Sunday, May 19, 2019

Who's Ready For Summer Shenanigans???

The leftover grave site items. Read on to hear about this adventure....

So, raise your hand if you're ready for the kids to be home from school and the shenanigans that come with it??? 

Me? I'm slowly raising my hand this year and responding with a soft "yes I am!" since I've already gotten a taste of what summer could bring. Both tastes, as we'll call it, happened this past week. Both left me rolling my eyes, thinking 'wtf??' and laughing hysterically. This isn't even counting the dead baby bird that fell out of the tree, was stepped on, and then drawn a 'dead bird outline' in the driveway where it fell. This also doesn't count the dead baby bird that was in the backyard that the kids found and thought was a lizard. We went through an entire bottle of hand soap that morning....

The first taste happened one evening as the minis and co. were playing basketball. A ball rolled down the street (we live on a hill) and the kids asked if they could run down and get it. "Sure!" I said, probably too bubbly. They do a pretty decent job of remembering the rules: walk to get the ball in pairs, watch for cars, stop at the end of the street and look both ways, if the ball ends up in the stream (at the end of the street) just leave the ball and get a new one.

Apparently they failed the no running portion and the middle mini fell in the middle of the street. Neighbors were out conversing, daycare parents picking up kids, and many more neighbors were doing yard work. Everyone seemed to witness what is now known as "the street fall," but me. I was inside with other daycare kiddos, cooking dinner.

The middle mini came inside whimpering but with minimal scratches. Nothing a quick rinse and a few Band Aids wouldn't fix. However, upon inspection of my First Aid box, all of our Band Aids were gone (something the youngest mini sheepishly copped to when questioned--her dolls needed them apparently). No worries, no panicking. There's always butterfly bandages....nope, gone too (also the youngest). There's always gauze and medical tape.....nope, I forgot to buy more medical tape. So, I did what any quick thinking mom would do and I grabbed gauze and masking tape, kissed the tears, made sure all was okay, and sent him back out to play.

He played basketball for another hour with his bandaged up hand and arm. We sat down for dinner and he casually mentions, "oh yeah, all of the neighbors asked about my arm because they saw me fall."

"Uh-huh, we have nice neighbors," I replied.

"Yeah, I told them that we're pretty sure it's broken, but you used masking tape and told me to go play. Then they started asking me if I was okay and stuff."

"You told them WHAT??!?" I was all kinds of mortified and haven't seen any of our neighbors since to casually mention that his arm is indeed just fine and I really can be up for Mother of The Year award.

My awesome bandage job. For those curious, new Band Aids and medical tape were purchased within hours of this incident.

Until the second thing happened. The ball rolled down the sidewalk this time and I was asked if two of the kids could retrieve it. "Sure, but remember to walk," I warned this time. They came back a few minutes later, their eyes lit with stories and excitement.

"There's a dead mouse! It was right by the ball! It's dead! It doesn't have any hair and it looked like it just died."

"Don't touch it. Leave it alone okay," I said. 

"We didn't," they replied. I dropped it. They didn't touch it. I obviously had no need to worry. For the next hour I didn't hear the ball being bounced, but I heard them talking and saw them on the front porch with the usual sidewalk chalk, sticks, dandelions. I didn't think twice about anything, nor did I pay attention to what they were talking about. There was no fighting or disagreements to referee, so I kept myself out of it.

At dinner the middle mini excitedly spoke of his dead mouse. I again posed the question "you didn't touch it, did you?" I was growing more unsure of this dead mouse.

The middle mini assured me again, "we didn't touch it mom." A full day goes by. One of the daycare moms informs me she's pretty sure we have a dead mouse somewhere because of what her child was saying.

"No, they found one down the street on the sidewalk, but they told me they didn't touch it." No more was thought of it.

That day I ordered pizza for lunch. Per the usual, the delivery guy brought the pizza to the front door and throughout the entire exchanged acted nervous and kept glancing down. Okay, for real, I'm used to tweaked out pizza delivery guys. I really didn't think much of it. Plus, he was questioning my large order of food, when I assured him I had a daycare full of hungry kids to feed. Sometimes the words kids and hungry puts people on edge. Who was I to judge this guy's fear of hungry children?

Later that same day, I kindly opened the front door for my husband to come through when I looked down at our little table next to the front door. On it I saw a brick, colored in bright sidewalk chalk, surrounded by little sticks and dandelions, with.....a dead mouse (actually we learned it was a vole) on top of the brick. The kids built a freaking funeral/grave for a dead rodent.

