Mental Declutter

HELLO!!!

I know…. It’s been months since I last spent time here, and coming back was surprisingly hard.  After Christmas I was feeling “cluttered” by not only physical things, but mentally.  We tackled a few home organization projects, which helped ease my anxiety about stuff.  The mental clutter was far heavier for me, creating feelings of angst and discomfort.

In this season of life, my mind is constantly racing. At any given moment my brain whirs, I might be thinking about

homeschool activities

social commitments

keeping up with household chores

impending deadlines at work

the political climate

home maintenance

our budget

Each of these things is important, but the list is literally endless.  IT’S TOO MUCH!!! I’ve found that my mind needs time to rest, space to be silent. Knowing this, I finally returned to my yoga practice. Prior to having the kids, yoga was part of my life- I came to my mat several times weekly, nurturing my body and mind.  Unfortunately, life got in the way. I allowed barriers to keep me from yoga: my new body, childcare, to-dos, budget, and of course time.

I struggle with practicing yoga independently and need an instructor, but getting to a studio wasn’t in the cards (remember those barriers?!?!?)  I checked out a few DVDs from the library and wasn’t impressed.  Next, I started streaming videos from Amazon Prime and discovered Yoga Merge.  I’ve found a good variety of practice options with Yoga Merge that I chose based on my time and particular needs (e.g. stretching, relaxation, restoration, ect).  During my practice, I finally let go of my to-dos and worries.  After practice, my mind feels clear and I’m energized, ready to tackle what awaits.

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I know this mental clutter is not a struggle for me alone.  I see it on the weary faces of my friends, family, and co-workers.  In this society, we are constantly bombarded by stimuli and pressure to do.  If you don’t already have an outlet for mental clutter, I encourage you to try yoga at a gym, studio, or at home.  If you’ve never practiced yoga, it can feel awkward at first, but don’t give up too quickly.  A good place to start is Beginner Yoga | 10 Yoga Poses Every Beginner Should Know, or you can visit Yoga Merge where you’ll find basic information about yoga and a few free videos to stream. Please don’t let barriers keep you from trying yoga, or finding another outlet for letting go of mental clutter.  You deserve it.

Namaste!

Amber

 

Disclaimer: All thoughts and opinions are my own.  I was not compensated for sharing my experience.  If you choose to make a purchase through Amazon, I will earn a small commission through the Amazon Affiliates program. 


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A Fancy Nancy Banquet

 

 

Before Thanksgiving, we borrowed Fancy Nancy: Our Thanksgiving Banquet from the library.  Fancy Nancy is among our favorite book characters.  She inspires the kids to use sophisticated vocabulary words and to behave with their best etiquette. In this particular book, Nancy has the opportunity to dine with the adults, away from the “kid” table.  Naturally, our kids wanted to do the same.  Just before packing away our fall decor, we decided to have a family dinner in our formal dining room with ceramic plates instead of our usual plastic fare.  The kids relished every second of it, and we were pleasantly surprised with their outstanding table manners.

When I set the table for Thanksgiving, I realized the table stayed pretty all season and didn’t collect junk.  I wanted to do the same with Christmas décor, so I set out to create an elegant Christmas tablescape.  George and I have twelve place settings of fine china, flatware, and crystal.  Over the course of our marriage, we’ve used it on special occasions such as anniversaries and holiday meals.  In twelve years we’ve probably used them no more than once a year.  Why?  Mostly because I don’t like hand washing dishes and our china isn’t dishwasher safe.  That’s ridiculous.  I decided that not only was our dining room table going to be set using our fine china, but we were also going to use it!

I gave the chandelier my usual dressing, garland adorned with my Old World Christmas Wedding Ornaments.  They are among my favorite ornaments, but are also quite delicate and are best away from little hands.  I then created a table runner with lime deco mesh, which I brightened with hurricane glass filled with candles and silver ornaments.  I thought our silver plated nativity was the perfect finishing touch and compliment to our china.

