Summer Flowers 2017

I usually share my gardening adventures each summer. Here’s a peek at this year’s flowers.

Since we went on vacation at the beginning of summer, I held off on planting until mid-June. It was hard to wait, but important. Because I waited, I didn’t get any pansies this year. I mostly found petunias when it was time to shop. They are always a nice pop of color, though.

Things are a little behind where they’d normally be, but they will be beautiful by the end of summer. I’ll enjoy them along the way.

I started my flowerbed almost ten years ago with some plants shared from friends and family. Now there isn’t much room for anything new. It’s fun to see how it’s matured. Now onto the maintenance (aka weeding)…

My Takeaway: Sometimes waiting is the best approach. You can give things the attention they deserve.

10 Adult Products for Parents of Young Children

We all know there is a ton of gear for young children that makes life easier, from travel systems to sippy cups. Here is my list of adult items that also make life easier with young ones.

1. Soft-Close Toilet Seat
Once your child starts potty training, they are going to start moving the lid. We found out pretty quickly that the slamming/dropping of the lid not only annoyed us, but also scared us thinking of those little body parts getting squished.

2. Extra Long Bathtub Mat
We started with a standard size bathmat, but I watched our busy baby slip in the front and back of the tub where it didn’t reach. This was a simple solution that let our little ones dance around and thoroughly enjoy tub time.

3. Across-the-Body Purse
I joke that as a mom I’m part pack mule. There is so much to carry when you have little ones. I found that a purse with a strap that can go across your body will stay put while you’re hauling an infant and all their gear.

4. Touch Lamps
I love touch lamps. I had one growing up, and it always seemed to work like magic. As an exhausted parent, I still love them. Your baby wakes you up in the middle of the night, and you need a little light to investigate the problem, just reach out and touch it, no brain power required.

5. Large Capacity Washer and Dryer
Children can be disgusting. Need I say more? A large capacity helps you wash fewer loads and spend less time doing laundry.

6. Washable Rug
Once your baby starts rolling over, the changing table becomes a dangerous place. We used a washable rug on the floor as our safer changing location.

7. Closet Organizer
I think a simple closet organizer is a great way to both see what all you have for your child in a glance and to start giving them the independence to choose clothes. Not only does this help bring the clothes to their level, but they can see what is there without pulling everything out into a pile on the floor.

8. Artwork Frames/Bulletin Board
Managing a child’s artwork quickly becomes a huge task. One of my favorite ways to display it is in their rooms with a frame or bulletin board. I love these frames for quickly switching pictures.

9. Fan/Humidifier
I am a big believer in white noise for helping little ones to sleep better. While you could use a white noise machine, you likely have a fan or humidifier on hand, and they work too. We use both, based on the season.

10. Rubber Trunk Mat or Rubber Car Floormats
As I said in number 5, children can be disgusting. If you’re out and about when it happens, it’s nice to have a safe place to put that mess until you get home.

My takeway: Anything that makes life as a parent easier is worth it!

(Some of these links are Amazon affliate links.)

Five Ways I’m Encouraging Creativity in My Kids

As I’ve watched my kids develop, I’ve seen some amazing ideas flow out of their little heads. They have literally blown my mind with their creativity. It’s already in their minds. I just want to keep it going. Here are five things I’m doing to nurture it.

1. Let them pick their own clothes – I read an article years ago about encouraging young children to be creative. One of the tips that has stuck with me is to let your child pick their own clothes. This not only gives them a job and teaches them independence, it lets them explore what they like. Do I get so really “great” outfits at my house? Oh yay! We sneak photos and hide laughter. It’s an easy way to develop their sense of self.

2. Encourage them to makeup their own games – We have had a lot of fun over the years making up our own games, and it is such a great creativity exercise. We love to take existing game pieces and make up our own way of using them. We’ve made our own character cards and powers. We’ve made our own game boards for existing pieces. We’ve just changed the rules to existing games.

3. Keep craft materials available to them – Awhile ago, I realized that when my kids were having a great time being creative, my dining room table was covered in supplies. This drives me nuts after a bit. So, I purchased a three drawer table, and filled it with supplies: paper, markers, crayons, glue scissors, googly eyes, tape, pipe cleaners and more. It lives in the dining room where they like to work and is easy to access. They don’t have to bug me for supplies when they get an idea. And when they are done, there is a home for stuff.