"Harrison! What is this?? I asked you if you touched it and you said no!!" 

"We didn't mom!" he responded innocently.

"But you did! It's at our house, by our front door, not on the sidewalk anymore!" I said, trying to keep it cool, but seriously, looking at a dead rodent just inches from you is enough to make for high pitched shrieking.

"Well yeah, we brought it back. We didn't want it to get stepped on or rolled over by somebody's bike. But we didn't touch it. We used sticks and an empty bag we found....just like you did with the baby bird the other day," he replied.

He got me. I was asking all the wrong questions, said none of the correct instructions (instead of don't touch it, I clearly needed to say don't move it), and it was all right in front of my face. Suddenly the dandelion picking, uneasy pizza guy, and the mouse excitement at dinner was all making sense. Thankfully, my husband was home to deal with the dead rodent because I am not equipped to be dealing with such things. Obviously.

So, am I ready for summer? Sure. Am I ready to be outsmarted by school agers? Nope. Will there be some excellent stories and plenty of 'wft??!!' moments? Yep.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Mother's Day Weekend

After our busiest week ever (read about that here), we kept things low key, while doing things we had to get done to make this week run smoothly. Last week Elizabeth received her dance costumes for her recital. This week is costume week, which means she has to attend class on Wednesday in full recital garb. After sleeping in Saturday morning, we went to the Theatrical Shop for new tights, tap shoes, make up, etc. I treated the kids to Big Acai Bowls and we checked out the little shops in Valley Junction. We even got our grocery shopping done just in time to have a Mother's Day dinner with my parents.

The highlight of my week was discovering what my child had drawn for art class. I consider it a win when I can end a week and begin a weekend knowing that I'm doing something right in this whole parenting thing.

Acai, granola, chia seeds, and berries = big bowls of deliciousness. The minis loved these so much that we had to grab more chia seeds from Trader Joe's and all of the fixings for our own acai bowls.

It was chilly and damp outdoors, so we made the most of Big Acai's room with bags and space to do cartwheels.

Of course this child would manage to walk off the incredibly wide sidewalk and step in the only mud puddle on the block. Typical.

They started ball throwing inside, but we moved it outside when things got a bit too crazy. There was also basketball and soccer played.

The minis are the best card makers. Max made this for my mom: a tablet that shows Best Grandma or Mom #EVER 

My momma and me for our Mother's Day dinner.

We noticed the beautiful way the sun hit the tree tops as it went down and I went outside to capture it. Of course, I had it on selfie mode first.....Max, who was watching from the window, thought it was hilarious that I snapped a picture of myself before I corrected it. Relentless teasing and laughing from the (almost) 11 year old. If he only knew how often this happens....

Then we have Mother's Day. I bought myself flowers from Trader Joe's the day before, so I was treated to new coffee mugs, donuts (that the minis asked for, from Chu Chu donuts), sleeping in, a personalized "show" that the minis choreographed, and a walk through Water Works Parks looking for the mountain lion roaming the city (true stuff from Des Moines, Iowa).

All three of the minis did readings, sang, danced, and played instruments for me. It was quite special. I particularly loved that they chose THEIR favorite songs to dance to and sing rather than mine! 

I had many moments of extreme pride throughout the weekend. I'm fairly certain my Mother's Day gift was knowing the things I'm teaching my children: to be open minded and accepting of everyone, to get the most of out traveling, to be themselves and express themselves, do the things that make them happy. These things made me enjoy their show even more.

In all truthfulness, my favorite part of the morning was Elizabeth trying to put the guitar in her doll Tenney's hand. It wouldn't fit, so Matt suggested trying it in the doll's other hand. She set the guitar in the other hand and let it slide through. She then made a wonderful face with wide eyes and said "see!!??!" with a tone. Between the look she gave and her tone, she may as well have told her dad, "you dumbass that doesn't work." I died as I tried to stifle my laughter.

One of my many pieces of jewelry they made me.

I had no idea they had a close idea how to square dance and do something that resembled an Irish jig.

New mugs. A comically gigantic mug (that I turned into a flower vase because nobody needs that much coffee, not even me!) and a Super Mom mug.

