Thursday, August 31, 2017

Teaching Your Kids How They Can Help When Disaster Strikes

With Texas in the midst of a natural disaster from Hurricane Harvey, you've likely seen a lot of articles and Facebook posts titled "Donate Now To Help The Victims of Harvey" and "Send ____ To Texas." It's hard to know where to give your time, money, and/or other donations to with all of the organizations, GoFund me's, and various charities around. For me, I like to know where my money is going and that it's being spent to actually help those in need. I have (unwittingly) passed this onto my children, who feel the need to aid in any disaster, in any way they can.

Setting an example like this for them has been important to me from day one. We often volunteer packaging meals at Meals From The Heartland, help stock our local food banks and pantries, buy random packages of diapers for women's shelters (in our area), and give to fundraisers. I tend to stay away from the larger organizations and go directly to the local sources whenever possible. This especially gives kids the knowledge to see how they are helping, rather than just hearing about how xxx amount of money is helping someone, somewhere. Since we are unable to go to Texas to volunteer our time (and really, you're welcome for keeping the hooligans away), we have found other ways to give help to Texans.

Volunteering for the first time at Meals From The Heartland in 2014, at the ripe ole' age of 6.

Here are a few easy ways that you and your kids can show support when disasters occur:
  • Give to local food banks. By giving, I mean send cash or check. Contact local food banks in the area of the disaster. You can ask what they need most, but cash is usually the best way to give so they can spend the money on the necessities as they arise.
  • Donate blood. This is one for adults, but you can easily tell kids what you're doing and why. 
  • Contact disaster area shelters and ask what their needs are. Keep in mind with attempting to mail or send things via the postal system, UPS, or FedEx, delivery trucks may not be allowed through due to flooding, delaying packages. Make sure that delivery is available to where you would like to send items.
  • See if any local charities are making a trip to the area. We have several companies and charities in our area that are sending trucks and volunteers to the communities affected by Harvey. This can be said for any natural disaster or any other kind of situation where people need help. This is an excellent way to donate clothes, blankets, everyday household items, toiletries, etc. 
  • A lot of the area animal shelters affected by disasters get help from other shelters around the country. Contact your local animal shelter(s) to see if they are the recipients of any animals. If so, their needs for the basics are on the rise (think food, paper towels, cleaning supplies, etc.). This is a great way to get kids involved and donating.

The most important reasons for including your children in relief efforts is not for your benefit, it is for theirs. It gives them first-hand experience in helping others and how to show compassion to those in need.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

The Truth Behind It All

I know I share a lot of "the kids love each other sooo much!" and "look at this way cool activity we did!" or "it kept them busy all day long!" All of that is true. The kids DO love each other a ton (which makes things waaayyyyy easier than one thinks) and we do do cool activities (or the kids come up with some cool things to do) and they do keep each other entertained all day long. However, there is PLENTY that is not shared.

What is not shared? Well, how about the pure insanity of every day. Such as when 5+ children are talking to me, one child is screaming just to scream, someone found an unknown band aid on the floor and they're not sure what to do with it, and it's snack time. All happening at the same exact time. Luckily I'm one of those people that finds the humor in it all.

Also not shared? The shit that hits the fan. Examples: when an older child got poop on their hand because they decided to be helpful by checking a little one's diaper. By sticking the entire hand down the diaper. There was no guessing if the little one needed changed or not. Or how about the afternoon that a few of the big kids ate unknown berries off of the ground, prompting a talk about eating unknown substances off of the ground. Or the times that a little one refuses to put clothes back on after a diaper change and they run around in their diaper all day (I'm seasoned enough to know that you just don't fight those things).

So the next time you see a sappy or too good to be true post, just remember that for every one of those posts, there's.....(scroll down)

someone getting a bag stuck around their neck and panicking......


crying because someone threw a water balloon harder than he could. 

For real life. These things happen daily.

How To Make A Fairy Garden The Kids Can Play With

The kids wanted to make a Fairy Garden this summer. I had the big kids research what fairy gardens they liked on Pinterest and then created our own based on what they liked. First and foremost, the garden had to be appropriate for kids of all ages to play with. Secondly, the kids wanted something that they mostly made, which meant no pre-made fairy houses and such. Easily done!

Our garden included:
  • 1 wooden bird house (purchased at Michael's)
  • Garden rocks (purchased at a local home improvement store)
  • Fairies (thank you Amazon)
  • Crayola Neon paints
  • Soil, marbles, and anything extra we had laying around that could be thrown in and not choked on

First the kids painted the wooden house and the pot. Yes we used washable paints. We decided early on that this would be an indoor fairy garden, so using weather resistant paints and materials didn't matter. While the house and pot dried, the kids washed the rocks, dried them, and then every child painted at least one rock (most painted two or three).

