Thursday, April 27, 2017

40 Years Young (freebies to share)

If you know me in real life or follow me on Instagram you may have noticed that I had a birthday this week. ;)  Actually you might have thought it was last week when my friend's threw me a surprise party.  Or maybe you thought I was just celebrating turning 40 every day for an entire week!

So it's true, it's over and I am officially 40.  So far I have observed that turning 40 means:

  • Grey Hairs (appeared only a couple months ago)
  • 1st Mammogram appointment (yikes)
  • I check a different age bracket more 30-39, now I have to check 40-49.  Sigh.
But on the bright side I had a fantastic birthday party and am feeling optimistic about starting my 40s in a better place than I was in my late 30s.  

And....I got Birthday Freebies!  On my actual birthday I had:
  • Starbucks (Venti Flat White with an extra shot and 2 pumps of Cascara) You just need to have a registered SB card.
  • Hamburger at Johnny Rocket's (protein style) I just had to show my ID.
  • Appetizer at PF Chang's (lettuce wraps!)
Hooray for freebies!  I have a week to collect a few more including:

Whew, let the party continue!

(How amazing are these personalized cookies from my party?  So so so cute and special!) Made by: kimscookiecottage

To continue the 40 theme this year I'm going to share 40 of my favorite things.  So stay tuned, I'll start with my first few next week.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Talking to Kids about Alzheimer's

My father had a long journey with Alzheimer's that spanned over 14 years. When my Dad started showing symptoms I was a young adult living in another state, focused on my own life, madly in love and planning my wedding.  It took me awhile to take my Mom's updates seriously and to recognize the symptoms.  

The first time I acknowledged the reality that my Dad was changing was during a visit when he kept repeating the same conversation over and over.  He also read newspaper articles and headlines (out loud) repeatedly.  And most alarming at a family function I overheard him talking and realized that he had forgotten that I was there even though I was standing just a few feet from him.  At this point I was newly pregnant with my first baby.

By the time my baby girl was born Dad was clearly confused.  He didn't know where he was or what we were doing, but he was (mostly) content.  He was also a fantastic grandfather.  

My parents came out to help after my daughter was born and he would hold her, love on her, tell me how beautiful she was and remember her name.  

As she grew he celebrated her milestones along with us, rejoicing over her walking, eating foods and generally being an adorable baby.  By the time she turned 3 he was asking over and over when she'd be starting kindergarten since she was so advanced.

When my oldest was little he would read to her for hours.  Repeating the same favorite book over and over didn't bother him in the slightest since he didn't remember that he'd just read it.  They would talk and read in the backseat of my car happily, he thought she was marvelous.

I didn't talk much to my oldest about her grandfather's disease at this point, since she didn't know anything was different or out of the ordinary.

By the time I was pregnant with my second daughter my Dad had slipped quite a bit more.  Multiple times a day he would see my big belly during visits and ask when I was due.  He was sweet and excited for me but becoming increasingly less patient with my 3 year old since he was regressing in his emotional maturity at this point and starting to match hers.

He would get angry with my oldest and had a hard time sharing or dealing with her typical 3 year old behavior.  As a result we had to move Dad to the front seat to keep her safe and make sure she always had mom or grandma with her when grandpa was there.  This was a really tough transition for me and also for my daughter.  She started to realize that sometimes grandpa would react "funny" or "scary" and didn't know why. 

I purchased a couple books around this time to help explain his illness to her.  For the most part they were pretty wordy and advanced so I had to simplify it for her.  It's also tricky because every Alzheimer's journey is different.  Some symptoms are similar but we couldn't relate exactly with the stories in the books.

Still My Grandpa
What's Happening to Grandpa

In time I found that just talking about his disease was easier.  We would talk ahead of a visit (we saw them about 4x a year), during the visit and after the visit.  But I kept the books around so they could grab them for me to read (or read to themselves) whenever they wanted.

How I explained Alzheimer's:

Using developmentally appropriate words I explained that grandpa's brain isn't working well anymore.  That he has an illness that is progressing and parts of grandpa keep going away.  I gave examples of brain-parts that no longer work as the deficits kept progressing such as: his patient part, the part that tells his tummy he's full/just eaten, the part that takes turns, the part that says please and thank you.  Later I had to explain that the part that tells him it's time to use the potty or go to sleep (this was easier to explain as her little sister was potty training around the same time).

