My “Little” Brother and Me

Meet Mitch. This is my “little” brother. He is two years younger than me, but could easily bench press me, so he always just shakes his head and smiles when I say that. Like many families, we live a ways apart; me in rural Missouri and him in super duper rural Iowa. Since we both are married with 3 kids each, both work and juggle hectic lives, we don’t see each other very often. These pictures were taken last summer as we watched our kids giggle and scream when they slid down our big slip-n-slide (BIG sheet of plastic). And I was showing off that I got an extra dose of the silly crazy gene (and in general pestering him because he likes it).

As far as we get away from each other geographically, there are things we share that no one else would ever know or understand. There are things inside both of us that shaped us to be who we are. There are things from our past that formed our ideals of life and how to live it. There are loves, and pains, and understandings that only we share and truly “get”. We even found out we have an extra little funky bone in our ankles when we both had ankle surgery last year.

Recently, I was able to go to Iowa with my kids to pay his crew a visit. With 6 kids, a couple dogs, and a few people not feeling well it is hard to squeeze in meaningful conversations. He ended up needing to take a quick drive to the closest Wal-Mart, a mere 30 minutes away, so I went with him to catch up. It was the craziest thing. As I listened to him talk about how things were going in his world, he was saying, nearly word for word, the same sentiments I have been sharing about various areas of my life. He is a teacher and coach of just about every sport offered in his area and I, in addition to blogging and being Mom, am the Ministry & Facility Coordinator for my church. Both of us are working in areas of service to build others up and attempting to show others what it takes to succeed in this life. Both of us very firm in our beliefs on discipline, strong work ethic, structure, organization, communication, accountability, respect, integrity, and the list goes on! As he rattled on about proper chains of command, job descriptions, accountability measures, procedure manuals, spreadsheets, and how to be a leader, I thought I was going to pass out. It was like we shared a brain! Apparently, we both talk about these exact ideals frequently and passionately. We both have a profound drive for truth, supporting the underdog, helping people reach their potential and an overpowering drive to show kids love, support and that they are sooo very worth it!  We do our best not to only speak about such traits, but do our best to model these exact behaviors.

I had focused more on our differences in the past, but seeing our similarities so clearly blew me away. We didn’t attend high school together and spent big chunks of our adolescence apart. And as adults we don’t talk to terribly often as much as we try to stay in touch. But, despite the distance and differences, we know, to our core, that we love each other very much even if he is the stubborn one.

So, here’s to you, Mitchy!! Happy Siblings Day!  Love you bunches! And thanks for not dropping me on my head too many times.

Springs Smiles Post it

P.S. If you really want to find out more about my smelly little brother (of whom I am insanely proud), check these out!

One Great Reason to Have School Pictures

Thank you, Veterans

Babies Under The Weather

2017-03-29 edited

My son may not be to too happy with me for posting this picture someday. And I am sure I will have some embarrassing pictures of me placed for all to see. I’ll take it like a big girl because it will be worth it! I am not putting this picture out to irritate my little man, but because it tells a story and sparks a memory.

You see, while it sounds exhausting and overwhelming, this day is a day I will cherish, vomit and all.

The plans for the day were to take my daughter to the hospital to have her tonsils removed because she kept getting strep throat, among other illnesses. This did happen. It was gory and gruesome and broke my heart to see her in so much pain. Then we were told she we was at an elevated risk because her tonsils were so large and damaged from the repeated episodes of infection.

After we were able to visit her in the recovery room, my husband returned to work and I was to check her out of the hospital and then take her home to sleep. But shortly after he leaves, I get notification from the school that my son is throwing up in the classroom trashcan! So, now I have one in the hospital, one puking at school,another one that has to be picked up, dogs that needed to go out, a husband that needs to return to work, and a partridge in a pear tree!

It was amazing how the story went from there. I called my husband who had to check out my son on his way back to work. He called MiMi (his mom) to wait with my son briefly, until I got home. As the day progressed, I had a post op little girl on part of the couch and a feverish vomiting little boy sitting on the other part cuddling with his trashcan. We ended up with her sleeping on the short part of the couch, the little dude on his mattress that we pulled to the living room floor and me on the longer part of the couch for the next couple nights. This let us have plenty of room to stretch out and rest, and allowed me to be present for my son’s high  fever hallucinating ninja kicks in the middle of the night!

