Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Wordless Wednesday | The UNI Botanical Garden

I've been a student and/or teacher at UNI for fourteen years and until last week, had never once stepped foot in the UNI Botanical Garden.  I've walked by it many times, but never dreamed of the treasure that was inside.  But last week, the three of us summer breakers decided to cross this bucket list item off our list and explore this little known place tucked away amidst the brick and mortar on campus.  And I tell you what, we were blown away by its beauty. 











It was warm, well-lit, and the perfect little retreat in the middle of an otherwise cooler June day.  We played the five senses game, naming neat things that we saw, felt, smelled, or heard.  I pointed out the fiddle fig tree that was over ten feet tall, Mila loved all the bright pinks and purples, and Cruz liked the slipper lily pads that sheltered the bright orange koi fish.  And then he heard something squawk and their eyes got as big as saucers...



We were not alone!  I can't remember this guy's name but he sure freaked Cruz out!  He didn't leave his tree branch, but made sure we knew who was boss.  We found out later from one of the maintenance guys that the bird has all sorts of tricks.  Soon enough, Cruz's panic turned to laughter as we heard the bird meowing like a kitty after we left.  I think he liked the attention. 










No matter how long we've lived here (or worked here), there is still so much to explore in this city of ours.  I sure love adventuring with these kids of mine.

Our "sort-of" Summertime Routine


A snapshot of one of our days at home this summer (because I am quite aware that my pictures don't often capture the crazy)... ;)

Typically one of the first things out of Mila's mouth when she wakes up in the morning is "I want to get dressed."  Nine times out of ten, Mila will always choose one of her go-to twirly dresses from our favorite small shop, Alice and Ames.  These dresses sell out within minutes, so when I manage to snag one they are quite precious to me, and very well loved by Mila.  This particular morning, Mila picked her cream dress with polka dots.  I made toast for breakfast and spread some homemade strawberry jam on the top, encouraging Mila to "eat over her plate" and not spill jam on her dress.  Exactly thirty seconds later, Mila (accidentally) dropped a toast triangle, which proceeded to somersault down the front of her dress four times.  

Arms up, dress off, Clorox 2 out, new dress on.

The morning goes by and soon it's time for lunch (gosh mealtimes come quick in the summer!).  It's a spaghettios and ham sandwich day, and once again, I instruct to "eat over your plate, please" as I set Mila's ballerina plate in front of her.  Exactly two and a half minutes later, Mila drops a spoonful of spaghettios down her precious pink and cream striped twirly dress.

Arms up, dress off, Clorox 2 out, new dress on (count to ten).  

After lunch comes nap time.  I spend a good portion of Mila's nap laundering the two stained twirly dresses.  An hour goes by and I hear whimpers from Mila's room.  I walk in to find that she woke up from her nap wet.  This time, she managed to not pee on her third twirly dress of the day, but off go the sheets, the mattress pad, the blankies, etc.  Next time I'll remember to take her potty before bed.   

We recover from that and are soon enough getting Cruz ready for baseball practice.  Beau takes Cruz to practice and Mila and I make a quick trip out to Heartland Farms to grab another few quarts of berries for our second round of jam.  On the way home from the strawberry patch I watch in the rearview mirror as Mila licks her shoe.  Yep, she licked her shoe.  Not surprisingly, she gets a disgusted look on her face and proceeds to cry, telling me her tummy hurts, all the while gagging and attempting to wipe off her tongue with her hand.  Needless to say, her approach is not effective and Mila is quite dramatic.  I hurry down Fourth Street and pull into the Hy-Vee parking lot to grab Mila a drink to rinse out her mouth before she makes herself sick.  Of all choices, she picks chocolate milk.  And while we're walking to the car, she spills half of said chocolate milk down her third twirly dress of the day.  This time, her cream and light blue one.  

