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Friday, October 5, 2018

A Lesson in Photography and Raising Your Family


 When I was in college, I took a photography class. Taking pictures was something that I liked to do, but it wasn't a passion of mine and it became a chore, so I didn't continue with it.

      I think another reason why I didn't want to continue was because the teacher wanted us to take pictures by entering all of the inputs manually and I didn't have a clue what I was really needing to do for shutter speed and light and all that jazz. To be honest, I would get so bored in the class I fell asleep. If I was able to stay awake, I might have done better in the class, but oh well.

      I'm off topic. My apologies. Every time we went to class, we were supposed to turn in photos from that week's assignment the day before class was to resume. From that assignment, the teacher would pick out pictures that he thought met the expectations and those that didn't to show the class the do's and don'ts and printed out the ones that exceeded those expectations as an award for fantastic work. I only had one picture printed out, but had several that showed up on the projector screen.

      This is the picture that he printed. I don't remember what the assignment was for, but it wasn't printed because of that assignment, but because he liked it and it segued into the next assignment which was about working with shadows. I was so excited that he printed it out and embarrassed at the same time because we got to go over what made it great and that was a lot of attention focused on me and my work.

     This was the night time work that he liked. It wasn't liked well enough to print out because parts of it were fuzzy when it was enlarged, but I was so proud of this night time picture. It was so dark out that I didn't even know what color these flowers really were until the picture was taken. I had to lay down on the ground and hold the camera still and wait for a minute or more for the picture to take and I didn't have a tripod to hold the camera still. A normal person would use flash to take a picture like this, but the teacher wanted us to work with exposure or something like that so we were never allowed to use it. (Can some of my photography friends explain the process?)

What did I learn?

       So why am I writing about something that I don't even remember the terminology for? Well, these pictures showed up in my timeline on Facebook. While I was looking at them, an analogy sprang to mind.

 Practice makes perfect.
        In photography, unless you are an amazing photographer, the perfect picture takes time to get. Not every picture is going to come out perfect. It takes time, patience, and work to sometimes get the desired effect. If you ask a photographer how many shots they had to take in order to get the perfect one, I'm sure that they would either lie and say they got it on the first try, or they would tell you that they took hundreds and only a few were great.

        In order for that first picture to get printed, I had to turn in many others that were rejected or talked about. Nothing was quite as good as that one. It took many pictures to get the great one.

         When we raise our kids, we expect them to do everything right on the first time. We can sometimes get frustrated and lose our patience. They're kids and they aren't going to get everything right on the first time and when they do get it right, we have to know that it may be one in a few and the more they do it, the better they'll be.

Perfection takes time. Don't rush.

     This is more than just practice makes perfect. For that second picture to really work, it needed time to do it's thing. I could have rushed it by turning on the flash setting, but then the shadows and reflection would have been off and it wouldn't have been the same. Instead, by lengthening the exposure time, it allowed for the colors to show on the flowers, the leaves from the tree behind it, and it even allowed for the stars to shine through. I don't think the stars would have shown with flash because the light would have hidden them.

         When we are working with our kids, we need to be examples of patience and manners. They are going to learn from us. It takes us 18 years to help shape and mold our kids into fine human beings. We can't set them out into the world by saying our expectations of them and not help them live it. The whole do as I say and not as I do thing, that's not going to work. That's rushing it instead of taking the time to teach them.

It's ok to just stop and wait.

        The only reason why that night time picture worked was because I stopped to hold still. If I had a tripod, it would have come out even better without the blur. I had to hold perfectly still in order for it to come out correctly. If I had moved more, it would have just been a conglomerate of colors.

        When we are with our kids, we need to stop and slow down. We need to stop letting the tv babysit them. I'm very guilty of this, especially since I started blogging full time, again. What's wrong with having our kids read books or just letting them play with their toys? They're learning and also not getting overstimulated by the sound and constant streaming of electronic devices. Why don't we go for walks more? Why don't we talk to each other?

         If we're wondering why young adults these days have social issues and seem like spoiled brats, maybe it's because we let electronics and social media raise them instead of us, the parents, and so they don't have ethics and morals weaved into their being. They don't know the difference between right or wrong. As long as they can benefit from it, why not do it? We need to take the time to teach and model the golden rule- do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

Learn to love what you do.

         If I would have liked the class more or enjoyed taking pictures all of the time, I would have gone on to the other classes and learned how to Photoshop and the ins and outs to great photography.

