What I Learned From a Drawing of Poop

Sometimes I get kind of caught up in the stuff of a day. The endless repetitive tasks that moms do. The routine. You know.

Make breakfast. Clean up breakfast. Get everyone dressed. Make beds. Do school for a while. Serve snack. Clean up snack. Do more school. Clean something. Make lunch. Clean up lunch. Get little girls down for naps. Do more school with big girl. . . And so forth. Every. Day.

I can get caught in the routine and overly focused on getting the job done. Or overly focused on making sure that my girls use their manners or learn XYZ lesson. I want to raise my kids to be thoughtful, generous, kind, grateful, faithful, well-spoken women. There’s a bit of pressure there, so sometimes I just put my head down and plod forward, toward achieving the goal.

But when I do it that way, it’s not always very fun.

“Please chew with your mouth closed.”

“We don’t use potty talk!”

“Please use your strong words if there is something you need.”

Over and over and over.


Right before snapping the above photo, at the end of our field trip last Friday, I sounded like this while trying to wipe mud off the pumpkins so the girls could hold them to pose for a picture:

“Come here please. Stop dropping the pumpkins. Don’t climb in the wheelbarrow. Don’t touch that stem, I told you it has prickles on it. Get over here please. Okay, hold the pumpkins and look at me. Nevermind, that one’s too heavy. Just sit and face me. Turn this way. No. This way. Please. Just sit by your pumpkin and let me take your picture to show how. much. FUN. we’ve. had!!!”

We really did have a good time. Pony-riding, cow-milking, pig-petting. . .

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Some of my favorite moments:

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And then there was the goose-chasing. Oh my goodness. The hilarity.

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Miss wanted to try to sneak, but her sisters don’t have an ounce of stealth between them.



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They screamed. They ran (the poor geese). We all laughed and laughed and laughed.

You know, when I remember to do it, that’s one of my favorite parts about being a mom. The laughing. My kids are really funny sometimes.

Last night was a good example of one of those moments when you just have to let the lesson pass you by, skip the moral of the story, and just laugh your head off with your kids.

Picture it. Last night. Bed time. We were all piled on Miss’s bed for prayers and stories. My husband picked up a “book” Miss had written and we caught a glimpse of the back cover of it, on which she had written, “Poop.”

Miss grabbed the book and slammed it down on the bed. She did not want us to see what it said. Neither my husband nor I were angry or scolding, but he asked her why she had written that randomly on the back of her book (which was not about poop). She stammered uncertainly for a second. Then my husband picked up the book again, and we got a good look at the back, writing, drawing, and all. I’m not one for bathroom humor, but I just lost it.


Any thought of having a little teaching moment about using potty words gratuitously or whatever went right out the window.

All five of us sat on Miss’s bed and howled with laughter at her word and her drawing. The silliness. The absurdity. The drawing!

Teaching moment missed. Hilarious family bonding moment embraced. I say that’s a win.

And I was the one who learned a lesson.

Homeschooling is Going Quite Well, Thanks for Asking

Many people have asked me about how our first few weeks of homeschooling have been going. The answer is they have been going mostly very well. We’ve already taken several field trips, and Five in a Row has been the perfect curriculum for us to start with. We’ve covered “The Storm in the Night,” “The Story About Ping,” “Lentil,” and “Madeline” so far.

When we were reading “The Story About Ping” (which is about a duck in China) we took a field trip to a Chinese restaurant to try a new type of food and also to experiment with eating with chopsticks (yes, going out to lunch can be called a field trip when you homeschool).

Chopsticks collage

The next day we learned about how ducks keep their wings dry, doing an experiment with oil and water.

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And then we took another field trip.

IMG_3631 IMG_3639 IMG_3654This time we shared our lunch with a mama duck and her babies. Field trips are my favorite.

When we read “Lentil” we learned about different tastes (in the story there is a character who makes everyone pucker by sucking loudly on a lemon).

DSC_0011Sweet brown sugar, bitter cocoa powder, salty uh, salt, and sour lemons.


Of course, then we made lemonade,


which also counted toward gym time, they were working so hard.


This week with Madeline we didn’t do much photo-worthy stuff. Other than ice-painting French flags.

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We’re taking another field trip tomorrow to a local farm. It has nothing to do with our book this week, but it’s a place with pony-riding and cow-milking and chicken-chasing, and I want to go before the regular school kids start taking their field trips. And as much as I sometimes want it to, not every thing we do is always going to fit with our book or our theme of the week. I’m cool with that. And field trips are my favorite.

The girls are also (mostly) enjoying our reading curriculum, All About Reading. It’s a good fit for us, because we’re pretty much all about reading around here these days.

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The jury is still out on our math curriculum, Math U See. It’s fine, but I don’t love it, and neither does Miss. I’ve been eyeing some Life of Fred books, but I’m not quite willing to bail on our current plan. Yet.

