Packing for a Vacation with Children

Gdubs beach

We’re planning on going on vacation this summer, so I’ve already started trying to get all of my ducks in a row to make it go as smoothly as possible. There was a time in the distant past when I could pack for a week-long vacation in two hours the night before. Throw some cute outfits and my tooth brush in a suitcase, grab my purse, and bam! I could hit the road.

10 years and four kids later, and I’m lucky if it only takes me two weeks – and I still usually forget something.

1.       Make a List

I don’t understand those people who don’t make lists. I have at least four lists going at any given moment of my life – To Do Today, To Do Some Day Soon, Groceries, Stuff I Need To Remember Or The World As We Know It Will End. (Those are their official titles). When we’re planning for a vacation, the number of lists doubles – packing lists for each member of the family, packing lists for essentials to bring that will be used by all of us, a list of things I have to do to get the house ready for us to be gone for a while, a list of things for our house sitter to know, a list of things I need to do before I leave or the world as we know it will end…you get the idea.

2.       Wash Laundry

I’m not the most proactive when it comes to laundry. Our clothes hampers are pretty much always full, and there are many times when I don’t realize clothes need to be done until someone complains about being out of underwear. So when I know I have to pack enough clothes for six people to wear for a week, well, needless to say, the laundry situation starts getting real. Once I get things washed I usually hide it somewhere so people won’t wear it again. There’s nothing worse than watching your five year old wear her favorite bathing suit to make slime when you know you need it for the beach in two days.


3.       Get the Car Ready

Maybe I’m the only one, but my car – the family car – is a sty. No matter how often I clean it out (ok, not that often because that takes time I would rather dedicate to sleeping) it is almost always disgusting. Being stuck in a filthy car for two days with my whole family is one of my recurring nightmares, so I usually try to shovel it out a day or two before we leave. If I try to get it done much before that, you won’t be able to tell I made the attempt on the day we leave. The last time I emptied it out I found two sippy cups, petrified french fries, a Barbie head and a book about animal poop under one of the seats. When all was said and done I had filled a trash bag and one of those giant Tupperware bins with kid junk. Come to think of it, I’m actually kind of proud they could still fit in the car with all of that.

4.       Gather Distractions

Make sure the portable dvd player is working. Put batteries in the portable game systems. Make each kid a bag of books, small toys and coloring pads. Find the travel pillows and blankets. Unearth travel bingo. Buy snacks. Slip ear plugs in my purse…

5.       Plan Potty Stops

This has gotten easier as the children have gotten older and more in control of their body functions, but we usually try to have an idea of good stops to make that are clean and safe on the way to where we’re going. For instance, if the eight year old decides she needs to go to the bathroom, it’s nice to be able to pass up the scary gas station for the fancy travel center that you know is a mile down the road. There is nothing worse than trying to teach your daughter to hover over the toilet seat while keeping your eyes peeled for rogue cockroaches.

lake house

One day I’m sure we’ll get back to the grab and go vacation method, but until that day, I’ll just keep track of my lists and be grateful we get to go away for a while.

Help for Parents Whose Young Kids Tend to Wander Off

Sometimes it seems no matter how aware of my surroundings, diligent about keeping track, and how many times I tell my kids to stay with me at all times, there comes a time when I turn around and someone is missing. There is that instant of panicked counting and recounting of heads, and then the search begins.

I don’t want to name names, but my children fall into some distinct categories. Whichever category each individual falls into, I’m embarrassed to admit I’ve misplaced each one of them at least once. Thankfully they were always found pretty quickly, but for those few moments of frantic searching, I can honestly say that I’ve never prayed so hard in my life.

While I don’t label my kids these things to their faces, when we go out anywhere, this is what I call them in my head:

  1. The Wanderer. This child doesn’t purposely get separated from the group, but there is a definite tendency there to get distracted, wander off and fall behind. Something cool will catch the eye, and before you know it I will turn around and be one kid short.
  2. The Runner. This kid knows the rules about staying with mom and dad, but running off is always so much fun. Why follow where everyone else is going when you can high-tail it in a different direction and have someone chase you?
  3. The Rule Follower. This one has no problem staying with mom and dad, following directions and coming when called. The only problem is, it gets a little annoying when brother or sister goes missing and the Rule Follower gets stuck searching for the missing sibling. There’s usually lots of eye rolling going on.
  4. The Independent One. This child hears the rules, understands the rules, but thinks that there is a much better interpretation of the rules. As a matter of fact, it’s quite possible that the rules don’t actually apply in all situations – let’s test it out, shall we?

