Monday, February 29, 2016

Here's To 32

I write my children letters on their birthday so why not write one to myself? I try to be a reflective individual. Being reflective helps me to be more grateful for everything life throws my way.

31 brought change. Not a lot of change, but little changes. It brought a new business partner, new friends, new daycare families, new babies (not my own), a new minivan, blonder hair, and a vacation away from the minis. The older I get the more I crave newness. Trying new things, going new places, anything that's new, or new again, to me. I take comfort in my regular day to day, but I start to get antsy if it's been too long since I've tried something new. I'm not sure if this has to do with getting older or having kids and the monotony of the every day with young kids.

I crossed two places off of my bucket list: Wisconsin Dells and Las Vegas. I climbed mountains and hills on our road trips, zip lined, and danced freely in front of others. I roller and ice skated for the first time in (at least) ten years. I hiked across a frozen lake and learned to ice fish. I decided not to embrace my graying hair any longer and started getting blond highlights in my hair for the first time in ten years.

I didn't accomplish everything I wanted to this year. I didn't get book #2 published, I didn't get a start a book #3, I didn't get to do the play I had wanted to do. Yet, I don't look at these as failures. The older I get, the more I view failures differently. I look at it as I tried something and it didn't have the ending I had originally planned. If life has taught me anything, it's to embrace the unplanned and go with it.

This year I took time to enjoy life. I made a point to slow down this winter and enjoy the little things: playing board games, taking naps, homemade soups, reading books, Netflix, staying home. 

So here's to you 32! May you bring more love and laughter, road trips, adventures, go easy on the craziness (I've got plenty of that to go around), give me breaks when needed, and more of the people I love in my life. I'm open to changes, big or small, or no changes at all. I know I'm only two years in, but my thirties are looking pretty promising. Crossing life goals off the list and making each year better than the last.

The older I get, the better I handle life's challenges and disappointments. While I may not have loved them at the time, I certainly am grateful for the experiences they brought. So whatever you bring 32, don't let me forget that everything happens for a reason.

I'll see ya in a year for #33.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Weekend Before 32

Well, we spent a good portion of the weekend resting and trying to get healthy. We spent a good portion of our weekend napping, coughing, and blowing noses. NyQuil was our best friend. Other than being within arms reach of Kleenex boxes, we spent our Friday night with friends and Saturday night kicking off birthday week by celebrating my birthday a week early with family. I didn't take a whole lot of pictures since I wasn't at the top of my game, but here's a few moments of our fun times:

The kids and their friends put on a concert for the adults. It was pretty entertaining. You can watch a video of part of a concert here.

Champagne cake and cute kids.

A wild Saturday night and Sunday of tax prep and Netflix watching while snuggling on the couches. 

This has been the first time this winter that an illness has gotten us ALL down. Weekend's like this aren't all fun and games like we're used to. We were very thankful for the soft tissues and fresh orange juice!

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Parenting Choices - What do you share online?

Today Ashlen and I are sharing our differing opinions on sharing our kids' names and faces on the blog, Facebook, etc.  Like so many parenting topics, there is a lot of passion and emotions involved in the topic of online exposure.  There are a few big issues that are important to me, but other than the biggies, I'm more of a 'you do you' kinda person.  For example, I worry about microwaving plastics so all of our leftover food containers are glass, but if you're all about rubbermaid or tupperware, that's fine!  You make the decisions that are best for you and your family, I make the best for me and mine.  While Ashlen and I may not fully agree on this (or other!) topics, we 100% agree that the other is making the best choice for their family.

Lauren's View:

In my few posts about my insanely awesome Bonus-Daughter, I haven't shared her name or face.  Don't get me wrong, it is a super cute face!   But I've blurred, obscured, or cropped out her face from the photos I've shared here, choosing not to identify her on the blog.  Sure, it wouldn't quite take CSI-level sleuthing to figure out her identity, but our blog Terms of Use hopefully encourages people from sharing.  I'd like to take this post to share why I'm not sharing her identity on the blog.

