Saturday, September 20, 2014


"A portrait of my children, once a week, every week, in 2014."
Lincoln - proud of his first week's worth of preschool papers!
Addie - All day: "cwuh-der markers! cwuh-der markers!"
Linking up at Practising Simplicity.

$50 Amazon Gift Card Giveaway from Fronto

News flash: Christmas is barely over three months away. THREE. That means there are about two months left before the whole world turns insane and shopping for holiday decorations, food, and gifts will become absolutely ridiculous. I don't know about you, but I never have any desire to take my toddlers to a mall in the midst of the holiday season. It's like a definite way to lose them.

So, I want one of you to get a head start at Christmas shopping (or just snagging something awesome for yourself - because you clearly deserve it), and I've joined this fun giveaway for a $50 Amazon Gift Card! The best part: you can wait until December to order and still have something delivered to your door, without the hassle of driving to a crazy store. Win-win, right?

Sponsor: fronto

I had never heard of Fronto until this giveaway, but it's pretty cool! Fronto began with a really simple idea: your smartphone screen can be smarter. By revolutionizing the lock screen of your phone, they make brands, news and other important information more accessible. Basically: your lock screen will display advertisements and every time you unlock it, you earn money. Since you are probably unlocking your screen more times per day than you can count, I'd say it's a genius idea. Download fronto for your Android device here.

I don't have an Android, but I would totally download this app to give it a try if I did. Every penny counts around here!


Prize: Amazon $50 GC
Dates: 9/20-10/4
Open to: US Residents 18+
Enter to win using the widget below. Good luck!

Amazon $50 Gift Card Sponsored by fronto

Disclosure: Director Jewels received no compensation to participate in this giveaway and all opinions expressed are my own.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Dear Mom Who Can't Quite Do It All

Sometimes, I wish for the simplicity of motherhood in an earlier generation.

I'm not saying that our mothers and grandmothers had an easier time than you and I did. I'm pretty sure that moms were just as busy, just as stressed out, and just as concerned that their offspring might kill themselves jumping off the couch. Being a mom is just plain hard, no matter what decade you find yourself becoming a first-time parent.

However, there's no denying that life is moving at a much faster pace than it did in earlier times. We as mothers are expected to keep our kids alive and fed, volunteer for school and church functions, host family gatherings and birthday parties, plus all of the other endless, mindless tasks like laundry, dishes, and yard work - while also updating our world of "friends" via social media with our latest feelings, photos, causes to support, and cute stories about our kids. A lot of moms don't get the option to stay home with their kids as I do - but a lot of us who do call homemaking our primary job are still attempting to help increase the family income, whether it's through blogging, direct sales, teaching piano lessons, selling crafts, or any variety of things. And all of those things piled on top of the "normal" responsibilities of being a mom are super, super overwhelming.

This is just  me being honest, you guys. There are not enough hours in a single day to do all the laundry, clean the sink, wipe down the counter, feed the kids three respectable meals and a "healthy" snack (ie, whatever you have on hand that isn't pure sugar), read fourteen books about a giant red dog, break up arguments about who gets the blue cup with the yellow lid, let them help sweep the floor, change all of the peed-on sheets, write an encouraging blog post and blast social media five times with a variety of interesting and intriguing messages, list five new things on Etsy, sew that dress for your daughter that's been on the kitchen table in pieces for five weeks, figure out where the smell in the kitchen is coming from, pick the melons from the sea of grass and chiggers in the backyard, do an educational preschool craft project, and potty train the two-year-old. It is simply impossible. 

The sooner we accept that that's okay, the sooner we can begin to appreciate the small things about being a mom. You know - the way your daughter squeezes your neck when you save her from a spiderweb on the dusty piano bench. Or the way your little boy says "hold me up!" when there's a cement truck driving down the street and the view from the couch by the window is not good enough.

I don't have any advice on how to get everything done, because to be honest, I have no idea. Most nights I go to sleep thinking that they can't have learned anything positive in the midst of all our day-to-day chaos. I worry that their emotions are being overlooked, that their tummies did not get enough vegetables, and that they sounded like they were snuffly as they finally went to sleep.

I have a confession for you: this mom who can't quite keep up? It's me. I don't care to admit to you how many times I have recently let my kids watch a movie so the house stays relatively clean while I put away four thousand pieces of clean laundry. A lot of the time, it is just easier to put them in the stroller or their car seats when bedtime comes around since the motion lulls them to sleep without my having to hear whining about which blanket they have or how reading only three books isn't fair. Does anybody else know what I mean when I talk about the extreme sense of relief that overwhelms your soul when those adorable little kids are sound asleep in their beds (or your bed...or the couch...or the car...wherever, really. Just so long as they are asleep)?

It's looking like being a mom is just about finding a balance and enjoying the short time you are given to be with your little ones. Some days, you may feel on top of the world and cross thirty-three items off the to-do list - and other days are successful if everyone had on a diaper or underwear for at least 60% of the afternoon. I just want you to know that you're not alone.

Take a deep breath. Smell that newborn's neck. Read the Clifford book for the fifteenth time. Teach them how to wipe up pee off the floor, when they were potty training and in the 40% of the time they were without pants. Give them abundant kisses. Pray for wisdom and patience. Let the laundry pile up six feet high. Order takeout if you can afford it, or maybe even if you can't sometimes. Celebrate little moments - because they're actually the big ones, in the long run.