With about ten minutes to spare before our babysitter is expected to arrive (praise for date nights!), I take Mila into the bathroom, take her dress off, and head to the laundry room to toss it in with the others.  But before I can throw the dresses in the wash, I have to dry the bed sheets.  And while I'm tackling the laundry situation, I hear yet another squeal from the bathroom.  Mila has somehow missed the potty and peed on the bathroom floor.  There, in nothing but her birthday suit, she is attempting to clean her mess with one toilet paper square.  Yep, ONE toilet paper square.  Three twirly dresses, two accidents, and one toilet paper square.  Today was not Mila's day.  Or mine for that matter. Not every summer day is instagram-worthy. :)

And thankfully, I happen to be a laundry whiz. ;)









 * * *

While I am indeed loving my days at home with my little tribe, it always takes a week or so to get into the groove of summer.  And I have found, time and time again, that my kids thrive with a little structure, routine, and consistency.  After a week of sleeping in late, staying in pajamas 'til lunch, and not really having a plan, I was inspired by an Instagram post from my friend Kelsie, a fellow mama set on adding a little structure to her summer at home with her girls.  That afternoon, I gathered some supplies, painted some sticks, printed and laminated these schedule cards, and stuck adhesive magnet strips to the backs of each.  I stayed up late that night, brainstorming fun chores, activities, and rewards for each of the jars, and creating a fun plan for the following day.  And the next morning started with a little circle time around the white board and I kind of felt like a kindergarten teacher!  We're now a couple weeks in and I tell you, these two little projects have been life-giving for every one of us. 



A few details about each...

1. Chores, Rewards, and Activities Jars.  This was an easy craft project.  Each jar has 20-25 color-coded popsicle sticks with different chores, rewards, or activities on them.  We use the chore sticks every morning, the activity sticks come in handy when the kids seem bored or find themselves with chunks of free time throughout the week, and the reward sticks are earned when they are spotted doing something worth pointing out and celebrating.  Here are a few of the ideas for each...

Chores // 



Activities //



Rewards //


A note on chore sticks...

It's been pretty eye-opening to see how little we've been expecting of our kids up until this point!  While it definitely has taken some time to teach the kids the skills they need when it comes to some of these chores (like how to wring out a washcloth before wiping the bathroom floor), the extra 5-10 minutes involved has made for some pretty great lessons in the hard work that goes into keeping a house clean.  It's also made me realize that oftentimes because our days are full and we feel busy, we'd rather just take care of these jobs ourselves than take the time to teach the kids how to do it.  Just taking care of these things ourselves without taking the time to involve or expect the kids to contribute would likely lead to some pretty enabled and even entitled kids someday.  So rather than focusing on what I'd like to get done during this time, I expect to do a little bit less and use the time to teach them some tricks of the trade.  

And it's all been pretty good for this perfectionist mom!  The very first day, Cruz drew "wipe up surfaces" from the chore jar.  Their bathroom was in need of a good scrubbing, so I gave them each a washcloth, filled up the sink with a little bit of sudsy water, and gave them a five minute lesson on how to wipe the bathroom.  I got busy doing my thing and although I assumed the bathroom would be far less than up to my usual standards, the chatter from the two of them convinced me it was worth it.  My favorite was when Cruz said, "Mommy, if you walk where you've already wiped, the floor just gets dirty again!"  And although Mila sort of forget the whole wring-out-the-washcloth-before-mopping-the-floor, I taught Cruz to start in the back corner and work his way to the door, satisfied with a good job done by the time he made it to the hallway.  




Our "chore time" every morning has become a rewarding part of our day!  We play Disney soundtracks loud, I give the kids lessons in simple tasks that we usually just do ourselves throughout the year, and it's definitely taught them some early lessons in hard work!  And believe it or not, they have been helpful!  One morning, Cruz pruned all the dead lilacs off our bushes, Mila has been my go-to flower waterer, and they've proved quite good at washing and drying dishes.

Since Mila is only 3, I have experienced many moments where I have to choose to give her a little grace when she's sitting on the floor yelling, "IT'S TOO HARD!" when she's supposed to be tidying up her room.  Sometimes, I give her a hand and have found that she just needs specific tasks that she aren't so overwhelming to her ("Mila, can you put this princess in your toy basket" instead of "Mila, go pick up your room").  I have also found lots of success in the 30-minute clean up game.  I set the timer for six time slots of 5-minutes and we conquer six different parts of the house together.  We race around together to see if we can get the area tidied in five minutes and do something to celebrate when we're all done thirty minutes later. 







And a note on activity sticks...