  • She's sixteen.  Remember sixteen?  Not exactly the easiest of the teenage years.  I'm just grateful social media wasn't around when I was in high school!  Her peers (friendly and otherwise) could easily find the blog, read posts about our personal trips, etc.  How awkward could it be if her classmates or teachers tried to chat up about the specific snacks we had on our road trip last spring break?  
  • Hopefully she'll have a summer job this year, and so many employers search social media before hiring anyone.  Her social media presence should probably reflect her, not her wicked stepmother.
  • Stranger Danger.  One of my secret talents is to worry about EVERYTHING.  As in, home alarm with panic button, iPhone's Find My Friend's activated, etc.  If sharing her identity welcomed any unwanted attention from some crazy person, it would be really hard to remove her presence online, ya know?
  • I'm not her mom.  I love this kid like crazy, and have known her since she was six, but if her mom wants to blog her identity all day and night, that's between her and her mom and dad.
Would my opinion change if I had a child?  Hard to say.  I LOVE seeing photos Ashlen's crew's adventures, but totally respect a close friend who has zero photos of their son online.  Would I use a nickname?  or just not show their face?  Maybe only show their face for the first few years until grade school?  I can't really put myself in that mindset, ya know?  IF that were to happen, I think my husband and I would figure out an approach that works for us.  In the meantime, I stand by my decision for what to share and not share for my Bonus Daughter, and respect the opinions of anyone who feels otherwise.

Ashlen's View:

As everyone knows, I show my children's faces on the blog, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook. I share their stories and stories about me parenting them. I know it may be shocking, but I don't share absolutely everything about them. Embarrassing stories, their schools, and I absolutely will not show any daycare child's faces (unless cleared by their parent(s)). I have a few reasons for my "being an open book" status:

  • This blog is a joint venture. Not just between Lauren and I, but also our families. My kids take part in the activities, photo shoots, and story ideas. I ask THEIR permission before I tell a certain story or share any picture. If they weren't okay with it, I wouldn't think twice about not posting something. My kids and I talk a lot about everything. I'm not sure how much of everything they understand at seven, five, and three, but they understand enough to tell me what a blog is and what we're doing for the blog.
  • I view the blog as not only an opportunity for me, but for them as well. As they get older I fully intend to let them write blog posts and whatever else they'd like to take part in. My kids are creative and I think it's pretty cool that we can share creative outlets for now. We wrote a book together, they give me blog post ideas, they ask to take pictures and do things for the blog. I mean, how many kids can search for themselves on Amazon and be listed as authors??? 
  • Am I worried about Stranger Danger? Yes of course! Luckily, I think we've got some pretty fantastic readers who have yet (and hopefully don't) make things feel creepilicious. Also, I've got Lauren to look over my posts to make sure we don't divulge too much personal info such as where the kids attend school. our home address (yes, I nearly accidentally gave this away in a post! Oops!), etc. 
  • Will my opinion change as my kids get older? Possibly and their's might too. I already feel some of the content that happens in my home isn't content appropriate for the blog. Not because it's inappropriate, but because I highly doubt it's something my children are going to want to see on the internet when they're sixteen. I try to keep that in mind.

If there ever comes a time when my kids ask me to stop telling their personal stories (and there's been a few so far) or taking their pictures, I will stop everything, have a discussion with them, and respect their wishes. My mindset at the moment is 'we'll cross that bridge when we come to it.' For now, we're thoroughly enjoying all of the adventures the blog offers us and the numerous opportunities, and the support we get from our audience.

What are your thoughts on this subject? Whatever your decision is on this subject, we trust that we are doing what is best for you and your family just as we are. 

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Stay Home Day

Sometimes I'm a sucker when my kids ask for things. Some M & M's from the check out at Target? Sure, throw em' up there. A new toy occasionally? Sure, they all go to the daycare anyways. Just one more book at bedtime? Okay, you can stay up later than usual. The one thing I'm big on is not letting them miss school for anything other than sick days, and they actually have to be sick. Fevers, contagious, vomiting. They don't get to stay home for any ol' reason. That is until yesterday.

To be fair, my kids HAVE actually been sick lately. Stomach flu, fevers, coughs, colds. They spent the weekend taking extremely long naps, so they haven't been feeling quite like themselves. The oldest woke up first this morning, a little later than usual.

"Ugh, I don't feel good," he groaned. Usually I just ignore such whines and get on with our morning. Then the middle woke up with the same line, followed by the youngest.

"We just want to rest today. We don't want to go to school."

