Let’s Not Have a Fabulous Day at the Zoo

I love a good zoo outing. It’s an awesome time with three children. No one ever says their legs are getting tired an hour into the visit when we’re clear across the other side of the zoo. No one ever says they’re too hot or too cold. No one ever asks for popcorn or hot roasted peanuts when the tempting aromas start filling the air. No one has almost got lost because we thought they were right behind us when in fact they decided to stay glued to the glass partition of the lion cage. No one has ever argued about the path to take when we come to the fork that can either lead to the primate section or the petting zoo area. No one has ever said they had to go to the bathroom when we just asked them 10 minutes earlier and they didn’t need to go and now there is no bathroom in sight.

Yes, as much as I love a good zoo outing, once a year is quite sufficient.

Whenever I get an itch to see some animals in confined areas in between our yearly zoo trip …off to the pet store the kids and I go.

This always proves to be an ideal field trip for a number of reasons:

  • No one ever gets tired from walking
  • The temperature is always perfect
  • There is no tantalizing odors filling the store
  • It’s a confined space so the chances of losing someone is minimal
  • Bathrooms are easily accessible at the back of the store

There is still the potential for arguments on which animals to see first.

The kids and I went to Petco last week and had a blast.

Bency, the 5 year old, is in love with Seek and Find books so trying to find those lizards and frogs is a virtual Seek and Find book for him.

I gave the older kids the challenge of counting the guppies. After 15 minutes they finally agreed on 163. Cesar, the almost 2 year old can only count to 10, so we stuck to the tropical fish tank for him where there is only a handful of fish to count.

Some of the animals had names and a card outlining their personality traits (shy, friendly, outgoing, curious, needs a lot of attention, calm) and we decided which of our family members they were most like.

The animals that were nameless were given fantastic names by us.

We read some of the books that were there and learned about different species of birds.

We watched a dog getting groomed.

We rounded off our trip by playing with the dog squeaky toys and voting on the best dog outfit. The Superman outfit was Bency’s favorite. The ballerina tutu was Iris’s choice.

An hour and a half after we had first arrived we were on our way out the exit door. We said good-bye to the clerks, the dog who had just arrived with his owner, and the joy of having not spent a dime, learning a few things and having an amazing time!


Rags to Riches

One of our next door neighbors is a sweet, eccentric 80 year old widowed lady. Her children and grandchildren are all grown and visit her on Sundays. The rest of the week she goes to rummage sales, senior dances and quilting fairs. She bakes bread in large quantities every two weeks. We are gifted one of these loaves along with three small loaves; one for each of my kids. I make grilled cheese sandwiches out of this amazing bread. The kid’s sandwiches are about the size of a 50 cent piece when I use their loaves.

Her house can best be described as somewhere between a museum and the next entry for the show Hoarders. There is so much to look at and see. Some rooms are so packed that there is only a slight path through them. She used to have a lot of cats poking their heads out from behind boxes and scurrying around. Now there is only one. I’m not sure where the rest went.

She has always been very good to the kids. She has made a quilt for each one when they were born. On our 7 year old Iris’s first birthday she gave her an old, child-size rocking chair that she covered in stickers and magazine cut outs and stenciled her name on it.

Every spring, my five year old son, Bency brings her bouquets of dandelions. No matter how many times he rings her doorbell and makes his delivery during the week, she always gives him a hug and acts surprised.

Every birthday and Christmas she has brought gifts over for the kids consisting of coloring books, farm animal sets, mittens, and sand toys. This past Christmas, she was temporarily immobile due to a back problem. Her son brought over plastic bags for each of the kids and said they were from his mom. The kids were so excited! They opened their bags and found a used white stuffed bear, 3 old dolls, a boy’s hat from the ‘80’s, an old Mexican doll blanket and one fun size Baby Ruth. The kids squealed with delight and rolled around on the floor like they just won the lottery! My husband and I both eyed each other and then looked under our Christmas tree filled with a multitude of wrapped gifts. We don’t go overboard at Christmas but we don’t exactly buy dolls with non-working rolling eyes either. The kids happily went off to play with their new treasures.