 Rock washing. The kids turned this into an all day event.

After everything dried (it took a couple of days), we set up our fairy garden/pot. You'll notice how we didn't build everything up to the very top of the pot. We chose to have it set down a bit so things wouldn't get spilled out of it. This saved me a few times from a huge mess when little hands decided to dig through the pot!

We started with dirt/soil at the bottom, then added marbles, rocks, a little bit of mulch (from the garden), more rocks, and finally the house and fairies.

We made this one of the first days of summer vacation and we still have everything (minus a few broken fairy wings that were pulled off)! It doesn't look like much, but it's one of the first projects I had the big kids (the kids ages 5-9) design and take over. Did I mention it lasted and was played with ALL SUMMER LONG??? Success!

Friday, August 25, 2017

First Day of School 2017

The beginning of the school year sneaked up on us rather quickly on us. In the past, the kids (mine and daycare kids) have been excited for a new school year. We spend a couple of weeks talking about going back to school, change in routine, etc. This year was met with denial (both from the kids and me). While it still seems like we should have a couple of weeks of summer vacation left, the first day of school happened. It was a big one too: it was the youngest mini's first day of kindergarten. The first day even I had all three minis in the same school. I've been looking forward to this since the beginning of last school year.

Back to school night the afternoon beforehand helped get all three minis excited for the first day. Up until that point, no one was particularly ready to start back up. Even me, who finally got around to unpacking backpacks from last school year days before the new school year began.

The morning of the first day brought excitement for the boys, who got ready in record time and couldn't wait to get going to school. The youngest needed a pep talk and some cuddles before her excitement set in.

Obligatory back to school photos with happy excited kids. Actually, at this point the boys were annoyed that they couldn't just run right up to school and the youngest was bursting with excitement.

 4th Grade

 2nd Grade (with his teacher he had in Kindergarten, who moved to 2nd grade)


We are soooo lucky to live so close to the school. We can literally see the school from the end of our driveway.

They easily made it through their first day of the 2017-2018 school year! Of course, it wouldn't be like my minis to not have any good stories from the first day....

For this first story, let me take you back to my middle mini Harrison's kindergarten school year. His big brother Max took him into his classroom every single day, helped him put his stuff into his locker, and told him to have a good day. We actually had to put a stop to it halfway through the school year because Harrison was completely taking advantage of big brother ("hold my backpack for me, it's too heavy"). Anyways, we gave the middle mini instructions to do the same for his little sister. He rolled his eyes and said "we'll see."

The first question I asked Lil Miss E after school was if her brother walked her into her classroom. She responded, "nope, he told me to figure it out because I'm a big kid now. I got a little lost, but another teacher mom helped me find my classroom instead.....and I DID NOT cry like some of the little boys in my class. Like, they cried all day for their mommies. Ugh." When I checked with the middle mini as to why he didn't help her, it was just as she had said.
"Because she's a big kid now mom. She can figure it out for herself." Typical middle child.

Also my typical middle child: the above note. Remember my story about the middle mini and his "glasses" from last school year? Yeah, he still doesn't need them. Yet, as soon as we were home from back to school night, he pulled his fake eyeglasses out from wherever they've been hiding all summer and promptly put them in his bag. As soon as he got inside the school doors the first day, he put them on (out of sight from Hubs and I because he knows we'll call him out on it). I already had to send a disclaimer note to the teacher after day 1. 

I have a feeling it might be an interesting school year!

If you care to hear how I spent my first day off in 9 years, read here.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Today Is The First Day I'm Truly By Myself In 9 Years

I've waited five years for this day. Sure, I've had at least one child in school for these five years, but this is the first day in NINE YEARS that I've had to myself. Sure, grandparents have taken the minis plenty of times. There's been preschool and babysitters, but never a full day where I could do what I wanted. If we had sitters we had something going on. My days off during the school year have been for school functions, appointments, or other engagements that required me to be busier than I would be during my working day. I've never had a day off just to play, simply for myself.

While it's only been five years since my youngest was born, I've truly waited 9 years for a day like today. It was wonderful! And odd, relaxing, freeing, sad, and any other emotion you can feel at once. Today was simply weird. I still spent my day running around, but running around that I actually wanted to do! I visited my mom and aunt, I went shopping (and took my time!), had a breakfast date with my husband (that wasn't rushed), leisurely drank my coffee, took some time to write (I could actually hear myself think....and yes, that totally means I was talking to myself out loud. No shame about it either), got cupcakes for a surprise after school snack, and I even did some lesson planning for daycare.