         As parents, we love our kids, but do we love ourselves more? It's very important to get a little me time in, but are we choosing our work over our kids? I know that when I don't finish something at home, I get irritated when my kids interrupt me before I can finish. Instead of yelling at them, I need to stop what I'm doing, look at them and talk to them. "Is this something that you can remember until Mommy is finished with this?"

        If they say yes, explain to them that you will come find them when you are finished. If it can't wait, you still can. I know that I do get impatient and I say, "If I don't finish this now, I'll never get it done." Well that's not true. I can get right back to it later. Remember what it's like when someone dismisses you. I know that I don't particularly like it and I'll start an argument. Your child has feelings too and if they throw a tantrum, it could be because you hurt their feelings. Take the time to stop and listen to them. This all goes back to being patient and practicing.

       After all- Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast. It is not proud, it is not rude. It is not self-seeking. It is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrong. Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. 1 Corinthians 13: 4-8.

     Are we loving what we do as parents? Are we practicing patience and kindness? Are we always putting other things before our kids? Are we getting angry and then holding it against them?

      If we aren't loving our kids or others the way that we should, we shouldn't expect perfect results in our family life and it's something that we should work towards doing.

How do we do this?

      It's ok to be busy and work, but schedule some family time. Have a family night. If you have older kids, make it a night when they don't want to go out with their friends. Schedule something during the week. Order pizza and pop in a movies that you all enjoy. Play some board games. Go for a walk. Just do something together.

     Make a better effort to eat at the same time. When you're all sitting down to eat, ditch the cell phones and handheld game devices. Those are distracting and you can't carry a conversation if you're always checking your notifications. Talk to each other!

      Pay attention to your kids. Believe it or not, there are some parents who don't notice when their kids are off or they ignore it when they see it. Talk to your kids and ask them what you can do for them. Ask them if they have any questions. BE THERE FOR THEM!

Call to action. 

      Find something to do. Anything. It doesn't even have to cost something, just do it. Have fun with your kids.

      This weekend we're having a tea party. I know it's October, but since we have some great-grandparents flying in from Washington, we scheduled it for tomorrow. I'm going to make some big fat muffins and cucumber sandwiches (if I can find some of the bread I like to use in the store) and dress up with a big hat. It will be splendid. The boys will be having a Nerf gun war and eat snacks while the girls sip their tea.

What are you going to do this weekend?

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

We're Always Running Late


     Today was one of those days where no matter how prepared I was, my kids (*cough*daughter*cough*) were pokey and yet again, we were late for school. One of these days, I'm going to just say, "Screw it, you're not going to school today."

     It seems that when I asked God for more patience (not my spiritual  gift) when I was younger, he must have laughed up in heaven and was like, "I will grant you the thing of your desire, but first, you must wait years for it to happen. You will have three children and each one will give you a little more practice towards perfecting patience. Only after they leave the house after they've grown and learn to live on their own, will you see that you have mastered it."

     I know that God isn't some genie up in heaven who grants wishes or a guru who spouts riddles. Patience is something that I've had a difficult time grasping. Part of it might be because I probably have ADHD (I still haven't seen a doctor to be diagnosed, but my son's doctor said it's more than likely), but the other part is that I want things done right now.

       At what point, do you stop your kids from doing the things that they should be responsible for (ex: getting themselves dressed, socks and shoes put on, and just doing what they are told) before you start doing it for them? When I ask them to get ready for the billionth time and they still only have one pant leg on after asking them for five minutes to get the other one on, when should I just walk over there and do it for them?

      My husband says that the kids listen to him better because they know that if they don't do it, he will, but if I do that, then I know that they won't put their pants on because they know that I will do it for them. Maybe I'm just too nice. (who just laughed? I can be nice and caring behind my obnoxious, crazy screaming. I mean, it might make the neighbors change their pants, too, but my kids shouldn't be confused by what I want them to do.)

      It's my kid's responsibility to dress themselves now. They're six and eight. I still dress my four year old, but he's going to have to learn to do that on his own, too. If I do it for them, am I just enabling them to not learn to do it at all? What about them tying their shoelaces or when they put their shoes on the wrong feet. No one tells them that they suck at life for not putting them on incorrectly, the blame goes to me. So what if they won't change them to the other foot or tie them. Do I do it for them? What have they learned? Why do I need to have extra work loaded onto me?


     So yes, we were late today. Why? Because I'm not dressing them anymore and it's frowned upon for my kids to show up to school naked. Maybe if they were allowed to wear something they wanted to wear, instead of uniforms, we would have made it on time.