It was a cool and wet day, so that kind of limited our activities for the day. I had really wanted a hike, but I settled for Water Works Park. As you may have heard, there's a mountain lion making it's way through Des Moines and has been spotted numerous times. Harrison (the middle mini) requested that we go on a mountain lion hunt, or as he said "I don't want to kill it or get it or anything. I just want to see it with my very own eyes. No cages or leashes or anything. But I don't want it to see me!" I love that my minis have a sense of adventure and I love that I'm able (and willing) to say yes to every little adventure I can. 
The plan was to walk on the (paved) bike path so we didn't have to deal with muddy shoes. Of course, that didn't last long. Almost instantly the youngest mini went off the path and lead us through the mud. This doesn't surprise me in the least.

"Oh my god! Mountain lion prints!" - Harrison. 

The boys wore the headsets to talk to each other and "headquarters" in case we came across the mountain lion. Those pipe cleaner headsets would have come in handy then!

Our fearless leader. I'd love to plan a trip to the Grand Canyon soon(ish) but I have serious concerns about her running, twirling, skipping off the edge!

"Mom! Mom! Is that the mountain lion or a log?" Just a log.

Skippin' rocks in the river by the railroad tracks. 

My greatest surprise of the day came as we were leaving Water Works Park. A mom and her two children walked up to me with their arms full of flowers and offered me one. They said she wanted to spend her Mother's Day giving other's a smile. It sure made me smile more!

Mom's choice for an early family dinner was taco pizza (turns out the minis LOVE Casey's taco pizza) and a nap on the couch while Hubs took care of showers for the minis.

We usually travel on or around Mother's Day (hey, it's mom's choice and I'll likely always choose to travel), but since we have our big summer road trip at the end of next month, I didn't want to take anymore time off. It might not have been one of our ultimate road trip weekends, but our mountain lion "hunt" made it more than adventurous!

Monday, May 13, 2019

Bug Week

We got our ladybug kit from Insect Lore and continue to watch the larvae turn into ladybugs. Harrison (the middle mini) also got use of his bug playground. He and a friend went into the front yard one afternoon after school and caught a few boxelder bugs. Surprisingly, those bugs are still alive. The kids love "getting the bugs down" (they're not allowed to pick the bugs up, so I put them down on the table for the kids to get a closer look multiple times a day) and watching them crawl around. The middle mini is also the one in charge of feeding the bugs in the afternoons. We had a few close calls, but no bugs have gotten loose in the house (so far).

Here's the deal: I plan activities/themes/programming for both daycare and the Des Moines Children's Museum. Many times you see themes, such as bug week, coincide because, why not make things easier on myself? Bug Week at daycare was a success! The kids had fun with it, although we weren't able to go outdoors and "hunt" for bugs due to cold and rainy weather. However, we saved all of our bug catching supplies for summer, so I see many days in the backyard putting the nets and bug playgrounds to use.

Our essentials for the week: bug figurines, a bug sorting kit, ladybugs, bug books, and plenty of sensory activities to go along with it.

I had hoped to find a play beehive or make one using paper. Neither worked out, so I set up a building station where kids could build there own beehives using waffle blocks. The preschoolers enjoyed "making homes for the bees" all week long. The hardest part was leaving the bees and blocks on the table during clean up time.....because not putting it away on a shelf or in it's box meant it wasn't really clean! At least I know they know how to clean up well!

Our bug sorting kit is always popular (many times they pull it out and play it like a game at the table). I love making it difficult and putting the bugs in black beans, hiding them/burying them, and then the kids use the scoops to find them all. The ants take them the longest to find because they blend it so well with the black beans! This one can keep four kids busy all day!

Bug printing with homemade play dough was a favorite and turned into two days of sensory fun. The activity started as bug printing, but ended with the kids hiding the bugs in balls of play dough and then digging for them in the play dough or by "having them make their escape," which means smashing the ball of dough until the bugs are free.

Even the baby got into bug week by having bug books read to him by the older kids.

Hand print spiders for our craft. No one was big on the black paint used because it was hard to get off of their hands (or so they said).

I thought baking soda "snow" and bugs would be the hit sensory activity for the week. It wasn't, but the kids did get in about a half hour of digging through the "snow" to find the buried bugs. When they were done digging, I re-buried the bugs and got out vinegar and droppers. The idea was for the kids to use the vinegar to "melt" away the baking soda. They were kind of into and kind of be fair, we've done a lot with baking soda and vinegar in the past so it's nothing new to them.

We played a few (hundred) rounds of find the lady bug. It's your typical kids hide their eyes in the living room while I (or a big kid if they're around) hide a random thing (this time it was a ladybug because, hello, bug week), then the kids come rushing in to find it. The kids LOVE this game and constantly ask to play it.