I have bailed out on some other things that I bought out of early excitement and over-eagerness to get all the things and start teaching my kids with Catholic Stuff! I bought a bunch of workbooks from Seton Home Study School, and they just aren’t a good fit for us. Other than the handwriting book, I’m not using any of them right now.

Art, science, and social studies are mostly rolled into our FIAR work. I’m winging it on religion, knowing that Miss is getting some back up teaching in her regular school time. Right now we’re memorizing the Ten Commandments (I don’t know them by heart myself), and we celebrate various feast days, read about saints, and talk about the Mass. There is also a Bible component of FIAR that we do, which includes verses and stories that are relevant to our book for the week. I think were doing pretty good there.

I try to have Miss do a little bit of computer time here and there using PBS Kids Play or ABC Mouse. She gets music class at her regular school and she takes piano lessons. Gym is not systematic at all at this point. It’s running around the couch and playing outside and going to soccer once a week. And foreign language has not made it into the line up at all yet. I have a Spanish program for them, but I haven’t used it.

We still have some tweaking to do, but I’m very happy with how our homeschool is coming together so far.

Next week we’re reading “A Pair of Red Clogs.” It’s set in Japan. I see a field trip to the hibachi restaurant in our very near future.

7QT, Theme Thursday, All in One

Linking with Jen and Cari today.


Cari’s Theme Thursday this week was “Google Image Search.” Easy – type your own name into Google Images and share the first image of you that comes up. Except that I am kind of crazy paranoid about keeping myself and my family somewhat anonymous on the internet. I don’t use my last name here on the blog, I don’t use my kids’ real names, etc. Add that to the fact that my last name is super generic (think Jones), and I end up with a Google image search in which not one of the photos that shows up is of me. Not. One. I would have done a screen shot of the images that did show up, but I have no idea how to do that, so here are a few samples.

^^ Not me (that’s Amy Grant in case you couldn’t tell)

^^ Also not me (that’s Amy Lee from Evanescence)

^^ Yeah, not me either (Amy Smart?)

Anyway, you get the idea. There were tons of photos that came up of people who actually do have the same name as me, but I didn’t want to put some random person’s pic on here without her permission, so these are a few of the celebs that came up.

Apparently, as far as the internet is concerned, I don’t really exist. I’m cool with that.

To see other people’s actual pictures of themselves from Google image searches, check out Cari’s Theme Thursday link here.


We started homeschooling this past week. This is earlier than I wanted to, but Miss will be starting her part-time kindergarten next week, and for the first week she’s going to go for three full days so she can get into the classroom groove and get to know the other kids. I wanted her to get a foundation of school at home before doing that, so I began before I was entirely prepared.

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It’s been a little crazy. I’m not in a groove yet. I haven’t gotten things worked out so that I can work with Miss and keep the others occupied and still be able to do a little bit of one-on-one work with Lass. I don’t know what the heck I’m doing.


^^ She doesn’t use a binkie, she just found that and decided it was nice to chew on ^^

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I will say that, though it has been a little crazy, I’m pleased overall with how the week went. Miss is begging for more of her reading lessons. The girls learned some fun stuff, like what onomatopoeia and personalization are (thanks, FIAR). They had fun coming up with examples of these. We did some cool art. We went on our first field trip.



The field trip was to a place called Bookworm Gardens. All of the different areas at these gardens are based on different children’s books. They even have little cubbies all around the gardens with the books in them, laminated, so you can read them while you explore.


^^ Goldilocks and the Three Bears


^^ Little House on the Prairie


^^ Horton Hatches the Egg


You get the idea.

I thought it wouldn’t be crowded, since school groups aren’t taking field trips yet. I failed to realize that, since most schools haven’t even started yet, the summer daycare programs are ending, and they’re taking field trips. The place was packed.

We had plenty of fun anyway.



In addition to having to prepare for doing my own schooling with the girls at home, I’ve had to get Miss’s stuff ready for her part-time Kindergarten too.


Which means a lot of labeling. Her teacher wants everything labeled. Each crayon. Each marker. Each colored pencil. That’s a lot of labeling. Super Friend did this last year, and she recommended her handy dandy label maker machine.


Which really is quite handy dandy. Except the labels aren’t quite as sticky as they’d need to be to stay on curved objects, like crayons and markers. I stayed up late Sunday night and got all of the items labeled. When I went to show Miss her stuff the next day, I found that on the 108 crayons, 20 skinny markers, and 10 colored pencils, the labels didn’t stay.


I panicked for a moment, and then resorted to the obvious solution. Scotch tape.

DSC_0170I went back and taped over every one of those suckers.

When I took Miss to meet her teacher and drop off her supplies in her classroom she said to her teacher, “My Mom was really smart, because she put my name on all of my things.”