Christmas gifts from the neighbor


The other day the kids walked over to our neighbor’s house for a visit. They said they missed her because they haven’t seen her for a few weeks. She welcomed them in and they stayed and chatted for about an hour. They both came home with their arms full. Bency had a coloring book that was only slightly used and a Christmas stuffed bear whose paw said 2005. Someone had taken an ink pen and colored around the eyes and nose. Bency proudly said he was going to name him Santa Bear. Iris had a Valentine Devil stuffed bear and a gold chain I.D. bracelet that said “Kelli” on the name plate. She asked me today to put it in her special drawer reserved only for her best bracelets. Up until today, this drawer has held 3 bracelets from her Papa and 2 from her cousin Jared.


Gifts they received in July


Children don’t require a lot of money spent on them. They need someone who sits and listens to them, gives them hugs, makes them feel special by making them “tiny-sized loaves of bread” and perhaps a few token gifts with non-working rolling eyes!


Iris’s gift she received: I.D. bracelet with the name “Kelli” on it


The Mystery of Who Put the Kettle On

The other day, our almost 2 year old, Cesar, was walking around the house repeating the word, “Polly” over and over. I asked my 7 year old daughter, Iris, why he was saying this. I thought maybe there was a “Polly” who made a guest appearance on his favorite cartoon Dora the Explorer. Iris said she didn’t know but perhaps he was trying to say the nursery rhyme, “Polly Put the Kettle On.” I didn’t think that was a possibility since we hadn’t covered that particular ballad during our daily “Nursery Rhyme 101” lesson.

Of course, this then lead into us trying to sing “Polly Put the Kettle On.” We got through the first verse an then both Iris and I were stumped. Who took the kettle off??? We went through a series of names and couldn’t agree on anything. I then turned to the computer to look up this impending mystery of who did this amazing act of taking the kettle off.

My curiosity was quickly satisfied and it turned out it was Sukey!

The website where I found Polly Put the Kettle On also had a brief history about the song. This nursery rhyme was published in 1797. It was written by a man who had five children. Two of the children were girls who liked to play tea party (Polly and Sukey ..real name Susan). Polly would put the kettle on and Sukey would take it off. Their father was so amused by this that he wrote a song about it:

Polly put the kettle on,

Polly put the kettle on,

Polly put the kettle on,

We’ll all have tea.

Sukey take it off again,

Sukey take it off again,

Sukey take it off again,

They’ve all gone away.

Now, I don’t know about you but I find this absolutely fascinating that a poem with only 16 different words and only 4 different sentences was not only “published” but has been around for 215 years and kids still know (or kind of know this rhyme today…it actually doesn’t even rhyme) and sing this!

There are authors out there who have spent years on their “masterpiece” and cannot get published. My guess is this guy did not spend days or sleepless nights penning this and it has lasted the test of time.

The moral of the story: Write what you find amusing or interesting. Someday, someone will be in need to find out “who took the kettle off” or something equally important!


Cesar reading his nursery rhymes


The First Lollipop

I painted this today. It is from a photograph I took in March when Cesar was 18 months old having his first lollipop. This is a true turning point and milestone in every kid’s life. One that is easily overlooked. Nothing will ever be the same again. The beloved banana and applesauce will pale in comparison once you get your first piece of candy. The laying down, flailing tantrums may start if denied from here on out. The parent takes such delight in seeing the look of surprise and satisfaction on their kid’s face at the first taste and the rest of their kid’s lives trying to hide it and take it away!


The First Lollipop

Rainy Day Fun

Here in Wisconsin it’s raining today! A welcome gift for the farmers…not always great for mom’s and kids! I thought I would share this idea in case the kids are driving you crazy!

Besides the obvious activity of playing in the rain on this unusually rare occasion this summer…..