With four kids, sometimes it’s hard to keep track of them all, especially when their different personalities come out and start making themselves known. The Wanderer starts wandering, and as I’m trying to steer that one back on track, The Runner will decide fun is to be had in a completely different place.

We’ve tried different things through the years to manage this – we talk about the dangers of straying too far away, the need to watch out for one another, and the importance of keeping mom and dad in sight at all times. Of course we have had the stranger danger talk, and given the kids instructions about who to find and what to do if they do find themselves lost.

One of the things we try to teach them is to memorize our cell phone numbers. That way, if we get separated and they can’t find one of us, they can find an authority figure and ask them to call us. (Our kids are young enough that they don’t have their own phones).

That works fine for the older two, but the younger ones are pretty spotty on the number memorization skills. Also, many times when they find themselves lost and alone, it can be hard to remember a 10 digit number.

So my husband and I made dog tags for our kids. We got ours at an army supply store, but you can get them made at a pet store also, and just put them on a chain.

dog tag

Each kid has their own tag, with their name and our cell phone numbers on it. If one of them gets lost and scared, the numbers are right there for someone to call and find us. If an accident happens and they can’t speak for some reason, their names and numbers are available for someone to see who comes to help.

We obviously never want to lose one of our children, but it’s comforting to know that if something unexpected does happen, they have a way to contact us.

Is there anything you have done to help your kids find you when they are lost?

You Did NOT Just Say That

If I didn’t vividly remember giving birth to these kids, I would think they came from someone else. Maybe when Sydney (age 8) tells me she is really an alien that was put in my tummy to grow up around humans I should listen…

In case you’re in need of a laugh this Monday, here are some more kid quotes we’ve collected over the years.

When moms get no respect

While listening in on the girls playing today, I heard Polly Pocket hire a dinosaur to kill her mother because she’s grumpy….not sure if this is a result of overactive imaginations or too little sleep and coffee for me this morning.

Me: Here you go, I made you some pancakes.

Layla: At advanced places, like IHOP, they put whipped cream on them.

Me: Did you say advanced places?

Layla: Yeah. You know, they have more experience…they don’t burn them…

Layla: Mom, you have gray hairs!

Me: Yep. So?

Layla: You need to get that fixed. You’re too young to be a grandma.

Me: Strangely, I feel both flattered and insulted at the same time.

When you ruin a teaching moment by laughing

Me: Who made this mess?

Sydney: It was Kaylan.

Layla: You can’t blame everything on Kaylan.

Sydney: I don’t. Sometimes I blame it on Gwendolyn.

Layla: Mom, Sydney pinched me!…Mom, Sydney bit me!…Mom, Sydney stole my blanket!

Me: Sydney, no pinching, biting, messing with, or stealing from your sister!

Sydney: Can I hit?

Sydney-isms (because this deserves its own category)

Sydney: When you send an email, how does it get to the other person? Does it go through a tube in the sky or something?

Sydney: What’s that wonderful smell?

Layla: Someone made toast.

Sydney: What? I can’t hear you, the smell is too loud.

Sydney: If you take an eye booger and plant it in the dirt, and take lots of good care of it, will it turn into an eye?

Me: Syd, your turn to say the prayer before dinner.

Sydney: God is great, God is good, let us thank Him, for our family. And please don’t let them die in a hurricane. And just, like, send a rainbow. Amen.

Me: …and that’s how a level works.

Sydney: We should put it on the floor. I’ve always felt like the world was just a little bit crooked.

Me: Huh. Me too, kid.

When you realize you actually are the most boring member of the family

Sydney: Dad is awesome!! Mom is, no offense, a little boring.

Me: Aaron, stop laughing.

Layla: On a scale of one to ten, how much do I love reading?

Me: Ten.

Aaron: One million.

Gwendolyn: Five eighty thirteen.

Sydney: Purple!

Ordering lunch…

Me: What do you want?