Aside from that craziness, these days were filled with cuddles, nurturing, preparing special food, and simply taking care of my little ones. It seems so strange, but I had permission from my busy life to concentrate on their well-being. Everything else was able to be put on hold as I simply loved them. It seems so strange that I look back at this time with fond memories. Even if they were sick, we I got to camp out in the living room and just be together. I look past the gross stuff and the pain of seeing my babies suffer to bask in the idea of being able (for a short time) to let them rely on me for all the little things we have taught them to do themselves. My arms and hands can still feel me cradling them as their long extremities dangle freely because they can’t fit in the nook of my arm anymore. I took delight in giving them “custom” meals when, in healthy times, they can make their own. Being certain they would heal soon, I loved the warmth in my soul from being blessed by  knowing that they are capable of so much, but in their time of pain from injured bodies, they drew close to me and let me show my love for them.

It is amazing what all you can get from a picture of a little boy hugging a trashcan full of bodily fluids.  And it never ceases to amaze me that, even in rough times, the little tidbits of fondness shown in the moment can be how we remember the entire event.

Springs Smiles Post it

Check out these links for more stories on hidden blessings and simply loving your kids for who they are!

To Read or Not to Read?

Sports in our House

Ba- Humbug!

Muddy Memories

To Read or Not to Read?

downloadHopefully, you know the answer to this question! I have to admit though, I am not an avid reader. As a matter of fact, I am terrible at taking the time to soak in a good book. As a child, I would read some, but it wasn’t my first choice. My mom was a kindergarten teacher, so I was read to before I was born, but it has never been my thing.  I am a mover. I don’t sit well, and reading requires me to quit moving. And if I am going to quit moving I would rather write or draw, because at least I can move my hands.

For me, it is not too big of a deal. However, when trying to raise kids to love reading…it becomes a bit of a problem! Add to it that my husband isn’t a big reader either, 2 of my 3 kids have been diagnosed with dyslexia, and testing is pending with my 3rd, the reasons to skip reading mount up. Whether it was my thing or not, I did read to these 3 while still in the womb and we read many, many, (MANY) books when they were smaller. They are at the point now where most kids read to themselves. Mine need more help, though. I’ve researched all of the different tests they do these days. How to measure fluency, comprehension, and speed. In addition to reading a certain amount, we are looking at each book to determine its AR (Accelerated Reading) score and making sure we read a specific amount of time so enough AR points are earned. For kids that love reading and are great at it, this is awesome! For kids (and their parents) who have amazing gifts that aren’t quite as measurable in this way, this is pure H-E- double hockey sticks!!

But it doesn’t have to be! I have been working on a study that asks me to choose one thing about myself on which to concentrate for the whole year and to see how this transforms throughout the year. My word is CHOICE. In all things I have a CHOICE to have a positive or negative perception. I have a CHOICE to complain about something I may not like about the school or be thankful that we have amazing teachers bending over backwards to help us figure out how to help our kids to reach their potentials. I have a CHOICE to see this situation as a setback or an opportunity.

With my 1st daughter, I thought I was going to lose my mind! I couldn’t figure out why it was so hard to get through the smallest of books with her. I had read to her since conception. I ate healthy while I was pregnant and fed her organic food as she was able to eat from the table. She was exposed to tons of sensory expanding activities and loved beyond measure. She had always done amazing in preschool and Parents As Teachers. She more than excelled! She could write, cut, and do just about anything with not only one hand, but equally well with both. She was learning Sign Language and Spanish, and had her own art and reading room under the stairs. Her own personal hideout. Why couldn’t she read the smallest of words?Why did she skip all over the place in books?  Why did she write her letters backwards and have barely legible handwriting? Was she just being stubborn? What did we do wrong? What didn’t we do for her? Wow! The torture we put ourselves through.

In second grade, we moved her from a small private school to our public school that has many more resources and teachers trained in this type of thing. I won’t lie, it was hard and time consuming. Especially with two younger than her at home while we were building a house. But, we got so much time together and I slowly learned it wasn’t our fault and she was doing the best she could. We worked with doctors, did vision and primitive reflex therapy, played with reading tools, and we read and we read and we read. She went from a sweet, and overly timid 2nd grader who could barely read or spell to a vibrant 4th grader that loved life and brought home nearly all A’s. She went from living in shame and embarrassment because she couldn’t keep up with her peers to donning a huge braces-clad grin and holding her shoulders back and standing tall with confidence. I still believe it is a confidence that she gained because she learned to overcome. She learned what happens when you work hard to get past adversity and how to listen to people put in your path to guide you through difficulty.