What does your day look like? Is it similar to mine? How do you get your kids to get dressed when they are asked?

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Starved Rock vs Matthiessen State Park


Last month, my husband and I had our tenth anniversary. We were finally able to celebrate it on Friday and Saturday and it was well worth the wait.

To celebrate, my husband booked us a hotel in Oglesby, Illinois where we would be close to two different hiking trails: One that has been widely known and one that we had only heard of from one of our family member's work friend. Since they were so close together, we decided to try them both out as well as take advantage of the leaves that were beginning to change.

On Friday we went to Starved Rock State Park.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

A New Way To Teach Your Child Multiplication

   Learning new things doesn't always come natural to everyone, especially when it isn't something that you like. For me, that thing was multiplication. I didn't see the need to learn it and I had a really difficult time memorizing it. Eventually, it kicked in, but I really wished I had a different way to learn.

Monday, September 24, 2018

Why We Enjoyed the Great Wolf Lodge In Gurnee, Illinois

I was not asked to write a review for the Great Wolf Lodge. This was a vacation that we chose to take on our own and I decided that I would write a blog about my trip. I've not been compensated. 

     My family and I don't go on vacation very often. We live on my husband's income while I stay at home with the kids and we like to be sure that we can handle something financially before we decide to do big things: things like buying a car or going on vacation.

     A few years ago, we were walking around in the Bass Pro Shop/ Outdoor World in the mall when we were approached by a "vacation agent" to book a mini vacation at such and such a place for only $100 or something low like that and we could use it to go anywhere within 12-18 months. (Sorry, it was a couple of years ago, so my memory is a little vague.) At the time, I had a 5, 3, and almost 1 year old and didn't know if I wanted to be traveling with them, but the guy had mentioned that one of the places we could go to was the Wisconsin Dells and that would include water passes and our hotel. I told him that we would think about it and gave him my phone number and address and then was plagued with phone calls and mail for a few months.

     One day, I got a call and the salesman pitched me a deal that was too good to be true and we could schedule our visit within the year. I put the man on speaker so my husband and I could both talk with him and we had decided to schedule a trip to the Dells that July.

     It really could have been an awesome experience, the prices were just right, but we had some difficulties along the way, but due to my persistence, everything turned out alright in the end. Our hotel got switched to Mt. Olympus and we had a big room with bunk beds. My then two-year-old wouldn't leave that alone and actually fell off and bumped his head, but other than that, we had a lot of fun.

     However, when you do deals like this, you have to go to a presentation where they try to sell you time shares. My youngest was too young to accompany us, so our kids stayed in the hotel with grandma. the presentation was only supposed to take two hours and I think we were there for four. That really cut into our time to swim with the kids, but we made the best of it.

      After the presentation, we went back to the hotel and by then, my youngest was crabby and needed a nap. I offered to stay behind with him while the others went out. By the time we were ready to meet them, the sun was high and we had to cross a parking lot to get to the pool. I had no shoes or flip flops and burned my feet very badly. Actually, we all did. Even though we could have swam the next day, we declined and went home.

      Even through all of that, it was still nice to get away and let our kids experience something new. So when we heard that the Key Lime Cove in the next town over was being converted into a Great Wolf Lodge and that they were going to add more slides and attractions, we were very excited.

      As soon as we heard that they were taking reservations, my husband booked us a big suite to fit us during his birthday weekend. We were so excited, that we forgot that the kids would have started school by then, so my kids were extra excited to miss a couple of days of school.

      Because the drive for us is only about fifteen minutes, we left our dogs home and I went back and forth to let them out during the day. It was the perfect set up. We didn't need to pay to board the dogs and if we left something at home (our brush) then it could easily be brought back during one of the short trips home instead of having to go to the nearest store and pick it up.

      But that's enough about me, let me tell you about the Great Wolf Lodge:

Right when you pull in to the lot to check in, you're immediately greeted by this awesome wolf statue.

      It was even cooler to see at night when it was all lit up, but the camera on my phone made it look a little demonic, but I can assure you, there was nothing wrong or scary about this wolf.

We were given wolf ears for each child.... yes, I know my youngest's shoes are on backwards. 

Such a sneaky wolf pup

He's so excited to go in!

