Monday, September 16, 2019

A Typical September Weekend

Eating pretzels and chatting about Halloween costumes

The minis had the best time doing something they've never gotten to do: be mall rats. I had an event at the Museum most of the day. The minis enjoyed the events, played at the Museum, and then (while Hubs and I were volunteering) asked if they could walk around the mall. I hesitated to let them walk around by themselves, but I ultimately told them yes. It was great....until we couldn't find them. As it turns out they walked into the Disney section in JC Penny's and spent quite a bit of time there. Other than that little hiccup, our Touch A Truck event at the Des Moines Children's Museum was incredibly successful! We celebrated at the end of the day with "linner" (lunch and dinner combined) at Mac Shack (also in the mall).

Hubs and I both volunteered for the event (or "volun-told" as my husband calls it), but we got to take the kids around and in the trucks throughout the day.

I got super excited about seeing the firetruck's ladder all the way up (I wish I could have climbed it). The minis took one look and said "oh, cool" and went back to the camper.

This better be the only time I have a picture of her in the back of a cop car!

First time spending all day at a mall. They thought it was "sooo cool," like it was the first time it's ever been done.

Mac Shack is great! I've eaten here three times in the last two weeks (thanks to a lot of meetings and drinks) and I have yet to have anything less than stellar here. Give it a try if you're in the area!

I discovered my rocking tan lines later that night. Not only do I have flip flop lines, but now I have tennis shoe lines too.

The result of an exhausted mom is Ben & Jerry's on the living room floor.

Sunday was our day at home. Our oldest requested we do Chili Sunday's this fall. Each Sunday we stay home, watch football, and try new chili recipes. He actually makes most of the chili recipes, so it winds up being a really relaxing day for me!

On this particular Sunday their new Chromebook arrived, so the boys spent some time setting it up.

Since Sunday's will be our stay home days, all of our Saturday's for the rest of the year are pretty booked! We have some fun stuff planned this fall for our Saturday Family Fun Day.

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Here's To Breaking All My Parenting Rules

Tonight I raise my glass (actually my can of Naturdays because I'm that sophisticated) to doing all the things I said I'd never do as a parent. This is for every ounce of formula my middle child drank because I was too mentally and physically exhausted that I dropped my 'breast is best' thinking. This is for our incredibly amazing public school educated children, who were going to be my private school, uniform wearing babies. This is for bringing my child McDonald's at parent lunch instead of the homemade vegan lunch I had prepared. This is for swearing my children would be in high school before getting their first cell phone as I watch my eleven year old respond to a text (from his grandparents).

Last week I broke my rule of no cell phones, no screens (other than the approved family TV), and more outside time. My oldest sat on his newly purchased Chromebook (because, as it turned out, trying to share my laptop and returning emails wasn't working out) for three hours doing math lessons for the week and looking things up on Google while his new cell phone sat on the table a few feet from him. Every belief, every rule I had, was left behind when I realized life would be easier with these things.

One thing I quickly realized, the most important thing about motherhood actually, is survival. Our goal is to keep our kids alive, ourselves alive, and if we're rally lucky, happy as well. I personally thrive on happiness; mine and my children's.

The first week of middle school (for my oldest) kicked my ass. Not his, mine. As the school year got underway, I realized how big this change was. When we (parents) received class expectations and how we could support our new middle schooler at home, coupled with a few situations it would have been helpful to simply send a text to my child, I made the tough calls. Well, tough calls for me, since I had to let go of what I wanted and face what was needed.

I had wanted my children to grow up in a world without a cell phone attached to them, of handwritten cursive papers, and running around the neighborhood with friends. For the most part, my children have had a good part of these experiences. However, I also realize this is not our world. Heck, my child's math class is done completely online. Those math assignments, the need for use of my laptop (at the same time I needed to be using it), and the comfort I would feel if I were able to get in touch with my oldest, when combined, made me drop some money on these newly needed items.

I created rules for these new items. Some bring me comfort about leaving behind my beliefs and wants for my children and other rules I created are for safety. If I don't think about the insane amount of money I dropped on my children last week (new clothes, toys, money for picture day, a Chromebook, new cell phone -- along with a brand new higher cell phone bill, extracurricular activities) I'm pleased that these simple (yet at the same time complicated) items bring ease into our lives. Survival is a powerful mode. I'll do anything to fight for survival and happiness....even if means second guessing and changing my "never will I ever..." beliefs.

Learning how to use the Chromebook while watching the evening news. It must have been an entertaining news report.