I wasn't in the mood for a fight. I wasn't looking forward to the next hour spent forcing food down them, talking them into brushing their teeth, and getting them ready for school on time.

"Fine," I rolled my eyes, "then you won't go to school today."

I think my minis were shocked. This is nothing I plan to let them do every school year, but I do think they really needed just another day to relax. They didn't do much besides sit on the couch, watch PBS, and read books. It wasn't until the end of the afternoon that they really came to life.

(L): A little blurry, but still cute pic of the middle mini and me.
(R): A coming to life photo. She carried the little table into the living room on her head. That silliness lead to a game of "chase" in the living room, followed by baths, and early bedtimes.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

The Silly Thing I Feel Guilty For

So much of my days are spent going, going, going. I wake up, lace up my Nike's and my day starts. Often times I don't sit down until long after daycare kids have left, which makes it time to fire up the lap top and put some words on the blog. Many times my days end with a long list of things left undone and my house only marginally clean. Some days I feel like I'm on fire and could do a million more things. Other days I barely hold my head above water.

On the weekends we like to go, go, go outside of the house (one of the casualties of working from home). We love getting out and exploring, attending events around the city, trying out fab restaurants, and giving our reviews on the blog. This winter we made a family promise to relax more and spend less weekends running around like crazy. So that's what we've done. More days around home playing games, making meals, taking on the little projects that are on the back back back burner of our lives.

I sleep in a little, take naps, watch a movie or two on Netflix, take a walk around the neighborhood. We enjoy our little family day and not a lot gets done. Yet, at the end of the day, as I tuck my minis into their beds in their still messy rooms that I didn't make them clean, I feel happy, well rested, and guilt. Guilt??? 

Yes, guilt. That funny feeling that sneaks up the best of us for the silliest of reasons. As much as the day of relaxing and rest was rejuvenating, I feel guilty for all of the things I could have, possibly even should have, done. If I hadn't decided to sleep in an extra hour in the morning proceeded by snuggling on the couch with the minis while we watched a movie, I could have gotten sooooo much done. The laundry would have actually gotten put away, bedrooms actually cleaned and not just half assed picked up, my kitchen counters may actually be usable rather than remnants of breakfast on them.

This guilt that I feel is kind of like mom guilt, but more of a societal guilt. Society says the house should be cleaned, well organized,and decorated. I can easily say my house doesn't attract mice and bugs but it's not the cleanest house you'll step foot in. My three kids take care of that with no problem. My house is far from organized. The boy's room contains clothes that are a size too small for them. Going through their drawers and sorting the clothes into piles will take the better part of a day. It's not high on my To Do List. My house is decorated. With toys. I could work on these things. Society says I should work on these things. And there's where the guilt sets in. It's something I should do, but not something I make a priority.

All of these little things aren't a priority to the big things. I KNOW this. I believe this. Yet I still feel guilt. There's nothing I dislike more than feeling guilty for something silly. I could make a plan to get things done next Sunday when we'll likely have another relaxing day at home....but it's my birthday. So I'll just plan on the impending guilt that will hit Sunday night.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Weekend Planner

Beginning of birthday week last year

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:

  • Hanging out with friends. Is hanging out even used anymore or does it make me seem really old??? Either way, we're spending time with friends our age who also say 'hanging out.'
  • Early birthday celebration. Birthday week +2 days starts Saturday night!
  • Spending time outdoors. Gorgeous weather here in Iowa this weekend and I plan on taking as many walks as possible. Maybe we'll head for a hike depending on how everyone is feeling.

Other Happenings:

  • Walk around the Sculpture Park in Western Gateway Park.
  • Botanical Blues (Sunday's 2 - 4 p.m.) and the Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden. We've never been since we're usually napping Sunday afternoons, but it's on my Things To Do List.
  • Hike at Ledges State Park. If the minis and I hadn't spent our week sick, we would definitely be heading to Ledges this weekend for a good hike. It may be muddy, but kids love mud!
  • Explore the State Capitol grounds. Go on a tour of the State Capitol building and follow it up with a walk on the grounds.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

A Kids View

I'm always enthralled when my minis share what's on their mind. Sometimes it seems almost magical, a lot of times I'm left speechless, and the rest of the time I'm totally clueless (and slightly worried about their well being). For Valentine's Day we gave the minis a Fuji Instax camera. It's been one of their favorite things they've ever gotten. They easily went through 40 pictures in an hour (and the film isn't exactly cheap).