It doesn't sound exciting and probably even a bit disappointing to some. Yet here's the thing, something that Lauren reminds me of often, I've never had a me. I've never had the option to just drop my kids off somewhere for the day so I could do things I wanted or even needed to do. Who watches your kids when you're the babysitter??? They've always been in tow or I've had to beg grandparents and/or other sitters to take them while I rushed through whatever it was I needed to do.

As emotional as I am about having all three of my minis in school full time (because that means I officially have "big kids"), I'm very much looking forward to my random days off I've scheduled throughout the school year. I've waited nine years for this undefinable moment of peace and I plan on enjoying it as much as I can. 

Here's how my day off went:

The morning started rather rough. Before my day off could begin, I had to give an important pep talk, give cuddles, dry tears, spoon feed a five year old oatmeal, approve outfits, and make sure that they did wear socks with their shoes (a first in three months). Finally, they were ready for the 1st Day pictures and the ridiculously short walk to school.


Building at the top of the hill: school. They were walking just east of our house. That's how close our house is to the elementary school. We're pretty lucky.

Our first time at St. Kilda's downtown. I was everywhere around DM today: downtown, south side, Johnston, Urbandale, West Des Moines, Ingersoll area. It felt pretty good to get out and about during a work day!

I loved St. Kilda's! I had an Australian iced coffee (espresso and ice cream) and avocado toast. I could start my days with veggies and sugar every day!

Shopping. I *might* have started singing Michael Jackson after seeing these shoes. This * means I definitely did....along with a few other 80's tunes. 

Followed by a shockingly quiet, messy  house (I shot video just so I could remember this the next time I can't hear my own voice shouting).

And then they were home (no pictures of the actual children because they were uncooperative). I had plenty of paperwork to fill out, including this little gem. The fact I even have to write this explains why this is the child that gives me grey hair!

This day makes me excited for my next true day off (next Friday!!)!

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Solar Eclipse Party

Our biggest goal for the day: NOT to send anyone home blind! I'm only slightly kidding. I thankfully bought approved solar eclipse glasses last month (although a daycare mom came to my rescue when I was one pair short), then the rest of the day came together easily.

Our day consisted of: a cardboard rocket ship that they decorated and played with, learning about the solar system with these awesome magnets, "walking on the moon" with Moon Shoes, a showing of Space Jam, making pictures with glow in the dark stickers, and attempting to get views of the eclipse through the clouds (we were only slightly successful). On the menu was eclipse donuts for breakfast (with yogurt), Sun cupcakes, pizza for lunch, Star crackers and star fruit for afternoon snack.

The Moon Shoes came Sunday afternoon. The minis gave them a whirl so they knew what to expect. Unfortunately it was raining outside so the kids had to do them in my living room during our Solar Eclipse Party. I think they would have been more fun to do in the backyard, but the kids enjoyed them nonetheless. 

These magnetic planets were perfect for learning the planets names!

Earlier this summer we had a cardboard pirate ship during Pirate Day that the kids loved and played with. I decided to order the rocket ship for our Party. It has been well loved this week.

Thank you Krisy Kreme for our Eclipse donuts! They were delicious!

We tried out a lemon drop melon for the first time for lunch. We decided to try it out for our Solar Eclipse party because the kids thought it looked like a planet.

For us in Des Moines, Iowa, the solar eclipse turned out to be a pretty big dud due to cloud cover. We actually had a really fun experience about an hour before the eclipse started. I took the school age kids (the only age group I felt comfortable doing this with because they could listen about the importance of the eclipse glasses) to the backyard to practice putting on and taking off the glasses safely (I made them look down so I could be sure they wouldn't hurt their eyes). While doing so, they got a perfect view of the sun and got to see the sun through the glasses. They only got to see the start of the eclipse, but seeing the sun beforehand helped them identify the moon as it slowly went across the sun. I'm really glad I chose to do this with them. I also let the kids take the eclipse glasses home so they can safely look at the sun anytime they want.

I love in the above picture, the two kids facing the wrong direction trying to see the sun. I had turned them around facing the sun twice, but that didn't seem to make a difference to them!

Quick views of the eclipse from the driveway. I freaked a few kids out when I told them the importance of the glasses and not burning their eyeballs.

Glow in the dark space stickers. The kids also came up with their own planet and universe drawings.

While we couldn't see the eclipse perfectly, we did watch live feeds and were able to see it in various points. I'm so glad we got to experience this day! It was a great day for learning and having fun!

