Sunday, April 28, 2013

A Weekend of Dates

Like most weekends, we packed as much as we possibly could into the span of the few blessed days. It was a weekend of dates.

Friday I passed on an offer to spend the night with girlfriends to instead go on a date with my little family of four, something we don't always prioritize in the hustle bustle of our busy lives. The date didn't start off the most promising when we sat in a restaurant passing an antsy, squirmy toddler over the table in attempts to distract and quiet him and occupy and contain a sassy, crabby three year old. Dave and I exchanged wide-eyed, exhausted looks that screamed, WHY DO WE DO THIS TO OURSELVES? Sometimes it's just easier to eat at home or, at the very least, fast food. Once the food was devoured--and I do mean devoured, there's no putzing around in a restaurant with kids who'd rather be anywhere else--we moved on to the fun part of our date, which convened in a pet store.

Part two of our date was a pet store scavenger hunt. I made each boy a separate poster of items to find in the pet store. Dave wheeled Ashton around in a cart, locating the things on his list; Spencer and I meandered through the store to find ours. Each time Spencer found one, he got to put a sticker in the box next to the picture. Both boys seemed to really enjoy the scavenger hunt. Ash got really excited when he found something in the store off his list, pointing from the picture to the store item. Spenc buzzed with excitement the entire time, eager to find the next thing on the list. 

To end the date, the boys each got to take home a fish. Once the tank was set up and the fish were situated in their new home, Spencer and Ashton spent the remainder of the night oohing and ahhing over their new pets. The fish tank started out on a book shelf that was accessible to the boys, but then it had to be moved to a higher dresser out of the reach of little hands since Spencer kept putting random objects into the tank.
Meet Nemo and Rufus, the newest members of our family.


Saturday morning the boys and I had a pajama park and picnic date. Clothes on Saturday mornings are overrated.

Saturday afternoon Spencer and I went on a date to his friend Briella's first dance recital. We even got spiffied up for our big day. After Briella's performance, we snuck out early and got some ice cream.

Later that night our friends came over for a fish fry, where we spent the majority of our time playing outside enjoying the 70 degree weather finally.
This cuddly, coziness only lasted about 15 minutes before they scrambled back outside to play.


Sunday my friend Ann and I went on a shopping date. It's been far too long since I've enjoyed a full day of shopping, especially where I only shopped for myself. We hit up a few thrift stores, grabbed some lunch and then ended at the mall. Five dresses apiece and some shirts later, we are set for the summer! Well....until we think we need another shopping date anyway.
Taking a break from shopping to enjoy a yummy, messy lunch and a margarita.

Our weekend of dates wrapped up with our weekly Sunday dinner at my mother-in-law's. This week we invited our friends to join us. The kids wore themselves out on fresh air and tractors and the adults enjoyed margaritas and brewskies.
Helping Grandma do yard work.
Their relationship makes me grin. I love how serious they look here, like they're plotting something mischievous.

All weekends could go something like this one and I'd be supremely lucky and content. Happy and blessed.

Friday, April 26, 2013


The week started icky and gloomy again. We made the best of it with another van picnic while out and about running errands. The unseasonably odd weather this spring made it a bit tricky to begin our seasons unit this week. It's a little hard to explain to kids how spring is supposed to be enjoyed outdoors--soaking up the sun, admiring the colorful flowers, the earth emerging from a long, cold winter--when the preceding season decided to stick around far too long. Luckily the weather cooperated later in the week and we actually experienced spring firsthand.
He ditched us for a better seat.

We kicked off our seasons unit by first making a poster and a graph of all four seasons. I printed off clipart and Spencer glued the pictures in the appropriate seasons square of the poster. He did most of it without any assistance from me. Ashton colored on a seasons coloring page and then I created a graph out of it. I intended to use this throughout the week, but then, as luck would have it, the extended winter turned to late spring and the inside activities were eagerly abandoned.

Although we continued to discuss all four seasons and read books pertaining to all the seasons, the rest of the week was dedicated to spring. We made flowers and umbrella men.

We recycled old Easter basket filling for the birds to create colorful nests with. We keep checking to see if the birds have snatched any of the pink paper yet, but apparently they aren't too very appreciative of our gesture.