Layla: Two regular tacos.

Sydney: I want a regular taco, too. But WITHOUT lettuce.

Me: Ok. Gwendolyn, do you want a taco?

Gwendolyn: Yes, but, can you make mine sparkly?

When Daddy gets to tell the five year old about body parts

While changing Calvin’s diaper…
Gwendolyn: What is that?

Aaron: That’s where his pee comes out.

Gwendolyn: Why does it look like that?

Aaron: That’s what boys look like.

Gwendolyn: Do you look like that?


Gwendolyn: Does Mommy know?


Sometimes We Need a Reset Button

Every time I get through one particular stage of my children’s development, I think, “Whew! I’m glad that’s over, it will be easier now.” I have found, though, that each stage offers new and different joys, challenges and pitfalls.

The wide-eyed wonder and temper tantrums of the toddler morph into the proud independence and defiance of the young school-aged child. Once you think you have it figured out, that you have found the strategies and techniques that work with your and your child’s particular needs and temperaments, you transition into the next stage and it starts all over again.

My oldest daughter recently transitioned from a young girl to a young lady. I’m not sure how it happened, as I still think of her as my chubby, dimpled, happy baby girl, but she’s now in that category known as tween.

It’s a tricky stage. Responsibilities are changing, needs are shifting, and emotions are swinging all over the place.

Not long ago we were in the middle of a board game after school. Four of us were playing – myself and my three daughters, including my oldest. Midway through the game, my oldest girl suddenly started getting visibly and verbally frustrated with her younger sisters. Everything seemed to irritate her, and when I asked the younger girls to leave the room so I could speak to my oldest, she broke down in tears. She was so stressed and emotional and frustrated that she could barely speak.

I realized that she needed to push the reset button.

I told her to go to her room. Not as a punishment or a time out, but to take some quiet time for herself. I told her to read a book. Pray. Do her bible study homework. Color a picture. Write in her journal. Anything that would help her to be still, to be quiet, to breathe deeply and calm her emotions. The only rule was that she couldn’t use a screen – no tablet, phone or television.

The 20 minutes that she spent alone completely changed her perspective. She came out refreshed, with a pool of calmness and peace inside that helped her face the challenges and noise of our boisterous family -not to mention the annoyance of younger siblings.

So next time I call customer service because my phone/computer/printer/tv is being weird, maybe I won’t get so upset when the first thing they tell me to do is hit the reset button.

Camping with Kids (or, The Camping Apocalypse of 2017)

We took the kids camping last weekend. It was just a quick trip to celebrate the end of the school year and the beginning of summer. I had thought I could write a nice blog post about it – you know, 6 Tips for Camping with Kids, or something similar. I planned to take some sweet pictures of the kids fishing, snuggled in their tent, maybe sitting around the campfire. It was going to be great, trust me.



syd fish

However, things don’t always turn out the way we plan. Mix together young children, the great outdoors, unpredictable weather, and a bunch of camping gear that’s over a decade old and you get…well, let’s just call it an adventure.

Day 1

We arrived at the campground. The trip up there was pretty uneventful, as long as you are ok with taking detours down back country roads when traffic backs up on the interstate. It gave us an opportunity to play “spot the animal,” which I’m pretty sure I lost by default since I thought a chair was a goat. I also think my eight year old cheated when she said she saw two rabbits and a snake. The one year old spotted an elephant, at least I think that’s what that noise he made meant.

Two tents set up…check. Campfire started (with wet wood, thank you lighter fluid!)…check. Save toddler from falling in the campfire 25 times…check. Make s’mores while quoting The Sandlot multiple times…check. Everyone went to bed, and everyone slept through the night. Day 1 was a success! (If you don’t know what scene I’m talking about from The Sandlot, Google it…I’ll wait).

Day 2

Most of this day went great, also. We ate breakfast, went fishing and went swimming in the lake. It was especially great for me, because we had friends there who are younger than us who have the energy and desire to play in a lake with a bunch of kids. So mostly I got to sit, watch and cheer at every “Mom, watch this!”

By 4pm we had made it back to our tents and were sitting around deciding whether we should have an early or late dinner. Cue rumbles of thunder in the distance.

Uh oh.

