Monday, August 31, 2015

A Day in My Life

It’s just before 4am today when my feet hit the carpet.  Not that I set an alarm for that early, but our three dogs have whined loud enough for me to hear on the other side of the house.  They make their usual leap to the water bowl (this water tank style means no refilling in the middle of the night!) and then scurry outside through the dog door before running back in and crashing on the couch.  These dogs know I’m too tired to fight with them, so I let them stay on the comfy couch where they quickly fall back asleep. 
New couch + Dogs = Blankets on the couch
New couch + Dogs = Blankets on the couch
As I crawl back into my warm bed, I have a rule for myself that I can’t look at my phone.  One quick glance at that bright screen, then I'm wide awake for the day.  Guess what rule I broke?  
I read the emails that came in overnight, first my day job, then for Kidsperts, then for my photography business; flagging emails I need to respond to, and getting rid of the junk. I save my personal email for last; my two favorite personal emails each day are a daily news update from Need 2 Know (headlines with links to articles and the occasional joke) and Now I Know, featuring interesting stories every day.  I read through a few comments on a recent photo I posted to Facebook for my photography businessand started adding items to my phone’s to do list.  I’m a list maker; personal tasks and errands go on my phone, but my work and Kidspert tasks go into a notebook.  I've mentioned my love of Arc notebooks from Staples before; the pages easily move around and are super customizable, I've even got Ashlen hooked now. Surely I’m not the only one who enjoys the feeling of crossing items off that to do list…
At 5:15, my husband’s alarm starts going off.  We’re both the type of people who hit snooze two or three times before getting up and today is no exception.  Eventually he hops out of bed to get showered and ready for work.  He works long days and I always admire how he balances his non-traditional work schedule (12 hour days) plus everything he gets done around our home.  Seriously, the place would be in shambles without him.  Shortly after he gets up, I realize that there’s no way I’m going back to sleep now, so I get up and head to the dining room where I’ll work today.  After taking Thursday and Friday off to visit my grandma out of state, there are plenty of emails to go through.  My day job offers a lot of flexibility;  I have an awesome boss who works from home and an awesome client in Atlanta who trusts my ability to deliver results regardless where I sit.  I have a cubicle in our local office where I work a couple days a week, but today I’m working from the comfort of my yoga pants and hoodie.
After answering a couple more work emails and glancing at my meeting schedule for today, my husband is out the door and it’s time for me to wake up the Bonus Daughter.  At 15, she is super self-sufficient in the mornings, so I knock on her door and she gets up and gets herself ready for school.  Some days, I’ll even go back to bed (sometimes to sleep, sometimes to read emails) until she’s ready to go.  After a breakfast of yogurt and mapping out our afternoon schedule, we leave at 7:30 to drop her off at school. 
A few years ago, they built a Starbucks at the main intersection near her school; thankfully it wasn't around when I went there.  Most days the parking lot at that strip mall is a zoo, but today the heavens opened up and there wasn’t a line for the drive through.  Clearly, this was a sign that I’d need caffeine today, so I picked up a trienta cold brew coffee.  Yep, 30 oz of the good stuff would (hopefully) keep me going today.  As I walk in the door, the dogs barely raised their heads off the couch to acknowledge my return.  Back to my makeshift desk at the dining room table; I have a real desk downstairs, but it is also real messy.  I’ve been editing a ton of photos lately (4 weddings in 5 weeks, plus senior and family portraits), and I find it’s hard to work 8 hours for my day job at the same seat I’ll work four or five hours at night editing photos.  
What you don’t see in this photo is the pile of mail, camera equipment and a target bag, just out of sight.
What you don’t see in this photo is the pile of mail, camera equipment and a target bag, just out of sight.
Today is a fairly light day at work; my morning only had two meetings plus some time blocked to work on a project.  But my afternoon has five meetings to keep me busy.  Maybe you’ve heard me mention my day job as a consultant before, but you’re probably wondering, “What in the heck does she do, other than attend meetings?”  Some days, I wonder the same thing!  In reality, my job title is Performance Consultant; I work on strategic learning initiatives, supporting an organization of about 600 professionals.  That dumb compliance training your manager made you attend?  There’s a good chance that someone like me helped develop, schedule, deliver, facilitate, and/or report on that training.  You’re probably thinking, “Well, that sounds dull.” and you’d be wrong!  I actually have a really fun and exciting job that allows me to be a flexible resource to my client and it entails some fun projects.  And some spreadsheets.  Okay, lots of spreadsheets.