We got our hands dirty by planting some flowers in egg cartons. I poured soil into the water table and the boys played.

And we experienced spring:

We walked into town, first stopping for a quick treat at the gas station, and then enjoying our first park date since last fall.

We ate outside!! No more picnics huddled in the backseat of the van!


Weekly Mahlke Randomness:
Not a good mopping helper. At all.
Sometimes eating breakfast requires loveys.
First spin on the big boy bike outside.
Hi, Spring, we love you!!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

My Mommy

Growing up my mom and I had our spats like any typical mother/daughter relationship. I remember vividly one infamous memory where we were "disagreeing" and somehow my glasses paid the price. You see, I was running down the stairs to argue my point as my mom was rounding the corner to go up the stairs. But her hand was raised, as if to threaten me, and we smacked into each other, my glasses flying off my face. My mom likes to tell the story differently, like she does all stories, embellishing them, confusing tidbits of information and mixing them up with other stories. For example, there's another infamous story she likes to tell about the time she came home to find me chasing my siblings around with a knife. OK, so, yes, there was a knife, but I hardly doubt it was as dramatic as she likes to tell everyone.
Meet my mom, Keeha.

We have a lot of stories like this that get told and retold, arguing over the accuracy of the details. These stories, and the retelling of them, make me smile. They are evidence of a happy childhood, a happy family. It is important to remember this, because there was a dark period in my family's history that began the summer I moved away to college. My parents divorced. And like any divorce, this destroyed the dynamic of our family, which took years to rebuild, reshape, redefine, rediscover. But just recently as my sisters and I sat in my mom's living room late one night crying and laughing and discussing things we hadn't really ever discussed before, my mom professed something that could most possibly be the truest statement I've ever heard. She said through some tears: "I was a damn good mom." Indeed, she was, and still is today.
My mom and I, circa the 90s.

I don't think I could fully grasp my mom's role in my life until I became a mother myself. I remember texting her one awful, tearful morning as I held my toddler through his newest challenge: tantrums. Before the tantrums was colic. Five long, torturous months of needless crying. My appreciation for my own mother was never more apparent than in those moments. She likes to tell a story of herself as a young mother when my little sister was a baby. She would sit on our old beloved mustard-colored rocker loveseat, with my older sister on one side of her, me on the other and my little sister on her lap, patting us and rocking and crying, just trying to survive. Sometimes that's what motherhood is all about--blindly surviving. And love. Of course, love.

Watching my mom as Grandma Keeha warms my heart.


There is a certain C word my sister-in-law banned from her house, a word my brother liked to use freely. To get around not being able to use this C word, he devised a reversed-acronym of sorts to substitute for the actual word: C-U-Next-Tuesday. (I'll let you figure out the crude word and you'll understand why it was banned from his house.) We discovered this tidbit of information one day as we were piled into my brother's work truck on a trip to the hospital when he called out what we thought was, "See you next Tuesday!" When, really, he was just creatively cussing. But the irony of that banned C word was not lost on me as we were all traveling with my mom to a hospital under the threat of a completely different C word, a word we'd all love to ban from our vocabulary. Cancer. If ever there was a cuss word worthy of being banned, it'd definitely be cancer.

You hear about someone's relative, someone's friend, someone's someone being diagnosed with cancer, and your heart skips a beat and you immediately extend your sympathies and promises of prayers, but you can never be prepared for how it'll affect you when that someone is your own mother. Upon confiding this news to an old friend as we made laps around the rollerskating rink--a fellow daughter of a mom with cancer--she effectively conveyed the sentiment I was feeling with one sentence: "It rocks your world." And it does. No matter how old you are and how removed you think you are from needing your mommy, learning she has cancer rocks your world. And you cry. And cry. And think the worst possible things. And then you cry some more.

The day we learned about the banned C word in my brother's household, all four of us kids squished into a small room at a clinic as we anxiously waited to hear our mom's fate. We wouldn't learn with 100 percent certainty that day, but a few biopsies (and scary google searches by my sister) later, it was confirmed. My mom has cancer. Squamous cell lung cancer, to be exact. We were all breathing easier and relaxing into our chairs when the doctor announced it wasn't small cell cancer, a small victory in the cancer world, I suppose, but a victory, nonetheless.