Room Decor

There were only two elevators in the wing that we were staying in, so when we first came in, it was a bit of a walk, but we enjoyed taking in our surroundings and we eventually found the entrance and elevator that was closest to us.
I took this picture as we were walking, I should have stopped. The carpet had animal foot prints leading the way to our rooms. Where there wasn't an animal print, there were "stone" paths. 

This was just one light fixture in the hallway. Others had moose, caribou, and wolves. I wouldn't mind this for my house. 

One of the first things I did was open up the curtain in the living quarters and saw that we had a balcony. We were on the 4th floor and I discovered that maybe I'm a little bit more afraid of heights then I thought, although I got over that after going out there so much because the kids wanted to look out. 
Six Flags is just within sight.

I loved this lamp.

     This was our little kitchenette. I bought ice cream for the cake we would have for my husband's birthday, but discovered too late that there wasn't a little freezer at the top. So don't buy ice cream for your room. 
 This was the master bedroom with a king size bed. This got to be our room.

 Every room had its own tv.

     Master bath. It was humongous. I could have fit all of my kids in there and an adult. I should have taken a picture, because that would have been pretty funny. 

     This was the living room area. I thought that the furniture could have all been a little more rustic and thought that this was actually a little boring for the room. The love seat folds out into a couch bed. That was very useful our first night when my in-laws stayed the night. 

     Mini dining area. This was the cleanest it had been all week. It had been completely covered by our things. oops.

I really should have rotated this, but alas, I did not. This is the second bedroom. It featured two queen size beds, a television and had another bathroom attached to it. 

     Overall, the suite was really nice. I think that if we wanted to pay extra, we could have had a themed room. This met our needs, nicely.

Inside the Hotel

The first two floors are dedicated to the attractions that the hotel offers.

 One thing that they have is a little mining area where kids could mine for gems.

This is a little mini bowling alley. The balls were bigger than a soft ball, but smaller than your average bowling ball. 

 Another thing that they had was the Northern Lights Arcade. What was really cool about this, and I didn't mention before is that the bracelets that we were given could be scanned for entrance to the water park, our room, or be used as a charge card instead of having to carry around your wallet and cash. Thankfully, only the person who is in charge of the money can scan their bracelet for charging things. Otherwise, my kids would have been scanning their bracelets to play all of these games.

This was one thing that the hotel offered that was kind of cool, but also not because we didn't let our kids play because it was a bit pricey and we wanted to keep the price within our budget.

This was a MagiQuest game. Every kid who played this had to purchase a wand that would get activated. They were able to chose their own Magi name and then were sent on a scavenger hunt to find different object within the hotel. (I believe it was just the two bottom floors and in the lobby areas.) It was kind of cool to see the kids activate treasure chests which opened or the random screens that would give them a challenge. The goal was to get through these and then defeat the dragon in the end. If they completed their quest, they got to go through a knighting ceremony the next morning.

 There was also an adventure climbing park. Kids and adults could climb through the obstacles and also the climbing wall that isn't pictured.

Gift Shops

      There were a ton of gift shops, both on the first and second level. If you like to pick up souvenirs, there was a place for you.


    If you live there forever and never leave, you really could do it as long as you're able to work from home or on a computer. There were several eating options in the hotel. This was just a couple of them. They actually have Dunkin' Donuts and a Ben and Jerry's on the second floor- a person could gain a lot of weight living there.

But if you want to go out somewhere, that's fine too. Gurnee has many places to eat because it has the Gurnee Mills Mall and Six Flags and the Naval Base a few towns over. It's a great tourist spot so there are many good places to eat. We actually went out both nights that we stayed. 

Inside Portillos

 We brought the kids some McDonald's and brought the adults back some Italian Beef and Fries. Yum!

      The first night, we actually went to Giordano's for my husband's choice for his birthday. If you haven't had their deep dish pizza, you're missing out.

My youngest, who doesn't like ketchup or any other sauce, has discovered marinara sauce. This is his new favorite thing and my husband and I were very amused and astonished that he like it.

The Water Park

     Ok, so lets get to the real reason that we went... The WATER PARK!!!!

You can view the water park from both floors.

 They had a small area for the toddlers and babies. 

 I think every age group could go in Fort Mackenzie. My youngest decided that he hated it when he was blindsided by the bucket at the top falling on him as soon as he entered. There were three bigger body slides to go down and two smaller slides for the less adventurous kids. Adults could go in here too! You had to be careful where you walked because water would fall and dump on you from all sides. If you were going to go into this park area, your hair is going to get wet.