Worth it.


Speaking of taking her to meet her teacher, the open house for her school was on Thursday. She got her school pictures taken.

IMG_3498She looks so grown up, and so tiny, at the same time. Look at her little feet dangling. I could cry.


We had a birthday party today.


A little girl who really loves animals is turning four tomorrow.


Naturally, we had her party at the zoo.

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We had just enough time to play on the playground for a bit and see all the animals before it started to pour. Between them running out from under the covered areas to get wet on purpose, jumping in puddles, and needing to make a mad dash through the rain to the car, we had some wet kids when it was all over.


I suspect the rain and puddles were one of the highlights of the party for them.


After much deliberation, prayer, and checking (and rechecking) with my husband to be sure he’s okay with it, I have decided to become a sponsor for the RCIA program at my parish this year. The first class is September 8th. I can’t wait.

For more quick takes (probably much quicker than these!), check out Conversion Diary.

7 Quick Takes – Evidence of Summer Fun and a Couple of Other Random Thoughts

Linking up with Jen.

1. I have been a little off the past few weeks. I’ve wanted to write more, but nothing I’ve come up with has been right. I’m starting to feel like getting back in the swing, so I thought I’d start by sharing that, though I have had some rough days, we’ve still been having a fun summer. Presenting, five Quick Takes with photographic evidence of summer fun:

2. Last week we went raspberry picking.

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Miss was all about getting as many raspberries as possible so we could make fresh raspberry smoothies for breakfast the following morning (which were awful, by the way). The other two were not super motivated, but I think they still had fun. Either way, they got a special treat afterwards.

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I let them have just ice cream for lunch. They were thrilled and thought I was the best mom ever. I didn’t have to make them anything to eat. Win, win.

3. We went shopping for soccer shoes over the weekend. I realized how infrequently (i.e. never) I take the girls to a mall. They were ooh-ing and aah-ing over everything they saw, from kiosks with funky paper light fixtures to the mannequin displays in all of the store front windows. They even had a lot of fun with some president statues outside the mall entrance.


It might have been a tad over the top, how proud I was that they could identify George Washington and Abraham Lincoln by themselves.

4. We’ve had a few cookouts with friends. I already mentioned our first one on the 4th of July. We had another with homemade grilled pizza, s’mores, and movie night (and some trampolining in pajamas):


^^ The chef with his delicious pizzas ^^

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and another time with my husband’s grilled ribs, baked beans, and fritters (all homemade), an airshow overhead, homemade ice cream (my sole contribution), and a movie night:

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^^ We set the kids’ tables in the yard so they could see the Thunderbirds overhead ^^


My husband loves to grill, especially for company. I love to let him. Win, win.

5. We had a picnic in the downtown square. We listened to live music and danced in the grass.

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We played in the fountain.

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Summer fun, right there ^^

6. This week we are at the Farm. Always a lot of summer fun to be had here. Yesterday my husband caught a bunch of shad and let the girls play with some on the beach. They were entertained for hours. It was sort of odd and quite fun to watch.



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7. And in news not related to summer shenanigans, I finally updated my “About Me” page. I am not entirely sure that it’s finished, but it has been changed quite a bit and I like it so far. What do you think?

For more Quick Takes, see Conversion Diary.

I’m in a Blogging Slump, BUT – Iowa State Fair!

Oh, the Iowa State Fair. I have such a love for something that is only mine through marriage. I grew up in Michigan and never once went to the state fair. The only thing I even knew about the Michigan State Fair was that there was a Hog-Calling Contest there, and only that because my cousin won it at least once.

And as much as I love living in Wisconsin, I wasn’t terribly impressed by our fair, which I went to only once, the first year we lived there (I say “there,” because I’m currently typing in Missouri). I had no real understanding of the wonders of the state fair until the summer of 2009, when I went to the Iowa State Fair for the first time when Miss was about six months old.


Even then, I didn’t quite grasp the Fair fabulousness until taking my kids when they got a little older. We’ve gone for the past three years now, and I so love walking the streets of the fairgrounds, taking in all the sights and smells, and hearing all the stories from my husband and in-laws of fairs gone by. It makes me feel like I have a bit of claim to such a wonderful tradition, even though I’m a true city girl who has always been quite in awe of the fact that people grow vegetables and animals in order to show them and be judged on them at the Fair. It’s bizarre. And I love it.


So, this year was much the same as always. We have a few Fair things that are must-sees and must-dos and must-eats. By the time we get done with those, we’re about ready to be done for the day. This year was no exception. As usual, we started in the baby animals barn.

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^^ No, we weren’t at the Creepy Perv Fair. The sign on the cage got cut off when I snapped this pic. The top line said, “For My Health, Don’t”

The girls got to see newborn piglets nursing from their momma, and some cute baby ostriches, and a calf being born on the overhead screens. This is always one of our favorite parts of the Fair.