It’s ok, no big deal, right? We’re camping pros after all, and a little rain wouldn’t hurt us. So we started dinner a bit early and ate round two of s’mores – still quoting The Sandlot, because that never gets old.

By 9pm the kids were bedded down in their tents (three girls in one and the baby in his play pen in our tent), when the thunder started getting a bit louder and the first drops started falling. My husband and I decided to sit out under the canopy that we had put over the picnic table to make sure the kids were all asleep before turning in ourselves.

15 minutes later, the bottom dropped out of the sky.


I’m not talking about a steady rain. I’m talking downpour, here. The kind of rain that makes it hard to see through, and is so loud that even without the crashing thunder that rolls through every 30 seconds, you still have to shout to be heard.

We faintly hear my oldest shouting from 15 feet away.

Me: “WHAT?!!”


Sure enough, my husband runs through the rain to check on the girls, and water is coming through the top and sides of the tent, puddling around the kid’s sleeping bags. We quickly carry the girls through the rain and rapidly mud-filled campsite to our tent, where we put them in with an optimistic “Shhh, don’t wake the baby” before running out to get as much of their gear as possible out of the leaking tent.

By the time I get back to my tent, which now has a pack and play, a full-sized air mattress and three dripping girls with their stuffed animals, pillows and blankets, the baby is awake, laughing and throwing flashlights around in time with the lightning strikes.

Gwendolyn: “I’m scared.”

Me: “It’s ok, we’re having an adventure.”

Layla: “Mom, I’m all wet.”

Me: “I know, but it’s just a little water, we’ll be fine. Let me spread out your sleeping bags so you have somewhere to sleep.”

Sydney: “Mom, I just felt a drop.”

Me: (Looks up and simultaneously puts hand in a puddle of water while laying out a sleeping bag) “Oh s#!t.”

Layla: “Mom!”

So I stuck my head out of my tent and yelled the good news to my husband, who was frantically bagging up kid clothes and throwing them in the cab of his pickup.

I ran out and after a frantic moment of discussion we decided to grab the extra tarp and rig it over our tent. That’s when we found the stream of runoff coming from the road down under our tent to head for the lake….Huh. Bummer.

While Aaron finished doing what he could to secure the tarp, I went back inside the tent to pull out as much of our gear as possible to put in the pickup.

Gwen: “I’m scared of the storm.”

Me: “Ok, do you want to say a prayer about it?”

Sydney: “Yes, please.”

Me: “Ok, bow your heads….Dear God, thank you for always taking care of us. Thank you for always being with us even in times of trouble.”

God please help me get through this night with six people in one tent.

“Just as Jesus calmed the storm for the disciples, we know that you can calm this storm.”

Please don’t let the wind start up, whatever you do.

“Thank you for all of us being together so we can keep each other calm and safe.”

Please don’t let a tree fall and hit our tent with everyone in it.

“Please help us to trust in you and not be afraid of the thunder and lightning.”

Oh. My. God. Please don’t let us get struck by lightning.

“In Jesus’ name, Amen.”

So the kids calmed down and my dripping husband finally made his way back to the tent. We changed into our last set of dry clothes and pulled the air mattress and playpen into the middle of the tent so the water coming down from the sides wouldn’t touch us.

Layla: “Mom, where are you guys going to sleep?”

Me: “Yeah, move over, kid.”

Two adults. Three kids ages five, eight and ten. One full-sized air mattress. No blankets because they had all gotten wet. Puddles of water on the ground. A five year old who kept trying to roll off the edge.  An eight year old who likes to sleep curled in a ball. A baby who wants to keep throwing flashlights. Thunder and lightning. A ten year old who gets so freaked out by loud noises she hyperventilates. And then throws up.

Me: “Dang it, Layla! Did you just throw up on your brother?!”

Layla: “Mom!”

Me: “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, you’re ok. Aaron, can you pass me a towel?”

Aaron: “They’re all wet.”

Needless to say, only four of us got any sleep that night, and neither I nor my husband was one of them. I won’t say it was the worst camping trip I’ve ever taken, but I did learn a few lessons from it.