The jar of activity sticks has been a no-brainer when it comes to two things: One, keeping the kids busy and two, encouraging me to be a better mom.  I'm not going to lie, far too often when I find myself in the middle of something and need twenty more minutes on my own, I'll be too quick to turn on a cartoon, send the kids out to the trampoline, or encourage them to find something to do, all the while listening to them argue or aggravate each other as they struggle to find just the thing to engage them.  I know some of this is just fine and actually important for kids to learn to engage themselves, but nine times out of ten I have found that a little effort from me goes a long way in inciting their imaginations and creativity to run wild.  These sticks are fun ways to change things up a bit and get them started on some fun ways to pass the time together.  The other day, they drew a stick with "Be an artist!" written on it.  Sitting next to the jar was a book we had read that morning.  I got the quick idea to get out the water colors and encourage them to depict their favorite scene from the book.  And just this morning, Cruz drew out the stick, "make a card for someone" and immediately thought to make a card for his friend, Logan, who is moving away at the end of this week.  I took a few pictures of the two of them during a playdate this week and would have never thought to print the picture and stick one in a handmade card from Cruz had he not drew the stick and thought of the sweet idea.   

2. Our schedule board.  I know this might look a little over-scheduled for summer, but I've found that some consistency in especially our mornings makes the rest of the day flow so much better.  I plan for flexibility, especially our mid-mornings and afternoons, but I'm surprised at how often we seem to really stick to our plan.  There are blank spaces to write in your own activities, and since there are magnets on the back, it takes about five minutes to move it around for each new day.  I don't know if it's the teacher in me, but I love looking over our schedule each night after the kids go to bed, checking the weather to see if it will be a good pool day, and going to bed with some idea of how the day will flow.  

What does our schedule look like?

5:30-7:30 // I try to get up between 5:30 and 6 (yep, even in the summer) to work out, make a cup of coffee, read my devotions in a quiet house, and hop in the shower.  Mila is my late sleeper but Cruz is an early bird, so he will often play iPad or watch a show while I'm doing my thing.  Except now, after starting the five daily jobs (below), he will oftentimes take care of those first, and then ask to play iPad until Mila wakes up.  

7-8 // Morning jobs.  The kids have laminated "daily job" charts on the fridge.  Each morning they have five jobs to take care of before breakfast: get dressed, brush their teeth, do their hair, make their bed, pick up their rooms.  They cross these off on their chart each day.  For kids who were quite used to hanging out in their pjs well into the morning, I've been surprised at how smoothly this transition has went.  My favorite was the morning after I introduced the schedule.  I woke up early and snuck downstairs to get my workout in.  I heard footsteps above me and figured it was Cruz sneaking into the office to grab the iPad.  When I came upstairs, I was surprised to see Cruz dressed, his hair combed, and toothpaste on the corners of his mouth.  All before 6:30!  He whispered, "Mom, I was going to play iPad, but then I remembered my morning jobs!"  I also enjoy getting my own morning jobs out of the way by 8:00, being dressed and ready for the day ahead.  Oh, and having my own bed made. ;)  

8-8:30 // Breakfast.  I have been into finding healthy and fun breakfasts the kids can help with this summer.  Smoothies, yogurt parfaits, muffin mixes, and toast or waffles with homemade jam have been our go-tos lately.  And eating on the deck whenever possible makes for an easy cleanup!

8:30-10 or 10:30 // Chore time.  This has probably been the biggest shift from previous summers at home.  Right after breakfast, the kids each grab a chore stick from the jar of options, unless I already have something in mind I'd like their help with.  It is so nice to get some of my housework out of the way before we adventure, and I've been amazed at how much the kids are able to help with.  It's not perfect, but I'm convinced the lessons they are learning now will reap benefits as they grow and learn that we're all in this together.  Their chores don't take the entire time, but after a good job done, they earn time to grab an activity stick, play something together, etc.  I've found that I need a good hour or so to do a load of laundry, unload the dishwasher, plan dinner, or organize a drawer or two.    

10 or 10:30-11 or 12 // This time is filled with adventures out of the house (weekly library visits, park dates, errands, etc.).  If we are planing to go to the pool a day, we'll spend the morning at home, but if we adventure in the morning, we'll typically be home in the afternoon.  

11-12ish // Lunchtime, preferably simple lunches on a picnic blanket outside. :)

Afternoons // Afternoons are filled with a nap for Mila, some quiet time for Cruz, pool days, outside play with the neighbors, freezy pops on the trampoline, etc.  I usually start supper prep around 4:30 so we can have an early dinner and plenty of time with Daddy before bed.  

