Megali - adjective, noun - adjective 1. great or big in Greek -noun 1.. A nickname derived from my first and middle names

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Temporary Single Mom

Since May 2011, I have been the sole parent living at home with our sons for what will total around four months.  Right now, the kiddos and I stayed put, letting Slim finish his prekindergarten year, while R moved ahead to Pennsylvania.  And his job brought him out to Kansas before we left Florida last year.  When you add up all the time that R was traveling since we joined him in the Midwest and his work kept him away so that he was usually only around for bits of weekends, it's even more than that.  It's two different challenges: he's missed out on over a half year of their lives and I have been alone with them.

I have come to appreciate single parents so very, very much.

My status as a temporary single mother is just that - temporary.  It is trite and I loathe hearing it, but there is an end to it all and we will be a family again.  The hated platitude has truth. Our family of four and a family with our parents, the kids' grandparents, living in the same town, awaits!  We've never had that. 

As I consider the upsides of this move, little things, like the ability to list the grandparents on the school emergency contact list, rather than an acquaintance met through a mom's group that intuition (fortunately) correctly predicted as a friend (oh yeah, I did that when we moved here around school start time), rank highly. 

In the meantime, the end is not here and, when living through it, does not feel near.  I have to be the one responsible for two kids, five pets, and one whole house.  I can't have that bottle of wine I'm desperate for because, again, I have to be the responsible one.  When one of the boys or one of the dogs needs to pee in the middle of the night?  I'm the one that gets up with them.  When one or all of the cats starts the hungry fidgeting as I'm clinging to sleep?  I'm the one who tries to ignore them and fails when I can't get back to cozy dreamland.  When the house gets messy?  I'm the one who leaves a lot of the mess for another day because I'm so damn tired and wind up creating more work for myself. 

Thank goodness for increasing responsibility, thoughtful friends, and coffee!  Slim and Curly grow more capable all the time, to the point that I need to remind myself that they can do more than what I ask of them and let them do.  The generous women who I am so pleased to call my friends, here and in Florida, are and were eager to ease my load when I am and have been by myself for months.  And Starbucks and Keurig might as well sponsor me on this journey.

I need a nap.  I need time to run outside, instead of on a treadmill.  I need to start off with just a glass out of the bottle of wine that I want; I imagine I'm a quick drunk right now.  I need reassurance that I'm not messing my boys up forever since I yell more and let them watch more television than I would if I had my husband, their dad, as a partner in life and parenthood with me in the house, rather than hours, states, and a timezone away.    I really need to set aside my negative emotions and soak up the time I have left in Kansas - yes, I want the moving process over with, but not at the expense of wishing away time spent with great people and in a part of the country I've come to love quite a bit.

I'm not perfect.  I reckon (shut up, I've had Firefly on the brain lately, which may make me more or maybe less perfect in your eyes) you aren't either.  How do you make the most of your life during hard times?

Saturday, April 28, 2012

What Music Gets You Moving?

This November, I will be running The Philadelphia Marathon half.  I'm working on compiling the ultimate running playlist.  I've actually never run with music, but R wants to get me an armband for my iPhone for my birthday.  Taking armband suggestions, please!

"Woody Guthrie, Working Man" - Ellis Paul.  I apologize for the somewhat poor quality of the video.  I first heard this song on SiriusXM's Kids Place Live and I knew I wanted to download it so I could run to it.  It's such a happy beat!

"One Angry Dwarf And 200 Solemn Faces" - Ben Folds Five.  Ben Folds' fast piano playing makes me want to up my workout tempo.

"The Cave" - Mumford & Sons.  "And I'll find strength in pain."  That lyric has been a mantra for me when I want to give up on a run.

"Drunken Lullabies" - Flogging Molly.  You may not be aware, but the best (or my favorite, which is the best) cleaning music is Irish punk.  It is my standard get and up go music and also just as good for use during exercise.

What songs are on your playlist when you workout?

Friday, April 27, 2012

The Playground Series: Franklin Park, Prairie Village, KS

Franklin Park is one of twelve parks in Prairie Village, KS.    In my post about Buffalo Meadows, I found Lenexa parks' ratings from an area construction company.  Well, they did one for Prairie Village too!  Franklin Park comes in at a 9 on their scale.  I would likely rate it even higher; it is such a fantastic park!