I rolled my eyes when I looked through the 40 pictures. There were pictures of the wall, a piece of chocolate, my daughter's puke bowl from the night before. Nothing of substance really. It wasn't until I got to talking to them about the pictures that they took that I began to understand why they took pictures of the things they did.

(Top left): Harrison took a picture of his new tea set. Later that morning he (with the help of Max and Elizabeth) painted the entire set. (Middle): He also took a picture of the first picture he took "because it's a special picture." (Bottom right): Elizabeth took a picture of her barf bowl that made her feel better in case she didn't make it to the bathroom (thankfully it was never used).

Elizabeth took pictures of "mom working on her blog because the blog is special. Someday I'm going to have a blog to and tell all about how life is. Blogs make me happy."

Harrison took this picture of Hubs. "Dad's on his phone and sitting on the clean laundry. He didn't get in trouble for sitting on the clean laundry that was on the couch because the laundry didn't fall on the floor." I followed this line up with the question: "what happens if the clothes on the floor?" Harrison giggled and responded "you get mad. Dad would probably get a time out!" For the record, no one's ever gotten a time out for the clothes falling on the floor.

(Left): Harrison's first picture was of Max trying to grab the camera away from him. Caught in the act! (Middle): Harrison snapped a picture of me trying to grab the camera away from him so I could show him how to use it as he was pressing every button on the damn thing! (Right): Max's first picture was of Harrison. As Max was shooting the picture, he got irritated with Harrison for not posing the way he wanted him to. Drama!

(Top): Harrison took the picture of me opening my Valentine's Day present from Hubs. (Middle): Max took a picture of me being overly enthusiastic about something. (Last): Elizabeth took a picture of the cat with their stuffed animals. She thinks "Soph (the cat) looks silly."

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

My Three Year Old Asked For Pink Hair

I've had dark brown hair for years. Last summer I got blonde highlights in my hair. Enter three year old hair envy. All she spoke about for weeks were hair colors, different hair cuts and styles, who had the shiniest hair. Then came, "I want pink hair."

"Oh okay," I responded, not giving it too much thought. I figured it was like that toy she saw on an end cap at Target. One that would quickly fade from her mind. I didn't think it was a big deal. She seemed satisfied with my answer and we moved on from the subject of hair to nail polish.

My three and a half year old is far more girly than I've ever been. She wears party dresses to bed, has a meltdown when her nail polish wears off, and has been asking for her own MAC lipstick "in the purple shade" for the last year. She's my girly girl who tries to keep up with the boys and refuses to brush her hair. I wasn't surprised she mentioned pink hair, it is her favorite color after all.

The next evening we had the TV on and a commercial showed a woman with bright pink hair. Elizabeth's face lit up and she exclaimed "that's the hair I want mom! That's it!" On and on she went about her "new pink hair" that she was going to get.

"When do you think I can get it? Maybe Saturday?" she asked innocently.

I wasn't sure how to handle this. She was dead set on getting her pink hair. I had strong feelings that a child so young shouldn't be getting anything done to their hair other than a cut. For some reason I had told myself that no child of mine would be getting anything done to their hair until they were old enough to make a good decision for themselves. Obviously I had no idea what kind of kids I would have.

I realized I had a very important stance to take. I could put my foot down and tell her no way, show her who was in charge. But that's not my style of parenting. I could let her do it and then have to deal with a massive meltdown when/if she wants it out of her right after getting it done. When my daughter spoke to others about her love of pink hair and how she was going to get pink hair, I was met with eye rolls, people who told me to "realize you're the parent not her," and that she's too young to make important decisions.

Those just fueled me. How can I teach her how to make those important decisions? How can I teach her how to live with those consequences of the decisions she makes? I realize she's only three, but she's not dumb. Couldn't this be a good lesson that teaches her the consequences of her decisions and actions? Yet I still had my reservations.

The chemicals used to dye hair (especially the specialty colors such as pink) can be strong. What if she has a reaction to the chemicals? What happens if she hates her new hair? She is only three and can't quite grasp a lot of concepts, such as patience for letting hair grow out. I spoke at length to numerous hair dressers. I researched and then researched more. I spoke to anyone I could about it, even if I was met with disgust that I would even consider letting my daughter "do that!"