Back to my day… Around noon, I’ve just finished my coffee and decide to heat up some left overs for lunch.  The dogs hear the refrigerator open and decide it would be a good time to get off the couch for the first time today.  While my lunch heats up, I feed them and send a few text messages for a program I volunteer for.  The woman I’m assigned replies back and we set up a time to meet later in the week and I quickly add it to my calendar.  I live out of my calendar and would be completely lost without it.  Well, no so much lost, but more like “have everyone pissed off at me because I forgot we had plans.”  As I added that meeting to my calendar, I see I have a consultation this evening with a couple regarding their wedding photography, and shoot them a text message reminder for our appointment here at my house.  Then I eye the junk on the table and make a mental note to clean up before they arrive at 6:30 and then run downstairs to swap a load of laundry.
Back to the dining room and the dogs return to the couch, this time looking out the window and barking at anyone walking by, including their enemy, the Mail Lady.  UPS stops by, but our canine alert system means that he doesn’t even make it to the door and I greet him in the driveway to sign for whatever we’ve ordered from Amazon or photos for my clients.  It seems like UPS or FedEx are here at least three times a week.
We recently purchased a new sectional/dog bed, clearly they love it.
We recently purchased a new sectional/dog bed, clearly they love it.
During my 2:30 meeting, my computer chimes at 2:45 reminding me to pick up the Bonus Daughter from school.  I’m grateful that my flexible work schedule means that I can block off 30 minutes on Mondays to collect her and get home.  Tuesdays she has a school club commitment until five and her dad is able to pick her up Wednesdays through Fridays.  Occasionally, I have to be on a call when I pick her up, but she handles it like a pro, getting in the car quietly and patiently waits for the call to wrap up.
Back home, the Bonus Daughter changes out of her uniform while I get back to work.  She snuggles up with the dogs to play on the Playstation or marathon her favorite shows from Hulu and Netflix.  While she has a TV in her room, I love how she spends most of her time in our home’s common space.  Around 4:30, I hit send on my last email for the day and log off from the work network. 
I head downstairs to my real desk and send a few emails for my photography business; prospective client inquiries, appointment confirmations, gallery reminders, receipts for print orders, etc.  Since I’m caught up on editing, I decide to head upstairs to clean up the dining room and kitchen.  Bonus daughter helps me unload and load the dishwasher and I do my best to make sure our house doesn’t look like a pack of wild monkeys lives here.  Usually, I’d begin cooking something for dinner (I cook three nights a week, the husband takes care of the rest), but with clients coming at 6:30, him getting home around 7, I’m using it as an excuse to go out for dinner.  Nine times out of ten, that means we’ll be hitting up our favorite: El Rodeo. 
The adorable couple comes over and we firm up their wedding plans and sign contracts.  I’ve known the bride for about fourteen years and I can’t believe she’s getting married next summer!  They walk out the door as my husband pulls in the driveway and the three of us are headed to El Rodeo within about twenty minutes.  We chat about our day as we munch on chips, salsa and queso dip.  When we get home, I’ve got a couple quick edits to make; a client emailed me while we were at dinner, requesting a couple of images be converted to black and white and I quickly oblige and upload them to her gallery. 
I return upstairs and we make the most of a little family time before I head over to Ashlen’s to work on Kidspert stuff.  We try to meet at least once per week after her kids are in bed, usually from 9-11pm. Planning upcoming posts, working on the fall activity guide and the Expressing Motherhood show are all topics of conversation tonight.  At 11 on the dot, it’s time for me to pack up my laptop and head home.  I get home to a quiet house, everyone is asleep, including the dogs, as I tip toe into bed.  After setting my alarm for six the next morning, it’s no surprise that I was out cold.  That is until the dogs wake me the next morning…
As I reflect back on this average day, I know it seems like I'm crazy busy.  But the reality is that we all have things that fill our schedules from the moment we wake up until we crash at the end of the day.  Whether it is chasing kids (your own or daycare kids), helping family members, cooking, cleaning, etc.,  know that you aren't alone in being 'too busy'.  And don't forget to give yourself an occasional day off!