4. Turn off the devices and let them to be bored – I’ve done this a few times recently, and I can’t even tell you how creative they become when they don’t know what to do. My kids have built cardboard dollhouses and hand cut all the accessories. They have built critters on top of a remote controlled car so it can chase you. They’ve “ice skated” around the kitchen floor on paper plates. I didn’t help think up any of this. I just point to the supplies they request.

5. Let them see me being creative – This is the statement every parent hates to hear: model the behavior. But it really works (and it’s good for you too). They can see what you enjoy and spin it into their own thing.

I used to save all my crafting for when my kids were asleep because I didn’t want them in my supplies. I didn’t want them wasting them. I really had to change my thought process on this one. Being creative is not wasteful. They’re just exploring the medium. I share some of my stuff, but not all. Some they have to ask to use or be supervised.

My takeaway: Nurture the creativity! It’s good for us all.

Pretending to be a Photographer 3.0

We recently took a cruise around Norway, and, of course, the scenary was incredibly inspiring.

Here are a few of my favorite shots:

Outside the Ascot Hotel in Copenhagen, Denmark. Lots of bikes around the city!

Alesund, Norway

We loved all the old ships at the Sunmore Museum in Alesund, Norway.

Amazing Fjords around Geringer, Norway, with the Seven Sisters Waterfalls.

Rocks weighing down the strings on a loom at the Sunmore Museum in Alesund, Norway.

Water front property in Norway.

My designer takeaway: Traveling makes it easy to see things in a new perspective. Take advantage of that.

Pokemon Cakes

This year, we celebrated my son’s ninth birthday with a Pokemon theme. There are some pretty amazing sculpted cake ideas out there, but I like to keep it simple.

For his friend party, we made Pokeball cupcakes. These are really simple, half red, half white. Put a stripe of black down the middle, and a dot of black in the middle with an upside down white chocolate chip.

On his actualy birthday, we made a Pikachu cake. This, too, was really simple. It started with two nine inch round cakes. We trimmed the ears from one cake. You need a lot of yellow frosting, and then little bits of black, red and white (which we had left from the cupcakes, yay!).

My trip for creating the face is so draw the outline with a toothpick in the yellow frosting. Then you have a line to follow when drawing the rest. (If you don’t like it, you can smooth it over and try again.)

My Designer Takeaway: Keep it simple and tasty.

Pretending to be a Photographer 2.0

Over the holidays, we stopped at the beautiful Reiman Gardens in Ames, Iowa. With warmth, butterflies and flowers in the middle of winter, this place is very inviting and inspiring!

Here are a few of my favorite shots from our visit:

butterfly1

butterfly2

butterfly3

butterfly4
My designer takeaway: Practice makes us better, and sometimes it’s even fun to practice!

Holiday Card for the Animal Shelter 2.0

For the second year, a friend who works at the local animal shelter asked me to design a holiday card for them. Of course I agreed again!

They sent me a couple of ideas they liked themed around fun, cartoonish design. They also shared a new logo they’re switching to. We played with a holiday theme graphically, but their new brand colors instead of the traditional green and red for a little bit different feel.

cas-holiday-card-2016-blue-green-1

cas-holiday-card-2016-blue-green-2

I hope it helped them share some goodwill this season. I always enjoy helping out when I can.

My designer takeaway: Throw out the obvious color choices every now and then. Mix it up.

Why You Want to Hire a Mother

I recently went to an interview for a new job, which had some evening and weekend hours. I was asked how I would handle that with a young family. While I know this behavior is common (and not something that would be asked of a father), I want to address why you want to hire a mother.

I feel like motherhood teaches a lot of really great skills that we should want to include on our resumes, rather than hiding the fact that we have a family in an interview setting. These skills include: organization, problem solving, flexibility, dealing with issues publicly, a learner, a teacher, a well-rounded person.

  • As a mother, one likely manages multiple schedules and possessions. She has methods and tricks that make organizing it all work (at least most of the time). A mother’s day begins with problem solving to get everyone ready for the day on time with the gear they need.
  • Ever dealt with a growing baby? Every new parent learns the art of flexibility because as soon as you notice a baby’s pattern of behavior, it changes. You learn, by force, to roll with the punches.
  • Negotiating with an upset person in public? Yup, every mother of a 2-3 year old or teenager has experienced this, and at the very least knows what doesn’t work.
  • Mothers have been humbled to know they have a lot to learn, but they are learning, rapidly and on a variety of topics daily (medical, psychological, educational, developmental, science and more).
  • Mothers are also teachers, from the basic skills like eating … to philosophies on the way the world works. A mother knows that sometimes the least convenient time is the best time for teaching.

