Tag: Spending Time

Completely Broke in Italy, Best Time of Our Life

Birds fluttered to the ground by our feet. They could see us eating bread and the little crumbs that were falling in between the cobblestones below. Normally, I would have loved to throw a couple of pieces of bread at the birds. But as my feet dangled off the bench in the courtyard of the church, I clutched my bread in my hands and didn’t share a morsel. Because, if you can believe it, this piece of bread was my food ration for the day. We were so completely broke, that we couldn’t even share some of our bread with the birds.

We were in Padova, Italy, had just gone through a beautiful church and were eating before our next leg of the journey. I will never forget sitting next to my love, eating bread and denying the birds of any of our limited food.

Completely broke and traveling everywhere

 

How it Happened

Austin and I had been saving up money all year so that he could do an internship in Italy. That sounds amazing, right? We had it all planned out, to see as much as possible while we were there. After all, how often do you get to live in Italy?

He got an internship with the Monte dei Paschi bank in Siena. And with the $1000 they would be paying him, we had just enough money to fund the remainder of our trip. We were excited.

We flew across the world and landed in Torino, Italy. From there we went to a number of different cities in the North. The day before we went to Padova, we were in Verona, the setting of Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet.

completely broke and completely in love
Leaving our mark on the wall of Love by Juliet’s balcony.

Right before we left for an opera, Austin checked his email. During the week that we had been in Italy, the bank had gone bankrupt and was obviously not going to be having any interns whatsoever. His internship was gone and our $1000 was gone.

Fortunately, our school was able to find him a new one. But this one was an unpaid internship and suddenly we found ourselves completely broke in Italy.

 

Completely Broke in Italy

If there’s one place that you don’t want to be completely broke, it’s Italy. The food is incredible, the sites are amazing, the history is rich and everything is expensive. Suddenly we had no money in one of the places where you want to spend money.

completely broke but can still see the sunset
You don’t need money for sunsets!

 

Spending Habits

We did the math. The amount of available money we had for our meals for the rest of the trip was $5 (3 euro) per day for both of us. Meaning we had 1.5 euro per person for the ENTIRE day (breakfast and lunch were already covered in our living expenses during the school week, but on days when we were away from Siena, we were all on our own). Our habits changed drastically:

completely broke in Verona
In Verona; we had just become aware of our financial situation. It took some time to look this happy again.

Grocery Stores instead of Going Out

We went to grocery stores to buy all of our meals. These meals frequently were things like rolls, cans of tuna, tomatoes & mozzarella cheese. There, the cheese was much less expensive than it is in the United States, and much better.

Non-Glutinous Gelato

If we ever treated ourselves to gelato, we got the smallest size and we shared it.

Towel Tale

In Milano, it was 90 degrees at night. We were sweating in our room. Our clothes were sticking to us. It was 10 euro for air conditioning. Do you think we got it? Nope. Instead we got the towels wet and slept with them on top of us to cool us down. That was my husband’s ingenious idea and I couldn’t believe it worked as well as it did.

Halvsies

We shared every meal except two. One was an incredible panzerotti place in Milano (Luini’s by the duomo, in case you are ever there) – Austin said this was one time we could not share. And on my birthday, I got my own gelato, which was my only request.

eating my only gelato that was completely mine when we were completely broke
Happy Birthday to me!

Feeding Frenzy

If a hotel ever had a breakfast (which was rare because we were staying in hostels), we ate as much as we possibly could and took whatever we could with us. We didn’t care who looked at us sideways. It was take the food or starve.

No Rest for the Weary

We walked EVERYWHERE. In Rome, at the very end of our trip, we had been walking forever. My feet were so sore I could barely put one foot in front of the other. Suddenly, Austin pointed at the metro. “Want to take the metro?” I think I started crying.

feet in a fountain to help the blisters
The day when I wore the wrong shoes to walk around. Blisters for days!

Rare Remembrances

Our souvenirs were extremely limited and we only bought what we had planned on buying. Because on top of being broke, we were also carrying everything on our backs everywhere we went.

completely broke with our only possessions in Italy
This is all we had for 3 months and we carried it everywhere we went.

We were literally, the epitome of starving college students.

Yep, that’s us with all of our stuff as we began our adventure.

 

Miracles

When you are in dire straits, you tend to see more miracles. We, of course, said many prayers pleading for help and we saw so many miracles that helped us make it through. Even if they weren’t critical to our well-being, they were all a reminder that God was watching us and He cared about his completely broke children.

walking to the nearest town because we were completely broke
When I say we walked everywhere, I mean EVERYWHERE. This was a 5 mile walk I believe.

Advance Payday

One of our photography clients offered to pay us early for an upcoming wedding. We graciously accepted. (Unfortunately, on our way to the wedding, our cameras were stolen in the airport right after we got home from Italy. Gratefully, we had emptied our memory cards onto our computer just a half an hour before.)

Blessed Bracelets

There are people everywhere who are trying to get you to buy their products or souvenirs. In one such situation, the men were trying to get us to buy their bracelets. In an act of desperation, they pleaded, “One euro. Just one euro.”

Little did they know that one euro was 1/3 of our combined meal rations for the day. We both declined again and again.

Finally they said, “You can just have them. For free.” I don’t know why they both changed their mind. Maybe they could sense that they may have met a couple of tourists who quite literally did not have one euro to spare.

 

Whatever the reason, we kept the bracelets on the rest of the trip as a reminder that God was looking out for us.

Extra Tickets

Someone had extra tickets for a tour and they singled us out of a group of tourists and asked if we would like them. The tickets were only 2.5 euros each, but we could not have gone inside without that blessing.

Hop on, Hop off

A couple was going home a day early and had one more day of a Hop on, Hop off bus ticket in Rome. Guess who they asked to take it? We rode that bus, seeing a lot more of Rome than we would have otherwise and saved our feet some serious damage. Which, really could have changed the outcome of the story above when I could barely make it to the metro.

Vatican Visual

There is only one Sunday every month when visiting the Vatican is completely free. It’s the last Sunday of the month and guess what Sunday we were there. Yep, after standing in the pouring rain, we made it in and saw everything. It was incredible!

Dripping wet by St. Peter’s Basilica right before standing in line.