She learned to READ!

There are some things in life you really need to learn to do; reading being a huge one! You have to read to do so many things! To quote Dr. Seuss, “The more that you read, the more that you’ll know. The more that you know, the more places you’ll go.” It was unplanned for all of us, but my daughter’s journey to learn this necessary skill taught our family to trust our gut, the rewards of perseverance, that some of the most amazing talents aren’t measurable, and a person can shine brightest when faced with difficult situations.

Now, I will make the CHOICE to not only relish the time to take in a good book with my kids, but to hold on to these lessons as we guide our next two through similar trials. I am so excited to watch their lights shine!

IMG_5770

Happy Reading!!

Springs Smiles Post it

P.S. Click on these images below to find more fun posts on reading!!!

edited 9
Use 2

 

 

 

 

 

When the Tornado Hits

As soon as your life seems situated, with schedules in place for a sense of normalcy, something else happens. Yes, something is always happening. This time, a tornado. I mean, I live in the middle of the Midwest, so what was I to expect? The week before it was a hail storm. I am not sure if it is a good or bad thing, but as much as my allergies and achy joints hate the crazy Missouri weather, I love it! I find it exciting that we can have all four seasons in a single week (or less)! I love thunderstorms and snowstorms just as much as a sunny day and look forward to the changes. I’m not big on the extreme heat in the summer, but all of the fun we get to have with the kids, family, and friends more than makes up for it. And the cold…well, it’s not too bad. It is a great excuse for using the fireplace, drinking hot cocoa, and snuggling up on the couch (or a really good excuse to get some inside projects accomplished!).

The promise of the fresh newness of spring always brings the potential for dangerous weather! It never really seems real until you experience it. And even though tornadoes are not new to me, it was the first time I have personally experienced the effects- creating a whole new respect for Mother Nature.

It was strange. I didn’t even know bad weather was predicted until I started getting watches, and then warnings on my phone. Honestly, we get weather alerts so frequently that I don’t get too worried, but look forward to watching the wind blow and hearing the precipitation drum on the roof and tap on the windows. I love the distinct smell when rain is on the way and the change in the color of the clouds when they are about to release the moisture bursting to be free.  I love the rumbles of thunder, the magnificence of lightening, and that eerie feeling in the air when the pressure changes and Mother Nature puts on a spectacular show.

Tornadoes though…this was different.

As you’ve probably deduced, we had some nasty weather move through recently. There was that exhilarating rush of excitement as adrenaline coursed through my body. Quickly though, that excitement turned to fear. I’d been watching the warnings, as I lay in bed. But suddenly the large windows in my bedroom started to shake and clatter loudly as the wind howled and hail beat on the glass. A final warning: TORNADO – TAKE COVER NOW! I jumped from bed, throwing on my robe and trying to get our Labrador to follow me. (Note: if you want a dog to follow you in an emergency talk calmly. If you scream at him in terror he will hide, forcing you to carry him.) My husband was in the living room yelling something at me about a flashlight and he already had the kids running down the stairs to our safe room with our tiny mutt in tow. Screens were popping off of the windows and the drastic change in pressure pushed open the interior door into the garage.

Once we all got to safety, the hubs looked at me and asked where the flashlight was… “I have my phone…” I explained and then threw my kids under the bus, tattling that they had used up the batteries and lost/hidden the 20 or so flashlights we had. We all sat in the safe room, that doubles as a bathroom (thankful for that decision) but wondering why I hadn’t completed getting an emergency kit ready in that room! I thought that my kids would be freaking out but they couldn’t hear the storm so they were quite giggly. The dogs had calmed down and my husband kept peeking out the door, making the occasional step or two into the basement.  At one point, he returned with a concerned and a tiny bit terrified look on his face. He said he felt a pressure, or maybe wind, some kind of air rush into our home only to quickly suck back out…then we noticed the water in the toilet had drained itself… Freaky stuff here, people!!

