Posted in Activities with Children, Home is Where the Hartle Is, Uncategorized

Ballet, Soccer, and Doughnuts (#Hartlesaturdaymornings)

2017-09-16 11.02.14.jpgBallet, Soccer, and Doughnuts (#Hartlesaturdaymornings )

Fall is in full swing around here and I love it! We’ve also found ourselves entering into a different phase of life where our weekends revolve more around kids’ practices, birthday parties, or home projects and trips to Lowes. Ballet started up again and we also entered the world of soccer. You can’t be a true suburbanite without experiencing at least some time on the soccer field. Our soccer experience is still in its early phase, but we enrolled our son into a Soccer Shots clinic this fall. Having kids in multiple activities at the same time and a fuller schedule has presented some blindness related logistical challenges, but we’re working through them. I thought I’d share some of the ways we live our everyday life which is much like most families, with just a few exceptions.

A Saturday morning staple for us is getting Dunkin Doughnuts. I wouldn’t go quite as far to say it’s an addiction, but maybe close. Have you tried one of their pumpkin spice muffins yet? And as a hot chocolate connoisseur, I’d say they’re certainly on the top of the list. Definitely two simple pleasures on a crisp fall morning. One more side note—we were in Philly a few weeks ago and I don’t know what Jesse was more excited about—touching the Liberty Bell or the fact that we passed six DD’s in a one mile radius from our hotel. But I digress…Anyway, usually early on Saturday mornings, Jesse walks to DD which is a little over a half mile from our house (about a 15 min. walk each way) He also gets enough doughnuts to eat some on Sunday morning as this is supposed to help us get out the door to church faster.

 

My job is to get the rest of us ready for the day—tights, leotard, soccer jersey, and shorts—amidst sibling squabbles, missing shoes, and distractions of the one-year-old dropping the tv remote down the toilet. Around 10 a.m. One of us calls a Lyft or Uber and takes K to ballet. (Usually me.) Whomever goes to ballet takes B, the one-year-old since it’s easier to take two car seats into the school rather than down the hill and across a field to soccer practice. Once the car arrives, it takes about five minutes to install car seats and buckle up kids. When we arrive at ballet (a.k.a. K’s elementary school , K (6) is responsible for carrying her booster seat out of the car while I uninstall B’s car seat and take it, and him inside. Most often, drivers usually offer to help with this whole process, but we’ve kind of got it down to a science now and it’s just easier sometimes to do it ourselves. After ballet, we do the whole process again, sometimes substituting a Lyft with a ride home from a ballet friend.

 

Around 10:40, the other parent (usually Jesse) calls another Lyft/Uber and heads to a different elementary school with J.J. (4). Once there, Jesse carries J.J.’s full backed booster down the hill to the grassy area where Soccer shots takes place. He parks the booster next to a tree near the field and then kicks a soccer ball around with J.J. as the kids arrive and warm up. This is always a bit tricky when you’re not using a beeping ball, but they work it out. The first time we went to Soccer Shots, I took J.J. and we got dropped off at the other side of the school where other league soccer games were going on. It was a discovery learning experience for me as I trekked around the school with cane, child, and booster until we found the right field way down in the back on the opposite side. Thankfully there were a lot of parents and I could ask directions, but I’m pretty sure I got some curious looks walking around with my cane and a car seat.

 

A couple of weeks ago, my sister was visiting us and we rented a van for the weekend. It was such a luxury! Not only did we not have to install and uninstall car seats, but we were able to run an pick up DD while my daughter was at ballet, swing by and pick up J.J. and Jesse for soccer, drop them off, and head back to pick up K, and then back to soccer for all of us to watch the last twenty minutes of J.J.’s practice. (This was really fun for K and J.J. because it’s logistically difficult and costly with rides for us to go to his practices after ballet.) Afterward, we stayed and played on the playground at the school as a family just enjoying the beautiful fall morning. My sister does not have kids of her own yet, so I teased her about how she just had a crash course in suburban/family life.

 

So there you have a small glimpse into our Saturdays. I know as our children get older and more interested in other activities, these kinds of logistics will become a bit trickier. For example, juggling getting to different places at different times each week for games, weekly practices, lessons, scouts, etc. We will probably find ourselves incorporating more carpooling or using other drivers too. WE want to make sure our kids don’t miss out on opportunities or things they want to do because our blindness might present some challenge. I’m learning that being creative, flexible, and good at problem solving is the key.

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Posted in Activities with Children, Dealing with Challenges, Parenting Essentials

The Perils of Apple Picking


Picture: B sitting in his car seat enjoying the world’s biggest apple. He gnawed on it with only four teeth for nearly an hour. .