Christmas Present

An already planned, but a miracle nevertheless was a Christmas present we had received. Austin’s parents had used their points to get us two nights at the Waldorf Astoria in Rome. It was, in a word, exquisite. Basically, it was a good thing we had already seen everything we wanted to see in Rome because once we went into that hotel, we did not leave until we were forced out.

Marriage Magic

Being completely broke was one of the most stressful things we had done together up until that point in our marriage. We hadn’t even had our one year anniversary. But because we were going through it together, we leaned on each other and became stronger together because of the trials we faced.

completely broke and in love in Venice

We survived.

Three months later, our trip to Italy was over. We were exhausted, hungry and excited about hamburgers, but also devastated that we would be leaving. We had had so much fun. There were so many adventures, so many stories and so many moments where I grew to love my husband even more.

Didn’t cost anything to act like touristy fools in front of the Leaning Tower of Pisa!

We worked through being completely broke and came out on the other side, albeit a total of 35 lbs lighter for both of us. (I lost 15. Austin lost 20.) It was hard going back to America and finding jobs again and ending our adventure, but after that I knew that Austin and I could get through anything together. We had endured a lot and relied on each other.

Dealing with the struggle of being completely broke in Italy, enabled us to travel to China later with a 6 week old baby. I couldn’t have made it through without knowing what I learned when we were in Italy. We may have been completely broke, but it was the best time of my life. My husband and I are imperfect, but we can get through anything together.

My best friend for-literally-ever. He’s stuck with me.

Decorating Eggs for Easter with a Toddler & Baby

I wasn’t sure how decorating eggs would go. After all, Siena is only two years old and I was sure that Grayson would want to be involved, even though he couldn’t sit up all the way on his own yet. Imagine my surprise when decorating eggs turned out to be a blast!

decorating eggs
Don’t they look like they had fun?

 

Something’s Up

Grayson knew immediately from the living room that something was going on in the kitchen. As I was setting things up, Siena had joined me by sitting on her booster chair at the kitchen table. Grayson made loud grunts and yells from the living room as he strained to see what we were doing, so I had to quickly get him and let him join in the fun.

Ready for decorating eggs
Look how excited he is!

Decorating Eggs

We put Siena and Grayson at the end of the table so that everything was close and easily accessible. Then, I put some yogurt drops on Grayson’s tray so that he had something to do while the egg decorating began.

Grayson reaching for yogurt drops
Yogurt Drops!

Siena loved how the eggs changed colors.

decorating eggs and Siena holds up the first colored egg
“Wow!” This was the first egg that we colored.

She was excited to pick which colors she wanted us to dip the eggs into. We were happy to oblige. When they came out all colorful, she squealed with excitement and we got to let her sticker them up.

decorating the eggs with stickers
“Focused Face”

And if you can believe it, all 9 eggs survived! Not one cracked egg.

 

Giggle Fest

We got all of the eggs painted and then the real fun began.

He makes me laugh just as much as I make him laugh. He is SERIOUSLY the HAPPIEST baby in the world.

For some reason, I was the funniest person on the planet today to my son. He just kept laughing at me. And of course, my little girl was trying to copy me and get him to laugh too, so we got a video of his giggles and her sweet attempts to be like her mommy.

Daddy Time

decorating eggs with daddy

Even if it is something simple and silly, we love being able to spend time with daddy. Decorating Eggs may not be the most exciting thing for adults, but it was so much more fun with him. Siena loved showing off for her daddy and Grayson loved being a part of the whole family gathering.

 

Happy Easter!

We can’t wait until the Easter Bunny shows up tomorrow and to talk to our babies about the true meaning of Easter. Hopefully we can start to introduce what it means that Christ lived and died for us and and lived for us again.

More pics below!

I just had to include this adorable picture of my chubby cheeked boy!
Siena decorating eggs and poking her tongue out
My girl is just the coolest.

More Simple Things for Family Fun!

Fun Uncle Coco & Cool Aunt Nai – 10 Benefits to Having Family Visit

Everyone needs a fun uncle and cool aunt and we are happy to report that our kids have many. This last weekend we got to hang out with Austin’s brother (fun uncle) and his cute wife (cool aunt). It was their first time coming out here to Michigan and we loved having them.

fun uncle coco reading book to Siena

Siena and Grayson loved having some cool new friends. And after they visited, we have decided that a fun uncle and cool aunt are so great for our kids! In fact, I might even say they are necessary. So if you don’t have a candidate for cool aunt or fun uncle, they don’t necessarily have to be blood related. Just make some!

 

Benefits of a Fun Uncle & Cool Aunt

1. Someone else to entertain the Littles

It didn’t take long for Siena to latch onto her fun uncle and fun aunt. She called Colton, “Coco” and Natalie was “Nai” (rhymes with spy). She loved climbing and playing with both of them. Grayson was thrilled to have someone else paying attention to him all of the time.

littles sitting on the couch

2. Someone Else to Reinforce Mom and Dad’s Rules besides Mom and Dad

As obedient as Siena is, sometimes it is so nice for her to see that even fun Uncle Coco and cool Aunt Nai aren’t eating in the living room either. (at least while Siena is awake…) It helps her learn that it’s not just boring Mom and Dad who make such rules.

And, for the record, she has been doing great with that rule since they left!

 

3. Fun Outings we wouldn’t have taken otherwise

We got to explore all over downtown Detroit! We could do that anyways, but having visitors always seems to motivate us to get out of the house. With visitors, we have to show off our great city! Siena and Grayson loved being taken all over in the stroller like big kids.

fun uncle and cool aunt in front of comerica park

We also finally got to eat at a restaurant we’ve been dying to try.

 

Grayson asleep at the restaurant after being out WAY past his nap time.

4. A Break from Changing Diapers

Cool Aunt Nai was so excited to be helping with the ‘mommy’ and ‘daddy’ stuff that this Mom and Dad got some much appreciated breaks. This time, I wasn’t the only one who got to experience soft serve poops while changing his diaper. I seriously think he likes to show off his bowel movements because he will only ever do it when someone is actually in the process of changing his diaper.

For the record, fun Uncle Coco was not cool with the Coco colored soft serve and stayed FAR FAR AWAY.

