Thursday, April 29, 2021

9 Thursday Favorites


The weather this week has been superb, making for lots of play time outside!

I realized today that there's been a lot of new loves this week. Between adding an infant to the daycare mix, prepping for an epic road trip, and that final stretch of homeschool, it's been a BUSY week. Here are the things that have made my life a little bit easier and better this week: 

1.) I live in flip flops. All year long. I treated myself to new flip flops. Not any flip flops: Crocs flip flops. Hear me out on this. Crocs are easy on the feet, they don't look terrible, they're waterproof, and they hold up really well. I went basic with my new purchases, so they can go with anything and everything. You can never go wrong with white flip flops and black strappy sandals.

2.) I decided I needed multiple wrap carriers for the new daycare baby, since I need to be on the go all day long. Not only do I have my trusty K'Tan, but I also purchased an Acrabros wrap carrier and I'm in love. The Acrabros is stretchier and a thinner fabric, which is perfect for those long four hour naps baby likes to take while I wrangle the others for their naps! Both wraps are easily washable and so far, the fabrics haven't worn down in either.

3.) I've had this Scoop A Bug set for a few years and it never gets old. Especially when I put the bugs in a sensory bin with black beans. The kids keep busy searching for the bugs in the beans, scooping them up, sorting them, hiding them again in the beans, and then starting over. It's been hours of entertainment for them for the last two weeks.

4.) What screams it's spring? Neon paint. Crayola Neon is my favorite. We've painted Mother's Day gifts with it. We've done driveway painting with it. We've window painted with it. It's bright, colorful, and washable.

5.)  Pizza night is a thing at our house. It usually happens every week or two. This week I wanted something a bit different. We took a chance with this Pizza In A Bowl recipe and it was a hit! We subbed the ground beef for spicy Italian sausage, no cream of mushroom soup, and added black olives and green peppers. 

6.) In case you weren't aware of our tick run-in last weekend (read about that mess here), we were in HIGH cleaning mode on Sunday. We took our Highlander to Mister Car Wash for a thorough cleaning inside and out. We were extremely pleased with the results. Plus, it kept our Sunday free because if we would have done it ourselves, we would have spent a few hours on it!

7.) The Handmaid's Tale season 4 has been long awaited. I've happily binge watched the first couple of episodes with hopes that I'll have time this weekend (in between packing) to watch the rest of the available episodes.

8.) When life gets crazy, I look for things that calm me. This week I'm listening to the Acoustic Covers playlist on Amazon Music. I dig it.

9.) What happens when it's discovered that a ?? year old bouncy seat stops working mid-day? Simply order a new one from Target and have a new one at my front door within two hours. I splurged on a one year subscription to Shipt and so far, it's proven very useful. I don't have the option of simply leaving the house when I need something and my evenings are pretty packed these days (thanks to homeschooling). This delivery service is wonderful for this wahm.

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Wind Chimes Are Not The Craft For Daycares

Every so often, I do a project or an activity and halfway through I think, "what the hell was I thinking??!!?" I had one of those moments yesterday. Since my family and I will be gone later next week, we're working on Mother's Day gifts  at daycare this week. I ordered mini wind chimes from Oriental Trading, thinking, 'these are adorable! This will be perfect!" I didn't once think about how freaking HARD it would be for the kids to paint these damn chimes!

The directions on the chimes: ages 3+. Do not paint string or chimes themselves. 

I thought we had it. I really did. But we quickly realized there was no way to paint these successfully without getting paint on the strings and chimes. It mostly just meant I spent my morning repeating, "stop touching the silver part with paint on your hands." "Don't wrap the string around your finger to make it curly." "Do not swing your chime with wet paint all over it please." I needed a drink after that craft!

Luckily, the chimes still seem to work, despite being covered in paint. Next year, I'll go with the cutesy hand print whatever or a bottle of wine before attempting to paint wind chimes with toddlers and preschoolers. 

2 State Parks And A Lot of Ticks

After years of hiking, after all the places we've hiked, last weekend was the first time we've encountered ticks. Leave it to Shimek State Forest to give us that "wonderful" experience. Our adventure Saturday didn't disappoint, giving us many first experiences. We hiked at Shimek State Forest, learned history at the Battle of Athens Historical Site (read about that here), and hiked at Lacey Keosauqua State Park. 

We started the day celebrating our pup's first birthday, then beginning the trek (it's a three hour drive from the metro) to Shimek State Forest. The dog with car anxiety was NOT impressed with the drive. We had to switch places halfway through the drive. I sat next to him, whispering words of encouragement in his ears, while his nose touched the oldest mini up in the front seat. There's never a dull moment with us!

Truth be told, we got a bit lost finding the trail we wanted. We first went to the wrong forest unit and had to drive around a town to get to the correct unit. Of course, it took twice as long due to road closures. So, by the time we got out of the car, we just wanted out. It was only about halfway through the trail that I realized this trail SUCKS.

