Friday, December 22, 2023

Happy Holidays


Here we are at the end of December. I have months of life to catch up on here, pictures to share, children's activities tell all about. Admittedly, life has been hectic. 2023 was quite a life changing year. We've been busy living in the moments, which hasn't left much time to go back and recap for my faithful followers. I'll get to it eventually, so I'll only apologize for my tardiness.

We took a break from traveling this year and instead focused on building our life at home and in the community.  We did fit in a couple of trips to Minnesota and a trip to St. Louis (where we totaled yet another Highlander, thus leading us back to minivan life. If you need any tips on handling insurance after an accident and navigating car buying in a terrible market, I'm your gal). It was a huge year of growth for all five of us. Hiking weekends and day trips through Iowa took a backseat to work, community events, school activities, and friends.  I went into this year expecting to take it easy, breathe, and fully immerse myself in every moment. I can say the last goal was the only one we successfully hit. 

Max, age 15. At 6'2, he's now the tallest in the family. He became heavily involved in his school's art program and most recently, theater. He performed in the fall play of The Crucible and a stage reading of The Man Who Came To Dinner. His next feat will be competing in IHSSA this winter. He began a job at the Des Moines Children's Museum over the summer, where he occasionally has to work with mom. His days are quite busy between AP courses, work, theater, painting, and hanging out with friends. 

Harrison, age 13. The big news this week is that H finally hit 5'1. Yes, there's quite a height difference in our family! This fall Harrison made his way back into the dance studio and is enjoying his tap and jazz classes. He likes to gossip and spends a lot of time with friends or on the phone with them. No, actually video calls. He's in his last year of band playing the flute. The last few weeks have been busy with choosing high school courses for next year and career planning. Overall, he's ready to be done with middle school and move onto high school.

Elizabeth, age 11. Middle school called her and she loves nearly every part of it. She's still heavily involved in dance and is currently in tap, ballet, jazz, and lyrical. When she's not dancing, you can find her watching YouTube shorts, playing her clarinet, trying new hairstyles, and putting on make up. She may be the most introverted of the minis and must have time to recharge in between socializing. She's also the most likely to get home from school, throw her back pack, and run out the door to hang out with her friends. 

Matt, we're not mentioning age. Matt is still with Cintas and chose to go back on a route over the summer. He was over his unpredictable schedules. Now, he has most Fridays off and gets to take over carpool duties.

Ashlen, age 39. Ashlen wrote a book, learned to write query letters, decided not to publish and instead made the decision to close her daycare to start a new career path. She left the Board of Directors of the Des Moines Children's Museum after six years and took a job as their Programs and Events Director. It's a place near and dear to her, so the switch from small business owner/daycare provider to wear-all-the-hats person has been a surprisingly easy adjustment. Somewhere in the middle of all that, she started a podcast (Playfully Persistent) with Julie about the Children's Museum. For the first time in her adult life, she owns more dresses and business clothes than she does sweat pants. 

Zeus, age 3; Thor, Athena, and Flora, age 1. This was a hard year for all four furry best friends. We've been battling depressed animals (Zeus) and separation anxiety (Thor and Flora) with all of the changes, but they're managing. Zeus gets extra cuddles and treats, but thoroughly misses his little friends and hiking adventures. Thor is a "mommy's boy" and follows her around everywhere. He also discovered his love for the outdoors and now cries to go outside. Athena is mischievous and Flora is forever the scaredy cat who loves her preferred people (Max, Ashlen, and sometimes Elizabeth). A few weeks ago, Ashlen was watching a video on her phone and a baby in the video started crying. All four animals woke up from their naps and ran to windows and doors, looking alarmed. Zeus and Thor went right to Ashlen and tried to alert her to the crying child. We think they will forever be "daycare animals." All of the changes have hit them the hardest.

As the year draws to a close, I think about all that has happened: the good, the bad, the really bad, the challenging, the fears, the unknowns, and everything I can't remember. They've all been felt, they've all been conquered, and they've all made us better. Thank you to those who add to our lives, who have been in our lives the last year, who played a role in our story. We are lucky and feel the love from each one of you. 

Happy Holidays to all!

The Sheaffers

Monday, October 9, 2023



June is on par with December for us. All three minis have birthdays, there's the big dance recital, and the start of summer vacation. This June was no different, except it marked the beginning of the last summer of daycare. I made sure to plan all of their favorite activities, so every day in June was something different. 

Somehow, the pictures uploaded all out of order, but it seems to fit our lifestyle: a little special, a lot of crazy and fun, and the special moments documented as well as possible.

Cuddles on the couch. I love that she still wants hugs, kisses, and cuddles from us.

I took two days off to help with the summer camps I planned at the Museum. I laughed when I saw these papers spread all around the floor for body tracing.

I have a variety of drinks going throughout the day: water and then I alternate between Body Armor, Coke, tea, and/or coffee.

A few summers ago we did a Festivals Around The World theme. One of their favorites from that summer was Holi Festival (pronounced Holy, which I just found out this summer after pronouncing it Holly for years), so naturally, we had to have ourselves another Holi Festival. 