When we thought the worst was done, he ventured out again stating that there was water pouring in my daughter’s ceiling through her floor and into the basement. We had a new insurance unapproved addition in our home that now had multiple Nature Made Water Features.  Ugh!!! After about 30 minutes of loud giggles, we were able to emerge from our refuge to start the clean up. We all worked together, so it went pretty quickly, and somehow we all actually got to sleep pretty easily. (Probably, because we laughed so hard we were exhausted.)

The next morning we awoke to a very large tree blocking our drive, shingles everywhere, and water in places we really would have preferred to keep dry. But, more importantly, we had new appreciation for our crazy Mid-MO weather, and a profound amount of thanks that our home was still standing and we were all safe.

 

 

Sports Fun Birthday Ideas

Birthdays are a big deal in our house! I love celebrating people that I love for all they are! I love making them feel special and loved, and I love any excuse to do crafts, decorate and host a party! From finding just the right gift, to making a cake and decorations, to seeing the happy smiles on people’s faces, I love birthdays! It’s not hard for kids to like their birthdays, but I’d be lying if I said I am not thrilled that my sweeties love the process of planning their own birthdays as well as surprising others as much as I do!

I love that they think of each other and what they can make or give to each other.  Not just the gift, but the selfless thought that they put into bringing joy to others and their pure happiness from putting a smile on someone else’s face (not to mention the smile they put on my face as we enjoy spoiling each other together).

This year my 12 year old athlete realized she had never had any kind of a sport birthday!  She decided that she wanted to celebrate all of her favorites at once: volleyball, soccer, softball, and basketball with a little football and baseball added in! She designed her cake and spent hours upon hours on Pinterest and in my craft room working on ideas and making decorations. Here is what she pulled together!

FOOD

Sports Birthday

The cake was designed to be a quarter of each of her favorite sports and has a frosting grass boarder around the bottom.
chip-tray-edited

Mini bags of chips were displayed on a fun tray.

 

 

 

popcorn-bar-edited

 

We created a popcorn bar with candy corn, M&M’s, and flavored seasonings.  Paper cones were created with 8×10 sheets of paper to hold each person’s popcorn creation.  An upside down wire basket is a unique way to display the cones. Similar ones can usually be found on the cheap at dollar stores.

sports-drinks-edited

 

 

For beverages, we served sports drinks in a bucket of ice.

 

 

We served the cake shown above to all of our extended family on Sunday, but served these super easy and fun cupcakes to her friends Friday night.  We iced the cupcakes with a grass tip and topped  with edible sport decor.

Decorations

table-decorl

This is how my daughter decorated her snack table!  She made the confetti by using a round paper punch.  She printed the soccer balls and volleyballs from a simple image she found and then paper punched the images out.  The basketballs and softballs were free hand.

decorations-edited

We always open presents by the fireplace, so she had to make sure it was decked out!  The sport balls on the sides of the fireplace and  chains on the mantle are all freehand, with the chains being decorated like basketballs, softballs, and volleyballs. There are free printables for football, base/softball, and basketball chains at this link.

img_6496

Locker room signs were made to go on every bathroom door!

IMG_6625.jpg

She created her own birthday banner!

She created about 10 of these signs with sport balls and famous sport quotes.

Party Fun

hayleigh-bday-photo-booth-picsIn addition to hiding in my daughter’s room, like tweenie boppers do, the kids played volleyball, chattered and were full of shenanigans. Everyone’s favorite activity though was the selfie station!  We have hundreds of pictures of my daughter, her besties and our family acting like complete goofballs together!!  It served as entertainment and documented the whole birthday!  Some of these pictures may come in handy at future fun events!!

Sport Birthday Scrapbook pageTo keep as a reminder of each of my kids birthdays we create a scrapbook page that all of the guests sign. It helps us remember who celebrated with us and it has been fun to watch the kid’s handwriting change throughout the years!

 

Happy Planning!

Smiles Halloween

 

 

 

 

P.S. Click on the images below to check out these other fun birthday posts!

Alice Cake editedScan0021

 

 

Sports in our House

I often reflect on the busyness of my family’s schedule…this is the life we have chosen. Do I like being at home? Absolutely! And we do Sports Momthis, but I am an extremely social being, as are my kids; especially the younger two. My husband and I feel very strongly about teaching our children to have a healthy lifestyle: eat healthy, exercise, sleep, etc. We are both have a passion for watching and playing sports.  I love volleyball, basketball, and getting a good workout in the gym. He loves volleyball and baseball. We enjoy the feeling of stress being released as we strengthen our bodies and build relationships with teammates and friends. These are lessons I want my kids to learn. I want them to learn to take care of themselves; to work hard, to work as a team, to be dedicated, and find a passion that gives them confidence and joy.