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We’ve already used the formal dining room twice this month and hand washing the dishes wasn’t such a hassle either time.  First, we celebrated my mom’s birthday with my parents, sister, and brother in law.  There was room for all ten of us at the table, and even the quads were allowed to use the china.   Then, my college room mates joined us for brunch.  On each occasion, our guests presumed the beautiful table was for show, and felt honored when they discovered it was for them.  If a milestone birthday and nearly two decades of friendship aren’t worthy of china dining, I don’t know what is.

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I’m not sure whether we’ll have more guests over before Christmas or not, but our table is gorgeous and awaiting another meal.  Even if we don’t have guests over, our family will enjoy it at least once more before I come up with a winter tablescape.

Do you have a formal dining area or fine china?  Do you use it?

hugs!

Amber


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‘Tis the Season (for sneezing & wheezing)

Before our babies were born, we started taking precautions to protect their fragile respiratory systems.  All newborns are susceptible to respiratory illness such as the flu, RSV, and pneumonia, but preemies are at an even greater risk, and when they become ill it is often severe.   George and I both received our flu and tDAP vaccines, and asked anyone who wanted to visit the babies during the first year to do the same.  After the babies’ birth we were diligent about things such as hand washing, not wearing shoes inside, staying away from people who had been sick, and not taking the babies into public.  Though difficult, our efforts proved successful.  We did not have a sick visit for any of the babies until after their first year, and have had only a handful in their four years of life.  After a seven week NICU stint, we had no hopes of returning.

Last month, our healthy track record was blemished.  The kids all demonstrated allergy symptoms: runny noses, drainage coughs, and itchy/ watery eyes, but all went to bed seemingly healthy.   The next morning, both George and I left for work early while the kids slept and my mom babysat.  About halfway into my commute, Mom called telling me Sydney was having a hard time breathing.  I presumed her allergies were worsening and she just needed Zyrtec, but I called the pediatrician and got an early appointment anyways.  Because my workday was booked with meetings, I sent George back home to take Sydney.  During my meeting, texts starting pinging and I started struggling with not being there.  Sydney had a nebulizer treatment for low blood oxygen something in the 70’s.  I remained hopeful the nebulizer was all she needed.  After a second treatment, things weren’t improving.  With two liters of oxygen Sydney’s oxygen saturation was only in the 80’s.  This meant an ambulance ride to the emergency room.  Feeling helpless, I rushed to the ER to meet the ambulance, but I beat it by nearly an hour.  I knew she was in good hands, but waiting to meet your child at the ER is painstaking.  As Sydney’s gurney wheeled through the waiting room, I knew she felt awful.  She barely noticed me.  Her face was pale and she appeared limp as she clutched a small tan-colored teddy.

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My usually garrulous little girl sat silently in bed as nurses buzzed about her room. After having an X-ray and multiple lab panels run, we waited for answers.  Sydney dozed off trying to steal some rest as the hours passed.   Meanwhile, my mom dutifully held down the fort at home.

Before the dinner hour, Sydney’s attending physician came in with the final result: pneumonia.  Though her symptoms presented as pneumonia, it was somewhat surprising considering she hadn’t been sick prior.  No fever, no changes in appetite or sleep.  Just mild allergies.  There are two types of pneumonia: community acquired (e.g. contagious resulting from infection in public place) or aspiration (e.g. foreign matter such as food, liquid, saliva, or vomit is inhaled into the lungs).  The only way to determine and appropriately treat pneumonia is from lab work that indicates if microplasmas are present.  Though the type wasn’t yet known, Sydney was immediately put on IV antibiotics as a precaution.  She was still very sick, but within several hours, Sydney started talking again and could sit up for short periods.   Despite marked improvement, Sydney still needed oxygen to maintain healthy levels of oxygen saturation so we were in for an overnight stay.