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Reunion Weekend

Last weekend was filled with reunions: a family reunion with my dad's mom's side of the family, my 15 year high school reunion, and a reunion with friends I don't get to see often. It got us out of the house plenty and made my heart full. We love our adventures and our weekends as a family, but every so often it's wonderful to get out, socialize, and spend time with people who hold special places in my life. To say I ended the weekend revitalized is an understatement. 

We had so much fun at our reunions that I failed to take a pictures. Here's a few that I remembered to take:

My husband decided to take back roads to get to my grandma's sister's house in Runnels, Iowa. We'll just say I saw parts of Des Moines that I didn't know existed!

I hadn't been to my Aunt Ruthie's house since I was a kid. I laughed when we first arrived because I kept telling my husband it was a big white house up on a big hill. Well, it was a big white house, but the hill was a lot smaller than I remember. Also, there was a pool in the backyard (I remember way before there was a pool). The minis enjoyed the pool all afternoon, while I mingled and reconnected with cousins, aunts, and uncles. I even got in some relaxation time by the pool.

We had the perfect amount of time to leave the family reunion, grab the kids dinner, change into a dress and flats (me, not Hubs of course), and head to my high school reunion. We missed the actual reunion portion, but happily took part in the drinks event at the AC Hotel. I definitely recommend  checking out The Republic on Grand. I failed to get many pictures (or ones I'm willing to publicly share at least), but we had a wonderful time and stayed out until 1:30 a.m. Huge shout out to Lauren's bonus kid for babysitting for us!

The next morning was a tad rough for mom and dad. However, we managed to get up (after only a few hours of sleep) and head to brunch with friends of mine. Americana brunch, followed by a walk through the Sculpture Park, and then a nice nap. The minis even went to bed at a decent hour and I did a long grocery shopping trip to various store by myself in the evening. This was one of the few times all summer long that I did the grocery shopping myself and didn't have them delivered. Not surprising, we ended up with a lot of things we didn't exactly need....that never seems to happen when groceries are delivered!

Friday, August 18, 2017

Pick A Better Time To Poop, Dude!

I want you to take in this picture below. It's my husband enjoying a dinner by himself. Quietly eating, food warm (okay, so it was re-heated but warm nonetheless), beer in hand. Notice all other spaces at the table have been left. Because dinner was over with when he sat down. It must be nice.

I'm calling him out on it too:

He was pooping.

How is it that husband's have a knack for "needing to poop" at the most in-opportune times?

Dinner time ✔
Putting groceries away ✔
During the worst toddler tantrum in the history of tantrums? ✔
When a kid comes out of the bedroom needing a drink of water five minutes after going to bed? ✔

Dear lord, pick a better time to poop dude! I just don't get it. I love you but our children are only going to remember you on the toilet. Is it just my husband?? Or do all husband's have a knack for "needing" to do something at the most inopportune times? So, I asked some of my girlfriends. Actually, it's a discussion we've had numerous times in the past.

Apparently my husband is not the only one with bad timing. It makes me wonder, are they doing it deliberately? I hope they have fun catching up on Reddit articles and YouTube videos because my time in the bathroom isn't any sort of relaxation. For me it's more like a race, like a beat your own time type of thing. If I'm gone for longer than 20 seconds I'll have an audience in the bathroom (which quite honestly I'm used to at this point in my mommyhood). But really, do I need to start planning things around this pooping schedule?

* Shout out to the Hubs who shrugged when I ran this topic idea by him and said, "I'm sure other husband's will understand me." 

Monday, August 14, 2017

Why I Don't Worry About The Future of America


In today's world there is much to worry about. Seriously, we live in a world where Donald Trump can be president. In light of recent events, I feel the need to raise my voice. Yes, there's A LOT we need to do to turn this country, this world, around. Many people say they don't know where to start or how to fix all of the wrong we have done. 

I have the answer. I see it facing me every day. I see it as more water is screamed for. I feel is as every reassuring hug is given. I say it when I confirm that the words "stupid poopy butt" aren't nice words to say. Yet they're the meanest words they can think to say to one another. For that I smile. I'm reassured.

The answer is in the next generation. The next generation who is still small, who have the kindest hearts, and more love to give than all of the adults I know combined. The next generation who hasn't yet learned how to judge another person, who are accepting and open minded. I witness it every day.

This summer, much like every other summer, has found my house full of children. One particularly beautiful day, the gaggle of kids were running out the door to the backyard. One little girl caught her toe on the door as she ran out. I asked if she was alright, but she kept running right to her friends. I assumed she was ok as she climbed into the tree house. What I witnessed next left me with tears in my eyes and my heart full of hope.

