Family

Homebody// Love at Home

In February, we wanted to go away for Valentines Day. We were saving money for it. And when it came down to it, it felt burdensome to even attempt. Kareem thought, well for the amount of money we were going to spend, we could buy our own inflatable hot tub! And that’s what he did. If you’re rolling your eyes right now, I was too. It sat in parts until my birthday in late April. Finally we assembled it, filled it, and let it heat up. The first night in the hot tub was truly blissful. I could not believe how much relief I felt.

Last year for my birthday, Kareem got me a treepod. Have you seen these? It’s ridiculous, kind of expensive, and incredible. It’s a “hanging cabana.” So he got this for me against my will and then it just sat around. Kareem and a friend were going to build a contraption to hang it from. Anyway, this year for my birthday, he got a stand together for it. And it is amazing!

My backyard is an oasis. My backyard dreams have really been coming together over the past few years. I got these ridiculous pieces, but I also wanted string lights since we moved in. Check. Trampoline. Check. Swing set. Check. Raised beds. Check. It is becoming my favorite place. And between every busy thing we have going on, I just want to hang out in my backyard!

We have been traveling less. Not only because it seems like our time is not ours and stuff is happening constantly, but also because pandemic and the joy of my perfect backyard. (jokes) But seriously, I am itchy to travel. It’s really the T I M E that is holding me back. I have no idea how I used to do it!

I guess one could say that I made time for it, but also I think the circumstances of life have changed. My job has changed and the commitments of my children have changed. Another huge change is sharing my kids with their dad and my stepson with his mom. There are just a lot of moving parts.

I flew twice in 2020, which I didn’t share much about at the time because it was somewhat a controversial choice. I flew to Utah and Orlando in the fall. Since then, we have mostly driven, though I did fly a few times last year. But I have not been out of the country since pre-pandemic. I had two international trips planned for 2020, but did not get to go of course. Now the world is opening up, but my schedule is not.

In the meantime, we are making things happen and at the end of the day, I have my backyard paradise. Adventure is out there, but it’s also right here. The kids are always singing the song Love at Home (sometimes by choice, sometimes by force). They’re right- there is beauty all around when there’s love at home. <3

KC on the Cheap

So President’s Day weekend was calling my name, and we are just coming off a bit of a financial slump with Kareem having lost his job etc. Too cold to camp, we were racking our brains to find a fun getaway we could treat our kids to…. after throwing around LOTS of ideas (and now generating lots of fun long-weekend getaways to try out some other time!), we landed on Kansas City. Mostly due to a deal on lodging that I got for there- I have said it many times, but flexibility is key when trying to travel on a budget! Be open to the deals.

I have been to Kansas City a handful of times, but never was super enthralled with it. Had a good time each time, but was never really compelled to return. I was usually there because of an event happening, not as a destination. Well, this time it was a destination and I was determined to find some fun- and as close to free as possible!- things to do there.

We arrived late- later than I wanted to- Friday night. We got some food and got to the hotel to get some sleep- I knew we were going to be busy!

Being Presidents Day weekend, I wanted to include some presidential stuff, so on Saturday we hit up Independence, MO. Truman Home National Historic Site includes multiple sites that were significant to President Truman’s life, and guess what- it’s all free! Some of it was still closed due to COVID, but we had a nice home tour and saw some other sites as well.

We hit up the Presidential Library and Museum. We spent much more time here than I thought we would. The kids were very engaged, and it was awesome. The tickets for this were $12 a piece, but all the kids were free, so total was $24. Pretty great!

We hit up Clinton’s soda fountain for ice cream, which was super affordable. This was the spot where President Truman worked as a kid.

We walked around some other sites in Independence including the Community of Christ Temple which will reopen to visitors on March 1. We also visited the Visitors Center of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. We did the (free!) tour and watched the (free!) films and did the (free!) exhibits and playroom. The kids really enjoyed this stop.

We also stopped by the National Frontier Trails Museum. I don’t remember the breakdown in ticket prices, but it cost us about $24 total for our family of six. We really loved this museum. And afterward, we hiked out to see the swales (ruts leftover from the wagons on the Oregon, California, Mormon, and Santa Fe Trails) which was one of the kids’ favorite parts of the whole trip. And that was free, of course.