It is surrounded by rather fancy homes, particularly on Somerset Drive.  A review on Yelp states, "You know that you're in a posh enclave when kids making mud pies at the park are wearing white tutus and red velvet frocks."  Maybe it was the time of day that we were there, but I didn't feel like the crowd was filled with nannies, ladies who lunch, or snooty kids.  Although, I don't care how put together you are or if you drive up in your Mercedes, I just care if you pay attention to your children!

Park amenities include:
  • A large pavilion equipped with electric outlets, regular sized tables and child tables, and 2 four foot serving tables at the center of the pavilion.
  • Picnic tables and benches spread throughout the park.
  • Play equipment separated into three distinct areas: toddler friendly, for the older kids, and swings
  • A grill at each end of the pavilion.  The grills are built into stone and gorgeous.
  • Exercise trail
  • Baseball and soccer fields
  • A sandbox filled with toys
  • Nature play area and play stream
  • Open space galore
  • An abundance of trees that provide ample shade

One of the multitude of picnic tables.  The one in the foreground actually has seat backs for the benches, making for more comfortable picnic dining.  Pictured here is the play structure for younger kids, the pavilion, and behind that the bathroom.  You can also get a sense of how shaded the park was.  In fact, if you search for Franklin Park on Google Maps, you can't see the playground at all, for all the trees!

Turning to the left we have the two playground separated by benches and more picnic tables. The sandbox is closer to the toddler area.

And looking even further, there is the swings section.

Slim and Curly were anxious to explore more of the park after playing in the sandbox, but they needed to put their shoes back on first.

Behind and to the left of the swings, there are grassy areas.  The open space is the only part of the park that's not shaded - you can rest under a tree, but it is not the same full cover that the playground receives.

Here you can get a better sense of the intermittent trees in the open area.  I love how some are all in a row.

The boys' favorite feature was the tire swing!

Just some more angles on the older kid portion of the playground.

The most unique aspect of the park is the nature play area and play stream.  The water was not on, but it made for a great place to explore and Slim called it an obstacle course.  I'm not certain, but I believe the stream operates in warmer weather, perhaps starting around Memorial Day.  Do any Johnson County residents have insight on this?

The dry stream bed.

Behind Slim and the nature play area, you can see part of the curved wall foot path entrance to the park.

Curly caught mid-jump!

To the right is part of the walking/running/biking trail.

Roomy kid tables.

One of the two grills.

In the background is the second of the grills.  In the foreground is one of the serving tables in the pavilion.


The trail map.

Franklin Park has a lot going for it and although it was our first time, I'd consider it one of my favorites.

The Playground Series: Buffalo Meadows Park, Lenexa, KS

We have been to several parks since the launch of  The Playground Series, but this was the first time I forgot my camera.  Thanks to Googling Buffalo Meadows Park, Lenexa, KS, I hit upon several great sites to share with you!

A 20-acre park located at Prairie Star Parkway and Lone Elm Road. Buffalo Meadows Park includes a parking lot, shelter, restroom facility, perimeter jogging/walking trail, large open play area and two playground areas - one which is deemed toddler friendly.  The play surface is mulched.  It is a newer park and there aren't anything but trees freshly planted in the last few years, so shade is only found at the picnic shelter. 
Photo source:

I discovered that Harrington Home Pro, an Overland Park, KS based construction company, provides information, pictures, and ratings on Johnson County parks.  It is a helpful resource that advises whether a playground is age appropriate for your child, if there are water fountains, when or if the park is shaded, and a link to the city parks website.

Photo source:

Photo source:

I have never gone geocaching, but I want to!  This page indicates there is a cache (is that the right way to say it geocachers?  I don't know the lingo) hidden in the park that others have made quick work of.  It might be a fun introduction to the activity or a good chance to include younger kids.

We joined several mamas and their friends at Buffalo Meadows Park after a La Leche League meeting.  It made for a nice afternoon.  The only complaint we had was that other kids not in our group kept calling a friend's son a girl because he was wearing an amber teething necklace.  She and I both go about parenting in a gender-neutral way, so it's not that it's a bad thing to be called a girl.  But teasing words hurt, no matter what they are.

So, go to this park with a hat and be sure to teach your sons a variation of, "No, I'm a boy, but girls rock!" ahead of time.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Don't Be Afraid To Live Small

R tries his hand at draftsmanship
The layout of our next home is small (1574 SF - the smallest we've lived in since having children) but useful.  Every room will be used wisely and all up! 