 

5. A Break from Constant Feedings

As much as I love to spoon feed my son and look into his eyes while I feed him a bottle, that kid can eat! Do you know how much time I spend shoveling food into him? I can’t keep up most days. So it was awesome being able to tag team with Cool Aunt Nai.

 

6. A Break from being the Focus of All Attention

Usually my kids want to be the center of my attention at all times. If I look at one, the other one gets upset. If I check my phone, suddenly I am the climbing gym. Eating is a rarity, going to the bathroom alone doesn’t really happen and sleeping uninterrupted for longer than 4 hours will probably never happen again.

Imagine my relief when I could play with one and the other one had another adult to play with. Fun Uncle Coco was the new climbing gym and I got a little bit of free time. Still not much sleep though… we were too busy talking after the kids went to bed.

 

7. Great Influence the Kiddos can Trust when they get Older

I can’t help but think about how great it will be to have other role models around. They will have so many aunts and uncles that can be exemplary examples when they are teenagers. Suddenly our opinion may not be worth as much as a fun uncle or a cool aunt’s.

fun uncle coco and cool aunt nai

 

8. Someone to Play Games with After Bedtime

Once the babes are in bed, we have the fun uncle and cool aunt all to ourselves. We get to play games with them and have adult conversations. It was so fun to kick back, relax and get to know Austin’s brother and sister-in-law better. We love our games and play them all the time. I included links to some of our favorites in case you need new ideas.

9. More Daddy Time!

Because Austin doesn’t want to miss out on all the fun, he takes time off of work and we get more daddy time! We got to go on all of these adventures with him. In fact after they left, Siena couldn’t understand why Dada had to work. She loved having him around more.

daddy time out and about

10. Pictures for a Lifetime

And every time family comes to visit, we get to take a bunch of pictures because they’re not around all of the time. So, we had a blast taking pictures of the babes, of all of us and having fun with the family. Now we’ll be able to remember it forever.

PICTURE OVERLOAD ALERT!

More photos from the rest of their trip:

Standing outside the Red Wings Game waiting to go inside and get out of the rain.

 

The Red Wings have a tradition of throwing an octopus on the ice during the Playoffs. They didn’t make the Playoffs this year, but it was one of the last games in the Joe Louis Arena, so we saw many Octopus carcasses splayed on the ice.
Great game to see with some great family!
Fun Uncle Coco & Cool Aunt Nai
Fun Uncle Coco & Cool Aunt Nai
We got to go to this fun game because our awesome friends watched our kids that night!
I love it when he grabs his toes!
fun uncle with dada on their devices
Sometimes they were real lively. Here I think they were both creating some roller coasters… the story of their trip.
Just have to include any cute pictures of them ever taken.
Our animals or theirs?
Fun at the Farm
She loves her ‘tows’! (cows)

To read about more fun at the farm when I took the kids by myself, click here.

Bad Dreams Become My Own Personal Horror Story & Sweetest Moment

First Bad Dreams

I haven’t had to worry too much about bad dreams yet so far. At one point, when Siena was an infant we thought maybe she had had a nightmare, because she woke up screaming and after we snuggled her for a little while, she fell right back asleep. But that was the only time we had suspected anything.

little girl sleeping
The one time we can’t ever protect them, in their dreams.

Now that she is getting a little more imaginative and descriptive in her vocabulary, we are finding that maybe she is having some bad dreams every now and then. But this is the first time we have ever confirmed that we have positively identified what has been going on.

 

Absolute Exhaustion

It was late at night. I was exhausted and I crawled into bed in a fog. I was asleep almost instantly, which never happens. My body felt like I weighed about twice as much as I actually do and sunk into my mattress like an anchor penetrates the ocean floor.

 

The Voice

At some point I woke up, thinking I had heard a voice. I rolled over to face the doorway and the empty room. Nothing was there. I must have dreamed it. Or maybe the cat had let out a ‘meow’ to let us know he was bored or hungry. I rolled back over and fell instantly asleep.

Cat in the dark before my toddler woke up with bad dreams

Then I heard the voice again. This time adrenaline started pumping through my blood. I had just barely checked and the room was empty. I rolled over halfway, terrified that I was going to find a person in my room, illuminated by the LED Night Lights scattered throughout the house.

Still no one.

 

toddler awake with bad dreams sitting in darkThe Person

I finished my rotation so that I was now facing the door and closed my eyes again.

“Mama?”

The pulsing, shrieking music from Psycho started echoing in my brain. My eyes searched the darkness and I finally located the source of the voice.

My toddler daughter sat criss-cross applesauce on the floor, next to our cat and was stroking him calmly while watching us sleep!

Yep. I don’t think I’ve ever been that close to peeing my pants out of fear before. (And in case you are wondering, I have peed my pants for other reasons. Different stories for different times.)

 

Bad Dreams

After regaining my composure and my racing blood rate I got up and took Siena back to her room. I wanted to tell her that it’s not okay to get out of bed, but instead had the impression that I needed to ask her a question instead.

talking with my daughter about her bad dreams“Why did you get out of bed, Siena?” I asked her.

She sat in her bed and pointed at something that wasn’t there. “Nigh-nigh… Rawr!” Her hands made little claws.

“Rawr?”

She pointed again and said, “Rawr!”

“Did you have some bad dreams? Did something scare you?”

She made her little ‘Mm’ noise that we have learned means yes.

“Okay. It’s not there anymore, sweet heart. It’s not real.”

“Rawr!” She made the claw gesture again.

Then I suddenly had a thought, or prompting. “Do you want to say a prayer so Heavenly Father can protect you?”

“Mm.”

And in one of my sweetest memories, we said a little prayer together that she wouldn’t have bad dreams anymore and that she would be able to get lots of sleep.

Tender Mercy

What a wonderful moment I got to have with my daughter at 3:00 in the morning. I’m so glad I didn’t just get mad and tell her to get back in bed. I would have never known that she had bad dreams. She would have still been scared and also felt like she couldn’t even talk to her parents about it.

It just took a quick thought when I took her to bed to ask her a question instead of telling her what I expected her to do. I’m so glad I listened to the little feeling I had.

with my sweet girl

This was so much better!

 

Once I did let my anger get the better of me when Siena kept getting out of bed. I felt much worse after that interaction.