When doing places like this where we know that evening entertainment may be limited, if we are staying in a hotel, we try to get a hotel with an indoor pool for some (free!) wear you out type of evening activity. We also like a hot breakfast provided. 😀

On Sunday, we visited two art museums. At the Nelson-Atkins, we did the outdoor sculpture park trail. We did not do the interior of the museum this time, but it is free. We also visited the Kemper Contemporary Art Museum which is much smaller than the Nelson-Atkins which was a contributing factor to our choice of bringing small-ish kids with us. This museum also had free entry and free parking. There was also an area for the kids (or any visitors, it was not just for kids) to create art.

After that, the biggest ticket item we did was the science museum. The tickets were $14 each. However, we had FIVE HOURS of fun there and could have stayed even longer. It was definitely worth it.

The science museum is located in Union Station which is still a working train station. We walked around there and enjoyed the beautiful architecture. We walked across the freight bridge over the tracks, and they have a model train exhibit which stole Jimmy’s heart. All the kids really enjoyed it. And this was all- you guess it- free!

We ate at Fritz’s restaurant and walked around Crown Center. Fritz’s is very reasonably priced, and the kids loved seeing the trains deliver the meals. It was very fun.

We did an evening sunset at the Liberty Memorial high atop a hill in the middle of the city. Which, of course, was also free. And a really lovely memory together.

On the way home, we went out of our way to visit St. Joseph, MO and the Pony Express Museum. This Museum charged $8/adult and $2-$3 per child, depending on age. Kareem wasn’t able to join us, so we did this very cheaply as well. This was very neat, but it was the only site we really enjoyed in St. Joseph, so I’m not sure I’d go out of my way to go there again.

We hit up Let’s Make Art. If you’ve followed me for long, you know that we are big fans of LMA and their YouTube channel. We got to see the store and the kids got to go in the back and see their filming studio. They loved this! We let them pick something out from the store, but my cousin had given them each $25 to spend on the trip, so it was free for me. 😀

We needed some outdoor time- it was so gorgeous out! So we went hiking at one of the four remaining covered bridges in Missouri. (More about that here.) This wasn’t a long or strenuous hike, so we lingered and had a lovely time.

We also stopped in Marceline to see Disney’s boyhood home and dreaming tree and barn. My stepson is a HUGE Disney fan, so I knew he would love this. And so we enjoyed the sunset from the barn.

So. A very FULL weekend that did not empty our pockets! Attractions for six of us altogether was about $150. Can’t beat that! We used some Christmas money we had gotten and a tank of gas, and it was really worth it. None of the kids wanted to leave, and they all had lots of great things to say about the trip. A success!

The Little Things

I’m going to try to blog more again this year.

I say this always, but lately I have had a legitimate reason not to blog. The shift key on my laptop hasn’t worked for a while. This has been super annoying and somewhat problematic. At first, I didn’t think it was a big deal. But the longer it went on, the less I’d use my laptop.

I don’t love typing long emails or blog posts or anything of significance on my phone. And I don’t do that stuff at work, so it has been only when necessary that I have really done it on my phone.

Life update: Kareem got a new job! We are so pleased. With this new job, he received a new computer set up- laptop, a couple monitors, etc etc. His old monitor from his old job was up for grabs, so I grabbed it. His old work computer was a Mac, which is what my laptop is. So he had a couple Mac accessories like a keyboard and mouse which I also commandeered.

We then adjusted our dining room. When school closed down in spring of 2020, we all worked from the dining room table. Before that, it had been a lovely dining table that I always had decked out for whatever season and sometimes we had dessert or played games on it.

When Covid closed everything down, the dining room became an everything room for everyone. We all had work and school from the dining room table at different points during the day, so there were like seven computers and a bazillon papers and it became like a mega desk.

For one day during the pandemic, it functioned as a dining room. That was our wedding day- aww….

Photo Credit: Ben and Becca Lee Munson

After a few months into the pandemic, Kareem switched jobs and they gave him a stipend for office furniture for his home since he would be working remote. He decided to purchase a desk and chair which was more comfortable and appropriate for his needs. We adjusted the dining room table and made room for the desk.