Once settled into our room, Sydney was excited to choose her meal from room service (she hadn’t eaten in over 24 hours).  We had one slight problem when ordering: her egg allergy.  Last year, a mild egg allergy showed up on Sydney’s panel along with dogs and cats.  She doesn’t demonstrate any symptoms after eating foods containing cooked eggs, but we always disclose the allergy in case medication is derived from eggs.  If you have a food allergy of any type, you are given a rather restricted hospital menu.  An egg allergy means NO baked goods of any type and NO pasta, which are among Sydney’s favorites.  She finally settled on French fries and chicken nuggets though she filled up on Oreos snuck in by her nurses instead.   Sydney happily passed the evening hours watching movies from bed and listening to stories.  The night was difficult with hourly nurse’s checks, IV adjustments, and general hospital noises.  I managed to get a little shut-eye curled up next to Sydney while George snoozed on the oh so comfy hospital sofa.  After breakfast, Sydney finally needed to use the restroom and when we unhooked her oxygen tank, noticed her oxygen was in the 90’s!  This meant we could start the clock towards release.  She could go home after six hours without oxygen and no other concerns with her vitals.  We still didn’t know which variety of pneumonia little bit had so a mask was necessary for us to leave the room.  Sydney was not pleased with this, but she clamored to get out of her bed.  The little tan teddy who comforted Sydney during the ambulance ride helped convince her to wear a mask as well as take medication and cope with hospital life.

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By late afternoon Sydney passed her six-hour test, and we learned she developed pneumonia from aspiration.  This meant she was not contagious (HOORAY) and we were headed home with a round of antibiotics.  Going to the hospital is always a humbling experience.  We are grateful Sydney’s stay was brief and that we managed to go four years without anyone going to the hospital.  Though we do not hope to repeat this ever again, we admittedly savored the individual time with Sydney.

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Sydney was soooooo happy to be discharged she struck this pose with the enormous hospital toy teddy.  After coming home, Lovey, has been instrumental getting Sydney to finish her medicines.  Lovey takes a tiny bit then Sydney hesitantly finishes it.

A week after this hospital stint, Sydney returned to the pediatrician for a follow-up visit and got a clean bill of health.  In addition to being a preemie, having pneumonia puts Sydney at risk for further respiratory illness.  Therefore, all four kids, mom, and dad got flu shots.  Exactly one week following discharge, Sydney was covered in hives.  Thankfully, a friend warned us that it was possible.  Apparently following serious illness, the body can have a histamine reaction resulting in hives.  Sydney handled the itchiness well and tolerated a few rounds of Claritin and clear calamine lotion.  Within three days they disappeared as quickly as they appeared.

We are oh so happy to be home and healthy again, and are taking as many precautions to keep things this way as we can.  I’ve since gotten a pulse oximeter to help us monitor oxygen saturation should there be another scare.

Hugs!

Amber


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Wee Volunteer

Last month we were invited to participate in a preschool philanthropy program through Wee Volunteer . Though Wee Volunteer offers a variety of projects, this one was for Meals on Big Wheels where preschoolers help deliver meals to the elderly.  We were available on the scheduled day, but I was hesitant to commit.  It was 45 minutes from home and over the lunch hour.  I envisioned schlepping four winey, hangry kids, and hot meals in sweltering heat.  Misery, it seemed.  In my heart, I knew it was an excellent opportunity and decided to accept the invitation despite my reservations.   I didn’t know exactly what to expect, but had been told we would ride a bus then deliver meals in apartment complexes.

The kids weren’t terribly excited about being mini couriers, but the idea of riding a bus for the first time was enough to get them dressed and out the door.  Thankfully the bus exceeded their expectations (and mine)!  We rode in style in a charter bus complete with picture windows and purple party lights.  It was the first time the kids could really see outside the windows of a vehicle, and they were in awe.

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While we traveled, the program founder, Michelle Chase, told us about Wee Volunteer.  Five years ago, she started the organization to help teach her young girls about serving others.  The program has grown to include projects involving animals, children in need, gifts of gratitude, elderly, the environment, homelessness, and hunger.   Our project included a route that is typically covered by paid employees of Meals on Wheels.  As a result, our service saved enough funds to feed 20 clients for an entire week.  In addition to the monetary support of our service, Michelle pointed out that many Meals on Wheels clients have very few, if any visitors.  Whoever delivers the meal could be their only visitor and contact with the outside world.  Because of this, we encouraged the children to be friendly and smile.

