How to Quickly Erase Dirt From a Free Range Childhood

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We don’t have one of those printed family manifestos popular on Pinterest, but if we did, here’s a snapshot of what it would say:

  • Screens should be limited
  • Kids should get bored
  • Kids should get themselves out of boredom
  • Kids should have time to explore their own curiosity.

It’s simple enough. Now that they’re older, they get 20 minutes of screen time a day, and very luckily, little to no homework, which means much of their afternoons and evenings are spent outside playing made up games.

Here’s the downsides:

  • Their rooms are often a mess (books, LEGO are everywhere)
  • Their faces and hair are always a mess
  • Their feet are an awful mess
  • Their clothes looked lived in (and I mean that in a bad way).

Despite living on a hillside where the kids climb and run around, the real mess is created at school. It’s not your typical school with a black top and paved walkways. Instead, it has trees, loads of dirt, and old style play structures that make me a little nervous. This is what the hippie school looks like on an average day:



This is why my second grader still keeps *two* changes of clothes in his cubby. He’s been known to get dirty, change his clothes, then get right back into the same puddle or mess, thrashing a second outfit. It’s such a mess, it’s an all caps, four letter word: MESS. Dirt is surprisingly hard to get out and it makes their clothes smell like they were buried deep underground. Seriously, dirt smells bad. It’s not the fresh dirt smell after a day of gardening. This is the stink of a challenge.

Here is what one day looks like up close:


The solution to the ugliness is found in this pretty package:


Throw the earthy smelling clothes into the washer with a Tide Pod or Gain Fling from P&G, and a little bit later, we have this:


Let them roll in the dirt, trudge through the mud, and slide down the hill on nothing but their rear end because the mess will be erased with ease. A free range childhood doesn’t mean disaster for clothes. Before we were sent samples of the Tide Pods and Gain Flings, I used to spray, scrub, then toss in with hot water and a prayer. No more, thank you very much, which was especially helpful after I hurt my back and would subsequently avoid doing laundry because of all the lifting and pouring. My back is better, but the simple, effective method stays. These laundry gems may be small and pretty, but they pack a powerful punch thanks to their combination of detergent, brightener, and stain remover all in a single pack. With them, I finally beat the dirt!

Stonyfield Greek Yogurt is Dessert for Breakfast


I’m trying to become a breakfast person, but it’s difficult. I get up and get going on my normal routine, and because breakfast isn’t in the routine, it gets forgotten. To help me change, breakfast has to be easy. I save the big breakfasts with actual cooking for the weekend, but I found even trying to scramble egg whites from a carton, was more work than I wanted and got boring fast. I work in green smoothies some days, but we run out and the smoothie doesn’t always hold me over until lunch.


Enter Stonyfield Greek Yogurt as a good solution. Stonyfield sent a box for us to try with Blueberry, Strawberry and Superfruits, and new flavors Black Cherry and Cafe Latte. Cafe Latte grabbed the attention of my kids, who always beg for anything with a forbidden (for them) coffee flavor. I tried Cafe Latte first, too, and if frozen, I’d thought we were at a frozen yogurt shop. My kids gobbled the Stonyfield Greek yogurt down, leaving me only with Strawberry (my favorite!) and Superfruits. Both made a great breakfast. They tasted good, and were filling, but not heavy. We’ve found a breakfast and afternoon snack winner. Maybe even a dessert option in Cafe Latte. Or Caramel, which I haven’t tried, but it exists. It may be our new ice cream alternative.

I’ve found both our local Target and Whole Foods carry Stonyfield Greek, and other Stonyfield products. We’re very picky about which dairy brands we buy and we like Stonyfield’s commitment to being organic and staying free of pesticides, artificial hormones, antibiotics and GMOs. While the samples were sent free to me as part of the You gotta try this #StonyfieldGreek! campaign, we are regular Stonyfield customers.

Getting a Glass Ornament Home From Disneyland Safely

In one of the many Christmas boxes, I pulled out a football-sized roll of packaging paper. It was light enough that I almost didn’t think anything was in it, but I decided to unwrap the roll just in case. Around and around  I unrolled until finally I could feel the glass Mickey-shaped ornament we bought at Disneyland last year. It had survived the remainder of our trip at Disneyland, the road trip home, being shoved into the garage during our remodel, then tossed into a box and put into the attic. If you have any doubt about buying glass ornaments at Disneyland, don’t. It will make it home safe. There is enough protective packaging around the ornament that you could probably drop the bag a few times without harm.


This picture of the ornament next to the folded up wrap doesn’t adequately explain the bulk, so I unrolled it on the floor. It’s got to be about 12 feet long.



I need to get this ornament on the tree before I trip over myself and watch it explode into pieces after hitting the ground.

American (Girl) Idiot?


Cruising through Costco today, I hit the brakes and did a double take when I saw the American Girl display. No big dolls, but they did have dogs, which was exciting enough. I had to walk carefully, as there was a toddler rolling around on the ground while his mom looked at books. He then held onto the bottom rack while the mom dragged him (and the cart) to her next stopping point, next to me. She picked up an American Girl set and clucked her disapproval. American Girl prices are high, but the Costco sets were reasonably priced.

“Idiots!” It was under her breath, but loud enough that she wanted me to hear, and said with an Eastern European accent that made it sound especially harsh. “Anyone who would buy this is an IDIOT!”

She whistled at her son to get up and follow as she walked off. I put the $23 American Girl dog into my cart.

A few minutes later, I saw the kid wandering by himself while mom was nowhere in sight. When she eventually walked over and tracked him down, he didn’t come when called or whistled to, he stared her down, then walked off in the other direction without saying a word. The surprise was that she shrugged and walked away as well, but away from the kid. I try not to judge other parenting styles, but I’ll admit that sometimes I feel better about my own parenting by watching others. I bought the toy dog, but I don’t feel like an idiot.

We Became an American Girl Family


This happened yesterday. I think we all knew it would happen, but I went into the brand new American Girl store not believing it would. It’s an early birthday gift. And maybe part of her Christmas gift, too. We got the doll, got the doll’s ears pierced, and her hair neatly braided with blue bows because my girl who detests pink had decided she finally wanted a doll. Clover may be turning 11 next week, but I’m going to let her hold onto childhood as long as she wants.

After the doll, the earrings, and the hairstyle, she said we needed to look for a new outfit for the doll. That’s when I said we’d done enough for one day. She needs to bring her Nonnie back to the store for that.