I find it interesting how home sizes have changed over time.  The article, "The Righteous Small House: Challenging House Size and the Irresponsible American Dream" puts things in perspective, "According to the National Association of Home Builders, the average size of a new single-family American residence in 1950 was 983 square feet. Today, it is nearly 2500 square feet. As home sizes ballooned over that time, family size shrank. The U.S. Census Bureau reports that in 1950, an average American family consisted of 3.8 people; today’s average family contains 2.6 people."  This house was built in 1953 and appears to have had two additions - the portion that we will use as a playroom and portions of where the dining and master bedroom are. 

R and I have lived in apartments and homes that were ranches, split levels or two stories with finished basements and we've learned the saying, "it's not the size that counts, but how you use it" actually applies to something - it doesn't matter how modestly sized the home, as long as it's space is functional.

I have been scouring Pinterest for ideas on utilizing and improving the effeciency of rooms and closets.  A lot of those ideas keep coming back to IKEA.  We will have two, not zero like now, but two IKEAs in Pennsylvania, so that we might fulfill some of my pinspirations.

Most of all, I want organization that I love and R can live with. Also, a family command center.
Something like these Expedit shelves for storage and one turned the other way and, so there's surface to create a chalkboard would be ideal:

I don't believe the house has a coat closet and it just enters right into the family/living room, so something like these Hemnes shoe cabinets could create an entryway, shoe storage, and key drop.

Honestly, we'll mostly just be repurposing what we have.  As long as "there is a place for everything and everything in its place", I'll be content.  One purchase we will need to make is new beds for the boys right away.  Long story short as to the whys, but now Slim sleeps in a Queen and Curly in a Full.  That's not going to work when they are sharing a room.  I'd love to get them a Kura reversible loft bed and use the space underneath as a reading nook, their own private fort, a playspace, whatever.

I've wanted to downsize for a while.  In fact, when we retire, it is my dream (but not so much R's) to live in a supremely small space, like a tiny house or an RV.

I mean, how darling is this caravan?  Sourced from Tiny House Blog, "Most of these caravans are around 215-230 square feet and include a kitchen, a bathroom and sleeping facilities as well as plenty of storage, heating for winter use, outdoor living spaces and lovely details including polished brass port-hole windows. They come fully equipped and can accommodate up to four people."

Here's another caravan, it shows that functional living in a small space is possible.  It also makes for a fun game of spot the IKEA!

Although Dwight Schrute disagrees,

I'm still going with,

Putting our new home together?  "It's [hopefully gonna be] easy."

Monday, April 23, 2012

Celebrate Loved Ones While They Live

Photo Source: Wikimedia Commons
"This view [...] surrounded by fields all covered with yellow and purple flowers [...] like a Japanese dream." - Vincent van Gogh

This is a note I sent to a childhood friend upon learning that her grandmother had passed away:

She was such a wonderful woman and I feel lucky to have known her and had her (and your mom!) as Scout leaders. One of my favorite stories that makes me think of her annually is from a camping trip we took in the Spring. She asked us to take a look around us and what color flowers we saw. We saw only purple and yellow - royal colors she explained. Continuing, she told us how the royal colors found in the flowers represented God's majesty and that if we looked, it was always to be found all around us.

I will continue to think of her every Spring, just as I'm thinking of you and your family now - fondly and with good wishes.

The early parts of Spring, with budding daffodils and crocuses, have passed, but I still see purple and yellow in the blooms here in Kansas: irises, dandelions (which I, in all truthfulness, love!), and flowers whose names that I don't know grow in my yard or around my neighborhood.  Being that time of year, once again, I recall this memory.  And I ask myself, "why do we wait to to say such nice things about people until after they are dead?" 

I've been trying to be more vocal about my appreciation of friends and family.  I have some amazing women in my life, ones I wish to emulate.  They say things like "my dear" and "your friendship is the best present I could have" and "we are so lucky to have you in our lives" with all sincerity.  These are words that make someone's day.  What are you waiting for?  Share a favorite memory.  Go tell someone why you love them.  Pick up the phone, shoot off an email, turn away from the computer or phone - do it now!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Star Wars

A very important PSA about Star Wars and your children.  Plus, cute Yoda baby.

