This past November, Summer turned six, and Hannah turned three.  Charlie and Katie are four and a half.  Can you even believe it?!?

We celebrated Summer and Hannah’s birthdays with a pirate party…

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So, yeah, my four babies have morphed into four little people overnight, and I wanted to share several important lessons learned along the way…

STAINS – We have encountered some pretty gnarly stains since becoming parents, and I have quite the arsenal of stain treatments ready to go at all hours in our laundry room cabinet. For mud and dirt, I try and attack the stain as soon as I can.  I find that if you can get to it before the stain sets in, you’ll have a much easier time getting rid of it.  First, I’ll rinse off any excess mud or dirt using the kitchen sink sprayer, and if we’re completely covered in mud, I hose off the clothes in the driveway.  Then I’ll either wash immediately or soak in a bucket of water + OxiClean and launder as usual.  For tough grass and dirt spots, I’ll rub in OxiClean gel or Dawn dishwashing liquid soap.  For blood (we get a lot of bloody noses around here), my #1 stain fighter is ice.  Cover the stain in ice as soon as you can, and just leave it.  The ice will get out the majority of blood.  I then treat with OxiClean gel and wash as usual.  If the stain doesn’t come out after the first wash, do not dry it.  Treat again with OxiClean gel and set out in the sun for a few hours.  The sun works wonders when it comes to stains and is my favorite “bleach”.  For general day-to-day dirt and food stains, I keep two 5 gallon plastic buckets of water + OxiClean powder in our master bath tub and throw extra-dirty clothes in there until I can launder them.  I love using this method to get out spots in our mattresses (potty training – oh man).  The spot itself may not be completely gone, but it definitely takes care of any odors. Oh, and the ice trick works great for spot cleaning furniture too.  If I notice a dirty spot on our furniture, I’ll rub it away with an ice cube and then allow the spot to dry.  Easy peasy.

Stomach Bug – When you hear this phrase, STAY FAR AWAY.  That is all.

Mondays – keep them open if you can.  Several friends have shared this tip with me as well as a few blogs that I read.  Monday is a great day for catching up after the weekend.  I usually have a list of phone calls to make and/or random errands to run, etc., and I find that when I make plans for Monday morning, I often feel behind before the week has even started.  Hannah is not yet in school, and so if I get through my list, we try to head to story time at the library or to a playground, but sometimes, Mom just needs to get the boring stuff done.

Fresh Air – Get some every.single.day.  Even if it’s just for ten minutes, go outside.  When the weather is bad, and we stay inside all day, my mood is usually awful by the end of the day.  Nature does a body good – something I have to remind myself of often.  Take a walk, sit on your front porch, go jump in a puddle or climb a tree.  Just get out there.

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Stay in Touch – Send letters and notes.  To me, there is nothing like receiving a letter or card in the mail, and I want our kids to enjoy this experience as well.  So, we often send short notes or thank you cards to our friends and loved ones.  It’s a fun activity for the family to do together.  You don’t even have to buy stationary.  Just make cards out of school or home art projects…

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Bangs – Never cut yourself some new fringe after a rough day. Take it from me, that is a very bad idea.

Skip Starbucks – Give me a grande almond milk latte with two pumps of sugar-free vanilla, and I am a happy camper, BUT, those coffee shop trips can really add up…to a not so pleasant conversation when it’s time to go over the monthly budget.  Instead, get yourself one of these and start making your own version at home.  Warm 1.5 cups of almond milk on the stove.  Froth until foamy and then add about .5 cups of your partner’s leftover brew, and five to seven drops of vanilla stevia drops or sweetener of choice.  Froth again and voilà!  It’s delicious, especially with a TBSP of raw cacao powder and a dash of cinnamon.

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Potty Training – All I got: be patient and be prepared to clean up pee, anywhere from a few days to a few years.  It’s different with every child, and I still don’t know what the best method is.

Crib to big kid bed – Keep them in the crib as long as humanly possible. If they’re happy and not attempting to climb out, why mess with a good thing? All of our babies were good sleepers until we transitioned them out of their cribs, and I don’t think we’ve slept through the night in about three years now.

Toys – We’ve cycled through a lot of toys, and they usually end up sitting unused, taking up space in the playroom.  Our kids love building forts with pillows and blankets, playing outside (nothing better than sticks and dirt), and coloring.  We leave paper and markers + crayons within reach at all times, and the kids are able to make art whenever they want.  The one toy the kids love, and that I wished we owned more of are these.  They are not cheap, but the kids use them to build the most amazing structures, and if we only had one toy, it would definitely be Magna-Tiles.  Oh, and we also have a trampoline, which gets used pretty much daily.  Love our trampoline.

Memories – Take more photos of your kids with their grandparents.  I treasure every picture I have of my mom with our children, and I always wish I’d taken more.

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Thanks again for taking this one, Emily.  I love it so much.

Stuff – Clutter has always bothered me, but my aversion to stuff was truly confirmed once we had kids.  Big messes give me anxiety…okay, small messes do as well.  I wish this wasn’t the case and that I could relax a bit more when it comes to an untidy room, but I can’t.  My mom raised me to really appreciate a clean house, and it’s just the way I am.  So, our solution is to try and keep the toys all upstairs in the playroom and a few in the kids’ rooms as well.  The downstairs is mostly a toy-free zone, and we keep our decor fairly minimal.  It’s not just for me – Chris has always been anti-stuff, and the kids tend to get overwhelmed with messes just as much as we do.  They seem to do a lot better with just a few choices of things to play with rather than a whole room filled with toys.  Try it.  Less stuff will change your life, or at least allow for a little more breathing room.