Matthew 5:16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

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Every client received a meal resembling a TV dinner with a piece of fruit and a drink.  Each child was responsible for carrying and handing over about two meals. All of the kids really enjoyed getting to knock on doors and shout, “MEALS ON WHEELS!!”  Sometimes, we had to practice patience as the client took a little time to reach the door.

Overall the kids did really well making deliveries, and seemed to enjoy serving others.  Towards the end, things became challenging.  The kids became thirsty, hungry, and hot, and they let this be known.  Service isn’t always easy, it involves making sacrifices to help others.  Both the kids and I learned a lot from this experience and look forward to more like it.

All of the wee volunteers weren’t willing to be photographed, but included in the group were 18 kiddos ages two to four years old.  Wouldn’t it brighten your day to have these guys deliver your lunch?

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What is your favorite service project or charitable organization?

 

hugs,

 

Amber


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Hair Emergency {How to Remove Flarp from Hair}

A hair emergency must be a rite of passage for both childhood and parenthood. For most, it’s the obligatory snip to the tresses.  For some, it’s a dye job gone awry.  When I was about ten it was the home perm kit my mom tried on me.  I ended up with frizzy frayed hair that split in the front creating awful wispy hairs.  It took months for it to grow out again.  It was not a good look.  When my sister was about four years old, she leaned forward to blow out a candle and successfully ignited her bangs.  Yipes!  Luckily for her, it was only a quick singe before the flame was snuffed.  With quadruplets, I knew something similar was bound to happen, and it certainly did.

When I cook dinner, I usually give the kids sensory activities, puzzles, or crafts to work on at the kitchen table.  Among their favorites are Play Doh and kinetic sand, so I knew flarp (a birthday gift) would likely entertain them for a solid hour.  They were indeed enamored with the drippy doughy stuff.  Periodically, I peeked over at them and found stretching, pressing, and molding, which was fine.  When I spied someone putting flarp all over their arms, I redirected them immediately. However, just as I popped our lasagna in the oven, I froze.  Sydney’s pigtails were streaked with neon orange flarp. GAHHHHHHHH!!!!!  Hair emergency, an hour before company was expected for dinner.

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Instinctively, I began trying to pull small bits of the goo out, but instead of removing flarp, I was mostly pulling out precious hairs.  Clearly this wasn’t the best method for flarp removal.  I panicked, imagining we’d have to go to the salon for a new hair do.  First, I decided to contact my friend and hair stylist, Kristin.  She asked for a list of all available oils and butters.  I came up with coconut, olive, canola, Crisco, butter, peanut butter, and baby oil.  Her recommendation was to coat small sections of hair in baby oil.  Then, use a fine tooth comb to pull flarp from one inch sections of hair.  I stripped Sydney down to her undies and situated her in the bathtub while I ordered the other three kids to stay in the playroom, no exceptions.  After separating the untouched hair from the goopy stuff, I got to work.  Much to my relief, it actually worked.  Within about 25 minutes, I removed about a quarter cup of sludge from Sydney’s hair and none remained on her head.  Thanks to the baby oil, Sydney looked like a grease monkey for several days, but no hair was trimmed in the process. Her hair was restored and I’m hoping she’ll keep gunky stuff out of her hair.

 

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Have you experienced a hair emergency?

 

hugs!

 

Amber


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The Circus

Shortly after the quads were born, we sent letters to companies who have multiple birth programs.  Within a few months, we received a handful of coupons and product samples.  With our multiple birth offers, we also heard about the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Baby’s First Circus program.  Since Ringling believes that all children should experience the joy of the circus, every child under 12 months old and living in the United States is entitled to receive his or her first ticket for FREE.  After receiving our vouchers, I cached them away to use when the kids could appreciate them.  This summer proved opportune for the kids first circus.  Shortly after celebrating the quads fourth birthday carnival style, Ringling’s Circus Extreme was in our area.

Despite seeing books and pictures about the circus, they really had no idea what to expect.  After arriving at the venue, we saw the animal encounter exhibit where you can see all of the animals that will appear in the show (a lot like the zoo).  Then, we headed to the area for the pre-show where we could see the performers and some of the props.  None of the kids wanted to be too close to a clown, but Sydney tried on a cape from wardrobe.