Two children climbed down from the tree house and ran inside. One grabbed a washcloth; the other grabbed band aids. Without saying a word to me, they ran past and climbed back into the tree house. They proceeded to clean the (above) little girl's toe, bandage it, and give her a hug. When they looked to be done, I made sure everything was indeed okay.

"Yep, she hurt her toe, but she's okay now. You can take the washcloth though, it has some blood on it. We'll watch her to make sure she's okay."

A six and a five year old stopped the game they were playing (I actually think they were dissecting a cicada in the tree house, but that's besides the point), helped their friend, comforted her, and made sure she was taken care of. A six and a five year completely took care of their friend. Without being told or asked. They did it all on their own. In simple gestures they displayed love, compassion, helpfulness, kindness, and complete selflessness. 

And that's our answer to fix the world. If we, as a failing generation, can keep it together long enough to show our children how to keep their minds and hearts open and accepting, they are our hope. They are quite literally our future. Surrounded by children like this every day makes all of the news reports, hopeless tales of senseless judgement, less scary. It makes me less scared for the world because of what the next generation can put forth. I don't worry about our future with the little minds I see each day. They will do better than we have done, than we are doing. That I truly believe.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Family Fun Weekend

Some weekends are meant for playing, some for working hard, and others for resting. We went with the first two last weekend. Friday night we kept it chill (in the words of our oldest) and did a family movie night over take out. Saturday started bright and early when the minis just needed mom (see video below). So much for sleeping in, but luckily I went to bed uncharacteristically early. We took our time getting ready and wound up at Waveland Cafe for brunch. Then we did some tax free shopping for new school clothes and shoes, spent a few hours at Living History Farms, spent a fair amount of time at Menards getting supplies for making stilts (and new screen doors), started the stilts project, and had a date night in after the minis went to bed. Sunday was project day: stilts, new screen door installed, house work, cooking classes for the minis, and ending the weekend with a family dinner at my parent's house. I love weekends like this one!

She's just too much for me sometimes. Red lipstick covering her face (not just her lips) and her precious sparkly cat shoes. She doesn't need much else to be happy!

Brunch. The oldest was NOT happy about the picture. 

I've wanted to take the minis to a historic baseball game at Living History Farms for years, but have never gotten around to it. We finally made it to one (or part of one, as we didn't watch the entire game). It was fun to see and hear the balls being hit as walked through the town of Walnut Hill.

For their birthday's, the minis got a vacation and season passes to the Zoo, Living History Farms, and the Science Center. Since we can come back whenever we want, we decided to split our visit. This time we spent our time in the town (rather than the farms). I'm really glad we did that because we got to experience all new demonstrations in the Drug Store and the General Store.

The kids got to grind cinnamon for medicine and received a hearing test (they all passed per 1875 standards). They also got to see toothbrushes and toothpaste and test out perfumes and cologne. We had a great time in the Drug Store!

At the general store we got lemon drops, gum drops, rock candy, and Sarsaparilla (also known as Root Beer) and viewings of a popular coffee cup from 1875--with a mustache guard! I really want a coffee cup like this one now! 

They cleaned up the broom shop.....and learned that kids in 1875 would finish up an eight hour school day, followed up three to four hours sweeping up the broom works. They're penny earned would go to their parents. The minis thought she was joking at first, then they were appalled by these facts!

The boys had the idea of making their own stilts after seeing some at Living History Farms. Lil didn't really want in on the project, just the pictures. The boys tried to push her out, but she made herself known regardless!

Stilt planning. To see a documentation of project, click here.

Sunday morning the minis woke up and made us breakfast. Well, as much as they could. Then Hubs went down and helped them with the rest. We had quite the feast after their cooking class with dad. They made our special drinks all themselves. We did not try the specialty drinks because after hearing that the Oreo coffee was made with whole Oreo cookies, milk, a dash of vanilla cappucino, milk, and cinnamon. So sweet of them for trying, but no thank you. We didn't tell them we didn't drink them though.....we waited until they were outside playing to quickly dump them out. We'll tell them someday.

New front screen door. We've been busy replacing the outside doors, next we move onto restoring some of the original doors and woodwork inside of the house.

The fur nephew after family dinner at my parent's house. He was being really good, just slightly nosing the toys.

Leave it to my daughter to find the one play purse and cell phone to use.

This (upcoming) weekend will be a reunion weekend: family and friends! I'm hoping the minis will be entertained plenty so I can catch up with everyone. Fingers crossed!