I told her that he was slowly going backwards in his brain, that he was getting younger while she was getting older.  

These simple explanations seemed to satisfy my oldest, and later my youngest.

Focus on Strengths:

At the same time we were talking about what wasn't working with my Dad I also highlighted what he could still do.  To focus on his strengths!  What he still tolerated/appreciated: hugs, a picture, reading to him, watching a show he likes, taking a walk on the beach, etc.

I also pointed out what my kids did that Dad loved.  How he lit up when they talked to him.  How he hugged back.  How he smiled whenever they came close.  How he remembered my youngest daughter's middle name (which was amazing!).

Talk about the Past:

Since my Dad was not able to tell them stories about his childhood or mine I filled in the blanks for him.  I told my kids about what Dad used to be like (and I still do!).  Showed them photos, videos, slides and especially highlighted the good memories as well as my Dad's character qualities/personality.

Reassure and Answer Questions:

During our regular conversations about Dad I found that their most pressing concerns were about me.  They needed to hear that I wouldn't get Alzheimer's and leave them.  So I made sure to tell them over and over that scientists are working really hard on a cure right now and that although it will be too late for grandpa it will be in time for me if I was to get the illness.  This seemed to satisfy them.

I had our family participate in a Walk to End Alzheimer's and pointed out all of the people coming together to raise money for a cure.

Remember to:
  • Allow your kids to ask questions freely (or not, don't push the topic if they are not ready).
  • Have time before, during and after visits to discuss what they see and feel.
  • Be honest, if you don't have answers let them know that.
  • Reassure them and point out what they are doing well.
  • If your kids aren't big on talking try using art.  Ask them to draw how they feel, or draw the grandparent, visits, etc.
  • Let them know that it is hard for you too.  Share your feelings so they know they're not alone.  Don't hide all of your pain or they won't learn that it is normal.
  • Take LOTS of photos of your kids with their grandparent.  You can look back on these photos together to remember, reinforce their relationship and to fill in gaps once grandpa is gone.
  • Reach out for help if you need it from a professional counselor or support group.

If you have a parent or loved one with dementia I highly recommend the book "The 36-Hour Day".  This book was very helpful for me to understand what was happening to my Dad, what would be coming and ways to make our relationship (and his relationship with my kids) go more smoothly.

For more on Alzheimers:

Recordable Books Treasured Memories
Goodbye Dad
Visiting Memory Care/Nursing Homes with Kids
Gift Ideas for Loved Ones with Dementia

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Bye Bye Big Baby

During the process of de-cluttering our house we also got rid of quite a few of my girl's toys, dolls and books (even FPLP!!!).  One of the toys that left our house was the much loved "Big Baby" doll.  Big Baby got her name back when my oldest was only 2.  At the time all of her dolls had inspired names like: Pink Baby, Blue Baby, Little Baby, etc.  So obviously this huge doll had to be named "Big Baby".

Big Baby was fantastic since she was big enough to wear my daughter's baby clothes and she looked like a real baby (which sometimes gave me a start when I'd come into a room and see her sitting there).

Often my daughter would insist on pushing Big Baby around in her stroller and would buckle her into the seat next to her in the car.

Big Baby was still in the house when my youngest daughter was born.  She also loved Big Baby and we took many photos of them side by side.

These are just a few of the dozens of photos we've taken over the years with our girls and Big Baby.  So you can imagine that I was a bit sentimental about this big huge doll that had been with my girls all this time.  But, following the De-Cluttering checklist I saw that it was time.

So we took one last photo of Big Baby with the girls before we donated it.  Now hopefully another little person is loving on Big Baby!

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Downton Abbey Sighting!

Downton Abbey may be a fictional show but it was filmed at a real English Castle, Highclere Castle.  This lovely estate has been the backdrop for quite a few British films and also hosts special events and even overnight guest!

I happened to recognize the lovely estate while watching a film with my girls last night.  So if you have missed seeing Downton Abbey check out the movie Back to the Secret Garden on Netflix.  Made in 2000 this (made for TV) children's film is based on the classic The Secret Garden but takes place in the 1940s when Mary and Colin are adults and there are new children living at Misselthwaite Manor (orphans).  The secret garden still needs help and love and fortunately there is a new character (Lizzie) to save the day.