Friday, August 28, 2015

Weekend Planner

Welcome to our weekly Thursday morning post about what's going on in the Des Moines, Iowa area. We'll share what we'll be doing, great finds, restaurants to eat at, shops to drop some cash at, and just all the great things Des Moines has to offer families.
What We're Doing:
  • Ingersoll Live
  • Adventureland. Sunday is the Hubs 34th birthday, so we'll be celebrating with roller coasters and cake.
Other Happenings:
  • Annual harvest at Summerset Winery. This would make a great Mom's Day Out activity or a Day Date.
  • Sidewalk Chalk Flood in Western Gateway Park.
  • Djonuts. Stop by the Capes Kafe inside the Des Moines Social Club for some wonderfully crafted donuts. We stopped by the shop after my appearance on Great Day and treated Elizabeth to some donuts. She very much approved of these donuts!

Thursday, August 27, 2015

A Very Disney Birthday

Disney birthday party themes have been around for awhile.  I know I'm dating myself, but I remember many Little Mermaid birthday parties as a child.  It's no surprise the super popular Frozen has been a recent trend (just ask Miss Elizabeth), but there's also CarsBig Hero 6, and other great stories that make great party themes.  
When scrolling through Paperless Post's new line of Disney invites, inspiration struck!  I would love to plan a Minnie Mouse birthday party for my little sister!  No, I don't have a seven year old sister - more like twenty-seven!  But my baby sister shares a November 18th birthday with the one and only Minnie Mouse!  While sixty years separate them, Minnie is timeless and it would be so fun to have a little throw back birthday party.
One of the reasons we fell in love with our home is how great it is for entertaining.  Whether it is a backyard party (like our wedding last summer) or a gathering inside, our house works well.  So with a location in mind, I looked to Paperless Post for an invite idea and fell in love with this one.
Embarrassing childhood photo required
Embarrassing childhood photo required
If you aren't familiar with Paperless post, you absolutely need to check them out.  They offer chicinvitations that can be sent via email AND via snail mail!  That's right, design one invite, and send them electronically to everyone you can and send printed ones to grandparents, plus have a couple keepsake invites to save!  You can use paperless post to track RSVPs and more!  I totally fell in love with them when planning a baby shower a couple years ago!
Okay, back to the party!  When it comes to decor, it was a no-brainer to turn to good ol' Pinterest.  Seriously, is there anything you can't find on Pinterest?  I looked at hundreds of cute ideas and found ones that were practical and would be easy to make or put together.  But one of the things that makes Disney-themed parties my favorite is the availability of cute supplies!  Seriously - you don't have to be a DIY Craft Queen to put a Disney party together!  A quick visit to nearly any party store will have dozens of options for you to choose from!  Here are my picks:
DIY Plates & Ears - how cute are these?  Super easy and I could put them together well in advance!
DIY Dum Dums Decoration - Hello floral foam and glue gun!  I wonder how many episodes of The West Wing I can marathon while I put these together?
Cupcakes - SO many cute options on Pinterest!  But I've seen enough DIY-Fails to know when to call in the professionals.  Ashlen and I have used our friends over at Creme bakery and I know they could whip these up!  
DIY Centerpieces - Oh, hello more floral foam and glue!  
Favor Bags - These would be super easy to assemble in advance.  Unlike treats and small toys for kids, I'm thinking a small bottle of wine and a couple wine glasses for each guest?  Nothing fancy, you know I like my buddy $2 Chuck ;)
Pinterest inspiration found here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.
Pinterest inspiration found herehereherehereherehere, and here.
So that's how I'd plan my 'baby' sister's Minnie Mouse birthday.  Ooh, and maybe these treats too!  Any ideas for entrees?  Add your comment!