Friday, September 6, 2019

Little Moments Like These

I'm pretty great at sharing those big moments in our lives. The trips, the first days of school, fun things we do at daycare. In reality, those are small things compared to our day to day lives. Those moments of sitting in the drive thru on a busy evening and realize your seven year old calls cheeseburgers "cheese hamburgers" or when you remember on a Thursday night that you're late for a meeting but the middle one has a spelling test he's failed to study for. Our lives are made up of those little moments that happen every day. Those moments of pure happiness, joy, exhaustion, defeat, anger, sadness, and amazement. Those moments happen daily.

As I sat down to write my latest article about hiking, I looked through my thousands of pictures of us hiking. However, in between each hiking adventure were countless photos I failed to share. Little moments that meant something to me. Here's a few of those moments I happened to capture over the last few months:

Harrison enjoyed a cup of decaf coffee every morning this summer, while Elizabeth had either decaf coffee or tea. Now that school has started, his relaxing morning cup of coffee is only had on the weekends.

We played so, so, so many games this summer.

The minis learned to cook and bake this summer. Not from me, but from cooking shows. We've made Nutella pizza, cupcakes, cakes, casseroles, pancakes, and more. I absolutely love it because I dislike cooking. A lot.

We went to National Night Out. Actually, Hubs took the minis up first so I could shower (our new schedule now allows me to shower peacefully in the evenings rather than rushed in the mornings). I walked up and discovered Hubs holding all of these goodies from raffles (he won me a free manicure!) and things the kids had done. It made me laugh, especially as they ran around the playground yelling "watch me Dad! Watch! Are you watching closely?"

Evenings and weekends the daycare room serves as my children's playroom. They use it. A lot.

The cats really love when the minis are off from school because their mornings often start with cuddling on the couch with blankets while watching a TV show. The cats are also fond of cuddling with soft blankets. Even better when there's human legs to lay on too.

Along with baking and cooking, the minis other love this summer has been playing music on the TV (through Amazon Music), singing along with the lyrics (because they're on the TV screen), and dancing. This is how the school agers spent a good part of their days at daycare. We grew their music tastes too.

The oldest mini went to a sleepover with his best friends, so these two had a sleepover too. Elizabeth claimed Max's bottom bunk. There was a bit of giggling before they both passed out.

Elizabeth had a zit on her side that was bothering her. She wouldn't bear to get it herself but wanted it gone. The middle mini came to her rescue. I hope everyone has someone who would pop their zits for them. 

I was so excited to discover this in a Chick Fil A bathroom. It was a nice little touch right next to the changing table. The middle mini also informed me (after I wouldn't shut up about it while we ate) there was also one in the men's room.

TWO minis in dance. Wednesday nights are now spent at the dance studio, but at least we have time for dinner this year (before class began at 6, with us leaving by 5:40. It was tough to fit in dinner beforehand). It's just a very late night for us all as classes don't get done until 8:00 p.m.

True story: we were at a restaurant and the waiter opened a beer right at the table. Elizabeth immediately turned to Matt and asked "will you teach me how to open a beer like that?" So, she did it. The bottom picture is the look of astonishment on her face that she was able to "do it all by myself." Also, not a beer, but a bottle of root beer.

This happens when I tell them to find their own snack after school (and they're not happy with what daycare is serving).

I kinda dig Wednesday's. Hubs takes the youngest two to dance on Wednesday's and they're there for two hours. This gives me time to get writing done, help the oldest with any school work he has (which is a thing now that he's in middle school), or he bakes Nutella cookies while we listen to records.

This is how it goes when I decide to work on the blog. Or do any projects in general. If it's not a kid it's a cat.

Leftover night was a thing after cooking four big meals in a row. Bbq, pot roast, food from the family reunion Hubs took the minis to, half of a watermelon, and soooo much more. It was ridiculous how much food we had leftover.

Dance party. Dance dance party.

Speaking of dance. The dancers in action at their studio.

We had a Back To School night (after school began) for the oldest mini at his new middle school. We were able to see some of his works. 

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Labor Day Weekend

Maquoketa Caves State Park 2019. Also known as the time I found out my kids were little mountain goats apparently.

I was sooo ready for this weekend after the first full week of school! We had a big weekend with plenty to do. Friday night we celebrated Hubs/Dad's birthday with bbq and cake made my Harrison. Saturday we made a day trip to Maquoketa Caves for hiking and exploring. On Sunday, Hubs took the minis to his family reunion while I stayed home and used my time to complete my To Do List. Monday we rang in the last unofficial day of summer with a family lunch and an afternoon at the water park. My conclusions from the weekend are as follows:

  • Enterprise Rent-A-Car has amazing service! 
  • The Eastern Iowa Airport is the perfect place to watch planes come in and take off.
  • I'm going to miss warm afternoons at the pool and Naturdays.
  • Every weekend should be three days. Not only did I get to play, I had enough time to get things done too. If I had three days off every weekend my life might be somewhat organized. 