 

11 Fun Things to do Inside with your Toddler when it’s Cold Out

Spring is just around the corner and it seems like we are hanging on to a couple more cold and rainy days as it approaches. We just can’t wait to get outside and yet, we have frequently been forced indoors. So what can you do when it looks nice and sunny out but it is still freezing? Time to find some fun things to do inside.

just-a-day-where-my-toddler-is-playing-with-kitchen-measuring-tools

The following is a list of super easy, super simple things that can make a rainy, cold or windy day so much fun!

10 Fun Things to do Inside

1. Play with Bubbles

My daughter absolutely LOVES bubbles! In fact, I try not to let her watch any shows with anything resembling bubbles because then she wants to play with bubbles. I blow the bubbles for her and she tries to pop them. She thinks it’s funny when they land on Grayson’s head. Sometimes, she will blow the bubbles too. We have hardwood and carpet and the bubbles don’t really make any mess at all. Maybe just wipe it up off the hardwood.

playing with balloons is another one on the list of Fun things to do inside
Balloons can be just as fun as bubbles! Just make sure you grab up the remains real fast if they pop.

2. Coloring

fun things to do inside involves coloringColoring books, scrap paper, newspaper, phone books, books you don’t care about, note books, walls… okay, I haven’t done walls on purpose. Let your toddler explore their creativity.

I even let my toddler use markers! *gasp* Because seriously, the fact that the color is instantly on the page and all you have to do is touch the tip to the canvas is enough to make anyone want to color. Do you think there is adult coloring because they are using crayons? No. Maybe colored pencils, but even that is a stretch. There is something so satisfying about watching the ink bleed onto the paper, or maybe I am just an office supply geek. We LOVE coloring.

3. Building a Tower

You don’t have to have fancy blocks if you want fun things to do inside. All you have to have, is anything! I have been amazed at the kinds of things my daughter will stack on top of each other and shout, “Tao!” Grab your old books, your shoes, your DVD cases, your old CDs (because you’re probably using your phone to listen to music now) and see how tall you can get it. This will be SO exciting for your toddler!

4. Talking Toys

Maybe your toddlers are like mine and they like to get a couple of toys, could be ANYTHING and give one to you and pretend that they are talking. My toy is almost always the Mama toy. And the conversation goes something like this:

playing with potato heads as a part of fun things to do insideSiena – Hi

Me – Hi

Siena – Mama (points to my toy)

Me – Oh is this the Mama Potato Head?

(she nods)

(The toys kiss)

Siena – Hug?

(The toys hug)

Siena – Hug!

Then the toys might drive off or we will have another conversation much like the one we just had. If you have the patience for this game, it will keep your child entertained for as long as you can endure it.

5. Make a Fun Treat

Siena likes to do anything that I am doing. That includes emptying the dishwasher, taking groceries in and laundry (except she likes to throw the socks and clothes all over the living room instead of fold-we’re working on that one).

So, I have learned that she LOVES to help mix things. I also let her dump in cups of flour or sugar and have her hold the egg while I crack it. She thinks the egg one is especially funny. Then, the best part is you get to eat your yummy treat with your baby. I’ve made Potato Wedges with Siena and she loves dipping them in Ketchup.

6. Build a Fort

This is on my list of fun things to do inside because I haven’t had the chance to do it yet! We don’t have couch cushions that pull out, but I have thought many times that we need to do this. Maybe one morning, when Grayson is sleeping we will get some blankets, kitchen chairs and pillows and make a fort to read some books in. Siena loves to read books and she would probably think I was the coolest mom ever!

7. Playdate

Having friends over does require someone to leave the house, but if you plan it right, that someone doesn’t have to be you. The best part about this one is you get to have a real conversation with a real adult! And then the kids can keep each other entertained. Now, there is the added pressure of having to play referee. But as long as both parents have similar parenting views, there’s nothing to worry about there.

playdate inside for fun things to do inside
These two are the cutest!

8. Dance Party

We live in an age where many of us can open our laptop, turn on our phone or go to the right app on our TV to get some fun music streaming into our living room. We use the TV because that has the best speakers and we get our Pandora on and rock out. Dancing is one of our favorite things.

Sometimes, I will turn on YouTube and try and do a work out dance thing, like Zumba, but usually Siena’s idea of a fun dance party involves me holding her hand while she spins or me holding her while I dance. So, work out dance doesn’t usually happen.

9. Bath time!

Think that baths are a pain? Me too, most of the time. But it is at the top of my toddler’s Fun Things to do Inside List. She loves splashing in the tub and playing with her toys. I just have to stay close to the bathroom to keep an eye on her. But, if you need to get the bathroom clean, what a great opportunity!

10. Snuggle Sesh!

snuggling with siena to have fun things to do inside
Snapchat Snuggles with a movie! Even better!

I don’t care who judges me for this one. It is, hands down, my favorite thing on the Fun Things to do Inside List.

My daughter LOVES to watch shows. She asks to watch television multiple times a day. We do watch TV. And, in my opinion, if you are selective about what your child watches, I don’t think there is anything wrong with it. (Rant saved for another post.)

So, if my daughter wants to watch a show and I want nothing more than to snuggle with her, I bribe her. Yep! Show for Snuggles. We get to watch a show, if she will snuggle with me on the couch. She is always happy to oblige and so am I! If

I am exhausted in the morning, Snuggle Sesh! I know she’s not getting into things because I’m hugging her and I get a little nap. It is SERIOUSLY the best thing in the world.

11. Make a Home Movie!

Or you can be a total nerd like me and make a movie with your kids. As soon as I busted out the camera and told Siena to do something, she got super excited! And she LOVES watching it.

It was also a great fun way to save some of the memories of us just hanging out around the house, which is 90% of our lives.

If you need an idea, you can check out mine!

Beauty & the Beast – Mom Parody

Beauty and the Beast cover to get you excited
Here’s a the opening shot to get you excited!

Most Important To Do on your List Every Day

Cheesy Post Alert!!

Don’t care. Sometimes you need a little cheese. Today, it’s all about the cheese… and cute pics of my babies.

Most of my days end up just like today. I have a long list of things I should be getting done, but I don’t really get many of them done. But that’s okay. I think I did the most important to do on my list. I didn’t finish folding the laundry, or write this blog until super late. Dinner happened, but it was just Macaroni and Cheese, nothing special.

