Friday, September 22, 2017

Talking to Kids about Death

I've been mulling over sharing how my little family dealt with the topic of death this year.  It took me a few months but I'm finally ready.  Earlier this winter my father passed away after a long battle with Alzheimer's.  A battle so long that it encompassed my girl's entire lives.  As a result his death was not a surprise, but something we had prepared for for quite some time.  However, there really is only so much you can plan for, even with an expected eventual death there are unexpected emotions and realities.

My father's decline was experienced for some time, and he was living in a Care Home when he passed.  However, the actual passing happened quickly and with only a little notice.  As a result I had to fly out unexpectedly while they were at school to be there in time to be with him as he left this life.  

When I returned home a few days later I started conversations about what happened, his death and how they felt about it all.  It was a process and I found that my youngest was the most effected, she didn't want me out of her sight for quite awhile after my return.  I had to reassure her frequently and spend extra time with her so that she could feel secure again.

Here's what I did and what I would do differently if I could.

What Helped

  1. Honest communication - I allowed my girls to ask questions and to talk about Grandpa's death when it was comfortable for them.   I purchased a couple books online and borrowed one from the library that dealt with death and grieving.  Although no book is a perfect match they at least offer topics for kids to discuss with you.  You can also talk about what ways you agree or disagree with the book, this may be especially important with your family's beliefs on the afterlife.  
  2. Talking about Highs and Lows - We came up with lists of the good and bad parts of Grandpa passing.  For example a good was that Grandpa had his memory back and was whole, also that he got to be with all of his friends and family that were already in heaven!  A low being that we missed him and wouldn't get to see him anymore.
  3. Reassurance - My youngest had a *really* hard time with being away from me after my dad died.  This is mostly because I left while she was at school, so she didn't get to say goodbye.  But also because she folded that feeling/fear into the permanent goodbye of my dad.  Reassuring her that I'm not going anywhere and that I plan to live a long life was helpful to her security.
What I would do Differently
  1. I would have prepared my girls better the day I flew out.  Either by letting them know that there was a possibility I might have to leave that day, or by leaving them messages.  I was in such a hurry and in the midst of grief that I didn't take the space to think of them.

The time between when my Dad died and his funeral and then burial were all weeks and months apart.  The girls joined me at  Dad's funeral almost a month after he died.  We used that time to prepare the girls by talking about what a funeral/memorial service looks like so that they would know what to expect.  As a result they were pretty comfortable on that day and handled the situation really well. 

Memorial Service/Funeral
What Helped
  1. Describe ahead what a memorial service usually looks like.  Talk about how some people may be laughing at times and smiling, and at other times crying.  That both are normal!  Let them know who will most likely be there and that lots of people will be strangers to them, but were close friends to your loved one.
  2. Include your kids in decisions that they can have some say in such as what they will wear.  We were making our own flower arrangements for the church and my oldest was able to help grandma select the flowers and arrange them.
  3. Go over rules regarding behavior and expectations, especially if this church (or any church) is new to your kids.  Talk about voice level, running, etc.
  4. During the service I had the kids sit with my husband (behind me) so that I could experience my own feelings without them having to respond to or take care of me.  I did let them know ahead that mommy might be sad or cry, but that this is totally normal because I am sad about Grandpa passing.  Also that it's okay if they cry and okay if they don't.

My family waited to bury Dad's ashes until the summer, so it was quite a few months after his memorial.  During the in-between time we talked more about death and I prepared them for the burial.  What it would look like, who would be there and how they could be involved.  

Our situation was a little unique in that Dad was buried in a very small private community cemetery.  As a result we did the actual digging/burying ourselves.  The kids were invited to participate and they both did (happily).  In a more traditional burial you could have your kids place flowers on the grave, or toss flowers on top of a casket.   

We also had a time of remembering Dad where each family member shared a memory of Dad.  The kids were included in this part and were warned ahead so they could prepare. They were given the choice to opt-out, but both of my girls shared something.  Kids could also share a poem, favorite joke or even sing a song.

There is nothing I would do differently with the memorial and the burial.  They were both positive experiences with my girls and I noticed that they were able to process his death as a normal part of life.

We still talk about Grandpa and when I had moments of sadness after his passing I made sure to be honest/open with them.  That way they would normalize sadness and grief as normal reactions to loss.  I let them share how this made them feel and what their hopes were about death ("that mommy lives a long time").