The school age kids spent some time collecting bugs. While they were out there collecting bugs/shooting hoops, I heard panicked cries. I rushed out and they exclaimed a baby bird fell from the tree. Well, not only did it fall, but it fell while in its egg and plopped out of the egg when it hit the ground. I scooped the (now dead) baby bird up and put it in the trash and tried to wipe up the egg remnants as best I could. The boys drew where the baby bird landed to commemorate. 

I once did theme days, but those seem to move a bit too fast for the group of kiddos I have. They like to take their time and play with things. Theme weeks seem to be the way to go, plus it's much less pressure on myself! I'll likely continue to do theme weeks instead of days through the summer. Up next is flowers week, ice cream week, and building week.

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Busiest Week In The Books

The minis posing with the all school mural in the school yard. Also the best picture I could get of all three.

The end of the school year means attending A LOT of school functions. Kids get to show off the things they've learned all year long, there's meetings for next school year, end of the year parties, activities.....needless to say, it's easy to get overwhelmed this time of the year with just the kid's schedule. Add in my own craziness (that just happened to fall in the same week as the mini's craziness) and you've got a recipe for a potential stressful week. 

Thankfully, I was able to keep my head on straight, pace everyone, and do as much as possible.

The minis had TWO Fine Arts Nights at school: one for the lower grades and one for the upper grades. Since we have a first, third, and fifth grader, we got to attend both nights. I loved hearing the songs the teacher chose so they could demonstrate what they learned all year in music class. Then we got to see the school art show, where every child had a few pieces showcased. Again, I loved to see what they worked on all year long. Middle of the week was costume night at dance, where we get a glimpse at how crazy recital week is. The biggest thing of the week was Middle School Orientation (which I completely forgot about and forgot to put on our calendar, so we had to scramble Monday night to make our schedules work so we could attend). On top of all this, and our regular jobs, I had meetings or writing assignments to complete after all activities. How we all didn't collapse when Friday night rolled around is beyond me!

Elizabeth and her stars.

Each student in the school colored a feather for this art display.

Harrison got to sing Yellow Submarine. Elizabeth sang right along with the third graders as she sat in the audience!

Thankfully the minis got to bring all of their art pieces home at the end of the week. I was able to thoroughly look at them and read their descriptions. That turned out to be my favorite part of the week (I'll explain later in the post).

The look I got when I asked for a picture of all three.... I also didn't get one family picture or one picture with the kids and I. 

Dance costumes have arrived! There were tears about her ballet costume (on the right) because it has pants with it and Elizabeth doesn't feel pants are "very much like ballet. They're weird." She's petitioning to cut them off.

Due to scheduling issues, I missed out on middle school orientation. I sent Hubs and Max (future middler schooler in just two weeks) with a mission for two things: to gather all of the important info and to take a picture in front of the school sign. The failed on the second one so I had to settle for a picture with his new school magnet. When this school year began, I was dreading the end of elementary school days. Now I'm beyond excited for him and the next adventure!

Daycare was busy too, with bug week and making Mother's Day gifts.

Friday night, long after the minis went to bed, I thoroughly looked at their drawings they brought home. First, we'll go with the top picture drawn by the middle mini. It's entitled My Family. The description is: this is my fake family who I love so much. Ask me about them. So, I did. What we have is a family of such diversity (Jamaican grandparents and dad, Asian sisters and mom, three white but actually Mexican sisters (straight from his mouth), and one Jewish brother). My first reaction is "where does he get this from??" Then my heart was bursting with pride. I have always raised my children to be open, to love everyone, and accepting of all walks of life. It's always amazing to see how my own teachings making an impact. The fact that he doesn't think twice and fully accepts this could be a family makes me so happy. Race, religion, or anything else makes no difference to this kid and I couldn't be prouder of him.

The middle mini also drew this picture of stars in Oklahoma. Next month we leave for our longest road trip to date: 18 days through Ohio, West Virginia, DC, Maryland, Delaware, and Pennsylvania. There's been many, many "oh my gosh, should we really do this??" moments as it nears. On top of  this, we also made more travel plans as we received the school calendar for next year, so there were even more moments of "how insane are we?" But, as I read the description of the stars he drew, I remembered why we travel whenever we can. Much like the picture of diversity this kid drew, I have always vowed to give my children experiences, adventures, and to find happiness in the little things. In two pictures, one of my children showed me that I'm not completely failing. I am giving them everything I wanted. At the end of a busy week, this was what I need most.