  1. Tents apparently have a shelf life. Do not take an old tent on a camping trip when there is a chance of thunder storms. It’s not worth it.
  2. Pay attention to the topography of your campsite. Don’t pitch your tent on the lowest spot or in the way of runoff areas.
  3. Bring extra clothes and keep them in an emergency stash in the car.
  4. Don’t hand the baby a flashlight and then sit within throwing distance.
  5. Bring a net so when you’re taking the tents down in the morning you can catch the frogs who decided to take up residence overnight (NOT EVEN KIDDING).
  6. When your kid throws up, ask how she’s feeling first, NOT whether or not she threw up on her brother. Kids hold grudges about stuff like that.

I’m sure we’ll laugh about this one day…like in a few years…or decades.

Teaching Your Child to Serve…By Serving Alongside Them

If I were to make a laundry list of things I wanted my kids to learn while being brought up in our home, it may go something like this (not exhaustive, and in no particular order): Be kind. Be honest. Love God. Be compassionate towards others. Do the best you can but don’t stress out if you make a mistake. Be respectful. Treat people with dignity because we are all created in the image of God. Help where you can. Watch out for each other. Be aware of the existence of evil but don’t let fear rule your life. Use good judgement. Seek wisdom. Put your dirty clothes in the hamper (ok, that one’s not AS important as the rest).

To me, all of these things are vital for not only my children to learn, but for the peaceful functioning of society.

And yet, I find us constantly falling into that “me first” mindset. It’s not just my kids that do it, although that’s who I notice it in the most. I’m guilty of it also. I want what I want when I want it. When asked to help somewhere, I check my calendar before I check my heart.

Now, don’t get me wrong, when there are demands and offers and requests coming from multiple directions, there are MANY times when you have to say no, even to good things. There is only so much time in each day, and we have to prioritize what there is of it. But that’s a whole different post.

However, when I COULD do something to help someone, but choose not to for my own convenience…or when one of my children whines about the lack of a cell phone when there are children living in our city who don’t have healthy meals each day…that’s where the problem comes in.

Do as I say. And do as I do.

So that’s what we decided. If we want our kids to really be compassionate tPicture1owards people who are different, if we want our kids to give when it’s easier to receive, if we want our kids to be servers instead of takers, then we have to model that for them. Not just tell them, but show them. Just as we teach table manners by holding our forks properly and taking turns during conversation, we can only teach service by serving.


Enter Mission of Yahweh.

Mission of Yahweh is a homeless shelter for women and children in the Houston, Texas area. It began in 1961 with a former hair stylist who opened her home to women and their children who were in crisis. It has since grown to over 12 buildings, including dormitories, a dining hall, a chapel, a sports field, and child care facilities.

front door

Volunteers and staff offer vocational training classes, counseling, case management assistance, three meals a day, bible study, and so many other things that many of these women need to improve the lives of themselves and their children.

chapel and garden


My family and friends were blessed to be able to serve last Saturday in the dining hall.  My father and mother in law brought all the food, and we prepared it, served it, and spent time talking to the residents and doing crafts with the kids.

S&E salad

L arranging cookies

L G & G making ckn

S making peppers

It was three hours out of our Saturday. Three hours where we may have been doing yard work, running errands, or playing inside. Instead, we built relationships. My girls saw that people live differently, look differently and have different experiences than us. They saw children without a home of their own, and they heard them laughing at jokes. They saw them hugging their moms, eating macaroni and asking for extra cookies. They colored pictures together, made necklaces together and ran around outside together.

My girls served. They made salad. They passed out treats. They carried drinks, filled plates and wore hair nets (which is pretty horrifying for a ten year old).

They showed love with their feet and hands, as well as with their mouths.

lunch served

ServingCookies cropped

serving line

After the three hours we went back to our house in the suburbs. We went back to our chores and our fun and a party with friends. But we were just a little bit changed.

In the past, as a family, we have made donations to good causes. We have talked about how fortunate we are to have a roof over our heads and a pantry full of food. We have opened our home to others and volunteered at the church or school. 

Picture2But the experience at Mission of Yahweh showed another side of serving that our kids hadn’t seen before. They saw the faces of people who were benefitting from their time. They heard the “thank you’s” and the “bless you’s”. Now when we talk about helping others around the dinner table, they will have that experience to draw from. They will have those faces and those voices in their minds and hearts.