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Dance Party

Friday, August 21, 2015

Weekend Planner

What We're Doing:
  • Totally up in the air! It's the last weekend before school starts so I'd like to throw in one fun adventure in between getting my nails done, promoting Expressing Motherhood, and working on the soon-to-come Fall Activity Guide.
Other Happenings:
  • Last weekend for the Iowa State Fair
  • Get your water parks/pools/wading pools in before they close!
  • School begins this week around here next week. Devote some time to talking about school, safety procedures (including strangers), go through school routines, and maybe even visit your child's school playground (this is especially helpful for kids starting a new school or just beginning school for the first time).
  • Live at the Creek Summer Concert Series would be a great way to end the weekend. We haven't been to one this year, but we've enjoyed them in the past. 

Thursday, August 20, 2015

A Sunday Spent Exploring

 We tried out a new to us hiking spot Sunday and loved it! Before we get into Sunday, I just can't skip Saturday as it was a pretty great day too. We spent Day 1 of our weekend having little friends over for a play date, getting lots of writing in, cleaning, and organizing done. Saturday night I treated myself to a night out with an "old" friend. 

 I actually put on a bit of make up and did my hair up. I had enjoyed Creme Cupcakesnumerous times in the past, but Saturday night we tried out the dessert lounge for the first time. The dessert lounge consists of a separate menu that pairs specialty desserts with cocktails (or coffees or teas if cocktails aren't your thing). I had a chocolate raspberry cheesecake paired with a (quite strong) champagne cocktail.  My friend got a cake with melted peanut butter in the middle (omg, was it amazing!) paired with a martini. I can't believe I haven't tried this out before, but it's on our places to go to for our next date night.

                                            We were enthralled with this drink being made here.

 Sunday morning we headed to Chichaqua Bottoms Greenbelt for some hiking and sight seeing. This was unlike any hiking trails that we've taken the kids on (so far). This was mostly marshy areas and also had some prairie reserves. It was amazing. The coolest part of our time there was seeing a few Great Blue Herons fly across the water. Truth be told, when I first spotted it I screamed because it looked huge as it flew away as I walked right past it. I had never seen one before and was quite taken by them. The kids and I went on a "heron hunt" the rest of the hike. 
The bridge that we're standing on was constructed in 1910 and holds quite a bit of history. The kids could have cared less about the history of the bridge, they just thought it was cool that they could see the old Skunk River through the floor boards.

It was interesting to go from marshy wetlands to dry prairie filled with bumble bees, goldfinches, and flowers. There were some amazing views during our hike, however we didn't get to go too far as the trail we were on just kind of disappeared thanks to all of the heavy rains Iowa has gotten this summer. By the time we made our way back to the start of the trail, the kids were hot and tired. This is definitely on our list of places to explore this fall in slightly cooler weather.

 After our hike we stopped for lunch (the fish tanks kept the kids entertained) and spent the rest of our afternoon playing at Adventure Bay water park.

It's hard to believe this was the second to last weekend before school starts. We've had a lot of fun this summer. We spent a lot of time at Adventureland and Adventure Bay, hikes, pools, and restaurants. My favorite time to explore Iowa is coming up: fall, which means gorgeous hikes!

Friday, August 14, 2015

Weekend Planner

What We're Doing:
  • Play date with school friends. We've let the summer go by without a play date. The kids are so excited to have their friends over!
  • Chichaqua Bottoms Greenbelt trail in Bondurant. 
  • Adventure Bay. After a quick hike, we'll be cooling off in the lazy river.
Other Happenings:
  • The Iowa State Fair. Only the best fair in the country, maybe even the world. Just be prepared to come home with a stomach ache and a larger pant size.
  • Valle Drive-In (Newton, Iowa). This weekend's double feature is Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation and Fantastic Four. We have yet to take the kids to a movie here, but we're shooting for next summer when (hopefully) all kids can stay awake and enjoy the movie.
  • Family Fun Hikes at Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge. Sunday 2 - 3 p.m. 
  • Rita's for a cool treat. We have yet to take the kids here this summer and it looks super yummy!