So what did I decide?

I decided to compromise. I want my daughter to know I trust her and listen to her. I also want her to know that I look out for her and try to make the best decisions while listening to her wants and needs.  My daughter got her pink hair. It's just not dyed like she had in mind.

After my extensive research, I decided she was too young for dying hair. If ever there's a meltdown issue in question, I avoid it like the plague. I was far too worried that she would ask for her pink hair to come out as soon as it was. Instead, I ordered her clip in hair extensions in all different colors. She wants bright orange hair one day? We've got it ready. She wants red in her hair for two minutes (and literally, two minutes only)? It's there and just as easily removable.

This easy compromise made us both happy for the time being. I have no issues with her wearing them out of the house because she's so proud of "her new hair." The bonus to this is the looks on (some) people's faces when we walk into the grocery store and she's sporting blue, green, and neon yellow hair is priceless. Years ago, I didn't foresee pink hair in my parenting future. I would have been categorized in with those people who gave looks to the other parents for letting their children have neon colored hair. Sometimes as parents we have to get over our own hang ups and thoughts of how things would go. Sometimes we need to put our foot down (and know when that needs to be done) and other times we need to compromise. Especially when it comes to pink hair happiness.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Valentine's Weekend 2016

We had a great weekend despite some unplanned adventures on our plate! We had planned to go bowling on Saturday but we kind of decided to buy a new minivan which cut into some of our fun time. Totally worth it!

Friday night we attended the Sweetheart Dance at the Blank Park Zoo. This was the only Valentine's dance in Des Moines that was a family dance. Last year Hubs took Elizabeth to her first Daddy Daughter dance, but any dances that I found for Mother Son were truly meant for just a mother and one son, not really two. They had an excellent way of making son #2 feel like an outcast. I was not impressed but quickly bought tickets to the zoo's dance when I saw it was for the whole family. As usual with zoo events, we had an excellent time and spent two full hours dancing until our feet hurt!

Elizabeth and I had matching dresses (both from Old Navy). 

These two look alikes weren't big on dancing at first. We talked them into it by the middle of the evening.

Max and Elizabeth LOVE dancing and hip hopped the night away!

After our first round of dancing, we went through the indoor exhibits and hit up the dessert bar at the end! The dessert bar was every child's dream!
The boys

Back to dancing after PLENTY of sugar to keep them going.

Our last stop for the night was the craft tables. The kids made Valentine flamingos.

Early early Saturday morning we were awoken by a sick child. Four hours later and she was totally fine, jumping from the couch to her make shift bed on the living room floor.

Early afternoon we sent the kids to Grandma and Grandpa Harmeyer's where the kids napped, watched a movie, played cards games, and ate heart shaped pizza. Hubs and I picked up our new minivan. I was very impressed by the dealership who had everything ready to go (we did pretty much everything via email). We were in and out in less than hour! We even had time to grab a late lunch together afterwards AND run errands while the kids napped at my parents house! It wound up being a great early Valentine's day with a big present and time together.

Saturday night we obviously drove around in the new ride and got home in time for jammies and crackers before bed. Elizabeth chose to "drink" her bowl of crackers.

After the kids went to bed, Hubs left for a movie and I played Cupid. We typically don't do gifts for Valentine's Day, but I used the opportunity to give the four the gifts I forgot to give them at Christmas (I blame Mom Brain). The camera was a must have for daycare, but I chose to give it to them for VD so they can have it for playing around with their friends on Spring Break.

The kids were so excited about their gifts. Their favorite? The camera, of course. They went through all 40 pictures in an hour.

My mom made the minis special blankets for Valentine's Day. 

Brunch. I skipped mimosas and opted for tea instead.

The kids played Old Maid before they painted the tea set.

After brunch and shoveling our driveway, we headed to our second favorite sledding hills. The boys loved it; Elizabeth not so much. She went down once and then sat and watched us.

Harrison had the best speed of all of us!

We ended our weekend cleaning (as usual). Obviously the boys have a thing or two to learn about putting clothes away.

What a great (and expensive) weekend it was! Unfortunately we started our week with a sick mini. I'm really hoping everyone is in tip top shape by the weekend so we can have a weekend of fun with friends, at the Science Center, and celebrating my birthday!