We all rallied together and sat in the waiting room while my mom got the lower lobe of her right lung removed. The surgery went well, removing all traces of cancer. After a short stay in the hospital and some follow-up appointments, my mom is healing great and is cancer-free.

Now we wait another six months for her next appointment. I think we will all hold our breath at each appointment, because cancer is sneaky. But for now? For now we're grateful for a healthy mom, grandma, daughter, sister, aunt, and friend. Squeeze your loved ones and hold them tight. You just never know what tomorrow brings. But today is full of love and life and the celebration of both.


My family collaborated to make my mom a special gift for her surgery. A bunch of sandpaper, crayons and some fabric, and here is our creation: a quilt of all our drawings.

There are a few blank white squares to add more drawings over the years.

A closer look at the drawings. (Simply color darkly on sandpaper. Iron onto fabric. Throw in dryer for a few minutes to set the color and you're done.)


I love you, Mommy!!

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Special visitor

Our weeks are pretty routine. Children thrive on the familiarity of routine. My kids can only deviate from their routine so much before their little heads spin and things start going bad. Real bad. Ugly. I-wish-I-had-an-escape-plan-bad. Other kids are more flexible with their schedules and can easily roll with what their day brings. I envy the parents of those kids. So we stick to our routine, even when a special visitor comes to visit.

My mom came for an extended visit this week. I'm sure our uneventful days exhilarated her. Being stuck indoors because of the unseasonably long winter definitely put a damper on exciting plans. But we savored Grandma Keeha's presence and took advantage of an extra body to play with.
Check out Ash peaking at a napping Grandma. I guess our routine wore her out.

Prior to her visit, we did manage to soak up the fleeting sun one full day, both morning and afternoon.

But then the very next day we were sentenced to yet another gloomy day indoors. Instead of giving in to Mother Nature, we jutted our chins out in protest and got creative.

First, a lovely picnic indoors. Destination: Ashton's bedroom.

Next, a play date closest to the Great Outdoors we could muster. Destination: the garage.

Lastly, we settled on an art project I found on Pinterest here. Destination: the dining room table.

It was kind of a Pinterest-Fail, but the boys didn't know. They enjoyed their project. I didn't have all the supplies on hand, so I substituted clear glue for the basic white kind, and kosher salt for plain ol' table salt. Apparently, these things make a difference. Eh, I happen to like our version better anyway.

On the last morning of my mom's visit, the fleeting sun made a temporary visit, and we fled outside to soak it up, knowing full well it probably wasn't going to last. Oh, beautiful Saturday, thank you for your lovely weather! My friend dropped her kids off for a few hours that day, so we shared our outside fun with them.
It's been fun watching these two grow at different rates. Six months in age difference is a big gap when you're babies. Now, finally, they are friends.
Don't let the sibling love in these photos fool you. Moments later Spencer and Ashton were at each other. A few scratched faces later, both boys were banned from the wagon. More room for the Zeisel kids, who behaved like angels, by the way.

Then we sucked out every last morsel of the nice day at Grandma Amy's house that afternoon. The mud and the snot were well worth it.
What's this little cub bear getting into?

Then in the customary fashion this particular Spring is giving us, the following day big, fat, wet snowflakes swirled down from the sky and blanketed the brown earth once again. One step forward, three cold, white, soggy steps back. Eventually we'll be running barefoot through the green grass. Eventually.

More Mahlke randomness:
This boy's appetite is insatiable. Eat, eat, eat. He eats bowl upon bowl of cereal, then eats the remnants of his big brother's bowl, and then begs off our plates.

The crummy crud + a bad nap = crabby baby. The remedy: mommy snuggles and kisses.
A new big boy bike for this lucky fella.
Happy 2nd Birthday to our favorite B-man!!
The birthday quilt I made him.
I found this tucked neatly into an envelope I had addressed to myself one day long ago at an ECFE class, long forgotten. Months later, the teacher mailed these off to the recipients. A note we wrote ourselves, a little tidbit of parenting advice, to remind ourselves of something we deemed important at that particular moment. I prettied it up and stuck it on my fridge. There's my free token; take it if you please.