There are no familiar actors from the Downton Abbey show but there is a "Lady Mary" that owns the estate, so that's close!

It was a cute, clean and sweet film.  My girls enjoyed it (the 9yo more than the 5 yo), especially my oldest who had just finished reading the novel (again).  They were able to learn a few British words and phrases.  And we had opportunities to talk about what makes a good friend (just wait, there is a jealous mean girl in the story).

So make a cup of tea, get some biscuits and gather your kids on the couch for a movie this weekend!

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

I still have napkins from my wedding: De-cluttering Tips

This spring I've been motivated to de-clutter and minimize my house and simplify my life.  I think it was the combination of friends doing the same, watching The Minimalists on Netflix (great film!) and also needing an activity to keep me busy after Dad died.

I started going through my house one room, one drawer and one closet at a time.  I walked through this de-cluttering checklist and before I knew it I'd filled my van twice with stuff to get rid of. 

Now the fact that I have so much crap is nothing to be proud of, but I am feeling better/proud of seeing it leave my house!

I'm also working on minimizing what I bring into the house by buying less but that's a story for another day.

During my room by room process of getting rid of items I found a few interesting discoveries including a box full of cocktail napkins from my wedding.....13 years ago.

Now you may ask how that box had managed to move across the country and across town into 3 different homes?  Well...I guess I was sentimental and thought I'd use them someday.  You know for my 25th anniversary or something.  Ha!

To make the saving situation worse the napkins weren't even personalized, they were just purchased at a wedding supply store.  Sigh.  

So I realized that I needed to get rid of them (#1, #4 & #8 on the list above).  I had the realization that they'd be a perfect size for my girl's lunch boxes.  They loved the idea of having a piece of our wedding at school each day and told all their friends about it.

Hooray, it's a win-win.  My kids get napkins (which they needed) and I get more space in my cabinet.  I plan on keeping the very last one for my wedding scrapbook, but it will be awhile before we use all these.

I'm sure I'll be back with more de-cluttering discoveries, you never know what you'll find in a box or drawer around here. :)

Monday, March 27, 2017

Vegetable Beef Instant Pot Soup Recipe

My love of my new Instant Pot is increasing with each successful recipe!  Last week I craved some vegetable beef soup and this was SO. EASY.  I'm talking easy.  I simply sautéd the meat and onion (in the pot!) and then added the vegetables to the SAME pot.  Oh man, my life may never be the same.

The family gave it two thumbs up, everyone liked it.  I'll be making it again soon.

Vegetable Beef Instant Pot Soup

1 pound organic ground beef 
½ medium onion, diced 
4 cloves of garlic, minced
2 cups frozen (or fresh) Lima beans 
2 cups organic frozen mixed vegetables 
2 cups frozen organic corn 
3 cans of diced tomatoes 
2 cups water (more if you prefer more broth)
1 TBSP dried basil 
Salt and pepper to taste 

Instructions 1. Set your Instant pot to sauté setting. Cook meat and onions until brown and onions are soft (about 5 min). When they are almost cooked add the garlic and sauté for one more minute.
2. Add all the other ingredients to the Instant pot. 
3. Add lid and and set to sealing. 4. Click the manual button and set the time for 4 minutes. Allow it to naturally release the pressure for 5 minutes and then do a quick release.
5. Remove lid, stir, and add more salt and pepper to taste. 

To get your own amazing Instant Pot check out the link below.

For more Instant Pot recipes check out:

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Popsicle Pool Float and other Spring Break Grocery Store adventures

Yesterday was the first day of spring and my girls first day of Spring Break.  What fun activity did I plan for them?  Why a trip to the grocery store of course. :)  But hey, I made it fun by letting them take turns pushing the cart (yikes!), Starbucks ice-tea (free refills!) and a random gigantic pool float purchase.

Oh that's right, we found this amazing Popsicle Pool Float for wait for it.....only $4.99! It was on sale but even the regular price ($5.99) is pretty awesome.  They had them in boxes but the already inflated ones were my pick because, man, no one likes to fill those things!!

The only downside (or upside depending on how you look at it) was trying to get that big ole thing through the store.  It made for some funny moments and looks (or glares) from other shoppers. 

This fun popsicle is going to look awesome with our donut float from last summer! might make me want more sweets.  Ha!