Plenty of board games were played all summer long. Their favorites: Sorry!, Just One, Ticket to Ride, Taco Cat Goat Cheese Pizza, and Cards Against Humanity Family Edition.

We finally used up another bag of dirt from Craters of Diamonds State Park from our visit back in 2016. No diamonds were discovered, but the kids spent an entire day sifting through the dirt, cleaning small pebbles and asking if I thought it could be a diamond.

Two cousins walking through grandma's yard.

We took a hike around Purple Martin Lake. It was a very serene scene, minus the ticks and the gopher that tried to pop up out of the dirt on us! The dog was also not thrilled that this was not a swimming lake.

The two middle schoolers are big into "trying this thing we saw on YouTube shorts," which led us to trying ramen mac and cheese.

We pretty much went to the Art Festival to eat and then look at the art booths. I tried a Climbing Kites for the first time (delicious and did wonders to calm me down for the night), but not without controversy. The minis obviously saw me drinking this and the youngest judged me hard, telling me I'm probably going to be arrested for drinking this legal drink (that half of the other visitors of the festival were also drinking). Ahhh, life with teens is F.U.N.

I ran a station at a Climb Out of the Darkness event and made a bunch of sensory bins for the Museum's Sensory Sensitive Night.

Pizza Day with fake pizza toppings.

The kids celebrated their birthday with neighbors. It also started by summer love affair with Simply Spiked drinks.

"We're just doing make up tutorials, please get out." I heard this all summer long, but it was so innocent and sweet, I couldn't get mad about it.

Bubbles Day.

I told the oldest to get away from his phone and computer and to make something. I was more irritated than I should have been about it and then the joke was on me because he walked out of his room 20 minutes later and had made two paintings like this.

I have no clue what they were making, but we baked a lot of cookies over the summer.

Play dough and the Floor Is Lava, the only game where it's acceptable to stand on the furniture.

Ice cream nuggets from Black Cat were amazing.

Lots of summer movies at Flix Brewhouse

Our summer was busy, busy. There were several late night pizza orders and on this night, a late night McDonald's drive thru after one of two dance recitals. The minis once again had me laughing when they showed me this "hack" for holding your food and being able to drink your soda.

The youngest did absolutely amazing at her recitals! We were beyond impressed with her abilities. On the second night, the middle mini decided he wanted to catch the show. By intermission, he had decided to return to dance in the fall to further his jazz and tap skills. Usually, when this kid makes up his mind about something, he sticks to it, so I was beyond proud of his ability to say yes to this again.

Due to the recital days and times, I had to take full days off for rehearsals and such. We've made it a tradition that the morning of rehearsal and recital days, the minis and I have a special Mom and Minis Morning Out. On this day, we sipped coffee flights at Blue Bean, ran through fountains at Johnston splash pad, and grabbed a Nashville Hot sandwich from Charlotte's Kitchen. All super fun and all highly recommended.

First we played, then this one worked and I watched in awe of her. She also had me laughing when she walked through the skywalk in tights with not a care in the world. Love this girl of mine!

Everyone was thrilled to learn our Universal Yums boxes were back for the summer!

The new water slide was a hit!

I was gifted cacti for a belated Mother's Day. I've wanted cacti, but I did not plan on the kittens playing with them!

As seen on Tik Tok: seeing if you can eat a McDonald's cheeseburger in one bite. Only one of us could, but we all had fun trying. In case it wasn't evident, my summer was filled with weird Tik Tok challenges and "tries."

Tie dye pillowcases. They did not turn out and hold color, but we made use of these pillowcases later on in the summer.

My sweet kitten, Thor, discovered animal documentaries and now he watched them with me. So far, there have been no reported cat attacks on the TV.

A good game of mini golf for the minis (and Hubs) while the dog and I hiked. Everyone walked away happy.

Dad snuggles and kitten mews while eating.

These three got o celebrate their birthday's with my mom's side of the family.

A movie in the backyard and sack lunches inside because no one wanted to deal with flies and bees on their food.

A wicked Nerf battle.

Slime making was a huge hit.

Naturally, the minis asked to test out the new water slide before we used it for daycare. I helped them set it up, then I left them to it. After an hour, I looked in the backyard and noticed the neighbor friends had joined in on their fun. I finally had to call them in after three hours of nonstop water running and fun.

I let the kids throw water balloons at me and cover me in Silly String. I had just as much fun as the kids with it, minus the Silly String going inside of my ear!

Donut Day gave everyone plenty of sugar.

Family swim night.

We took the kids furniture shopping and they found many things we "absolutely need."

An evening playing, swimming, and relaxing at Big Creek State Park.

Our new fave place to grab Mexican: Fiesta!

A new one for me: planning an exhibit and making sure it's at the multi-day event. The Principal Charity Classic was a fun one!

The youngest graduated from elementary school.

The kids above are giving off album cover vibes after our Holi celebration.

Ecuadorian food is amazing.

Those pillowcases would have been awesome if they had turned out.

Sensory activities are always a hit for all ages.

Father's Day.

Zeus patiently waited for a piece of popcorn to be offered to him or dropped. If neither happened, he was ready to just take it!