Naturally, the next thing we did was to eat something yummy on a stick.

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And then find something homegrown and absurdly large to pose with for a photo


^^ That’s an 1,131 pound pumpkin.

We went to the Avenue of Breeds barn and saw the Big Boar, along with lots of other types of animals.


^^ NOT the Big Boar, but for some reason I only have photos of medium-sized pigs from that barn.

The city girl in me was so tickled to see this guy:


It’s not every day you turn around to see a big pink pig sauntering toward you like he hasn’t a care in the world. There is something funny to me about the way pigs walk too. I kind of wanted to take him home.

After the Avenue of Breeds we walked over to the cattle barn to see the the Big Bull.


His name is “Big Daddy” and he weighs over 3000 pounds.

After an unmemorable-but-belly-filling-without-long-lines lunch, we finally made it to the Big Yellow Slide, which Miss in particular had been begging to go on all morning. The older girls went down the slide with their aunt, and Sis went down with my husband. They loved it, and each went twice.

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At least they said they loved it after they got to the bottom. Their faces during the sliding sort of suggested otherwise:

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^^ That last picture makes me laugh every time I look at it.

Somehow, I have yet to see the famous butter cow sculpture in person (not sure how I always miss this), but this year I did see, um, extra large American Gothic:


One of the coolest parts of the day came after the slide. We walked over to the antique tractors, where my Father-in-law located a model just like the one he had driven as a boy on the farm where he grew up. He was not much older than Miss when he started working in the fields driving that tractor.


I’ve heard about him driving a tractor as a little boy, but somehow seeing that tractor close up, the same kind that he rode on back then, and seeing my small-but-not-much-smaller-than-he-was-then daughters standing next to it made it so much more amazing to me.


My favorite part of the day, as it has been every year, was taking the girls to the Department of Natural Resources building. They run around and look at the fish in the tanks, guess at which animals the various pelts belong to, and check out many other cool (and educational) exhibits.

DSC_0343 DSC_0344^^ I asked Lass (my animal lover) about the birds in that display case ^^ She said, in a bored voice, “It’s a peregrine falcon. I already know that.” I had to check the card on the glass to make sure, but she was right!

Behind the DNR building, there is a pond with turtles and ducks and geese and swans. We always spend a lot of time there, searching under the surface of the water to spot the turtles, laughing at the antics of the ducks, and admiring the swans.

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This year, we got startled by one of the swans who climbed out of the pond, stretched her wings up and flapped around frantically for a few seconds, right in front of us.

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Perhaps I’m a big dork, bit this shady little pond, and the excitement my girls displayed over seeing turtles trying to climb onto rocks and swans flapping their wings, was the highlight of my day.

It was also fun that afterwards we enjoyed another dessert on a stick, deep-fried this time, as the perfect ending to a lovely day.

Dirty and Weird and We Wouldn’t Miss It

I’m not doing 7 Quick Takes today. I really can’t gather my thoughts enough to write seven different things. BUT, I can share some photos with you from our trip to the Dirty Weird Zoo yesterday. The place is still so odd, but definitely a summer tradition I wouldn’t want to miss.

Sis had her first experience with feeding bread to the animals. She was fearless.

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A donkey even nibbled her fingers a little bit. She just yanked her hand back and went on feeding it.


The big kids were racing all over the place, screaming with delight about all the animals to see.

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No one even freaked out about the inevitable goat attack. Except maybe me and Super Friend.


Miss and Lass even said the goats were their favorite, because “they were everywhere.”

Miss found a peacock feather, which she insisted on carrying around the whole morning. I know I’m not the only one who has a slightly neurotic terror of bird feathers. They are so dirty. Am I right? Ew. Ew. Ew. Happily she didn’t put up too much of a fuss when I told her she couldn’t bring the feather home.

After depleting at least 10 bags of bread and buns by generously feeding lots of animals, we had our own picnic lunch. I think it was a successful outing.


I hope you have a lovely weekend.

New-and-Improved Summer Fun – A Family Tradition

I’ve been working on our Summer Fun List again for this year (see last year’s list here). My kids loved doing it last year and they enjoyed the Fall and Winter List too, so we’re going for it again. I guess we’re making it a tradition.

I have the list pretty much done, but I haven’t yet put it on our big poster for checking off each thing.  Through discussing it with them, I’ve discovered that doesn’t seem to matter much to my kids that most of what’s on the list is the exact same as what we did last year. Things like Go to the Iowa State Fair, Go to the Zoo, Ride a Horse, and Go to the Beach are the same and probably always will be.