It seemed like a lot of things just got left undone. Some days I get even less than that done. But I always try and accomplish my most important to do. I try to remember to keep it at the top of my list. Because if I only do my most important to do every day, then my day is successful. If I accomplish it, I know that I am still One Helluva Homemaker.

In the House

Especially during the winter, most of the time we just hang out at home. Our home is our children’s world. They get to be in the place where they are most comfortable and can act like themselves the most. At home, it’s super easy to do your most important to do. And being at home all day, I love watching my babies just be. They are 100% themselves and they are so full of love!

toddler watching television in the middle of laundry
Sometimes, the laundry doesn’t get put away for a long time, so it becomes a nest for my toddler to watch TV in.
showing my toddler my most important to do
Her favorite spot to hang out while I try to whip together 3 meals a day.

My little boy

my daughter sporting some tude
I don’t know how I got a photo with so much attitude, but I absolutely love it!
most important to do in action from my son
This is what he looks like right before he goes to sleep. My heart!
Siena helping her brother
The little mommy helping her brother.
both my kids in the crib
Siena always loves to get in the crib with Grayson and play with him. He loves it too. I love watching them play together.

I love going out and letting them explore too. But, sometimes it is great to just be homebodies and enjoy being around each other.

Most Important To Do

That brings me to the most important to do. You could get absolutely nothing done ALL DAY LONG in terms of getting stuff done around the house, cleaning, shopping, whatever and still have a productive day as long as you do the most important thing on your list. Love your family. Just show your babies you love them. Show your spouse you love them. That’s all you got to do, and your day just became one of the best days ever. Literally, it is the BEST thing you can do every single day. That is what makes you One Helluva Homemaker.

most important to do shirt
Customize your shirt with different colors or choose from so many of the other products!

Remember it!

So, because I wanted you to have a way to remind yourself that you are amazing just because you loved your family today, I designed some shirts, water bottles and phone cases! I love how they turned out.

Check them out! 

 

Grandpa’s Last Words and how they Changed my Life

It is not very often that you get to hear someone’s last words. This experience, though special, is not something most people want to experience. Because inevitably, it means someone has died. I never really got to hear a ‘last words’ speech with either of my Grandmas and my other Grandpa is still alive.

Me and my Grandpa before he died and gave me his last words
Being with my Grandpa Haroldsen one last time before he passed away.

Getting to Know my Grandpa

My Grandpa sitting on the couch before his last words
I was impressed at his flexibility at 80 years old!

My Grandpa Haroldsen was a stern man. He always liked to be on time and he frequently didn’t have patience for the crazy antics of me and my four siblings. And to his credit, we were rambunctious kids.

He worked an egg farm and had spent much of his life working hard. Every morning he had a hearty breakfast of bacon, eggs and toast. He read the paper and when we would come and visit, he would wake us up way too early in the morning by rubbing his unshaven, prickly whiskers on our faces. If you think an alarm clock is bad, you should try that.

One of My Memories

Because we grew up in Alaska, he and my Grandma would frequently fly up to visit us. This allowed us to spend some time with our grandparents without my parents having to drag all of us to the Lower 48. (And yes, that is what we call the continental US. My husband makes fun of me and says that we must refer to ourselves as the Upper 1)

One Christmas, when my grandparents were visiting, I woke up early to go sneak a peak at what Santa had brought for us. It was around 3 in the morning. And to my surprise, and honestly, disappointment, my Grandpa was sitting at the kitchen table with my sister’s globe that she had gotten for Christmas. He spun it on the table, obviously caught in some distant memory.

I said, “hi Grandpa.” Hoping that that would be my only required discussion with him, I anxiously looked around him to the couch where my presents were hiding.

“Good morning, Jennifer.” He then asked me if I knew where he and my Grandma had traveled.

I shook my head. And for the next 3 hours, he regaled me with all of his journeyings throughout the world. He pointed all of them out on the map. At some point I had to sit down on the floor, because I had gotten tired.

At 6 am I was rescued by my brother who emerged and distracted my Grandpa long enough for me to FINALLY see what presents I had. I will never forget that lecture of his world travel, at least the fact that we had it.

When My Grandpa was Dying

I was a sophomore in college. Right before I was about to go back home for the summer, I decided I would drive up to Idaho and keep my Grandma company for a couple of weeks. I wanted to be there for her and help her out.

Spending time with my grandma while i received my grandpa's last words

I also wanted to spend time with my Grandpa who had been diagnosed with cancer a year and a half ago. He had been put on hospice, and I knew it was probably the last time I would see him. That trip holds some of my most tender moments with both of my Grandparents.

Aside from my Grandpa’s last words, I remember being by the dining room and kitchen when my Grandma got off the phone with someone. She held the phone and let her hand fall to her side before looking at me. “I wish people would quit asking me how I’m doing.” She started crying and I held her while I cried too.

She gave me that. That impossible urge to cry when someone else does was her doing. My mom has that curse too.

My Grandpa’s Unofficial Last Words

My Grandpa right before he passed away and gave me his last wordsTo me, they are his last words, because it was the last time he tried to impart wisdom to me. He said them to me in full awareness that he wouldn’t be seeing me again once I left and I wouldn’t be seeing him until I died.

He had just let me win a game of Twenty Thousand with him… I know, because I tried to let him win and was finding it extremely difficult to do so. And he was lying on his hospice bed and I was lying on my Grandma’s daybed that they had put in there for her. We were mindlessly watching some TV show. And while we’re both laying there, he says, “Honor your Marriage Covenants. That is the most important thing.”

Kissing my grandpa on the head before he died and gave me his last words“Okay, Grandpa.”

And that was it. His last words were short. I wasn’t even looking at him when he had said them, but they stuck. I guess that’s the thing about last words. They are impactful enough to stick.

Understanding His Last Words

If you are unfamiliar with my religion, I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. This is important, because it will help you to understand the impact of what my Grandpa’s last words were when he said, Marriage Covenants.

my grandpa following his own last wordsWhen we are married, we get married in the temple. We believe that as Husband and Wife, we are sealed together as a family unit for Time (life on earth) and all Eternity (life after earth). This means that we are bound together, our children will be bound to us and nothing will be able to separate us, unless we break our covenants.