Is it something we will do every Saturday? No. But we’ll definitely be back.

If you’re interested in getting more information about Mission of Yahweh, what they do and what they value, you can visit them at They are always looking for donations of time, talent and treasures. Go here ( for a list of current needs. 


Teacher Gifts

The end of the school year is rapidly approaching (yikes!), so the kids and I have been working on teacher gifts. After talking to some of my teacher friends, I know that A) they don’t do it for the gifts and B) the gifts they want at this time of year are probably closer to a bottle of wine than a bottle of hand sanitizer, but when you’re trying to come up with gifts for a dozen teachers and you have a limited budget, well…you do the best you can. Not to mention the fact that I would feel awkward sending my kid to school with a bottle of wine. There’s probably a rule about that somewhere in the handbook.

So in light of that, here are some examples of a few small gifts the kids and I have made to say thank you to the people who have given so much this past year.

Orange Vanilla Sugar Scrub

making sugar scrub

This is a nice mini spa treatment for your hands. It leaves them feeling soft, and it smells nice also. I use Young Living essential oils because they are my favorite, but any therapeutic grade oil will work.

  • ½ cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil (unrefined works best – use only 1 tablespoon if using fractionated)
  • 4 drops orange essential oil
  • 2 drops vanilla extract

Combine ingredients in a small bowl, mix thoroughly, and spoon into a glass jar with lid.

stirring scrub

Snack Mix

Teachers are literally on their feet all day, and sometimes have to miss lunch in order to give extra help to students or make phone calls to parents. We decided to make a snack bag for them, with a few different snacks they can grab between classes.

snacks*None of the students in my kids’ classes have peanut allergies. If that is a concern for your child’s class, I would recommend substituting something else in place of nuts. Some options are mini marshmallows, popcorn, pretzels or chocolate chips.

Calming Room Spray/Pillow Mist

room spray

I use this at home daily, so the girls and I thought it would be a good addition to our teacher gift repertoire. This particular recipe is one that my oldest uses to spray on her pillow each night before bed. The scents we used are very relaxing, but you can use others if you want a more uplifting aroma.

  • 5 drops lavender essential oil
  • 5 drops stess away essential oil
  • 1 tablespoon witch hazel
  • 2 ounces distilled water

Combine all ingredients in a small glass spray bottle. I used a 2oz one, but you can adjust the amounts for larger or smaller bottles.

School Supply Basket

school suppliesTeachers ALWAYS need school supplies. Put a nice collection in a basket (or bucket), add some tissue paper, and you’re done.

Bath Salts/Bath Soak

bath soakSimilar to the room spray, you can use different oils to make this. The girls wanted to give their teachers something to relax with, which is why we went with lavender and stress away again. Plus, it smells nice.

  • 1/3 cup Epsom salt
  • 1/3 cup kosher salt
  • 5 drops lavender essential oil
  • 5 drops stress away essential oil

Combine all ingredients in a glass jar with lid, shake well to mix.

pouring salt

There are so many other ideas out there – if you don’t believe me, check Pinterest! These are just a few we’ve done this year, mostly because I had many of the supplies on hand and the kids really like to take the time to make things themselves. If DIY projects aren’t for you, I imagine teachers probably appreciate a gift certificate to Starbucks just as much!

I cannot say enough complimentary things about all of my children’s teachers. They work so hard, and pour so much love, compassion, encouragement, time and effort into my kids. I’ve seen their faces light up when my baby walks into a room, and watched them bend down to speak quietly when extra instruction is needed. I’ve heard so many sentences that start with, “My teacher said – ” or “My teacher thinks – ” that I can only be grateful that these amazing people are making such an impact and giving so much of themselves to my most precious gifts.

One thing I do know, is that all the teachers I have met – acquaintances, friends and family members alike – don’t do what they do for the wrapped bath salts at the end of the year. They really have a heart for the kids in their classrooms. They WANT those children to succeed, to flourish and to grow. They spend time thinking about them outside of the job, and try their best to find strategies to help each child learn. These gifts don’t really convey how much I appreciate all they do, but they are a little something to say, “I noticed.”

A Day in the Life of a Birthday Girl


This is Gwendolyn, AKA Gwen, AKA G-Dubs. She’s five today. I’m not exactly sure how it happened since I’m fairly certain she was two last week, but since she assures me she really is five “almost six” today, I suppose I’ll believe her.