There you have it!  A summertime routine that is adding some structure to the Jorgensen residence whether the kids like it or not!  Now if only I could get Mila to eat over her place at the dinner table. :) 

Monday, June 26, 2017

26/52

"a portrait of each of my children, once each week, in 2017."




Cruz: Your first game was rained out last week so tonight will be game 1 of your first season of coach pitch a-ball.  And Saturday, you finally lost your second front tooth that has been loose for weeks.  Uncle Jordan threatened to toss a baseball at your tooth if it wasn't out by Monday.  Now if only that darn tooth fairy would show up!    

Mila: My favorite thing you say lately is "Do you know what I'm thinking about?" and then typically follow it up with something like, "You haven't had a kiss this morning," or "I want to snuggle with you!"  You don't cuddle for more than thirty seconds, but you sure pour on the sweet little girl charm for Daddy and I.  And we did take two naps together in the recliner last week.  I was in heaven!   

Friday, June 23, 2017

25/52

"a portrait of each of my children, once each week, in 2017."

 

Cruz: You started swimming lessons last week with our favorite, Jacob.  You're pretty special getting the manager of the Falls as your swimming instructor!  That same day, Jaycie and I finally talked you into going down the slide on your own.  The look on your face on the way down was one of sheer panic, but the moment you hit the water and realized you were just fine, your panic-stricken face folded into the biggest smile and you were off again, and again and again.  

Mila: I love you and your pretty white headband.  Lately you've developed a liking of your headbands, although you much prefer the tiny ones I put on you as a baby.  You walk around in your long dresses with your snarly after-pool blonde curls and a headband pulled over top your hair and you look like a flower child from the seventies.  And you act like one, too. ;)

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Good Things || June, Pt. 2

512.  Summer afternoons.  Weed pulling and ice tea drinking. Books with Mila and books to myself.  Tossing surprise freezy pops from the deck into the trampoline for half the cul de sac.    





513. Her love of stuffies.  Cruz didn't have much interest in them while he was little, but they are Mila's go-to "toy" of choice.  




514. Quiet time, outside.  They sure do know how to instigate and aggravate each other from time to time, but they are the best of friends most of the time.  I adore their sweet relationships, their legs intertwined as they read quietly together.    










515. Little Noah's Ark books discovered in our neighborhood lending library by the mailbox.  I get the mail, Mila grabs a book.



516. This morning.  The kids were a little bored so I had them draw an "activity stick" (more on this to come) and they drew "art project."  An idea came to me as I grabbed one of our favorites, Caterpillar Dreams, from the shelf.  We read the book and I sent the kids out to the deck with paper and watercolors, instructing them to recreate their favorite scenes from the book.  This kept them busy for an hour and with our French doors open in our bedroom, I listened to them work while I cleaned out dresser drawers.  They worked so hard and now their sweet creations fill an empty wall in our kitchen.    













517. Lunches from the garden.  Fresh kale, fresh berries, almonds, feta, and a strawberry poppyseed dressing stored in a mason jar in the fridge.


518. The BEST strawberry jam, and homemade biscuits on a Saturday morning, both inspired from this month's issue of the Magnolia Journal.  Joanna Gaines just keeps on inspiring, first in the house and then in my kitchen.




519. Progress in our basement space.  A reading nook I can't wait to spend time in, more shiplap, and a pretty blue gray for our bar area.






520. Saturday morning play while we wait for our friend Chris to visit from San Fran.


521. Freezy pop breaks from cleaning the house.  We consume a lot of freezy pops this time of year. :) 







522. Build-your-own breakfast parfaits with fresh fruit and granola.





She finished Cruz's too. :)







523. A morning of imaginative play.  Sometimes all it takes it dragging out a forgotten bag of Magformers to incite two hours of creativity.   










She was a spectator at his "battle".  



524. A hot afternoon where we skipped the pool and had our own fun at home.  With super soakers, sprinklers, and of course, plenty of freezy pops.   








525. An assortment of food from a fridge clean, and a break from water play for lunch.
  





526. Ice cream cones and this beach girl, with her blond wavy curls and sun-kissed skin.  






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