The takeaway?  Several points you must teach your kids:
  • Han Solo shot first.
  • Jar Jar Binks is not cool.
  • They need to hear it from you, not on the playground.
A biologist, quantum physicist and an anthropologist walk into a bar and discuss Star Wars.  Ok, I don't know if that's how The Board of Education created the funny and fun song, "Why is Dad So Mad?" I hear all the time on SiriusXM's Kids Place Live, but it's nice to imagine it went down that way.  Go here to download it for free or pay $1 so these guys can make more music.

“Why does Dad get so mad about Star Wars? Mr. Lucas, what did you do?”  The "kid" in the song makes some arguments for why the prequels and special editions really aren't bad.  I'm no Star Wars purist; I (mostly) enjoy the prequels and (mostly) like the alterations in the special editions.  Other than point one and two of what to teach you kids listed above, I'm (mostly) good about it all.  It's just the originals, having watched them as a child, retain so much magic for me.  I'm not as far gone as the "dad" in the song, who laments, “It’s too late for me, son…”

So it's up to you to decide, are the prequels and special editions the best way to introduce your child to Star Wars or are they a gateway drug to a lifetime of actually liking the characters everyone else hates, like Jar Jar Binks, Wesley Crusher and Scrappy Doo?  This is the kind of thing about which you simply must make an informed decision.

Friday, April 20, 2012


I love Pinterest. Really love it.  It gives me all sorts of ideas that I wasn't creative enough to come up with or execute on my own.  And it helps me, as a visual person, to store thoughts and favorite blog posts in one place.

It is a fantastic source for free printables!  I wanted to share a few that I've used recently. 

I sent the above cards to friends, who are indeed dear to me (go, puns!) in celebration of the birth of their son.

These were two activities I printed in preparation of hanging out with a friend's children.  With the top one, the last time I had helped with her three, I slapped together a quick treasure hunt.  I thought it'd be fun to always have a scavenger hunt on the ready and they can be stored in an empty Altoid tin! 

Mr Printables = AMAZING!  They offer endless free learning printables for the kiddos.

And then there are the ones that I have downloaded, but am waiting to print.

I've selected most of the states that I've called home to frame in a planned printable collage.  Not all 50 states available.  Sorry, New Hampshire, amongst others.

This alphabet bunting has all letters, which come in different patterns and colors, including a heart spacer.  I thought it might be nice to use to separate Slim's half of the shared bedroom from Curly's.  Perhaps just over their beds?

I suggest if you find a free printable that you like and it's downloadable, download it right away.  Sometimes printables are not free forever or the creator removes the ability to print or download.  I love that so many people who are more artistic and computer savvy than I make the printables available, even for a short time!


What I love most about my home is who I share it with.  Yes, yes, yes!  That's a free printable courtesy of eighteen25, kindly offered in eight different color choices, that I intend to hang in our new home.

Finding a place was more challenging than we had hoped, but we are excited with the house we will call home.

So, what do the walls that will surround our family look like?

Nope, that's not it.  We kinda fell in love with this old, yet well maintained 3,000+SF farmhouse-ish house, but we lost out on it to a single woman.  I'm not sure what one person needs with all that space, but at least I won't have to worry about not having AC (not equipped with it, being over one hundred years old and all.)

That's not it either.  While an ideal location for R's work and the preschool we'll be sending Curly to, the owners preferred their tenants to have less pets.  I get it, I absolutely do.  It just seems a strange sticking point considering they were already renting to some college bro types.

Wrong again!  This is one of the two houses for which we were approved, but it was the most expensive of all the homes we looked at and further from the preschool than I would have preferred.

There we go - home sweet home.  For a little while, at least.

I have yet to see it in person, but R took some pictures this morning. The property manager is having the house rehabbed.  Pardon the mess as they are taken amidst work being done, but these are some of my favorite features:

This is one of the two fireplaces.  It's custom-done and in the family/living room.

The kitchen has been gutted and opens to the dining room ...

and the family/living room.

A lovely bay window in the family/living room.  R says the house gets lots of wonderful natural light.

The second fireplace is in a second living area that we'll use as the playroom.  The floor in there is so cool.

Other than apartments, we've never had a stone exterior.  And the landscaping looks easy enough for this poor excuse for a gardener to manage.

Just look at those refinished floors!

The house is not without its challenges - it will be the smallest home we've lived in since pre-kid life.  We've already decided the boys will share a bedroom.  The master and one of the bedrooms are the same size - 12x14, with the third bedroom being 10x11.  We'll use the tiny room as an office/craft/homework area.

I hope you enjoyed the house tour.  I'm itching to see it and work with R on making it our own.