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We got rid of some things that didn’t work last year. Get Ice Cream from an Ice Cream Truck never worked because I never saw a truck on our street all summer. Not gonna try to do that again. I got rid of the bubble activities from the list, because the “special” bubble solutions and contraptions we made were pretty underwhelming. My kids blow very nice, perfectly fine bubbles all summer long with the cheap concoctions and bubble wands we can get from the store, thank you very much.

I got rid of the glitter firework art that I had on there last year. After having lots of Thanksgiving and Christmas and Valentine’s Day projects planned for winter, I determined it’s not awesome to put holiday-specific crafts on the list. Sometimes other holiday plans get in the way or things just don’t work out as planned and you end up making snowflake Christmas ornaments in February as “winter art.” Ahem.

I’m trying to plan ahead, and realizing that we may not be able to make it to a fireworks display for the 4th of July this year, so that’s out, but I did add in Play with Sparklers. I also remember last summer how disappointed Miss was that we didn’t really complete the item “Sleep in a Tent,” since the girls decided to come in and get in their beds at around 10pm. So this year the list just says, “Camp.” No sleeping or overnight shenanigans required. They “went to bed” and spent several hours in a tent with their Dad when we visited my parents last week. I’m calling it “Done,” though Miss wants to try again to stay out all night.

DSC_0194I just love having and doing the list, though a few months ago, I briefly questioned my use of The List for our must-do seasonal activities. I read a post called “I’m Done Making My Kid’s Childhood Magical.” It’s a great piece, though a little heavy-handed on the “when we were kids” references. I agree with a lot of what the author wrote and with her opinion that parents nowadays can sometimes go overboard trying to make every moment magical for their kids. I’m all about just letting my kids play without needing to make a big experience out of everything.

The author of the post really poo-pooed all the Pinterest-y lists of summer things, and winter things, and birthday themes, and crafts that start with Q, and so on. And since my word for the year is “Open,” I usually try to think about it, at least briefly, when I come across ideas that might seem to contradict something I’m doing or the way I’m thinking about something (my list in this case).

So I thought about it. For about five minutes. I reflected on our list and whether I was going overboard. I asked myself if I was micromanaging all of my kids’ activities or hijacking their free time with my own agenda. I thought about whether I was just stressing myself out trying to do all of these activities because of perceived pressure to do all things Pinterest.

I decided nope. I’m not. My kids spend the vast majority of their play time doing their own thing. Even when we do an activity from our list, sometimes the outcome isn’t what I planned, because they do it their own way, and that’s okay too. And I don’t’ feel any pressure at all to do certain activities with my kids. I actually like doing crafts with them and going on outings that we might not do if I didn’t have that list staring me in the face saying, “DO IT!”

See, I’m sort of a homebody. If left to my own devices, I often tend toward thinking, “That might be fun, but I’m so comfy here at home, and this is so nice and easy, and I’d just like to stay right here.” And so I sometimes avoid outings or adventures, even though when I get off my butt and go do them, I love them and so do my kids. The actual activity or outing is never as stressful or difficult as I sometimes make it out to be in my head while contemplating it.


So having our fun list is actually good for me. It actually doesn’t stress me out at all. Even when I think that we might not get all the things done (I was pretty unsure about whether we’d make it on that skiing trip on the winter list!), it isn’t a source of worry or distress. I did 50 out of 51 things on last summer’s list with a four, two, and one-year old and it was great. There’s nothing on the list that I am forcing myself to do when I really don’t want to (except maybe the glitter craft projects). My kids love it and seeing how excited they get about making the list, doing the activities on it, and checking off the items as we complete them, is totally worth it. So it’s on.

Anyway, back to our list. We already started to complete several of this year’s items while visiting my parents. I mentioned the “camping” above, and you can guess from the photos that we already rode horses, went to the beach, swam in a lake, and built a sand castle. We also went to a park (at the beach), planted our garden, and played barefoot in puddles (a new item this year inspired by the ridiculous amount of water in our front yard this week).

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But the best activity we have completed? By far it was the one thing that we did not manage to do at all last year.

DSC_0148DSC_0151The girls absolutely loved catching fireflies. We went out at dusk and waited for what seemed like a really long time. But once those little guys were finally lighting it up, the girls started squealing and screaming and running and laughing like it was the best thing ever. We caught plenty of the glowing bugs. Miss even caught a few by herself. The girls were simultaneously terrified and ecstatic when the bugs got caught in their hair or when one danced on Miss’s nose for several seconds. Though we’ve barely begun, I know this will be one of the best memories of the season.

Summer is so short for us and so glorious. We have to wring every last bit of goodness out of it before the looong cold months arrive again. I’m so excited to do the list again.

DSC_0243 In case you’re curious, here’s what’s on the list this year.