Who agrees with me on the weekends thing??? Now, without further ado, the weekend in pictures:

Harrison created an awesome cake! It was chocolate and vanilla swirl, with cherry filling poked in half of the cake, frosted with chocolate frosting, sprinkles, and candles (Elizabeth wants it noted that she put the candles in the cake). I had imagined Harrison would used the cherry filling in between the two layers of cake, but he gave me a look at my suggestion and said, "um, poke holes and fill the holes with the filling. That's what they do on all the shows." Again, this is what we get after a summer of baking shows. I'm not looking forward to when they start putting to use all of the knowledge they gained from the  home renovation shows they also watched.

Max shoved his mouth full of food just as we began singing Happy Birthday To You. Not the smoothest move as he attempted to sing and chew!

Our trip up to Maquoketa Caves should have only taken 3 hours. However, we made plenty of stops. One Walmart stop, on Target stop, one rest area, and Casey's for our usual "on the Iowa road pizza." That 3 hours turned into 5 before we made it to the State Park. To make things even more interesting, just a few miles outside of the Park, the powertrain in our rental vehicle began having issues and the right was...we'll say, jerky. We called Enterprise and we determined we could make it to the nearest Enterprise location to trade in the vehicle--but we decided to do this after our hiking adventure. There's never a dull moment in this family!

The oldest insisted on holding the pizza on his lap so he could eat out of it easily. He ate half of the large pizza himself!

It began sprinkling as we drove into the Park. Of course, in between the caves and the canopy of trees, the random rain drops never made it onto our heads as we hiked.

The first time we were at Maquoketa Caves (4 years ago), we did the east side of the cave system. This time we explored the west side thoroughly (and a bit of the east again). I can say that without a doubt, the east side is way easier to explore thanks to a board walk and stairs. The west side is a lot of rock scrambling and climbing! Both sides are cool, but the west side is where you want your adventurous souls to be.

When one mini wants a picture, they all want a picture.

I clearly did not spend enough time practicing my gross motor skills as a kid because I stink at rock climbing! I definitely got my shoe caught in between two rocks, had to have a 50 year old woman help me as I climbed down (oh the embarrassment), and nearly rolled down a hill. Meanwhile, my children did it all with ease. There were a few falls due to them holding their flashlights in their hands instead of properly gripping rocks, but they did much better than me! As one person commented, as they watched them ease up the cliff, "they're like little goats!"

The hill that almost ended me, I'm quite certain.

The directions to the Ice Cave were unclear, so it took us a while to find it (we took the long way around), but it was so worth it! We crawled in, stood up, then crawled to another part of the cave that had a little natural bench from the rock formations. It was definitely our favorite cave.

We made it to the other side from underneath the natural bridge!

Thank goodness there was a family ahead of us that warned us about the huge spiders in several of the small crawl through caves. Hubs went in to get a look and we decided to skip them altogether because some spiders were either wolf or brown recluse spiders! No thank you!

Oddly, by the time we made it to the airport to trade in the rental vehicle, it wasn't having issues anymore. We still chose to trade it in because I didn't want us getting caught on the interstate late at night with no other option. Our detour to the Eastern Iowa Airport wound up being a highlight. The minis explored inside the airport freely, checked out the baggage claim, and watched the planes come in while Mom and Dad transferred the contents from vehicle #1 to vehicle #2. That was no small feat considering all of our stops along the way....

My time at home by myself was quite productive. I got started on a couple of writing projects, got important emails returned, book orders placed, groceries ordered (plus our weekly menu made), cleaned the daycare room and set it up for the week, dusted, AND got dinner in the Crockpot. I was feeling incredibly accomplished even though I had yet to shower for the day! Plus, the minis had a great time at the family reunion AND they got an important errand ran. I wish all weekends were three days because I would have a lot more of these days without feeling like I was missing out on the fun.

I put together the apple trees. Easy peasy with Scotch velcro tabs.

I'll always take a day that I can start with a coffee followed by homemade Mexican food at Mom and Dad's! Yummy!

The unofficial end of summer is the last day the water park is open. So sad. We love spending our summer afternoons here. I'm already longing for next summer.

What's it like to have Harrison as the middle child?? It's like him coming over and asking me if I would hold his swim shirt because he wanted it off. I set it on the side of the pool as he swam over to his older brother and promptly told him, "help me find my shirt! I jumped in the pool so hard it just came off." Older brother was near tears dealing with the middle mini. I can't say I blame him....I was so frustrated for him, yet couldn't stop laughing at how hysterical the middle one is.

Bringing back Sunday Family Dinners. This week featured burgers (both regular and black bean), orzo salad, cajun fries, and watermelon. Delicious food and great commentary from little minds about life.

The minis requested a picture of our food only because they were looking at old pictures and found how many food pictures I used to take comical.