I read an article a few years ago that said you should never label your kids – you know, “this is the smart one, or the athletic one, or the funny one” – because those sorts of things get stuck in them and on them, limiting who they are meant to be. We try pretty hard to keep to that in general with our kids, but when you have a child that answers to Blondstrosity and argues that she’s the Dingleberry when Daddy yells for Dingleberry, Fizz and Short Stack (he doesn’t really like to use names), it’s easy to get an idea of just what kind of personality she has.

In case you are considering having kids, or you still have young kids, or need to remember what it’s like to have kids or be a kid, I thought I’d give a little glimpse into the birthday shenanigans of our five “almost six” year old.

Gwen: Mom, is it my birthday?

Me: Gwen, it’s 2:30 in the morning.

Gwen: So, it is!

Me: Go back to bed.


Gwen: Did Aunt Sarah bring donuts yet?

Me: No, it’s only 6:15. Go back upstairs.

Gwen: Don’t let anyone eat my coconut one!


Gwen: *sigh*

Aaron: What’s wrong?

Gwen: I’ve been waiting and waiting and no one has called me for my birthday yet.

Aaron: It’s only 7:30 in the morning. Give them time to wake up first.


Gwen: Can I wear your makeup, it’s my birthday.

Gwen: Did Daddy call because it’s my birthday?

Gwen: Can I wear your earrings, it’s my birthday.

Gwen: Why do my sissies have to go to school on my birthday?

on a truck

Gwen: Can we go get a snow cone now for my birthday?

Me: After lunch we will.

Gwen: Can we eat lunch now?

Me: It’s only 9:30. Lunch isn’t for a while yet.

Gwen:…Can we eat an early lunch?


Me: Ok, pick out the cake you want….white or chocolate icing…now you can choose your sprinkles.

Gwen: I want these rainbow sprinkles…no, wait! I want eyeballs on my cake.

Me: Are you trying to be creepy?

eyeball cake

I’m not sure what the next year will bring for our Gwendolyn, but I have no doubt that it will be as unique and original as she is.

Happy Birthday sweet girl, thanks for bringing so much fun to our lives!

End of School Recap – How did we do?

We’re in the home stretch – only a few days left until summer starts, and we are LIMPING towards the finish line over here. It’s taking huge amounts of discipline to not give into the pleading to stay home each day. I don’t know how the kids are holding out against me, I’m pretty persuasive. But the girls INSIST on going to school every day…I’m not sure where I went wrong with them.

So in the interests of self-improvement, self-awareness and self-flagellation, I decided to dust off my New School Year Resolutions from last August and see how I did.

  1. Ask the kids each day if they have homework.  If they say yes, make sure they do it.  If they say no, check their back packs.

C+ – I did really well with one of the kids on this. It took me about five months to realize the other one was supposed to be doing math homework online EVERY day. This is what happens when you bring a toddler to the open house night where they explain all of this – you miss vital information when you rush over to keep him from pulling the reading corner apart.

  1. Pack a nutritious lunch each day.  Ok, every other day.  Ok, ok, at least twice a week.

A- – I packed “nutritious” lunches for most of the school year – the last six weeks have seen a lot of granola bars, juice boxes and peanut butter crackers. However, I also got the girls to start packing their OWN nutritious lunches, which is what took me from a B+ to an A-.

  1. Develop a relationship with the childrens’ teachers.  Email relationships count.

A+ – My girls had seriously awesome teachers this year. Communication was easy and effortless. I still get credit for trying, though.

  1. Avoid PTO flyers. Give them my husband’s cell number and email address if they ask for contact info. (Some people are super awesome PTO parents.  They’re gifted and involved and efficient. I am not one of these people, and it’s really best for all concerned if I stay out of their way.)

A+ – Done and done. I avoided so many flyers I got follow up notifications to see if I received the original request. I’m so awesome.

  1. If the teacher has a treasure box, make donations to it throughout the year.  Those treats are paid for out of the teacher’s pocket.

NA – No treasure boxes in the kids’ classrooms this year. Maybe they’re getting too old for this one…which is kind of sad, actually. I wouldn’t mind a treasure box when I do well. It could be filled with Hershey bars, Amazon gift cards and those mini wine bottles.