Playing in the rain!!

Here is an indoor activity to keep you and the kids busy and promotes a LOT of laughing and learning!!

Do you remember Mad Libs as a kid?? I LOVED them! Hours of fun at sleep overs! I haven’t ran across one of those books in stores in years so we make our own. In case you’ve never had the pleasure of a Mad Lib marathon, the rules are simple. Write a story then omit key words throughout the story and ask the other person to fill in the blanks with only the suggestion of “noun,” “verb,” “adjective,” etc. Don’t let them know what the story is about…this is where the laughter comes in!

In case you’re not up for writing your own story there’s a much simpler way! Take one of your child’s story books, write down a few pages from the story and then take out some of the words. Ask your child for the nouns, verbs, adjectives that will properly fill in the story!

Today we did a portion from The Poky Little Puppy’s Naughty Day by Jean Chandler and Elvis Presley’s Love Me Tender story book.

Here was our outcome from Love Me Tender: (the italics indicates their input!)

Love me silly, love me exciting

In a second, let me go.

You have made my life complete.

And I love you so.

Love me colorful, love me plain,

All my lunch ladies fulfill.

For, my cutie pie, I love you, And I always will.

Love me cool, love me boring,

Take me to your Snowy Mountain.

For it’s there that I belong,

And we’ll never part


Our Mad Libs!


I hope you have fun on this rainy day!!

What do you like to do on rainy days? I’m always looking for more ideas!!!


Peddling Ice Cream

Every year, the company my husband works for as a Sales Trainer, Cellcom (a cellphone company), puts on Customer Appreciation days. It’s a fabulous event providing current and potential customers with free food, discounted accessories, phones and ICE CREAM!

I usually bring the kids every year while my husband is there helping out. We get to say hello to his co-workers, eat some food and of course, the kids favorite part….have ICE CREAM!

I have brought the kids to his work a few times. They’ve seen the showroom floor and we’ve walked upstairs to see his desk but they’ve never seen him in one of his training courses. My daughter knows what he does for a living and I guess I just assumed my son did as well.

One morning at the breakfast table my daughter made the remark, “I know why Daddy’s work’s name is Cellcom. It has the word “cell” in it and they sell cellphones.” She was proud of herself for making the correlation.

My son looked quizzically at her and said, “Daddy sells cellphones???? I thought he sold ICE CREAM!”

Apparently, when we went to last year’s Customer Appreciation Day at my husband’s work and Daddy gave him ice cream, that’s what he thought he did for a living.

My son Bency was 4 years old at the time. I think every 4 year old’s dream would be to have a Dad who sold ice cream. I was a little sad I had to confirm for him that his Dad’s work did indeed sell cellphones.

We went to the Customer Appreciation day yesterday. The kids had a good time and they got their ice cream straight from the cooler handed to them by their Dad.  For one day every year…Their Dad sells ICE CREAM!


Dad handing out ice cream


Dress Me Up Barbie

I spend about a month planning my kids’ birthday parties. It’s always quite an event at our house! I love having the parties but I get stressed out working out all the details between the cake, food, games and loot bags. I feel like we’ve played every game ever known in childhood history so coming up with something new is always a brainstorm marathon. This year when I was planning my daughter, Iris’s, 7th birthday party she requested, “Pin the Tiara on Barbie.” Her party theme was Barbie but the previous year was a Princess and Pirate theme and we had, “Pin the Crown on the Princess and Eye Patch on the Pirate.” I think every birthday we have had, we have pinned “something on to something” so I felt her suggestion was a bit redundant but it gave me an idea…I made “Dress-Up Barbie.”

For this, I simply bought a piece of poster board and drew a Barbie on it. I painted a Barbie with a swimsuit on and then drew some clothes and accessories for her. My daughter cut out and colored all the clothes for me. Each child at the party was blindfolded and assigned a different article of clothing or accessory to attach to Barbie. It was a fun game and the biggest bonus of all…Iris has been able to continue playing with it and making new clothes for her as well!