I don’t see how an employer wouldn’t want someone with these skills.

Is a mother going to take off from work sometimes to tend to her family? Yes.
But let me ask you this: Do you want to live in a world where mothers’ don’t? I don’t. And for that matter, I don’t want to live in a world where fathers miss out on family either.

My takeaway: We’re all in it together, even if you don’t have children. You were a child once.

Five Life Lessons I Learned From Coaching Youth Soccer

youth soccer

youth soccer

I love soccer. I love to play it and watch it. I really wanted to share it with my kids (knowing full well that they’ll probably fall in love with a different sport. Murphy’s Law, right?)

So when my son’s team ended up without a coach last year, I gingerly stepped forward. But this new coaching role … it was hard! And I have and continue to learn a lot from these little players, both about soccer and life. Here is a glimpse at what I’ve gained:

  • Don’t let one problem person distract you from seeing all the good happening around you. On each of the teams I’ve coached, there are always a couple of players who act out. My first tactic is to ignore this behavior because I don’t want to provide attention for poor behavior. The problem is when one player’s bad behavior affects another player. Then I have to step in. I can handle this a few times, but after awhile, it wears me down and makes me angry. I have to remind myself that even though one or a handful of players are being obnoxious, the others are playing hard and learning. There are coaches and parents donating their time and energy. There are positive relationships being built. There is a lot of good happening around, if you can just look past those annoyances.
  • When it gets tough, just keep showing up. This one goes hand in hand with the first lesson I learned. After those hard practices that make you want to quit, just keep showing up. Just keep trying. Life’s not always pretty, but we make progress if we just keep going.
  • Parenting is part of coaching, part of being a mentor. This lesson caught me more off guard than it should have. I thought I was there to facilitate the fun. Nope. I am a teacher, and it’s not limited to soccer. Life lessons that have come up include:
    • Treat others with respect. (This is so multifaceted: respect adults when their talking, respect teammates when listening and practicing, have respectful physical interactions with teammates and opponents, have respectful conversations with teammates and opponents.)
    • Life is not fair; play the game you’re given.
    • Don’t play down (dirty); play like the kind person you want to be.
  • I want our sons and daughters to see women as leaders (coaches), and that means I might have to step up and be that leader. The first team I coached was an all boys team. I really worried that they’d look at me (a mom, a female) and think “What does she know?” To my surprise, this didn’t happen. I hope it doesn’t for this generation. Then I coached a co-ed team, and I can tell you the girls were thrilled to have a female coach. I hope they continue to see this throughout their lives.
  • Don’t lose sight of the goal: Fun! After those miserable practices where I’ve yelled a lot, I try to think of how I can do it differently the next time. How can I make sure it’s fun, and the team wants to keep coming back? Usually I switch something up: more time to goof around at the beginning, a different warm up drill  or new skill to teach, make them the activity leaders, or change the rules for the scrimmage at the end.

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My designer takeaway: “Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty… I have never in my life envied a human being who led an easy life. I have envied a great many people who led difficult lives and led them well.”

― Theodore Roosevelt

Our BB8 Cake

I always love to surprise my family with a fun birthday cake or cupcakes. When my husband’s birthday rolled around this year, I really wanted to make him a BB8 (the robot from Star Wars) cake. I hunted around the internet, and I just couldn’t find anything simple enough that I felt like we could tackle it. Most of them were 3D made with two ball-shaped cakes. I wasn’t sure I wanted to go there. And, I don’t do fondant, which ruled out a lot. But, I finally found some flat examples that we based our cake on.

Here is what we came up with:

bb8

This is just two round cakes. One pan was slightly smaller. I chopped about a third off the smaller cake and angled the bottom edges. We frosted it all in white. Then I drew the details into the white frosting with a tooth pick.

My mom (aka Grandma) with her steady hand and my kids traced on the orange and gray details.

We were all pretty pleased and eager to show it off to the birthday boy, who loved it.

BB8Adam

My designer takeaway: Research and then simplify!

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