Copied from last summer’s list:

  • Catch lightning bugs – DONE
  • Camp – DONE
  • Go fishing
  • Ride a horse – DONE
  • Go to the Iowa State Fair
  • Make Ice Cream
  • Make popsicles
  • Hunt for bugs
  • Go to the beach – DONE
  • Pick wildflowers
  • Roast marshmallows and eat s’mores
  • Raise caterpillars into butterflies
  • Go to the zoo
  • Go on a treasure hunt
  • Swim in a lake or pond – DONE
  • Go to a splash pad
  • Run through a sprinkler
  • Visit a butterfly garden
  • Put our sprinkler under the trampoline
  • Play hopscotch
  • Play with water balloons
  • Catch tadpoles
  • Go to the Dirty Weird Zoo
  • Have a picnic lunch in the yard
  • Go for a bike ride
  • Read books outside
  • Have an outdoor scavenger hunt
  • Go for a boat ride
  • Go to the farmer’s market
  • Go to the park – DONE
  • Go to an outdoor concert
  • Visit a farm
  • Have a cookout and movie night with friends
  • Plant a garden – DONE
  • Make lemonade
  • Pick berries
  • Go to some yard sales
  • Complete the Summer Reading Program
  • Make a fairy house
  • Have a dance party in the yard
  • Make an art project with outdoor found treasures

New this year:

  • Go to a walk-up ice cream stand (the alternative to the truck)
  • Play with sparklers (an alternative to watching fireworks)
  • Play with moon sand
  • Paint with ice paint
  • Make a worm habitat
  • Make sun catchers
  • Make tin-can lanterns
  • Play barefoot in puddles – DONE
  • Paint with flower-dyed paint

What will you be up to this summer?

It Was Worth It

Last week we were in Florida, busily trying to soak in as much decent weather as we could, while folks here in the north had negative-gazillion-degree temperatures again. If you aren’t a member of my family, you might want to skip this post. It’s overloaded with photos of my kids doing Florida stuff.

But, I needed to put these photos up to remind myself that the trip was worth it in spite of having sick girls for several of the days we were there. That it was worth the beating I took at the hands (and feet) of my not-quite-two-year-old who didn’t want to sit on my lap on the plane ride home yesterday. And that it was worth the overly-tired craziness of my three-year-old who had the biggest exhaustion meltdown I’ve ever seen from her earlier today. Thankfully she is taking a nap as I type this.

So. For all who want to hear about our travels, and for myself to remember that it really was worth it, our trip in photos (and a few words, because I just can’t help myself):


We went to the bird sanctuary, and then the girls played on the playground and beach just outside. Based on how crazy my girls went running around on the playground, you’d think they’ve been cooped up inside because of sub-zero temperatures all winter. Oh. Wait…

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This is the way to do the beach:

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Just outside the bird sanctuary there is a small beach area. You can’t actually get to the water because of a retaining wall, but there’s super soft sand, and that’s all my girls really care about anyway. My in-laws pulled their sand toys out of the back of their vehicle

DSC_0707and we had a perfect beach trip. No long drive to get to the awesome beach. No excessive wind. No shards of shells digging into my feet.

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No overload of sand or attempt to eat lunch while keeping it out of everyone’s food. Lovely view.

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DSC_0751^^ Miss’s sand pyramid, of which she was quite proud.

After a short time in the sand, we all brushed off and got lunch at a nearby restaurant. And that’s my idea of a good beach trip (with kids).

The next day we ventured to a children’s museum where they had sting rays the girls could touch and feed, along with lots of other animals and science-y stuff.

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And no Florida vacation would be complete without some time in the pool.

DSC_0814 DSC_0815 DSC_0826 DSC_0831^^ Those pool photos were taken on Tuesday. Wednesday was pretty cold and gloomy, and the girls still begged to go swimming. I was so tempted to just let my hubby take the two older girls in. But Sis really wanted to swim too. So we all swam in 50-degree weather. Total and obvious northerners.

Unfortunately the crummy weather continued through our last couple of days when we went to Disney World. But that’s a post for another day (nap time is over). Before I go though, I’d like to toot my own horn for a moment and just say that I did redeem myself after my huge Disney fail from last year. I’ll tell you all about it soon.

Motherhood in a Pumpkin Patch

Recently, I’ve read a few articles about moms dealing with rambunctious and tantrumming kids in public and getting not-so-kind reactions from non-parents in response (this one and this one, specifically). The articles are good reading, but the comments? Whoa. Almost 70 comments on the first one and over 11,000 comments on the second one. Apparently everyone has an opinion about how kids should act and how parents should react in public.


Don’t worry though. This post isn’t about how kids should act or how parents should respond.