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As soon as we settled into our seats, the kids started complaining of hunger so I set off to grab the best concession for the price: popcorn and water.  Harper made sure we got our money’s worth and didn’t miss a single kernel.

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Once the show began, it was a tad dark and loud for the kids so I passed out ear plugs and glow sticks, which eased anxiety tremendously.  In hindsight, I wish I’d brought flashier glow items too…the kids begged for the many light up souvenir items, but the price tags were ridiculous.  The would’ve loved our dollar store wands just as much.  Next time..

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We were all thoroughly impressed and entertained by the eclectic performance which included everything from the traditional circus clowns to magical mermaids, trampoline gymnasts, and poodles.


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What’s your favorite circus act?  I was a bit partial to the poodles.

 

Hugs!

 

Amber


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I’ll Never Buy Hand Soap Again

In the past year or so, we’ve begun teaching the kids to manage basic hygiene habits themselves.  Of those tasks, hand washing is of the utmost importance.  However, my crew found the squirting of hand soap to be a highly entertaining task and they often got carried away with squirting.  Much to my dismay, the counter tops were often covered in a slimy soap film and we ran though hand soap quickly.  Hand washing with quads became not only messy but also expensive.  My friend and quad mama, Krista, suggested switching from regular soap to foaming soap.  It was a great suggestion indeed.  A single pump of foaming hand soap fills little hands and discourages multiple pumps.  Foaming soap also doesn’t drip or create the slime like regular soap.  The only problem was that with four sets of grubby hands, we still used it rather quickly and it wasn’t cheap.  I knew there had to be a better option; behold I found it on BrenDid.

 

After your store bought foaming hand soap container is empty, you can refill it on the cheap in two steps with two simple ingredients.

  1. Fill your soap container with eight ounces of water (I used tap water, but if you won’t use it quickly, distilled water is best)
  2. Add one ounce of liquid Castile soap (I used lavender scented, which was $7 at Walmart in the cosmetic section) then shake the bottle to blend both ingredients

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Our DIY soap foams as well as the store bought version, smells great, and cleans hands as effectively.  DIY for the win!  For additional information about why this DIY version of foaming hand soap is not only easy and inexpensive, but also a better for you version, pop by BrenDid for details.  She has lots of great information about the chemical aspect of commercially produced soap.

2 ingredient DIY foaming hand soap2 ingredient DIY foaming hand soap

hugs,

 

Amber

Related Articles:

Basic Hygiene Skills to Teach Little Kids

The Day I Quit Potty Training


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Step Right Up {Carnival Party}

As the quad’s fourth birthday approached, I decided it was prudent to host at a party venue rather than at home.  Last year we rented a playscape and it was fabulous not having to clean the house before or after having a slew of preschoolers at the party.  I was ecstatic to find a similar venue that included fresh popcorn and cotton candy with their party package.   Since we’d be serving carnival fare, I decided to run with that theme.  Once again, I commissioned my friend, Amber , to design custom invitations that I had printed at Costco.

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The week of the party, I had the kids create carnival themed crafts to hang as banners.  As center pieces, I used Dollar Tree Mylar balloons arranged in popcorn containers.  Since our party overlapped with the dinner hour, we served hot dogs from a crock pot along with fresh fruit.  It was a super easy way to feed a crowd and keep with the theme.   Since George is a cupcake connoisseur, we never order bakery cakes.  This year, we used a rainbow cupcake recipe from Just a Taste and it was ahhhh-mazing!  Whether or not we actually make rainbow cupcakes again (the rainbow part was slightly tedious), it will be our go-to recipe for from scratch cupcakes and frosting.  The cake was dense and sweet, but not overly so and the frosting complimented it perfectly.  For this particular party, the rainbow color in the cake was a fun touch.

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To cook hotdogs in a slow cooker, spray your slow cooker with cooking spray then fill it with hot dogs (mine held about 50).  Cook on low for 4 hours.