Since then, our dining table is used mostly when we have company. Or it collects piles of school work, backpacks, projects, gifts, mail, art supplies, and every other kind of thing you can imagine, until I can’t take it anymore and clear it all off. Since the dining room table is usually full of crap, then everybody does art and games on the kitchen table and then THAT has stuff on it until it’s time to eat. The stuff goes on the passover and then I get annoyed. We also all use Kareem’s work desk for our stuff when we need to do a Zoom meeting or something, because my laptop sucks and Rami just has his school Chromebook. So everybody leaves stuff on his desk, puts stuff on his desk, and does stuff at his desk so his work space is not really his. It hasn’t really been efficient for the family.

With the new work set up and my pirating of his old work set up, we decided to just accept what is happening and make the dining room function better according to our use of it- a workspace. It is not really used as a dining room anymore. So I moved the dining room table into my kitchen, took the leaf out of my kitchen table and moved it to the dining room creating a desk table of sorts. We set up two long table tops along the wall to function as a kid/art workspace, and we feel like this is going to function much more nicely for our family.

Really, I’m mostly glad to have a working shift key again. It’s the little things, I tell you.

Music for Children: Symphony and Pop Punk

There are so many great quotes about music and what it adds to life, but there are a couple I think of when I think of my responsibility to teach my children about music.

  1. Teaching music to children is the most important thing in life, next to parenting, that a person can do. -Jean Asworth Bartle

and

2. If children are not introduced to music at an early age, I believe something fundamental is actually being taken away from them. -Luciano Pavarotti

I take this to heart! That being said, it was our privilege and pleasure to take our kids to the symphony in Forest Park a couple weeks ago. They always do a free concert in Forest Park to kick off their season. It usually has tastes of what they will offer that year. I highly recommend! We take a picnic and make a night of it. I have done it with my kids for several years. They didn’t have it last year due to COVID, so we were even more grateful to be there the other night.

They ended the very fun and exciting show with a fireworks display over the Grand Basin, which my children loved! If you’re worried about it being a weeknight, the show only lasted a little over an hour. If you park strategically, this is not a late evening at all.

We also had the opportunity to introduce our children to LIVE pop punk music at the New Found Glory show at the Factory in Chesterfield.

I was really excited about this. We have listened to this music as a family, but the kids have never actually been to a rock show like this. Experiencing it live like this is a totally different deal.

New Found Glory toured with Less Than Jake, who I haven’t seen live since like 2003. I have seen New Found Glory live well over 20 times. I have traveled to see them. They are very fun live. Less Than Jake was REALLY lively and fun as well!

The kids loved this even more than I thought they would. They both caught guitar picks and just had a blast. Nick told me it was the first day of the rest of his life. I felt that same way after my first punk show too. 🙂

I hope to keep exposing them to lots of different things the world has to offer, and I do consider it my duty to help them learn how to make, listen to, and love music.

Tie Dye Tuesday: Boo Edition

We went camping a few weeks ago, and in preparation for spooky season, we did some spooky reverse dye shirts!

They were super easy and really fun to make. I got black t-shirts from Walmart for a buck each on clearance- woo hoo. Then we hit the dollar tree and picked up some wood outlines in Halloween shapes. You can find these with their craft supplies. I guess they are meant to paint. Then we took a spray bottle and filled it with some bleach and water. The ratio was about 2/3 bleach, one third water.

We had the kids design their shirts with the wood pieces and spray with the bleach mixture. The kids experimented with a fine mist and a more splash-like spray. I find the fine mist around the border of the shape gives you a more defined outline, and then we added splashes. Some of us more than others. I think it looks cool! But others in my family prefered the more uniform fine spray look. In the end, it all works and it’s your preference!

Typically, if you’re reverse dying, you’d want to then soak in a hydrogen peroxide/water solution. But we were not adding more color to it, so we rinsed in water and moved on with our lives.

Above is what it looked like at first. We then hung them to dry and voila- beautiful spooky shirts!

If your shirt is not 100% cotton, you may have some variety in the color of your bleach. It may lift more gray than orange. STILL REALLY COOL THOUGH.

Even my parents got in on the fun!

All in all, really easy and really fun dye project that anybody can do.

Boo!