly wasn’t expecting to laugh myself to tears.

A Night of Stars - Under the Monkey Bars Blog

Photo Credit: Heather DePaolo

A Night of Stars literally blew me away. A third grade girl courageously sung “Mean” by Taylor Swift. I may have been the only one Y-M-C-A-ing with the 3rd grade girls who brilliantly lit the stage with glo sticks! A fifth grade boy started off his comedy act with, “So I’m single.” Hilarious! More fifth grade boys acted out a skit called “The Invisible Bench.” A shy first grade girl hula hooped to an entire song! And then there were the first graders who lip-synched and danced Milli Vanilli style to Disney’s Descendants. The monkeys flipped over that act! Drummers and guitarists rocked the stage, including Bean’s teacher. The gymnastics and dance acts were great — especially the fifth grade solo above whose joy touched everyone in that packed auditorium.

What a beautiful way to bring a community together. Times like this really restore my faith in humanity. This little small town talent show is proof that our world can be a wonderful place. These kids put themselves out there and they were all stars!

The playground at their school, Newbury Elementary School, is falling apart. All of the funds raised last night at A Night of Stars will benefit the schoolyard rebuild campaign to expand and update the playground. The new schoolyard will not only extend learning outside of the classroom, supporting both students and teachers, but it will also benefit all of the children in the community when school’s not in session. 

I don’t know about you, but I survived the early years of parenting at playgrounds, under the monkey bars actually. It’s where parents take kids to exercise, make new friends, and create a community. I love being part of this little community in the north shore of Massachusetts. 

The parents on the NES GROWS PTA committee are working hard to raise money for the playground but they need our help! Another $75,000 will make these kids dreams come true and give them an outdoor performance stage they can use every day at recess. Can you help? Every donation counts, whether it’s $1 or $1,000. Check out the GoFundMe page or buy a picket or paver

Share this post and help us spread the word. It takes a village. Thanks for taking time to read this post and be part of my village!