My babies all do different activities based on their own unique personalities. So this mama does a lot of running. To us, it is worth it. We coach whatever we can and spend time practicing with them when we are at home. I have even tried to do some of the fancy dance twirls with my younger daughter. She gets a good laugh since I was clearly always a little bit more of a jock. Are there days I think we need to pare back on our constant schedule?Without a doubt. I am mindful and we step back as needed, but are certainly not perfect. Is this for every family?

Nope.

But, I am beyond thankful for the opportunities for our kids to find something that drives them and this is just our thing. As long as they love it, I will love it with them because this time of having them with me every day will be gone before I know it. They will be leaving our house in the blink of an eye and I pray that they will have many fond memories, learned life lessons, and passions that drive them along the way.

Smiles

Ba- Humbug!

bah-humbugThe last few months for our family have been quite crazy. Between sicknesses and surgeries (both of which brought this Mama down), I can’t seem to get caught up with anything. Not cool when this Type A, busybody has taken on quite a few extra commitments while spearheading a house full of furry and non-furry kids. I seem to be
running in circles putting out the proverbial fires and not making the time to plan- and if I do circumstances keep changing.

Have you ever had that feeling of everything being out of control and not knowing where to start, so you just …don’t.  Maybe if you sit on the couch and stare at the wall it will all just go away…

Add the holiday season on top of all that and you might find yourself sympathizing with Mr. Scrooge. There are gifts to be bought and wrapped, decorations to go up, food that needs to be made, cards to be sent, cookies and candy to prepare, travel and holiday plans to be made while watching the budget, your waistline, and keeping a great big fa-la-la-la-la smile on your face because the holidays are a happy time. It can be a lot to handle on top of the bills, laundry, grocery shopping, work, basketball, piano, school (plus extra programs), gymnastics, dance, etc. still have to happen…and remember to keep being happy!!

Can you breathe right now?  I think I need to go hyperventilate in a paper bag! Earlier this week I sat down with my crew for a little family meeting. I told them that, regarding Christmas decorations, the tree was up with minimal adornments and they might get plastic bags for stockings…and that’s all. While I have been running in circles, they have been leaving food, trash, clothes, toys and papers everywhere. Their laundry comes to me all balled up, sometimes wet from whatever water in which they decided to play, and is typically quite disgusting. I found 2 half full cups of milk that were a single chunk of coagulation- one of which was growing fruit flies. Dishes were in every room, and since I had not been able to get to the basement after my ankle surgery, they trashed it- including my things! Mom finally met her limit!

As we discussed why I didn’t even care if Christmas happened this year. We actually all connected. I went through my flaming list and they listened (possibly because their dad was staring them down). I told them that my favorite part of the day is picking them up from school because I have missed them all day. I look forward to their hugs, kisses, stories and songs. I loved having them home over Thanksgiving, and am so excited to have them home over Christmas…but, they have to do their part. When I explained my frustrations in a loving way (and believe me it was a firm loving way), they got my point. It wasn’t nagging, but saying it like it was, “I want to enjoy you, and I am not doing anything else that will create more work for me if you don’t do your part because you guys have been disgusting.”

While they have, for the last few days at least, been “doing their part” my perspective has shifted. My stance on their household participation has not changed, but how I choose to view it has. There very likely will not be anymore decorations put up, a few of my non-urgent commitments my have to wait a little bit, there may not be as many cookies and candies, the house may not meet my standards all of the time and the Christmas cards… well, we’ll just see.

But it will all be ok.  

The Earth will not quit spinning or open up and swallow me if I don’t get the Oreo balls made.  And if more decorations don’t get hung it is less I have to put away. Ultimately, stepping back from the life/holiday chaos and seeing if for what it is helped me gain perspective and will allow me to remember what is important. My  faith, my family, and my friends. My babies will be grown soon, and I would be broken to know I got too lost in the busy of this world and missed those precious moments with them and my husband. I am thankful for this lesson. Not just for me, but hopefully it will be passed on  to my sweeties so that they will be able to keep priorities in place and FEEL the love of their family, of their friends, of life, and of the true meaning of Christmas.  love-1415561__340

Smiles- Merry Christmas