We did the 4.1 mile long Shimek Forest Trail. The trail started off fine, but quickly turned into a mess. The trails aren't well marked (so it's easy to get off course). Luckily, we had good cell reception, so we were able to track where to go via GPS. While the trail(s) seemed to be maintained, they're only partly maintained. There's a lot of thorny vine overgrowth that killed my legs. There were a lot of hidden sticks under leaves. It was one of those where we'd step on a stick, thinking it was a small twig, only to have half of a branch rise up and knock us in the legs. Our legs all took a beating. The trail was partly shaded, but other than a small creek, there's a lot of stagnat water to watch out for (especially if you have pets who are driven towards any kind of water). 

The dog pulled the oldest into a lake along the trail. The oldest was NOT pleased about it. There was a minor meltdown to deal with and the dog who didn't understand why he couldn't go swimming.

We learned after our visit that this place almost became a National Forest due to these unique grove of pine trees. This is the only place in Iowa to have them.

It wasn't until near the end of the trail (the last half mile, I would say), that I notice a tick fall from a tree. We failed to put on bug spray because we hadn't needed it quite yet. I remember thinking, "oh shit." Oh shit was right. As we piled into the car, got drinks of water, and settled into drive to our next stop, the middle mini announced, "mom, I have a spider on me. It's small and it's not dying." Yep, we had tiny ticks crawling all over us. We even shook ourselves off before getting into the car. 

We changed clothes, shook ourselves off again, but we still found ticks crawling around the car every once in awhile. I was NOT amused. But we kept on with our day. After the Battle of Athens Historic Site, we took in the sunset at Lacey Keosauqua State Park by hiking 2 miles of the River Trail. This park was gorgeous! I almost wish we had skipped the forest and spent our days at the Historic site and Lacey Keosauqua. We could have easily done the entire River Trail at that Park!

We took a drive through the park because it was beautiful! The gate house was a neat feature (and has it's own trail, that also connects to longer trails). This Park also has cabins and a nice camping area that are on the other side of the park.

The coolest natural bridge area. This looks to be a small waterfall when there's water in the creek, but the creek was dry.

A stop at Sonic was needed to make it through the last few hours of the day because the real "fun" happened when we returned home. Since we knew there were ticks in the car with us, we took every precaution we could. We bagged EVERYTHING in the car, we took our clothes off in the breezeway (and bagged them), and showered right away. Then we thoroughly checked each child (and ourselves) out for ticks. When everyone was cleared (only Hubs had one on him and we found a couple of dead ticks on the dog the next morning), we began the tedious job of cleaning out all of the clothes, items from the car, back packs, etc. We tumble dried anything we could first, then washed everything in hot water, then another run through the dryer. Whatever we couldn't get to that night, we bagged and left outdoors overnight. Miraculously we found none! But between late Saturday night and Sunday afternoon, I did a dozen loads of laundry. 

It wasn't the greatest end to an adventure day, but it was still a great day! And we got practice in how to deal with ticks, just in case. Of course, now we're dealing with minis who see a speck of dust and screech, "is that a tick??!!?" So that's what Saturday taught us.

Monday, April 26, 2021

Will Zooms Stick Around?


Picture from another meeting (one I actually dressed for) in the homeschool room because it has better lighting.

Another night, another Zoom call. In person meetings are a thing of the past. I love it and I hate it. I love the extra time. There's no drive time, only half of me needs to look presentable, I can get more done right up until a meeting begins, I can do a meeting on the go if needed, and my meetings tend to be shorter virtually than in person.

But there's so much that is lost in a virtual meeting. I can't make a random note on my pad of paper and have the person sitting next to me glance at it. Conversations happen much more fluidly in person rather than virtually. Half of the time someone freezers or forgets to turn their microphone on to talk (or turn is off at all) or two people start talking at the same time so no one hears anything. I've experienced all three (or four, depending on how you count it). I miss the camaraderie of holding meetings face to face. 

Although, as I sit in my pajamas, in my office, amongst my mess as we attempt at packing, the good far outweighs the bad for me. Extra time is never a bad thing and my extra time is never misused. I booked it like a bat out of hell after daycare closing time. I showered, cleaned the house, did two loads of laundry, and prepped for the next day. As soon as my meeting ended, I was able to put my minis to bed and enjoy a couple of hours of time to myself. 

I wonder if the coolness of Zoom meetings will stick around after the pandemic, making in-person meetings a thing of the past? Or will in-person meetings make a come back like the 90's on today's youth? With my calendar filled with virtual meetings in May, in-person meetings aren't quite cool again. Which means I have extra time and awkward pauses to look forward to.

Sunday, April 25, 2021

A Letter To My Dog On His First Birthday

June 27, 2020

I write my children letters each year on their special day, so why not the dog??