For more information on Dementia 

Talking to Kids about Alzheimer's

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Puppy Days again!

Five years ago this month we added our Italian Greyhound Bella to the family.  She was the cutest little puppy and has grown to be a loving and sweet dog.  She was quite the transition for our then 8 year old IG Dante.  But eventually they became friends and even cuddle buddies.

Dante turned 13 on Friday, the same day we brought home our latest fur-baby Button! I'm not sure if he appreciated the present, but so far he is getting along with/mostly ignoring Button.

Button is a 10 week old female IG and she is the cutest little puppy!  We are all enjoying getting to know her and help her adjust to our home.  So far we think she's pretty fantastic.

I'll have more puppy updates soon including what products and training we are doing this time around.

Other Italian Greyhound Posts:

Friday, September 15, 2017

My Friend Doll Beauty Salon (Hair Repair)

We're big fans of the Fisher Price My Friend Dolls from the 1970-1980s.  I have been able to purchase brand new in box dolls for my youngest and she currently has 3 of the 5 made.  As I've said before my youngest (currently age 6) doesn't quite grasp that these are really old dolls!  Especially since they come to her brand new.  She doesn't understand that they've been sitting in a closet somewhere waiting to be loved for 30+ years.  She thinks I buy them at Target, ha!

When she discovered that a friend of hers had a Mandy doll too (her mom's) she was very excited.  We set up a playdate so the girls could get the dolls (and all their clothes) together!  The morning before our get-together her mom told me that Mandy needed some hair TLC stat.  They'd tried to condition it once before but it was still pretty tangled and damaged.  

I love a challenge so in the few hours before I got the girls I gave Mandy a deep conditioning treatment and it turned out pretty well.  

Check out these before and afters.  Not too shabby!  And now a comb can go through all of the hair.  I think another longer (overnight) treatment might work on those ends a little more.

Here's what you will need: Wide tooth comb, regular comb, bowl, fabric softener, washcloth and some patience. :)

1. Put a couple cap fulls of fabric softener in a bowl.  Not too much because you don't want to waste it.  Then put the doll's hair in the bowl and slowly work the fabric softener through all of the hair.  Take time to get it into the tangles or any knots.

2. After the hair is coated, carefully place the doll aside on a washcloth and leave her alone for between 1hr and overnight depending on damage level.  Due to time constraints Mandy had the softener on her hair for about 2 hrs.

3. Slowly and carefully comb through the doll's hair, starting with the wide side of a comb.  Gently work through the tangles until you can get the comb all the way through.  Then move to the small side of the comb and do the same.

4. Rinse, rinse, rinse.  Carefully comb through the hair while it is under running water until you can feel that the hair is rinsed.  Leaving fabric conditioner on the hair long term can damage it.  

5. Lightly towel dry the hair (press don't rub) and comb through it again. Allow to air dry, don't use a dryer!

All set!  Does she look amazing?

My daughter's friend was super excited to see that her Mandy had softer and more manageable hair.  Not perfect but MUCH better.  Hooray!

All ready for a play-date!  Note by the way that both blond dolls are "Mandy".  The far left is the last 1980s version and the visiting Mandy was one of the first editions. (for reference the other two dolls are Jenny and Nicky)

For more information on her Fisher Price Dolls

#204 Baby Ann (a soft doll) 

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Disneyland Take 2!

We finally made it back to Disneyland/CA Adventure, three years after our first visit.  I think it took us that long to forget how challenging the first visit was, ha!  But seriously a trip to Disney for us is more about our kids having a good time than us.  My joy was seeing it through their eyes.  I know many adults who LOVE Disney and go, even without kids.  But....the rides and lines just aren't my thing.  I do love the characters though!

Now back to this trip.  We did a quick 4 day trip.  One day to drive out, 2 days at the parks (Park Hopper passes) and one day to drive back.  We chose Sept 5th-6th to be at the parks because the attendance calenders projected that those would be LOW attendance days.  This was crucial because hey, no one likes long lines!

The upside to this timing was that the park was only at 50% capacity, so the lines were very doable.  Many rides we just walked on or waited <10 min. The longest wait was for the Star Wars ride which was about 40 min.