If it is still winter in your land and/or you don't have an Albertsons then check out this float on Amazon, it's the same one for just a bit more.  And for the donut float look here at Target.

PS - It was 92 degrees yesterday....just saying that this pool float is just in time!

On our way out the kids convinced me to play the Albertson's Monopoly game.  We hung out in the Starbucks (more free refills!) for over an hour looking for pieces (yay letter/number searching for my youngest).  Just when we'd finish up our pile another shopper would see us and give us their stack of tickets.  So. Fun.  I might have to take them back again today.   

So if you have kids that's my tip, hang out near the checkouts doing the game and nice people will share with you.  And no, we haven't won a million dollars yet but here's hoping!

Monday, March 20, 2017

The View From Here - Looking Up

I know I post a lot of hot air balloon photos but I can't help myself, they're so beautiful and literally above me most mornings.

I can't imagine ever moving from this community because I'd miss the balloons too much.

Just look up!

For more balloon photos:

2012 - Backyard
2012 - Neighborhood Balloon Landing
2013 - Neighborhood Views
2015 - Tethered Balloon Ride

2017 - Neighborhood Balloons

Friday, March 17, 2017

Happy St Patrick's Day from our Little People

We're not Irish (maybe a tiny bit) but I'd still like to wish you a Happy St Patrick's Day!

I hope you find treasure at the end of your rainbow or under a 4 leaf clover. :)

Past St Patrick's Days

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Careful May Shrink in the Wash

2013 - I couldn't find a better photo of me wearing it!

Once upon a time (in 2013) I bought a bright green wool sweater from the jCrew outlet.  It had 3/4 sleeves and was a favorite. 

Around 2015 I accidentally dried it in the drier.  Whoops.  Then it was too small for me.  I tried hard to stretch it out again but it never quite fit the same.  I had placed it in the giveaway pile but had the bright idea to give it to my then 8 year old and it looked great on her!  She wore it for a little over a year.....then last month I dried it in the drier again.  


Then I had the bright idea of having my 5 year old try it on and it looked amazing on her!  Hooray!

Here's to keeping it out of the drier, otherwise it may end up being a dog's sweater. :)

The end. 

Friday, March 3, 2017

Fisher Price Friday - Storage Updates

It's been awhile since I had a Fisher Price Friday!  I've got a few toys and goodies to share but today I want to show off our storage changes.  For years I've kept most of our kid's collection in a big armoire which was good and bad.  The good is that the playroom looked neat when they were tucked away, but the bad is that my youngest had a hard time reaching many of the toys and also I couldn't see them!

So I did a switch and moved (most) of the FPLP toys to the bookshelves and put the books in the armoire instead (and got rid of a bunch).

As a result my little person is using the little people toys more!  Hooray!

The baskets on the bottom hold little people, miscellaneous pieces, vehicles and a few pull toys.

As a result of the move a few toys had to move to the closet and some we're getting rid of (selling soon in my Etsy shop).  We can't keep them all forever, although I'm happy that my youngest has a few more years of play in her. :)

To see how the playroom has looked in the past:

Playroom Storage
Playroom Organization

Monday, February 27, 2017

Cute and Inexpensive Kid's Swimsuits - I 💗 Target!

Last month we took our first cruise with the girls.  I realized a week before we left that my girls had outgrown most of their swimsuits.  I shopped online and found these adorable and affordable suits from my favorite store, Target!

They were both under $20 (one was only $14.99) and they worked out perfectly.  I thought I'd share them with you in case you have some warm weather travel plans this winter, or if you just want to plan ahead.  Or.....if you live in AZ and are already having your kids suit up in our 80 degree weather (don't hate us but it's coming back by the end of this week).

First up is the Girl's Breaking Waves Polka-dot swimsuit. with rainbow ties.  It is my favorite and got so so many comments when she wore it.  It also photographed pretty well.  

It ran true to size, my 5 year old wore a size 5.  It costs only $14.99.

Next up was my big girl's Chevron one piece with rash guard.  The rash guard is white with pink sleeves and a chevron heart.  It wasn't particularly hot on our cruise so she didn't wear it as much, but I'm sure we'll get plenty of use out of it this summer!

The front of the suit was rainbow chevron print and the back a bright pink.  It made her easy to find on the beach. :)

They have so so many cute and affordable suits at Target for kids, check them out before they're gone!