I’ve been thinking since reading the above-linked posts about some of the hostile comments, both from parents and non-parents alike. There were lots of ugly ones ranging from some variation of: 1. “Spank them!” to 2. “Don’t bring your kids in public. Ever. And by they way, definitely don’t take them on an airplane until they’re at least five, you inconsiderate jerks with kids!” to 3. “If your kid has a fit and gets loud in public, take them home right away. Who cares if you have a cart full of groceries you’ve just spent an hour accumulating and no food in your house? If you don’t take them out of the store immediately when they’re loud, you are a bad parent,” and everything in between.

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Another general theme of the comments that stuck with me was this: “Just because someone doesn’t have children doesn’t mean they don’t know about children and how to deal with them.”

I agree with this statement. I know lots of people who don’t have children but are really great with kids. I was a psychologist, so I know plenty of people with extensive knowledge about behavioral principles, discipline, and child development who don’t happen to have children of their own. There are lots of great teachers and other people who work with kids and do a great job of it even though they don’t have kids.

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But that’s not quite what this post is about either.

The comments that stayed with me went beyond simply stating that people who don’t have kids can be knowledgeable about them. They added assertions that people without children know what it’s like to deal with a difficult child, have better ideas  how to handle them, and should not have to “tolerate” bad behavior from others’ children/”brats.” There was plenty of resentment that parents are overly “permissive” or “spoiling” their kids when they “let” them act up in public. Some of the comments were quite hateful (i.e. “because YOU decided to breed, does not mean the rest of us should have to suffer your obnoxious children”). One even compared children to chimpanzees!

For the purposes of this post, I’m going to gloss over the fact that there certainly are some parents out there who do not correct the misbehavior of their children and can be frustrating both to people with kids and without.

Because that’s not what this post is about either.

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I’ll get to my point (finally).

My gut reaction to the ugly comments about non-parents knowing about children and what it takes to discipline them was this:

Yes, absolutely, non-parents can be very knowledgeable about children.

BUT, no matter how much you know about human development, reinforcement contingencies, and/or various strategies of disciplining kids, you cannot know what it is like to be a mom in the moment your child is acting out in public until you are a mom in that moment.

I have certainly had to learn myself that having all kinds of knowledge about kids/development/psychology didn’t qualify me to judge parents in the trenches or even to be a mom myself. Knowing about something is very different from living it in the most highly invested way possible.

Unless you are a parent, you can’t know how humiliating it can be to have your child throwing a totally unforeseen fit in public.

You can’t know how frustrating (or panic inducing) it is when sometimes in the heat of the moment your mind goes blank and you can’t think what to do to calm your child down, or when you know that all the things that are coming to mind are not the most effective strategies.

You can’t know what it’s like to look back on a teachable moment and realize that you totally screwed it up.

You can’t know the thoughts, fears, and insecurities that run through a mom’s mind when her child is acting inappropriately.

You can’t know what it feels like to fear that your kid is going to grow up to be a jerk if you don’t handle this particular situation perfectly. Every. time. (Even though you know this is not realistic, the fear is still there, deep down).


It’s more than just dealing with a kid throwing a fit or otherwise acting in an undesirable way. It’s dealing with a kid doing these things who is also your flesh and blood and one of the most important beings in your universe, and, oh yeah, it’s all up to you to make sure this child grows up to be a productive and responsible adult. No pressure.

(Please note, this is in no way intended to insult or otherwise devalue people who don’t have kids. I love my non-parent friends, who are awesome with my kids, BTW.)

I’ll use a small example from this past weekend to illustrate a little bit what it can be like inside a parent’s head (at least in mine) when a kid is acting not so nicely in a public place. My kids generally don’t have tantrums in public. I can only remember this happening once, when Lass didn’t want to put her coat on right-side-up when we were leaving the grocery store last winter. But they definitely do sometimes act in ways that I don’t love when we are in a public place.

We went to a pumpkin patch last Friday. It was sunny and hot. We were all tired from a long trip and lack of sleep the night before.


We went out to the patch. Lass picked her pumpkin pretty quickly.

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Baby Sis even picked a pumpkin with no problem.


Miss on the other hand, was a bit more, um, picky. Not only did she reject all of the pumpkins that were enthusiastically pointed out to her, she pouted and whined about not finding one like her sister’s. She couldn’t find one just the right color. Or size. Or shape.


We were wandering around (and around) the pumpkin patch with my Mom and two of my friends from graduate school. Did I mention it was hot?

I was sweaty and tired and uncomfortable.

I was feeling guilty that my friends and mom were roasting in the heat.

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I admit, I felt mortified when Miss repeatedly dropped pumpkins on the ground and said petulantly, “That’s ugly” or “I hate it,” or stood and pouted without even looking for a pumpkin, because she wanted the one Lass had chosen.


She didn’t actually have a fit, but clearly she wasn’t acting very nicely either.