Clean-up time – And speaking of stuff, one important lesson I’ve learned over the last few years is that kids can clean up their messes, but really young ones tend to get overwhelmed.  Yes, they can turn a room upside down in less than five minutes, but tell a two-year old to clean up, and it will often end in tears and frustration.  Summer, our six year old will clean up the entire playroom by herself, putting everything back in its proper place, and Charlie and Katie are pretty good about this as well.  However, Hannah still needs help, and the best way for her to learn is for an adult to do it with her.  Kids will model their parents’ and teachers’ behaviors, and if you help them sort and put away, they will gladly do it with you, especially if you sing a fun song while you do it: “Now it’s time to tidy-up, tidy-up, tidy-up…”

Okay, this post has gotten way too long.  That’s all for now.  Parenting sure is wonderful, yet humbling at the same time, no?  And I don’t even have teenagers yet.  😉

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Back to The Books

by HEAB on August 10, 2016

Books.  Every spare second, I’ve got my nose stuck in one – just like years ago when I could not get enough of Laura and her calico bonnet, Anne Shirley with an “E”, and later on, the Wakefield twins and all members of the Baby-Sitters Club.  I read every book assigned to me throughout high-school and college (except for The Grapes of Wrath.  Oh man, I could not get through that one).

After college I discovered exercise, and those hours previously spent reading turned into miles and miles logged on the roads.  I’m not sad about it though because running led me to my husband and gave me what I hope will be a life-long love of staying active.  CD and I met at a post 10K race party, and soon life was busy with marriage and babies and social media and play dates and meal planning and playgrounds, etc… I could have made time for reading, but for some reason, the focus was no longer there.  Every time I sat down to read, my mind wandered somewhere else – to the laundry that needed to be folded, to the birthday party gift I needed to make, to the email that needed a response, to the restless child who needed late night snuggles to get to sleep.  Some of these reasons not to read truly mattered, but most did not.  So, I’ve let the unimportant ones go, and I think I’ve read more books in the past month than I have in the last three years.

I inherited my love of reading from my sweet mom, who passed away this past February after being diagnosed with stage IV bone cancer in late December. We brought her home from the hospital on a Friday, and she left us that following Tuesday, less than two months after her diagnosis.  I will never forget her last breath. Nor will I forget the hours she used to spend reading.  She would somehow tune out the TV, our friends running in and out of the house, and our constant, “Mom, mom, mom” and lose herself in a book.  It was something that I always loved and admired about her.  There was nothing she enjoyed more than a good read, and I knew the pain had become unbearable when she could no longer focus on the words on the page.  So mom, I want you to know that I am reading again as I want Summer, Charlie, Katie, and Hannah to remember me with my nose in a book, just as I remember their beloved Nonna.  Love and miss you mama – Thank you for teaching me your love of reading, and I promise to never forget such an important lesson again.

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A Natural Alternative To Goo Gone

April 11, 2016
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That sticky stuff left on glass after removing a sticker or price tag?  The worst, right? After cleaning up a jar the other day to use for flowers, I thought I’d share one of my favorite life hacks.  I think I read this tip on the Internet years ago – it’s no big secret, but […]

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Homemade Gift Wrap With Kids

December 5, 2015
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The kids are really into Christmas this year – FINALLY, and I could not be more excited!  They always enjoy Christmas, but this is the first year that they seem to truly understand the meaning of the holiday and all of our family traditions (although Hannah still likes to hide and hoard all the Advent Calendar inserts, but […]

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Dragons Love Tacos & Birthday Parties

November 22, 2015
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Yesterday, we celebrated Summer turning five and Hannah turning two (can you even believe it?!?).  Dragons Love Tacos is a favorite book around here, and we’d thought it be a fun birthday party theme.  Because who doesn’t love dragons, or for that matter a taco salad bar??? Still my favorite guac… And everyone’s favorite cashew […]

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Site Maintenance

October 9, 2015

Hey all, I have someone trying to fix a few kinks in my blog, and some old posts accidentally went out via email yesterday.  Sorry about that, and no, we’re not expecting again. 🙂 Thanks for your patience. -Heather

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Vegan Creamy White Bean Chili

August 28, 2015

We’re gearing up for fall around here (my favorite!) and made our first chili of the season tonight.  There wasn’t time to cook my own beans or get the crock pot going this morning, and so I came up with the following recipe using canned beans and gluten free flour as a thickener.  After taste […]

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No More Stinky Breath Hummus

July 6, 2015

Our kids like hummus, and they also like to crawl in bed with us first thing in the morning.  I love the early cuddles, but I do not love smelling garlic breath at 5:30 AM.  No thank you.  So, we stopped buying hummus in bulk at Costco and started making our own garlic-free version.  That […]

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Pregnancy Changed Me For The Better

June 26, 2015

Pregnant with Summer in October 2010… Thank you Emily for the beautiful photo! And 34 weeks pregnant with Charlie and Katie in June 2012… And last but not least, awaiting Hannah’s arrival in October 2013… Another favorite from Emily Smallcomb Family Photography. I did something I haven’t done in a while.  I wrote a guest […]

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Let’s Get Messy

June 16, 2015

Food: Hummus with chips and carrots, my favorite guacamole, more chips (you can never have enough tortilla chips in my opinion), crackers with peanut butter and apple slices, cheese pizza and hot dogs from Costco (so cheap/so good), deviled eggs, chocolate chip and oatmeal cookies. Beep, beep, beep…big fans of Little Blue around here. as […]

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