The downside was that the park was HOT.  Now we may be from Arizona but our heat is DRY.  CA heat was humid and..uncomfortable.  It was much better by the evening but if there was any line waiting in the direct sun it was unpleasant.  The worst was waiting 20 min in the SUN to meet Minnie Mouse.  

Tips for Sunny Days
  • Powder sunscreen - This stuff is fantastic, easy to pack, easy (non messy/smelly) to apply/reapply and the kids don't complain.  It's pricey but perfect for this type of occasion.
  • Layers - Make sure you can take something off.  Wear light breathable fabrics.  Perhaps re-think having the kids dress up in costumes, I saw quite a few sweaty and miserable princesses walking around those days.
  • Frozen water bottles - Bring your own water bottles from home.  My $1 Dasani bottles from home cost over $4 at the park!  Freeze them overnight in your hotel room and carry that bottle with you.  You can also get ice water (for FREE) at the restaurants/kiosks, just ask.
  • Backpack - This collapsible backpack comes in handy for so many adventures, including Disneyland.  I had the (frozen) water bottle on the outside so everyone could reach it.  Inside I carried our own snacks, etc.  It was comfortable all day!
My girls were 6 and 9.5 for this trip and this was their/our assessments of some of the ride highs and lows.


Highs (favorites)
  • Peter Pan
  • It's a Small World
  • Star Wars
  • Finding Nemo
  • Teacups 
Lows (never go on again)
  • Mr Toad's Wild Ride (uggg)
  • The Matterhorn (too bumpy, gave us a headache)
I did most of the Disney rides with my girls as my husband only made it 3 hrs into the 2nd day before going back to the hotel.  I didn't mind most of them but was happy to get out of the sun in the afternoon by hopping back to CA Adventure for an (indoor) show.


Before we left parks we made it to the Disneyland parade.  It was fantastic and my girls LOVED all the characters, dancing and music.  

  • Sit in front of the ice-cream parlor.  During our parade they brought out FREE ice-cream to give someone in the crowd.  
  • Try to find a seat along the route where you can sit, as the parade can go a little long.

CA Adventure

  • Cars Ride (we walked right on!!)
  • California Screaming (note: only my oldest and husband rode this one, 2x in a row)
  • Toy Story
  • The Little Mermaid (kids loved it)
  • Bugs land Bumper Cars (too easy)
  • Swinging Chairs (made me nauseous)
My bummer for CA Adventure is that so many of the rides are tea-cup type, so they spin around.  This is a no-go for me as I get nauseous.  Fortunately their dad was able to take them on rides.  My oldest could have gone alone but my 6 year old couldn't.  The rules are 7+ are okay alone but under 7 needs a 14yr old + to go with them.  Tricky.

One of the best parts about CA Adventure was the shows.  We saw the live Frozen show and were very impressed with the lighting and special effects.  Pretty awesome for a show that's included in your ticket price!  Remember to get their at least 30 min early (that was for a non-crowded day) to get in line for seats.  

The other show that we saw was the night World of Color light/water show.  We made sure to get fast-pass tickets that morning (doesn't effect other Fast Passes) so we could have better spots.  It's a standing show and you may need to put small kids on your shoulders to see.  Also, many areas are "splash zones" so you'll get a little wet.  We didn't mind a bit this time, it felt like rain here and there.

Tips for Night Shows
  • Bring your own glow sticks or wands.  Light up toys cost $$$ at Disney so plan ahead and buy yours at Target or a Dollar Store.  
  • Wear layers.  It can get cold or wet, pack a poncho for water shows.

Pin Trading

Another fun activity that we tried for the first time this visit was Pin Trading.  Disneyland (and other parks/places) sell Disney pins.  You can buy/collect your own of course but you can also trade them!  In the parks you can trade with Disney Cast members that are wearing lanyards, or you can ask for trading boards at the stores.  If that store doesn't have a board they'll tell you who does.  

Pin Trading Tips
  • You can only trade real Disney pins.  They're supposed to check the back for authenticity.  
  • If you don't see pin traders ask a Cast Member.
  • Trading Pins happens in Downtown Disney and both parks.
  • Buy (real) pins ahead on places like eBay for much cheaper so you have pins to trade.  We found some cute pins at a local Antique mall for only $1.50-$3 each.  At the park individual pins start at $8.99 each!
  • If you can't buy ahead get the pin collections, at $30 for 8 they end up being less than $4 each.
  • Check the backs frequently while wearing the pins, they often slip off and you'll lose the pin!  My girls had pins fall about 6x during our visit, and 1x we never found the pin. :(
  • If you do lose a back you can buy a package of replacements, but also as if the stores have just one back. We were able to get 3 backs (separate times) that way.