I love fall! One of my favorite fall must-do’s is to go apple picking. It’s become a family favorite. Shortly after moving to Maryland (pre-marriage and kids), my friend Betsy and I started making it a yearly thing. Now, it’s like a family tradition and it’s so fun to share with my children. We missed last year too on account of the factthat Betsy was in grad school, so we all were especially excited to go this year.

My two older children are six and four, so this was one of the first times that both of them could help with the picking. I usually do it, with a little verbal guidance from Betsy as to where to feel on the tree for an apple, but this year I welcomed the change from picker to pack mule. Upon our arrival at the farm, I realized I had forgotten my Ergo (baby carrier backpack). This was a very big deal as I would need to carry our one-year-old, new walker around. I’ve been carrying my kids this way when we’ve gone apple picking for years. I was so mad at myself for forgetting this! It’s not like we could go home and get it (we drove over an hour up to an orchard on the other side of the border into Delaware), and it wasn’t like there was a Walmart near-by for us to just zip down to either for a temporary replacement one. So, not wanting to ruin our day, I did the next best thing. I couldn’t realistically carry big bags of apples and my twenty pound son, nor could Betsy and the kids carry them all either, so we took the Sit n’ Stroll with us. Just a note, the Sit n’ Stroll is our car seat/stroller combo. The wheels retract into the base while being used as a car seat. It’s worth its weight in gold and one of my favorite baby products as a blind parent. (See my post on this gem) but it’s not really the most road worthy as it’s mostly designed for airport or mall travel. Definitely not farm land.

After a quick perusal of the craft displays and a visit to the port-a-potty, we headed down the road to catch our tractor wagon down to the orchard. You can imagine the sight of me helping the other two kids onto the wagon, passing one of them my cane to hold, and then climbing up myself while hoisting B strapped into his car seat in front of me. But, we made it and soon we were all excitedly picking some of the biggest apples I’ve ever seen and enjoying a little snack along the way.
After a while, we had three large backs (about 50 lbs.) between Betsy and me, and the kids had enjoyed themselves. Thankfully, the car seat had hung in there only getting stuck occasionally. We decided to load the car seat with the bags of apples and that I would carry B back to the wagon. WE thought this would work easier. And then it happened! One of the wheels got stuck in a rut and we were a bit too forceful in trying to free it when it suddenly snapped at the shaft of the wheel. I could have cried! Not only are these car seat stroller combos expensive and hard to repair, but I rely so much on it since I have to transport car seats so often from car to car and place to place. The other frustrating thing is that the same thing happened to our first Sit n’ Stroll which we practically wore out because we used it so often for our first two children. In that case, however, the wheel must have had a crack or something and already been compromised because it snapped off in the same way one night when I was pulling it up our driveway. I was never able to contact customer service to find out how to repair it as all the website contact info was outdated. I ended up finding a used one on Amazon and just purchasing a second one. The thought of having to go through the same process again, or purchasing another one was so disheartening.

Somehow we made it back to the wagon, though it was rough going. I carried B, one large bag of apples and sheparded the other two kids while Betsy manhandled the stroller with the other two bags of apples trying her best to keep it level so we could at least push it with the three wheels on the uneven ground. I’m sure her arms ached the next day. We finally made it back to the wagon and loaded everyone on. When we got back to the drop off in the parking lot, the kids, apples, and I stayed there waiting while Betsy went and got her car and drove it back to pick us up. Did I mention she’s a really, really great friend? Everyone needs a Betsy in their lives.

Picture: K standing with head and hands out from behind a wooden cut out photo prop of stocks with thought bubble that reads: “I shouldn’t have taken the apple off the trees at Milburns!”

By this point, the kids were cranky and so was I. It was time for a late lunch and to head home.
Upon leaving, we stopped off for lunch at Wendy’s where I tried drowning my sorrows in a chocolate frosty before calling Jesse to share the bad news with him. All in all, not my favorite apple picking adventure, but definitely one that will be remembered. Isn’t it funny how the things that go wrong later are the memories we look back on with a smile and fondness? I can’t wait until this feels that way because right now I’m still a little sad over the whole thing. It’s been a few weeks now and I’ve not yet replaced the stroller, but I’m going to have to as there is no way to send it in for repairs—at least to my knowledge. So, that will be dipping into the “Mary Jo shopping spree fund” (as if I really had one.  It’s also made some of our outings a bit more difficult, but I’m getting arms of steel from carrying the car seat when I’d normally pull it, and saving us a little money on rides on nice weather days since I’m more inclined to walk or take public transit so as to avoid having to juggle multiple car seats. So, I guess there are some small perks to be enjoyed. I’ll end on a positive note though and say that we’re still enjoying some delicious apple treats. Hopefully we’ll have better luck next year.