     This was one of my oldest's favorite slides. It's basically a giant toilet bowl. You slide down quickly and then ride on the sides until you swirl down and out.

Here's the little splash area for the small kiddies. This is where my youngest liked to go because he was traumatized by the big bucket. By the last day, he was adventurous enough to ride in the bigger areas.

The park offered two large body slides. My daughter was a die hard fan of these until the first shift change and we were told that she was an inch too short to ride on them. The slides are almost pitch black inside with just a couple of lights shining here or there. They were very fun. 

The two bigger openings are where the raft slides led out. These were extremely fun and small kids could go with you as long as they were like 42 inches or taller. All of my kids fit that height, so they could go on with us. My oldest was able to do all of the rides by himself. 

You can enter every water slide from inside, but they loop around and all over the place outside of the hotel. We were worried that we would have to go outside to access them, but they all start inside. It makes the inside look smaller, but it's really much bigger than it seems. 

     Other than the wave pool (which I forgot to take a picture of) the lazy river was one of our favorite things to do. By the end of our stay, my kids forgot how it should be used and walked the course, racing through all of the rafts that were left behind. At times, you felt like you were one of those rubber duckies in that carnival booth in fair where you were surrounded by other rubber duckies.

       Two other things that I don't show here is the biggest water slide which separates into two lines. Both are designed to be like you are going on a white water raft trip. Everyone can go on it at the same time as long as you fit because you sit on a giant round raft and ride it together. The blue one is a more straight forward and more gentle ride. You don't slosh around on that one too much because it's mostly a straight shot. It's still a lot of fun, but if you ride the orange/yellow one, you're going to get thrown around and also go down a toilet bowl feature.

      The last thing also not pictured was the outdoor pool. This was just a normal pool that has a few places to sit. There is a bar next to it, so I'm sure that it's meant for night swim for drinks and company. We enjoyed swimming in it during the day because it offered us just a normal place to swim without waves or water spraying us from every which way. It was very comforting.

Bed Time

     Getting my kids to wind down usually comes with it's own struggles, but when we're at a hotel with many exciting things, it can be very difficult. One thing that the hotel offers its guests that is free is a chance for story time.

We let my kids each pick out their own stuffed animal at the gift shop. Together we went into the second floor lobby and listened to story time. (You can see how happy they were to get lined up for a picture.)

They transform the information screen to a little puppet like projection movie that plays as the kids all come from their rooms and settle in for the story. It was so cute to see the different kids run to the elevator in their pjs. 
This is the stillest he has been for the whole three days. 

Once the little puppet/projector movie scene was over, they had different "animals" come out each night to help read the story. We didn't listen to story time the night before, but we did see that Violet the Wolf was going to help that night as we left for our very late dinner. 

Afterwards, the kids got to meet that night's animal. I think this one was Brinley? My oldest didn't want to get into the picture. Apparently 8 years old is too old to hang out. 

In Conclusion

     This was a really great family vacation for us. My kids LOVE to swim and they loved the water park. Because we went in September from Wednesday- Friday, the park wasn't very crowded and we never had to wait in line.

     Is this something that could replace the Wisconsin Dells for us? I think so, or at least for now. There was so much to offer that even if you didn't go to the water park every day, you could still bowl, do the arcade, miniature golf, climb the rock wall or adventure ropes, or even do a scavenger hunt to get a dragon on one day, and then go to Six Flags another day. I think that will probably be an option that we'll have to do when my kids get older because even though the water park is great, three days is a lot to continue to enjoy it.

     Needless to say, everyone went home without arguing on Friday and everyone slept like rocks, that night.

      Lastly, you get a lot of exercise. Wednesday is when we first arrived. We didn't start any activities until after we checked in around 2:30.  Thursday, I had forgotten to put on my fitbit after I had taken a shower, that morning. Once I went back in to grab it, I still got more than 10,000 steps. Friday is the day we went home. After we got there, we didn't do a single thing except lounge.
     Is this something that you think you would enjoy? Have you ever been to a Great Wolf Lodge before? There is plenty to do, so consider Gurnee, Illinois' Great Wolf Lodge for your next family adventure!

About Me

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Hello! My name is Brittany and I'm a writer, obviously. As a stay-at-home mom, there are many things that I have to figure out in order to run a house that appears to be more sane than insane. It's not easy to be a parent and I hope that this blog is able to encourage other moms out there to live life happily and to understand that there can be mishaps along the way, but those mishaps don't define you and anything can be overcome with perseverance and will.

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