It's okay to not do everything. Anyone who tells you that they had a perfect day and did all the things on their list, then took cookies to the neighbors, too...they're either lying or crazy. Either way - tell them next time, those cookies had better show up at your door instead.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

4 Super Fun Things to Do With Toddlers in Kansas City

When I first thought about taking my very busy toddler out in public, it was an overwhelming idea. He was a pretty wild little man, uninterested in sitting (or even standing) still for any length of time. Thankfully, now at the ripe old age of three, he is a lot more compliant and even excited to have fantastic family adventures in Kansas City.

There are so many amazing places to visit and things to do when you're here with little ones. Whether you're on a Kansas City family vacation or just looking for things to do on a rainy day, there's sure to be something that will spark your little one's imagination. I'm listing a few of our recent favorites below, but if you're looking for more ideas, you can read all my Kansas City posts here at Director Jewels or check out KC Parent (especially for seasonal ideas).

4 Super Fun Things to Do With Toddlers in Kansas City!

Wonderscope Children's Museum
5700 King St
Shawnee, KS 66203 
(913) 287-8888

Wonderscope has been the children's museum since I was a kid, and I have great memories of visiting a time or two! Constructed in an old school building, the museum features different areas of exploration - everything from water play to a Farm to Market setup. Our kids ran around for several hours and still had to be dragged away. It may be an older, well-loved museum, but I know we'll be visiting many more times.

Kansas City Zoo
6800 Zoo Dr
Kansas City, MO 64132
(816) 595-1234

Our family pass to the KC Zoo is one of my favorite things! The zoo here in KC is really huge - over 200 acres of land that guests can explore. As you can imagine, that's a lot of ground to cover in one outing and usually winds up creating grumpy kids and stressed-out parents. With our annual pass, we can visit whenever we feel like an adventure and usually only hit one or two zoo sections. We even went to the zoo for Addie's birthday last year. If you're visiting from out of town, I suggest only trying to hit HALF of the zoo's offerings. You'll wind up exhausted otherwise!

Deanna Rose Children's Farmstead 
13800 Switzer Rd
Overland Park, KS 66221
(913) 897-2360

This amazing little gem is hidden out in Overland Park and somehow escaped my knowledge until the past couple of years. The kids love feeding baby animals, riding mini tractors, and sliding down a barn slide until they literally collapse. We went both this summer and the year before, and I know we'll be there often. Bonus: admission is free Monday-Thursday.

SEA LIFE Kansas City Aquarium
2475 Grand Blvd
Kansas City, MO 64108(816) 471-4386

This adventure is a little more expensive than the others I mention, but my kids truly love it so I think it's worth including! The variety of fish and other sea creatures at SEA LIFE is just phenomenal. It's well designed for little ones (although side-by-side double strollers aren't allowed) and they frequently offer extras like the Octonauts Meet & Greet. We did an aquarium visit here for Lincoln's third birthday, and it was a blast.

I know I've missed a lot of awesome Kansas City adventures in this list, so I am sure I'll have to follow up with another post soon! Leave me a comment with your favorite - maybe I can include it next time!

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Lincoln's First Day of (Homeschool) Preschool

As a homeschooling graduate, I've been kind of thrilled about the idea of homeschooling my own kids for as long as I can remember. Being a second generation homeschool family is cool, you guys. But I have to admit: even the idea of being organized enough to do school every single day scares me to death.

I wasn't really sure if I would manage to get my act together to start preschool at home this fall, but I told Andrew I was thinking about it and the amazing man spent a couple of weeks getting everything together for me. Best homeschooling dad ever. Clearly. We are using the brilliant, free ABC Jesus Loves Me preschool curriculum. Lincoln will be doing year 3. Addie is not "officially" participating in preschool, but since she is with us all the time, we're certainly not going to keep her from picking up some knowledge along the way.

So, on Monday of this week, we took the plunge and started our preschool - and homeschooling - journey!

Lincoln was beyond excited. He had watched the stacks of papers and books gather, and knew that we had been working on reorganizing the office "for school." He jumped up on Monday morning and said "today we do school in your OFFICE?!!?!"

He even cooperated for the photo shoot, which says a lot.

Miss Addie was far more interested in gathering rocks and sticks and rose petals than sitting nicely for a photo for mommy. She also did not want to go inside to the preschool room and sat down on the driveway in refusal. Less than awesome defiance from this one.

Yup, I'm the mom who made my kids wear bibs to color with markers.
No way that dress of Addie's (brand new) was getting christened in purple.

Our day got off to a fun start when they tore into the brand new package of markers and tried to color everything in sight. We managed to keep it contained to their papers and the art table, thankfully.

As for the rest of preschool.... Well, we'll just say there's probably a learning curve. Lincoln spent a lot of time wailing because I insisted on helping him use scissors (he's only touched them a couple times before in his life). Addie fussed because she couldn't pull papers down off the door. No one wanted to sing the song of the week and getting them to repeat the Bible verse (Genesis 1:1) was like pulling teeth.

But we made it through. They listened to me read Five Little Ducks whether they wanted to or not, heard the song, and eventually (for a sticker) repeated the verse.

All in all, I'm not expecting this first week to be remarkable. Our curriculum is for three days each week, so technically today is another preschool day. So far, I'm not motivated to make it happen, but we also have a ton of errands to run this morning - maybe the afternoon will be inspirational. Or maybe I'll just let Daddy do it when he gets home - because on Monday night, everyone cooperated with him! Song singing, verse saying, and book reading was all a game when Daddy was home. What's up with that, offspring?

First draft of our sticker reward chart, made hastily while everyone fussed at me.

So far, I can confidently say that Lincoln is learning the days of the week and he could probably recite Genesis 1:1 if he were so inclined. It's not much, but I'll take it.

How did your kids like their first week of preschool - whether at home or at school?
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