That means at the end of my Grandpa’s life, the last words that he felt were essential to share with me was his over arching wisdom that when all is said and done, our family is the most important. Family is the most crucial thing to fight for. If you honor your Marriage Covenants, you will get to be with your family FOREVER. And my poor Grandpa, knew that that is what he wanted after he passed.

He was going to be separated from my Grandma for a time. But he loved her so much and his children so much, that fighting to keep that bond in place was the most crucial thing he could have imparted to me, even though at the time, I was not married.

Keeping My Promise

My husband and I adhering to his last wordsHis last words still pop into my mind from time to time. Keeping your marriage covenants includes commandments such as being faithful to each other, loving God and loving our fellow man. The best part about these covenants is the more we adhere to them, the closer we grow to each other, the more we want to be together and the stronger our bond on earth becomes.

I love my husband so much. He is my strength and my support. There are many times when I feel like I am weak and he is there to lift me back up again and cheer me on.

My grandpa’s last words were not just important for the eternities, they are essential for me now. They remind me of my love for Austin. And by adhering to them, we become better friends every day.

A Note to My Grandpa

I know you’re not physically here now. I’m so happy that now you get to be with Grandma. But I hope you know that by having the courage to share some last words with me, you have impacted my life for the better. I know it was probably scary to share them with me, acknowledging the fact that we weren’t going to be together that much longer. You broke the unspoken rule and brought attention to the fact that this was temporary. I am so grateful that you did. It probably didn’t seem like it made much difference to me, but it did. I heard you and I’m trying to do as you instructed. I love you Grandpa. Save a spot for my family next to yours.

To read about one of the ways we are trying to honor our marriage covenants, you can visit: My Imperfect Husband & His Imperfect Wife

My Daughter – Ambassador of Light

I’m sure most people feel the way about their kids that I do about my daughter. She lights up my world. My son does too. This post however, is about my daughter. It is over the last two years of having her in our home that I have come to realize just how special she is. Let me share with you what little I know about my daughter’s potential.

When I First Met My Daughter

My daughter was born in the afternoon after a grueling labor. Twenty hours of labor and three and a half hours of pushing. As I finally got her out of me, I collapsed in a kind of exhaustion that I think few have experienced. My body and spirit felt broken and I didn’t know if I would ever be the same again.

I was right in being worried; I never was the same again. But it wasn’t because of my delivery experience. It was because of the big, beautiful eyes looking up at me when they placed her in my arms. She made me a mommy. Her eyes were wide and it seemed like she was seeing more of me than I have ever seen of me. My baby girl was perfect.

my daughter-at-6-months-old-looking-up
Looking-at-my daughter-right-after-she-is-born

The First Sign

The first sign of just how special my daughter really is, was the complication with the umbilical cord. We found out after I had delivered that the cord was small and that it had a knot in it. If she had somehow managed to tighten the cord during her 9 month stay in my womb, she would have died. If it had pulled tight during delivery, she could have died. But somehow, through all of that, she survived.

Survival

She survived during a very rough postpartum for me. Our challenging stay in China would have been enough to rattle the calmest of babies, yet she survived.

I got really sick when she was just two and a half months old (bronchitis, tonsillitis, a viral infection and the flu). My temperature was 104 and I finally had to an IV with antibiotics to knock out the infection. Yet somehow, she never got sick. Not one time during the China trip did she get sick.

We rode in taxis without seat belts or car seats (because they didn’t have them) on what looked like some of the most dangerous roads we’ve ever had the pleasure of taking. Granted, we were observing with our Western eyes.

She has shown her resiliency time and time again, proving to me that she is here on earth to bring light to those in darkness.

waiting-at-a-bus-stop-with-my daughter

Helping her Brother

Grayson, has not been as easy-going as his sister was. Perhaps it is because he was not forced into a life of nomadic venturing from the very beginning. He gets very upset when he cannot go to sleep on his bed, our bed or someone else’s bed.

If we are out and about and he is having a hard time, Siena will grab his hand and say, “It’s okay.” She’ll give him her favorite blanket and her favorite baby. If I need her to, she will run and grab his pacifier so that he will have something to suck on. She wants to help her baby brother to be happy.

my daughter-holding-her-brothers-hand

Helping her Mommy

About a month ago, I got the flu after she did. She had thrown up, been miserable and then of course, it was my turn.

I was laying on the couch, perpetually letting Daniel Tiger occupy the screen so that I would have to get up as little as possible.

At some point, Siena came over and patted my hand and then climbed up with me. She snuggled next to me, grabbed my arm, put it on herself and held my hand to make me feel better.

my daughter-holding-her-mommy's-hand
My daughter-at-6-months-old

What I See

Every day she is learning. She creates new things, comes up with new words, or impresses me with her actions as she learns to be a good person.

One of the things she absolutely loves to do, is be a mama. She tries to do everything I do, so I have to watch what I do sometimes. I have to send her out of the room before I trim my bangs… because we all know what could happen if she found scissors and decided she wanted to be like mama.

She puts her baby and bunnies to bed. She tries to feed Grayson. Her favorite thing to wear when mama wears boots, is her boots that match. She likes to sit in the sink while I get ready and pretend to put lotion on her face while I’m getting ready. She loves to wear a backpack and get ready to go because I have a diaper bag backpack that goes everywhere with us. Our baby girl is a Mama in training.

Siena loves music. She dances, tries to play the piano and sings along when her mama is singing at the top of her lungs. She laughs when she tries new things at the thrill of doing something new. My daughter is the sweetest.

She is Human

She gets angry, throws tantrums and tries to kick the cat. My daughter is imperfect, but her human nature is not ever going dissolve her worth.

my daughter-sleeping-as-a-newborn

Rarity in Vision

It is rare that someone gets the opportunity to see just how special someone is. I think that is the role of a parent. I doubt anyone will see as much as I, her intrinsic value. She has overcome so much already and she is only two years old.

I can already see her doing so much. One day she’ll light the world. She is going to accomplish so much and become so much. I can't wait to be a witness to it. Even now, there are so many people who want to talk to her because she is lighting up their day. My daughter is an ambassador of light and one day, everyone else will see it too.