  1. Hide all clothes I don’t want the kids to wear to school. Those are the ones they always choose to dress themselves in.

B- – I got the against school code ones put away. What I didn’t count on was my oldest’s desire to wear hoodies every single day. Every. Single. Day.

  1. Institute a daily chore list and enforce it.

F – I failed MISERABLY at this. The constant whining after week four did me in. I finally caved and just made them do random chores whenever I felt like it. Which actually was it’s own kind of fun.

  1. Be consistent with bedtime so the kids get enough sleep.

A++ – We are nothing if not consistent with bedtime around here. That is one routine you do not mess with.

  1. Wake up before the children each day and drink a cup of coffee so I can speak to them intelligibly, and so I can see well enough to catch them before they walk out the door in the clothes that were supposed to be hidden.

A – I got the waking up part, and the coffee part – not so sure on the “intelligibly” part.

  1. Encourage the kids to make new friends in addition to their old ones.

C – How many friends do you really need? It’s more about quality than quantity, right??

  1. Have healthy after school snacks on-hand and easy to find.

B – Other than the last few months we did pretty well with this. Somehow those goldfish and fruit snacks started sneaking in lately. They’re just so easy and delicious. Isn’t that always the way?

  1. Find the school year calendar and record it on the family calendar so we can avoid those awkward mornings at the bus stop when we’re waiting forever, only to find out it’s actually teacher in-service.

A – I’m proud to say we recognized every school holiday this year. There was that slight misunderstanding with Muffins with Mom, but I’m pretty sure the kids forgot about it, so I’m not counting it.

  1. Take advantage of online grade books and cafeteria records.

C- – I have zero clue where to find the online grade book. The information may have come home in the ream of paperwork from the first week of school. Maybe I’ll find it when I clean out the office next month. We tried the cafeteria records, but I turned off the notifications at some point because I got tired of the spam…”your daughter has a school cafeteria balance of 5.95.” “your daughter has a school cafeteria balance of 3.95.” “send money soon, your daughter has a school cafeteria balance of –“ ALRIGHT ALREADY, LEAVE ME ALONE.

  1. Don’t lose any more library books.  Those suckers get expensive.

A+ – Found ‘em!

  1. Be in constant communication with the children about how everything is going. Make sure they know that I’m interested in what they do away from home, and that I care about what they are experiencing each day.

A – My kids are still at that age where they like talking to me. I’m hoping we can keep that going for a long time, although I’ve heard the teen years can get rocky. I really enjoyed hearing about their days, and it’s always fun to hear the bus stop gossip. I hear the kid down the street is going to Disney World this summer.

The BEST Mother’s Day Gift

I got the BEST Mother’s Day gift yesterday. It was hilarious. It was timely. It was free.  It was validation.

Let me give you a little background information…

So I’m a stay at home mom, and have been one for almost a decade now. My husband has always been incredibly understanding and supportive of the work involved, but I would say that for the most part it’s been a distant sympathy when I get frustrated. Sort of like, I’m sorry the kids are driving you crazy, but at least you get to spend the day at home instead of in an office.

I have taken a girls’ weekend here and there throughout the years, but usually when I come home and ask how it went, the answer I’ve gotten has been, “No problem, it was easy.”

Which, and maybe I’m alone in this, is a highly annoying answer.

I mean, I’m glad it wasn’t awful, but easy? Really?? Can’t you at least pretend there were some difficulties to make me feel better? You know, like say how tired you were at the end of each day, or comment on the amount of time spent breaking up fights. Even a small comment about how much work it can be. But no, I always get, it was easy.

Now maybe I got a little suspicious the next Monday morning when he would run out of the house for work like his pants were on fire, but mostly I figured the kids saved all of their craziness for me.

But not yesterday. No, yesterday was BEAUTIFUL.

I had a meeting that I needed to be at from about 7am to 2:30pm. The girls all had school, but someone needed to take care of the boy while I was gone. Aaron decided to do some work from home until his dad could get there to take over. No problem, right? After all, it’s just ONE kid.

And then the texts start rolling in…

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No need for gifts this year, hon, I already got all I need.