I had a small tug of war in my head that went something like this, “I love that she is so particular about things! She’s not going to settle for something that isn’t up to her standards and that’s good!” vs. “She is acting. like. a. brat! She’s never going to pick a pumpkin. And she’s just being difficult about it.”

So as I repeatedly went through the cycle of rising frustration and then talking myself off the ledge, my behavior toward her alternated between, “How about this one Honey? This one has a cool color. Let’s keep looking. We’ll find one that’s just right” and “Don’t just stand there and pout! If you’re not even going to look for a pumpkin, I’ll just find one for you.”

Of course, she did eventually find the. perfect. pumpkin. And she was thrilled with it.

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And I was left looking back at my internal dialog and external reactions to her and feeling a bit embarrassed that I was at times impatient and kind of jerky towards her while she was trying to find her pumpkin, knowing that she was tired and hot just like I was. Because although she was acting in a way I didn’t like, and it was seemingly taking forever for her to find a dang pumpkin, my impatience and frustration with her was not the response that was helping the situation. And in that moment, I really struggled to produce the response that would.

And although I don’t really believe that my Mom and my friends were judging me because of her behavior, I still had this teeny tiny little nagging feeling that they would think I was letting my kid act like a brat or that I don’t teach her manners or something else like that. And then I had a teeny tiny little nagging feeling that they would think, “Geez, she’s kind of a Jerk-Mom. The poor kid’s just trying to find a pumpkin.”

As a psychologist, I would call these “automatic (irrational) thoughts.” As a mom I have to combat these all. the. time.


I can just imagine if there had been strangers about glaring at me or my daughter or making nasty comments about her behavior or my reaction to it.

My kids are not brats, in spite of how they may sometimes behave, both in private and public. They are sweet, loving, delightful little girls. Most kids are delightful most of the time. A glimpse of a child acting “bratty” doesn’t define that child or that child’s parents.

There are lots of ways parents can react when their kids are unpleasant in public. And what is going on inside a parent’s head may or may not reflect what she is actually doing. I don’t think it really ever helps anyone when people make ugly comments or otherwise show obvious disdain in response to a child’s behavior or a parent’s response, whether those people have kids themselves or not.

My point is that you never know what a mom is thinking when her kid is acting not-so-nicely in public.

She might be embarrassed. She might be scared. She might be angry. She might be all of those and more, or none of them.

If you don’t have kids (or even if you do), please don’t assume that knowledge about children gives you an understanding of what a mom is going through when trying to manage her child’s behavior or that you could do it better yourself.

You just can’t know what it’s like until you’re a parent in that moment.

And though I don’t expect people without children, or anyone really, to give me some sort of special treatment when one of my kids acts less than perfectly in a public place, it sure is amazing when someone unexpectedly offers help. Like the nice woman who got a high chair for me when we stopped at Wendy’s during our drive down last week and in response to my “Thank you so much,” said, “I hope someday someone will help me out too when I have kids.” It’s such a boost when someone offers kind words of support, like my friend’s sister who said to me while my kids were running and playing in the rain, “You’re a good mom.”

Our day at the pumpkin patch turned out just fine.


My girls had a great time overall, and so did I.


Even in the moments when I’m not doing such a bang up job of mothering my kids, I’m doing the best I can and am always trying to improve.

Most parents are, and that’s what matters.

The Fair

I just love the Iowa State Fair.

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We live in Wisconsin, but I’m not a big fan of our fair. It feels too urban, being located in Milwaukee. I only went once, when I was pregnant with Miss, and don’t care to go back. The Iowa State Fair, on the other hand, is just delightful.

When we go, we don’t do some of the typical fair things, like riding rides and playing games on the midway. My girls are a little too small for most of them, and I am a little iffy about fair rides. So we don’t even go down that way.

Mostly, we look at animals.

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My girls are crazy about animals.


The girls listed their favorites from the day to include ostriches, elk, fish, cows, horses, swans, and wood ducks.

And the Big Yellow Slide, of course.



My favorite part of the day with them was our time in the DNR building. They were fascinated by the tanks full of fish and asked what types of fish were in each one.

Sis had fallen asleep in the stroller so we had lots of time to look at and talk about all the fish.



In the same building there was also an area with many animal pelts hanging together. We went through them all, and I asked the girls to name the animals. They were able to name every one except the woodchuck (which I couldn’t name either). They got obvious ones like the beaver, skunk, and raccoon. But also the bobcat, otter, badger (once I showed them the head), red and grey foxes, and opossum.

I don’t know why, but it tickled me immensely that they were able to name those animal hides.

And to top it off, we went outside to the DNR’s “pond” and had a blast watching the swans, geese, and ducks as they splashed and played in the water. This seemed like the biggest hit of the day in terms of the time the girls wanted to spend there.


Or maybe the biggest hit of the day was the food.

These girls have never had so much “junk food” in one day in their lives.

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It was such a special day.

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