5 Mom Moments That Were NOT Funny at the Time

Mom Moments = Memories

Mom Moments may find us as soon as we see that we are going to become mommies. Three of the ones I will share with you today occurred while I was pregnant with my first child. The other two are ones that happened within her first 4 months of life. You cannot have too many Mom Moments because those are the memories you talk about until you die.

Passed Out

I was only four months pregnant when I had one of my first Mom Moments. We had spent all day shooting a wedding, that night I had walked a midnight 5K with my two sisters and then we had had to spend the whole night packing up our apartment to move. The next day, we had somehow managed to get everything out of our apartment.

I had ended up without a car, stuck at the apartment with just me, the cat and the litterbox. All the furniture was gone and I was exhausted. Finally, I laid on the ground and immediately fell asleep. Less than ten minutes later, my cat let out these long mournful cries like I had never heard before. I got the distinct impression that he had literally thought that I had died. As soon as I moved and called to him he came over and plopped next to me and demanded to be comforted.

Me&My-Sisters-before-the-5K-during-one-of-my-Mom Moments
Selfie-on-My-Birthday-to-Get-Oil-Changed-Before- the road trip of one of My-Mom Moments

Pit Stop in the Canyon

The second of my Mom Moments: The day after my birthday, we were driving and I was pregnant. I had had some bad sushi (all cooked fish) that morning and was already prone to morning sickness. We were driving out in the middle of nowhere to get to a family reunion. The road was on the side of the mountain and on the left side of the narrow road there was a cliff and on the right side of the road, a wall.

My nausea kept building and building. I told Austin that I had to throw up, I couldn’t hold it in. I looked for something, anything to catch the vomit and found a grocery bag. Barely opening the bag in time, vomit spewed from my mouth.

I quickly realized that my grocery bag had holes in it. “Austin, there’re holes in this thing!”

He was already pulling over in the first tiny alcove he could see in the canyon wall. I hadn’t even noticed that he had already rolled the windows down. Apparently the fumes from the vomit had been immediate and it was all Austin could do to keep driving and not throw up himself. “Get that out of the car!”

I am not proud of us that day. We definitely littered. We left that grocery bag full of vomit on the side of the road and I still hope that no one has found it.

A Memory Lapse

Mom Moments #3 - I was driving and Austin was giving me directions on how to get somewhere. He said, “K, now turn left at the next stop sign.”

I nodded and silently took note. I pulled up to the intersection, stopped at the stop sign and went straight.

Austin stared at me in shock. “You didn’t hear me?”

“What?”

“I literally just told you to turn left at the next stop sign.”

I started laughing. “I’m so sorry. I seriously forgot.” I could suddenly remember him telling me, but not a second after he told me to turn, I had already forgotten. He was in disbelief.

Jennifer-at-the-Steering-Wheel,-representing-one-of-her-Mom Moments
hotel-room-in-china-location-of-one-of-my-mom moments

No Boundaries

Mom Moments like this are ones that few people in America will get to experience this viscerally. Six weeks after Siena was born, we moved to China for the next 5 months. During our stay there, our parents came out to visit and we stayed in a hotel. One evening, I was inside of our room breastfeeding and a maid comes in to prepare it for the nighttime.

She puts the candies, adds the towels, oh and makes sure to peak down my cover at my nursing baby. That’s right, she walked all the way around the bed, came over to me, grabbed the top of my cover and looked down at my naked breast and my hungry child.

Although she was more assertive than other Chinese women, she was definitely not the first or the last to attempt such a thing so while shocked, I was not surprised.

The Great Wall Disaster

The Great Wall Disaster

My Mom Moments will make you feel better about any Mom Moment you may have, especially this one. We obviously had to see the Great Wall when we were in China with our parents. We put little Siena in our “Joey” (front pack) and went off on our grand adventure. The Wall was quite a ways from our hotel and we realized as we got off the Wall that Siena had pooped.

I looked in my backpack for a diaper and with crippling fear realized I did not have another one. It would be at least a couple of hours before we would be able to get back to the hotel and that included a miserable, hot bus ride.

We pulled out what we did have in the diaper bag and realized we had a “cloth diaper” that we had been using as spit up cloths.

Then I spotted a Subway. I wasn’t sure how I was going to communicate with the server there as no one speaks English. I walk in and play a game of pantomime and charades until she finally hands me a plastic bag, big enough for a 6 inch sub.

We took Siena to the main reception area for people wanting to go on the wall where there were some chairs. I tore holes in the corners of the bag and we made a makeshift diaper for her. She hated it at first, but you know what? It held up. She peed on the way back and her clothes stayed dry.

My-poor-trusting-baby-during-one-of-my-mom moments
My-poor-trusting-baby-during-one-of-my-mom moments

Share Your Mom Moments!

Do you have a Mom Moment that can stand the test of time? Please share it in the comments below. It will make the rest of us feel better about our own Mom Moments. 

If you want to read about an epic FAIL of many Mom Moments about potty training, check out my blog post: Potty Training, Poop Everywhere Edition

Want to see more embarrassing Mom Moments? Check out Embarrassing Mom Stories

Potty Training, Poop Everywhere Edition

toddler-girl-sitting-on-the-potty-in-the-bathroom-for- potty training

All parents have a Potty Training Story so allow me to add mine to the mix. That way, if you are perusing the internet, late one night because you are desperate for validation and understanding, perhaps you will come across my blog and know YOU ARE NOT ALONE.

Potty Training has got to be one of the most feared and dreaded rites of passage that parents will get the pleasure of enduring. I assume that once you have passed the threshold, you will emerge pee-stained and poop-smudged, but victorious. You have slain the beast! The mammoth that blocked your way to that time-honored badge of parenthood has now been defeated. You are a champion among us mere mortals.

I have held no such honor.

In the Beginning

My naivety at the beginning was laughable. Potty training would be a breeze! After all, everyone has to go through it at some point, right? I read all the books, searched the internet and I thought that I would come through the dark abyss faster than most parents.

"I've got this," I would think to myself.

My daughter was exhibiting all of the tell tale signs.

She would grab her diaper after she had urinated or defecated and say, "potty!" Check!

She was uncomfortable in a wet diaper if she wore it too long. Check!

She could take off her own pants and her own diaper. Check!

She showed an interest in the potty. Check!