My Sweet, Energetic, Slightly Crazy Zeusy,

What a freaking year it's been with you! It was like having both a new baby AND an energetic toddler in one. Luckily, I have lots of practice in this area, but you still wore me out. A LOT. I wasn't 100% sure we wanted or needed a dog. I was hesitant as I put my name on a waiting list for a female black lab last January. The breeder wasn't sure she would have one for summer. I remember telling the family that if it's meant to be, it will happen and if not, then it wasn't. I'll never forget May 5, 2020. 

Not only did numerous people drop off margaritas for me, but as I was deep into margarita #2, I listened to a voicemail from a call I had missed earlier in the afternoon. The voice on the phone asked if we'd take a male black lab, ready in June. The same month as the kid's birthdays. I remember saying "yes!" with excitement. The kids cried. Saying yes was the best, one of the most expensive, one of the most time consuming, and frustrating yes I've ever given. You were so worth the wait!

You came to us a chubby, fluffy, curious boy. You quickly settled into to life, fitting in perfectly with our lifestyle, training quickly, and in a matter of days, becoming "one of the kids." You still line up at the back door with the kids whenever I ask, "who's ready for outside time?" It's quite comical. Even a year later, you're still learning what toys aren't for you, that we don't run with socks in our mouth just to get attention, and that food unattended on the dining room table isn't up for grabs. 

At 85 lbs. and still growing, you quickly learned how to escape the backyard (an invisible fence is coming to you soon) and hiking has become your favorite thing. You have car anxiety, but love to go "bye bye" in the car. You get excited when UPS pulls up in front of our house because you're convinced all packages are for you, thanks to your things being delivered from Chewy. 

This year hasn't been a complete breeze. There's been many frustrating moments, like how you like to put people's hands in your mouth so they'll pet you. But truly, the first year of your life was quite memorable. I'm not sure how the kids and I would have gotten through all of life's changes 2020 brought if we didn't have YOU, my sweet, lovable, slightly overly attached to mom, puppy. Your favorite words and phrases are cookie, pizza, crackers, hike, and "kids are here," because that means daycare kids are coming (and they're always ready to give you attention!). We're looking forward to taking you on your first epic road trip, where you'll get to experience cities, mountains, the ocean, and camping. 

We spent your first birthday hiking, eating pizza, pulling a kid into a lake with you, and mom pulling ticks off of you. It was a such a fun day! I won't ever let you forget that I pulled a (dead) tick from your butt. That's how much I love you.

We couldn't imagine doing this with any other doggo! We love you Zeus Lane Sheaffer (first name brought to you by Max, the middle name brought to you by Elizabeth). Thanks for making our life more interesting than it already was! 

Love, Mom

Pictured above: your first hike, June 2020. You walked mere steps then had to be carried. You LOVED the creek. Pictured below: your first birthday hike; April 24, 2020. You logged in 6 miles, barely slept all day until the very end, and you got yelled at for pulling a kid into the lake with you because you LOVE water. Especially creek hikes.

Day Trip To Battle of Athens Historical Site

Saturday took us to the Iowa-Missouri boarder at Shimek State Forest. Our curiosity was piqued with a historical site just over the river from where we were hiking. Since it was only minutes away we decided to check it out. The two youngest minis and I realized, as we pulled up, we had learned about this town during our Civil War unit! That made the visit extra fun and special.

Located only 2 1/2 hours from Des Moines, Iowa the town of Athens, MO is home to the Battle of Athens State Historic Site. Managed by the State Park system, this battle ground is in pristine condition, right down to the street signs that mark where the original roads were during the Civil War. The actual battle only last a few hours, but it was quite interesting to see the aftermath of that battle. In one house, you can look through the hole that the cannon made! 

Our first stop was to the open shelter (which is available to rent, but was not in use on this day) for a pizza picnic lunch. The shelter sits on the site of the former General Store. From there, we hiked a trail passed the ruins of the mill and then walked around the town, visiting each building. The buildings were locked tight, but my peeping toms (two youngest) noticed a few of the houses had a table that had masks and hand sanitizer set up, so I imagine the houses and buildings are open at some point. Not going inside wasn't a make it or break it deal for us; we had a great time regardless.

View from the shelter.

The ruins from this old house was one of their favorite things. They were able to walk around where the house once stood, on top of the pieces of brick, and really get a feel for the size of the house and what happened that day. 

The mill overlook. Across the river, you can see a white fence (that is actually in Iowa and not Missouri). That is where the depot stood (that they were trying to protect from the soldiers).

This was a very cool "find" for the day. We only visited the park's historic site. There is also a lake with activities such as boating and fishing, camping, and more hiking trails. We could have easily made an entire adventure day at this park (but we had plans on visiting one more Iowa State Park on our way home). I highly recommend if you have kids who have studied the civil war or are interested in history.