Pizza Day 2015

With summer coming to a close, we've been fighting to get in all of the activities and theme days that the kids have requested. One of their first requests this summer was a Pizza Day like last summer (read more on that here) and we finally got around to it!

 The patio was set up as a pizza parlor, complete with a "restaurant" portion (which just became another work space for them), a creating table, and a kitchen to "bake" their pizzas. They used Play Doh and homemade salt dough to make "pizzas." Fuzzy Pom Poms served as the toppings for their "pizzas."

                      The kids were thrilled to use actual kitchen pans and utensils to make their "pizzas."

                 The kids were more than surprised when I pulled out a cookie pizza for morning snack!

 Each child got to make their own tortilla pizza for lunch. For toppings their was canadian bacon, pepperoni, green pepper, black olives, mushrooms, and onions (and cheese of course). A pound of pepperoni, two pounds of cheese, and a lot of different pizza combos rounded out the lunch hour. My only rule for lunch was they could put whatever they wanted on their pizza, but they had to eat whatever they made. A lot of the kids tried new toppings and every child ate all of their pizza.

The kids each colored a pizza slice. My favorites were the kids who got creative and colored a cookie pizza slice (like the smallest slice in the picture.
This is another theme day that will be repeated next summer for the third year in a row!

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Notes From A Daycare: Saying Goodbye

Monday, August 10, 2015

More Days Like Today

I didn't put on a bra all day. I showered at 4 p.m. and afterwards I put on my "nice" pajamas. I did a few loads of laundry and ran the dishwasher. I watched my kids play, I said yes to nearly everything, snuggled with each of my children at different times, and had in-depth discussions with each of them. We did nothing all day long. I laid around nearly all day. I blared my music as loud as I could and danced around my living room.
Let me back up a bit.
The previous weekend we went on a 14 hour long, one day road trip across Iowa (read that adventure here). Then it was a crazy and busy week. Hubs started a new job and I had a house full of kids. I had a migraine not once but twice throughout the week which meant I was behind on my To Do Lists.  Not to mention that there's only two weeks before school starts again. Two weeks to really live it up. Two weeks to pretend my mornings are laid back and not run by the 'when do we have to leave for school??' clock.
As much as I love to get out of the house on the weekends (it's a big deal when you work Monday - Friday IN your house), I decided to stay home. All day long. I lingered in bed while the kids watched a movie on Netflix and fought over the volume of the TV. I let them eat cereal for breakfast and gave in when they requested candy directly after breakfast. In between doing a few loads of laundry, I typed up a few new blog posts and a few ideas I had for later. I continually paused my typing and watched my kids play. I giggled to myself at their imaginations and didn't raise my voice when things got too rough.
I snuggled each of my babies on the couch at separate times. I whispered in their ears and shared secrets. I rested in bed next to my three year old and took in the scent of her hair. I stroked my cats soft fur as they cuddled on my legs. I ordered take out for dinner and made my husband pick it up. We watched a movie together as a family.
Not once did I consider leaving the house or worry about my To Do List. For once in a long while, it felt good to just be, sit, listen, and enjoy life inside the walls of our home with just us. Not hundreds of kids running around (okay, so it's never actually hundreds, but you get my drift) and not us rushing off from one activity to the next. It was wonderful.
I (kind of) wish I could say I crossed off a few items on the To Do List or made some headway on blog posts. Obviously I didn't or I wouldn't be writing this on Monday night. It feels good to have a Monday morning that doesn't find me exhausted from the weekend. It doesn't make me want more weekends like this; I thoroughly enjoy our weekend adventures. It does however make me want to linger a little longer Saturday morning and take a few more minutes to enjoy the little things I often over look in my life.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Camping Day 2015