The only check that eluded me was the staying dry at night. But we could just potty train her during the day and she could still wear her diaper at night. So, that was an unnecessary check.

Approaching the Beast

We had so many well-intentioned talks. We bought her some panties, explained what the potty was for, showed her how to use it, let her sit on it at night before she went to bed and when she woke up in the morning she would sit on it. This was going to be a piece of cake!

Things started out smoothly. The first day, only one accident! She went to the potty every time. We applauded her, cheered for her and gave her a treat. She was ecstatic. We were ecstatic. Our wallets that finance her diapers were ecstatic.

The second day the potty training had a couple of setbacks. More accidents, but nothing we couldn't overcome.

Maybe We Weren’t So Smart After All

The third day, things took a turn for the worse. She was acting like she had to go potty and of course, the doorbell rings at this exact moment. I left Siena in the living room with the potty and go answer the door. I signed for a package and went back to find Siena standing in the middle of the living room saying, "Uh-oh. Uh-oh. Uh-oh!"

She hadn't ever said uh-oh before when she had an accident. I followed her line of sight and gasped. A BIG GIANT POOP LOG was on our living room carpet! So many questions rushed through my mind. How had something that size even fit inside of her? How did she manage to poop in the middle of the room like that? What words do I use to explain that this is not okay without it sounding like she had gotten in trouble.

toddler-staring-at-her-poop-on-the-living-room-floor-during- potty training
piece-of-poop-on-living-room-floor-during-the-course-of potty training

The Mania Continues

The next day, another poop fiasco. This time the poop was in her bedroom and my husband was the lucky one to find the present bestowed upon us by the potty training gods.

A third poop visitor came in the subsequent days. Okay, this wasn't working. She didn't like pooping on the potty. We knew when she had to poop, but she wouldn't sit on the potty. Instead she would go off somewhere else and poop on the floor. Was the floor a superior receptacle for catching poop?

Change of Tactics

We tried a lot of things to adjust our potty training regimen.

We put a diaper on her after the poop as a form of consequence. She didn't care.

We had her wear panties to at least try to catch the poop. This resulted in more pee pee accidents.

We quit rewarding her for pee pee in the potty and encouraged the poop more. Indifference.

We tried pull ups. She didn't love the pull-ups and forgot to take them off to go potty.

toddler-sitting-on-potty-in-living-room-for potty training

The Toddler will Adapt Too

Our potty training antics were not lost on our daughter. She started changing her tactics too. I'm still not sure if it was an effort to try and become better at potty training or if it was to stunt the progress so she could keep being a baby. Regardless, we were at a loss after the new developments.

This may get to be TMI. You might have to shield your sensitive eyes if the poop talk is too much for you. One of my other tactics was to show her the poop in the toilet so she could see, "Look, poo poo goes in the potty!"

At this point, she was back in diapers unless she decided she wanted to go potty. And since she could strip down and take off her diaper (and she did on many occasions, even without trying to use the potty) it worked some of the time. We were exasperated and so we had almost given up hope, but we still continued to teach her about the potty.

She clearly had an interest after all.

The Straw that Broke the Camels Back

Every time she would poop, she started squatting and going, "potty, potty, potty".

I said to my husband that maybe she was ready now because she was recognizing when she needed to poop.

Then she ran off to the bathroom. I didn't want to follow her too closely, because she seemed to like to poop in private...I should have followed her immediately.

I finally followed her to the bathroom. To my dismay, she had taken all of her clothes off, thrown her poopy diaper inside of the big potty and sat on the little potty (covering it in feces), peed and was now unrolling all of the toilet paper to try and clean herself.

It took me a good 15 minutes to get everything cleaned up.

Beating a Dead Horse

My husband was once watching the kids while I was off doing something productive, but really just provided me an excuse to get out of the house. He apparently fell asleep on the couch while watching Siena.

During his slumber, the unthinkable had happened. He awoke to Siena placing a dirty diaper on top of him and a poopy bum to catch before she sat on something. After cleaning her up, his new quest was to find the poop that had fallen out of the discarded diaper somewhere in the house.

He must have been successful, because I have not found any other poops.

Guests

The potty training had pretty much come to a halt. We didn't bring it up. If she wanted to do it, fine. We would indulge her whim begrudgingly.

Then, one morning, I had a couple of ladies from my church in my house. We were chatting in the living room and suddenly Siena runs off, shouting, "potty!"

Oh well, if she comes back naked, I'll put some clothes on her.

We kept chatting and then I realized that Siena had still not come back yet. I heard her clanking around in the potty and suddenly felt a bowling ball drop into my stomach.... it was happening again.

I ran to the bathroom and her poop and diaper were still on the floor at least but her bum and potty were both covered in smeared poop.

I quickly cleaned everything up while my poor guests tried to help. One of these ladies had also just seen me cleaning up one of my sons blowouts in her own home. She literally has been witness to me cleaning poop off of both of my naked children. Oh, the things she must think.

Then, I washed my hands, put Siena's diaper and clothes back on and we got back to visiting.

potty-training-at-its-finest---toddler-running-down-the-hall-with-toilet-paper-rolls-on-her-wrist

The Consequences of My Actions

After the ladies left, I put Siena down for her nap. When she woke up, she suddenly had Pink Eye! What the freak?! We had just spent the last month and a half sick with colds, flu, pink eye, bronchitis, bronchiolitis, every sickness that this winter had felt the need to inflict upon us and now she was sick again.

Bowling ball drop. I had forgotten to wash her hands. I didn't know she had probably tried to pick up her poop and throw it in the potty like she had done the last time.

toddler-in-panties-in-living-room-for-potty-training

The End of Potty Training

That was it. We're done! No more potty training. I refuse to do it. My daughter will wear diapers for the rest of her life. My son will never have a chance to experience what underwear feels like.

Ever since that day, the potty has been locked under the sink. Perhaps I will forget one day and my daughter will be able to coerce me to pull it out again, but for now, our potty training days are over. And we will not be lured to the battlefield again. The beast has slain us and we will play dead for as long as possible.

Share Your Own!

Have a crazy potty training story? Please share in the comments below so the rest of us can feel a little bit better about our own defeating stories.

For another potty training horror story, check out this lady's fun blog:

http://thishappymom.com/authenticity-2/confessions/potty-training-horror-story