I can’t wait to find out what we’re going to be pinning to next year!


Dress Me Up Barbie


After the girls put the clothes on!


Princess and Pirate game from last year


Knocking Noggins

Yesterday, while waiting for story hour to begin at the library, Cesar, the almost 2 year old was running around the room laughing and giggling. He encouraged a few more boys his age to join in the fun. I sensed potential danger in this act but trying to tell Cesar, or almost any 2 year old to sit down is like talking to a tree stump.

The inevitable happened, and Cesar and another boy collided forehead to forehead…pretty hard. Both boys fell backwards and Cesar managed a few rolls too. The boys quickly stood back up and the other boy’s mom came rushing to the scene with a “are you alright?” in a frantic tone. That boy then started crying…sobbing hysterically, in fact. Cesar rubbed his head, looked my way and walked away. We watched the boy and his mom exit story hour… never to return.

Cesar didn’t run around during story hour anymore. He sat quietly and listened to the stories. It was a learning lesson for him. He bumped hard enough that he didn’t want it to happen again. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to run to him and give him a hug but if I had, I knew that he would start crying too and we would have been making the exit as well. My kids know they can come to me anytime for a hug, kiss, Neosporin and band aids but they have learned to handle a lot on their own.

My older kids have learned that if I give them fair warning not to run in the house because I’ve just waxed the floor and they proceed to do this anyway and get hurt there will be little sympathy from me. Not only will they have a bruised knee they will also be sitting in “time out.”

Life is filled with so many lessons. It would be so much easier if we could tell our kids everything we know and they would trust us and adhere to our advice…and not have to learn so many things the HARD way!


Always smiling!!


The Recognition Jar

I view motherhood as the ultimate science experiment. My “test subjects” change in the course of months, days and sometimes hours. I find the birth order and gender play a huge role and I find it extremely interesting seeing it all play out.

Behavior problems and discipline go hand in hand with raising kids. I’ve had my fair share of “banging my head against the wall” moments when I just don’t know what to do. I have brought these “special” moments to my pediatrician and she always handed me a book or the name of an author I have to read. I’ve read and I’ve read and I’ve read. Sometimes their suggestions work with one child but not the other. Every kid is different. The mother knows the child best. My suggestion is arm yourself with as much knowledge as possible and go with your gut instinct. If one thing doesn’t work, try another.

We’ve had success with something in our house this past year so I thought I would share it with you! It’s called the “Recognition Jar.” My husband and I got the idea when my daughter’s school implemented something similar. At school, if the teachers found a student doing something positive they received a “Red Bird Recognition.” At the end of the week, all of the recognitions were put in a box and a few were randomly picked to receive a prize or lunch on the stage with a friend.

At home we put this simple “science experiment” into motion by getting an empty jar and my canister of buttons. The premise was… for every “good” behavior they had they got to put a button in the jar. When the jar was full we would do something fun as a family.

My five year old no longer screamed when he got his hair washed after being promised a button if he remained calm. (We no longer have to give buttons for this…it was just a bad habit we had to break.)

Both kids received buttons for making their beds and clearing dishes. (We no longer give buttons for this…they automatically do these now without reward.)

Right now we are currently working on eating over their dinner plate so they don’t get any food on the floor…sometimes they get a button…sometimes they don’t!

This system worked in so many areas where “time outs” and nagging didn’t.

The jar typically takes us 2 months to fill up and their rewards are things like McDonald’s Play Land, trip to the Dollar Store to pick out one item, or a night out for ice cream (obviously, you need to pick what will motivate YOUR child).

Now if only I can get my husband on board with the “Recognition Jar.” There’s a few behaviors I would like to turn around with him…putting the twisty ties back on the bread bags and turning his socks right side out before putting them in the laundry basket. I have a feeling his motivation will take more than a trip to McDonald’s Play Land!


Our Recognition Jar