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For party favors, I filled cello bags with animal crackers and fruit snacks then embellished them with a printable gift tag from We Heart Parties.

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Before our guests arrived, we snapped a family photo, and I was glad we did since there was never another opportunity.  The kids filled their time bouncing in the bounce houses, playing in the kid town, exploring the train, and playing games as the adults mingled.

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It probably  feels redundant for guests, but to make each of the kids feel special, we sing happy birthday to them individually, in birth order.  It doesn’t take a lot of time, but I know it means the world to them.

I’m quickly noticing the challenges of this new season with four year olds, but am appreciating the end of the threenagers reign.

hugs!

 

Amber

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Morning Ride 

final-4In the past few weeks we’ve been struggling with a lot of sibling bickering, sassy backtalk, and physical aggression. I’ve done my best to redirect this behavior and to keep toys and activities fresh, but the behaviors persisted. As a result of these challenging behaviors, my own patience is dwindling.

When mentioning my frustrations to a friend, she kindly asked how much outdoor play the kids were getting.  With triple digit heat, outdoor play has also been a struggle.  Unless there is water involved, we have to be out early and truthfully, we haven’t been getting a full hour daily.  Some days, after 30 minutes we are headed in to escape the heat.

Today I was set on getting at least an hour of outdoor play and sunshine, but we had to beat the heat to do it.  When I heard the boys wake up at 6:40 am, I immediately asked them to get dressed.  Bum-fuddled, they obliged.  Then, I ushered them to the backyard where I served breakfast.  It wasn’t long before a pair of sleepy headed girls joined us.  After about 20 minutes of outdoor play, we decided it was time for a morning bike ride.  Once all four were helmet clad, we set out to burn some rubber.  There was nice cloud cover so we stayed out riding for about an hour.  It was glorious!   There was some bickering and pushing later in the day, but it was better.

Tomorrow we will repeat this extra early outdoor play and see if it continues to improve everyone’s mood and behavior.


 

What are your favorite outdoor activities?

Hugs,

 

Amber

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Big Vehicle Day 

This summer, I didn’t create an official summer bucket list, but we’ve had plenty of summer fun. We’ve enjoyed library story time each week, which includes stories and songs followed by a literature based craft.  Last week, story time was cancelled for Big Vehicle Day at the library.  Since there are typically about 20 kids at story time (with four being mine), I wasn’t expecting much from the event.  I anticipated a slightly larger crowd than the regulars, and a parking lot with perhaps a garbage truck, school bus, and a construction vehicle.  I grossly underestimated the library!  Big Vehicle Day was quite an event.  Upon or arrival, I instantly regretted not making the kids dress alike as I spied a sea of preschoolers and their parents scattered around a lineup of vehicles.  Since it was a sweltering hot Texas day, we did a quick stroll past each vehicle, and then each child choose one vehicle to explore further.  We saw everything from mounted police to a street sweeper and an ambulance.

It was no surprise that the girls chose to check out the pink glitzy limo from a local children’s salon.   The kids had never seen a limo before and were thoroughly impressed with the sparkling interior lights and countless drink holders.  Harper was underwhelmed, however. As we exited the limo, the girls had a shiny star painted on their cheeks and fairy glitter spritzed in their hair.  The boys opted out of this sparkle treatment.

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Mason chose to tour a recreational vehicle and Harper wanted to check out the wrecker.  Since we couldn’t go inside the wrecker, Harper was allowed a second choice.  He quickly settled on the Dan Dipert tour bus, which turned out to be a lovely reprieve from the heat with its blasting air conditioner.

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Before heading home, I thought it was important for the kids to thank the police officers and see one of the squad cars.  Much to my chagrin, the kids were totally uninterested in seeing any of the police vehicles, aside from the horses.  Since my uncle is a fire chief, they’ve seen the inside of many fire rescue vehicles and have even used the radio in the chief’s car.  I can only assume the police cars didn’t seem novel, that or it was just too hot. Sydney was the only one to go inside the squad car, but all four obliged me for a photo with one of the officers.

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#backtheblue #DallasStrong

 


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hugs!

 

Amber