Character Autographs

Remember how I have been working on decluttering and minimizing?  Part of that process was going through childhood boxes at my childhood home.  This summer I discovered my Disney Autograph book from 1986.  Oh yes, it's a beauty.  I used it on my first visit to Disneyland in 1987, although the autographs are less Disney and more random.  For example the pilot who flew us to Burbank, CA, my grandparents, etc.

We brought the book back to life by bringing it to Disneyland this trip.  The girls had SO many characters sign it, and many of them noted the unusual (old) design and asked about it.  Anna and Elsa from Frozen took time to thumb through and look at who signed it. 

They ended up getting the signatures of:
  • Anna & Elsa
  • Chip & Dale
  • Minnie
  • Mickey
  • Tinkerbell 
  • Cinderella
  • Ariel
  • Snow White
  • Rapunzel & Flynn Ryder 
  • Pinocchio
  • Doc McStuffins
Not too shabby for only 2 days in the park.  The highest concentration of signatures are available in the Royal Hall in Disneyland.  After waiting a few minutes we were able to meet 4.  They also met Gaston but he refused to sign their book saying that he couldn't read or write. 

Signing Tips
  • Find a book ahead, they cost more at the park.  Some books have space for photos on the side, which would be lovely if your kids did a photo op/signature.
  • Bring a pen (and an extra)!  We lost ours and were able to borrow but it was challenging sometimes to find one quickly.
  • Have your kids ask for the signature instead of you.  The characters were more apt to talk to a child than a parent.  

Disney Grand CA Hotel

My last tip has to do with where to stay.  Once again we stayed at the Disney Grand California hotel and spa.  It is the closest hotel to the park and even has it's own entrance to CA Adventure.  This was a HUGE perk for running back to the hotel if we forgot something and for my husband who didn't join us all day each day.

The Disney hotels offer Magic Hours each morning at the parks (alternating).  The extra hour is really lovely to get your morning off to a good start.  The day we visited CA Adventure we walked right onto the Cars Ride!

Staying at a Disney hotel also gets you a few freebies like a lanyard with Resort pin.  Our package had a certificate for a free photo (we did the Cars Ride) and discounts on Downtown Disney restaurants.

  • If you are getting a standard room try to get one closest to the front lobby.  That gives you quick access to the Downtown Disney entrance.
  • They are phasing out bunkbed rooms (Sigh), but there are still a few left if you're traveling now.  You can request a bunkbed room.
  • Use the pool your day of arrival, you'll probably be too busy to use it on park days.  Or plan to stay after checkout at the pool for a bit, they'll happily store your luggage for you.
  • You do not need to bring your own flotation device for your kids, they have life jackets available.
  • Don't refuse the turndown, they give you chocolates! :)
  • The Storytellers Cafe restaurant in the hotel had great healthy options and a nice atmosphere for lunch and dinner.  You many need reservations if you are visiting at a busy time, we were able to walk in.

Hope this information is helpful!  We're feeling pretty Disney-ed out right now but are considering a Disney Cruise sometime in the future. We'll see. ;)

2014 Disneyland Tips and Tricks

For information on Disney's Hawaii Aulani Resort Check out:

Friday, September 8, 2017

Camping + Disneyland = Fun and Fatigue :)

My blog has been pretty quiet lately, we've had quite a few adventures here in the last week!  

First I went tent camping with my youngest for the Labor Day weekend.  It had been over a decade since I camped and it was her very first time in a tent.  Let's just say our usual "camping" style is more lodge and less tent. :) We both had a wonderful time and are already looking forward to doing it again!  Our favorite parts of camping were:
  • Getting out of the Phoenix heat, it was 30 degrees cooler up there! 
  • Spending lots of time with our best friends.
  • Sleeping in a tent snuggled up under the stars. 

The day after we got back home our whole family drove to CA for a Disneyland adventure.  Two fun filled days at the parks and another to drive home and I'm ready to rest. Whew. 

I'll be back to share our highs/lows as well as tips/tricks from Disneyland so stay tuned.  But first I need to catch up on laundry and sleep.